A classic that proved the Xbox 360 could handle JRPGs.
In the spirit of full disclosure, I will say I have a biased towards this game as I am a lover of classical music and Chopin happens to be one of my favorite composers. Considering the game revolves around him as well as music in general, I may have a slight bias. ;-)
Eternal Sonata is a story that takes place within the imagination of the famed composer and pianist, Frédéric Chopin, as he lay on his deathbed. Within the dream world, the game tells the tale of a young girl with a terminal illness named Polka as she meets with Chopin within his dream world, as well as other characters. This tale is divided into chapters named after famous pieces composed by Chopin and each follow a theme based around the composition. Intermitently, the story cuts to Chopin's attendants watching over him on his death bed, discussing the situation and his chance of surival.
Lush scenery and beautiful incredibly detailed cel-shaded artwork adorn Eternal Sonata from start to finish. No scene is barren (save for one or two due to that being the desired effect that they were trying to convey) and each new area is a breath-taking feat of artistry. No corners are cut in either the scenery or character design and it's obvious a lot of effort and care was given to breathing life into the world of Chopin's imagination.
The (English) voice acting is superb with many of the characters perfectly cast. There is the occassional quirky voice, but none that ruin the tone or atmosphere of the dialogue. I was especially surprised by Polka's voice, as young girls are unfortunately miscast by the English dubbing crew, more often than not (though arguably not nearly as much now with more talented voice actors entering the profession).
Ahh, now the music. The game revolves around it and it is a delight to the ears and emotions. Had the game failed to deliver in this category, I'm not sure I would have been able to enjoy it. Thankfully, it lived up to its name and contains some of the most beautiful music found in video games, doing a wonderful job of conveying feelings and impact when needed, while blending softly into the background otherwise.
During the beginning of each new chapter, the title composition is played in its entirety with the story of Chopin's life being told on the screen in text. While I'm positive this can be a bore to sit through for many players who don't care for Chopin's music or his history, I found it to be an enjoyable intermission each time.
The combat system is innovative and fun, with light and darkness playing roles in what abilties your party members are able to use. You will rarely find yourself without shadow or light to step into, rather it sometimes becomes a test of being able to manuever into these spots and getting attacks off before time runs out. Aside from the aspect of light and dark, the combat system is a bit of a cross between turn-based and active combat. When a character's turn comes up, they have a set amount of time to move around and issue commands. As the game progresses the amount of time you have decreases, so it always maintains an aspect of challenge and never gets too easy.
If there was one mark against Eternal Sonata, it would be the fact that it is a very linear game. It is the story of Chopin's last moments, not his last weeks, so I can understand why there is a definite sense of pacing to the plotline from start to finish. The game's replayability is very much like finishing a novel -- it is entirely based on your desire to play through the same game again and perhaps catch a few plot points or treasure chests you may have missed, but that's about it aside from enjoying it a second time.
Eternal Sonata went above and beyond what it set out to do -- it told a story of love, rebirth, and beauty through wonderful music and gorgeous artwork. Not only that, but there's a great game with an enjoyable combat system underneath all of that. It's a rare gem that any fan of JRPGs should pick up, while romantics and music-lovers will absolutely adore it.
Other reviews for Trusty Bell: Chopin no Yume (Xbox 360)
Trusty Bell: Chopin no Yume(Xbox 360) by makari on March 01, 2009
It's hard to find a place to start when talking about Eternal Sonata. On one hand, it leaves a great first impression by offering an aesthetically and musically brilliant world to fall into, yet on the other, the unique combat system takes a quite a while to gel. Interlacing the two you have a very linear progression, and a story that at times can feel more like a vehicle for its often preachy morals. The game takes place inside the mind of renowned composer Frederic Francois Chopin, who is on h...
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