In the last progress log, I mentioned that I didn’t know when the one character I remembered liking joins the party. Turns out the answer was “literally 9 steps past where I stopped playing last time.” Seriously, there’s video and I counted. Only 9 steps. That’s a good thing in the sense that the party is slightly more bearable for her presence, but it also makes me feel pretty stupid about bringing it up when I did.
The first thing you’ll notice about Viola is that her voice acting doesn’t make your ears bleed and fill you with a The Happening-esque desire to leap from a tall building. That’s the magic of Viola, really: while I’m sure the director was demanding something two octaves higher and tinged with a manic brand of crazy, the person voicing her remained firmly within the normal human range of hearing. This is enough to render Viola’s dialogue a life raft amid a sea of screechy overacting.
Anyway, we find out at this point that mineral powder is bad and prolonged use transforms people into evil little magical creatures. That means that in the next section, we’ll technically be killing a whole bunch of regular people who used a widely renowned medicine to feel better. We’re not very good at being heroes.
I hope you like cutscenes
What’s the point of giving you control after a cutscene, only to play a different cutscene after you’ve run forward a couple feet? It does this twice in a row here, and this is something I’ve noticed about a lot of modern jRPGs. It makes no sense. Surely there’s a better way of communicating things to the player? The dumbest part of this is that not much is even communicated; there’s quirky dialogue that eventually mentions there being a fort ahead in the first cutscene, while the third cutscene elaborates that it’s an old fort that’s currently unmanned and instead filled with those mineral powder people monsters. See? I just communicated two cutscenes worth of information. Why does everything always require so much discussion?
The second cutscene is a special type of stupid, because it’s not even internally consistent. It cuts away to the Royal Brat Baddie while he’s receiving a report from the guy who almost killed Polka and Fauxpin in the forest, and he’s incredibly disappointed by his report. “I have no interest in hearing about your failure,” he says. Once he leaves, someone comes up and mentions that the mineral powder mining at Mt. Rock (which I seem to remember being an important place) is going well. Royal Brat Baddie’s response? “There’s no need to report when things are going well.” Don’t bore me with your good news! Also, we don’t accept bad news!
Bone crumbling victory
Viola is probably the most powerful character in the game. I remember her special attacks always providing a good head start on the combo gauge (or echoes or whatever they’re technically called), and she can do a stunning amount of damage with them. From afar, she can shoot arrows that do thousands of points of damage each. Up close, she can build up combos and use her Bone Crumble special attack to unleash a flurry of blows followed up with one especially powerful strike (pictured above). Basically, she’s going to carry not just her weight, but Beat’s weight to enable him to take pictures during boss fights instead of attacking. For now, at least.
Big, boring areas
The movement speed is just slow enough to make running around areas—especially dungeon-type areas—a real bore, especially as the only real things of interest are enemies and the rare treasure chest. It makes trying to get through what we’ll generously be considering Eternal Sonata’s “puzzles” an incredibly tedious process.
The normal enemies in this area don’t pose any risk whatsoever. Even if they did, they drop healing items left and right. The boss is similarly lame and can be torn through like tissue paper, but I suppose all of this being easy is preferable to it being artificially hard in order to pad out play times. After the boss fight, everyone has a conversation about how the nearby country of Baroque has been supporting Andantino, a rebel group that’s not a fan of Royal Brat Baddie, and how lowly peasants such as them have no way of knowing who’s right and wrong in this conflict. Then the scene changes to some rebels who hamfistedly explain to the player that the sister of forest protector Salsa (who was explained to have gone to the capital) is now being held in a dungeon, and that they’re going to go save her.
It’s a little silly juxtaposing a conversation about how everyone might have a legitimate reason for what they’re doing (hinting at some moral grayness) with proof that Royal Brat Baddie is an unreasonable dick and definitely the bad guy.
The party level also went up
The party level rising after the boss fight includes changes to how much Tactical Time is available, which I think means that you can’t stand around for long thinking about what to do. I typically run forward without thinking anyway, so that’s not likely to affect my play style much. The upgrade also allows for more items to be brought into combat, as well as opening up the ability to have two pairs of light/dark special attacks equipped at once. I definitely didn’t remember this being possible, though the explanation of how to use them hints at why that might be; you have to hold down the button until your second special attack appears, and that doesn’t seem very useful when time is ticking away in the background; Holding a button down and waiting could be too impractical to consistently rely on. We’ll see, though.