Eternal SonataEternal Sonata is a role-playing video game developed by Tri-Crescendo and published by Namco Bandai Games. The Xbox 360 version of the game was released on June 14, 2007 in Japan, September 17, 2007 in North America, and October 19, 2007 in Europe. The game was also released on the PlayStation 3 with additional content as Trusty Bell: Chopin's Dream – Reprise on September 18, 2008 in Japan, and in North America on October 21, 2008, and in Europe with the original name Eternal Sonata on February 13, 2009.
The game is centered on the Polish romantic pianist and composer Frédéric Chopin, who died of tuberculosis at the age of 39. The story envisions a fictional world dreamed by Chopin during his last hours that is influenced by Chopin's life and music, and in which he himself is a playable character, among others.The game's battle system centers on musical elements and character-unique special attacks. Light and darkness plays a part in the appearance and abilities of enemies on the battlefield, as well as the types of magic that can be cast.
The game features a selection of Chopin's compositions played by pianist Stanislav Bunin, though most of the original compositions were written by Motoi Sakuraba. It is notable for its use of classical piano pieces, educational cutscenes featuring real paintings and photographs and lush landscape design.
Eternal Sonata PlotThe game for the most part takes place within the dream world of Chopin, with brief segments in the real world, where Chopin is on his death bed. The story is divided into eight chapters, with each chapter being represented by one of Chopin's compositions, and being related to events within his historical life. The story begins with a small group of characters wishing to meet with Count Waltz of Forte regarding the mineral powder, but eventually evolves into a far-reaching tale, with political espionage and rebellion being a commonly explored theme. Escapism is also a large theme in the game, one dealt with explicitly in the ending.
It starts with Polka, a young girl that has magic, which means she is going to die soon. One day, after being rejected by the citizens of Ritardando, because average people think the magic disease is contagious, she decides that she wants to do something with her life before it ends. The initial party wants to find out why the mineral powder is so cheap compared to the floral powder and to stop the mining of Mt. Rock to acquire it because the mining damages Agogo Forest. As they progress, the party learns that the mineral powder has fatal side effects that would aid Forte's insurrection against its enemy, Baroque. Realising this, the party heads for Forte, but are stopped and taken into the Forte dungeon because Forte was alerted to the planned arrival of the rebellion group, Andantino. Shortly after escaping, the party unites with Andantino and are spotted by the same Forte personnel south of Fort Fermata (which is a short walk from Forte), and fall off a bridge into a river. Half of the party, along with Andantino, go through poisonous swamps to Andante, the hideout of Andantino. The other half of the party were saved by Prince Crescendo of Baroque, with his ship. They encounter pirates and defeat them shortly thereafter. After getting safely into Baroque, the party discuss the situation. Forte is threatening a war, but Baroque wants peace. Crescendo thinks of the plan to assassinate Count Waltz of Forte, but the plan is quickly discarded.
In the PlayStation 3 version, that half of the party, along with Prince Crescendo and Princess Serenade, are then warped into Lament Mirror. The party discovers the history of Baroque and Forte. They find out that they were also once at a similar situation of threat to an all-scale war.
That half of the party returns to Ritardando to reunite with the rest of the party. As they do, Allegretto leaves the reunion to retrieve Polka from her village. The full party then heads for Baroque and decide to explore Aria Temple, where they uncover a part of the mystery. When the party returns to Baroque, they find Crescendo and Serenade missing. It is discovered that they left for Forte to turn themselves in to prevent war. The party heads for Forte, and on the way (at Mt. Rock), they encounter Crescendo, Serenade and subsequently, Count Waltz. They battle, but Count Waltz completes a potion which turns his partner, Legato into a giant monster. Legato then rips a portal in the air and disappears with Waltz. Realizing that the entire world, not just Baroque is in danger, the party follows them to the city of the dead, Elegy Of The Moon, where souls lost to the mineral powder dwell. The party advances past Xylophone Tower and the Noise Dunes to Double Reed Tower, where Legato made another portal. There, the party defeats them and finally fight Chopin as the final antagonist, for him to complete his destiny. Realizing that it is the only way to save the world, Polka jumps off a cliff and is reborn younger, but then becomes older again and embraces Allegretto. Finally, back in the real world, Chopin’s spirit rises out of his body and he plays his piano one last time, in a blooming sea of nocturnal flowers 'Heaven's Mirror', composing a song that was inspired by Polka.
Eternal Sonata GameplayEternal Sonata follows many general conventions in a typical role-playing video game: the player controls a party of up to twelve characters to explore the world, talking with its inhabitants, buying and selling equipment at shops, and encountering monsters while in the field. These encounters are visible, and the player can opt to avoid the encounter, if possible, as well as gaining an edge on the monsters by approaching them from behind. Experience points are awarded to all members of the party, though at a reduced rate for those not involved in combat, and characters will improve in various statistics with each experience level as well as learning special combat skills. Weapons, armor, and accessories can be used to improve these statistics, which can be purchased through money earned in combat, found in chests, or by selling both equipment and photographs which can be taken by the character Beat during battle. The player may also find Score Pieces scattered about the world, which represent short musical phrases. Various NPCs in the game will offer to perform with the party, requiring the player to match a Score Piece to the phrase offered by the NPC, with the resulting composition being ranked. Discordant matches will result in no reward, but close or perfect matches will gain a bonus item from the NPC.
Anticipation for the game seemed high prior to release, with the game having reached number four in Amazon Japan video game pre-orders not long after a demo was made available on the Japanese Marketplace, and even number one on Amazon Japan's video game charts not long before the game's release. Famitsu rated the game 9/9/9/8, for a total score of 35/40. During its release week, the Xbox 360 version the game reached second place on the Japanese sales charts at 49,334 copies. The following week, it had dropped to 35th. The PlayStation 3 version debuted on Japanese sales charts at number four with around 34,000 copies sold. Famitsu reported that year-end Japanese sales of the game reached about 70,435 copies on the Xbox 360 in 2007 and 53,314 copies on the PlayStation 3 in 2008.
At E3 2007, it won GameTrailers's award for Best Role-Playing Game and IGN's award for Best Original Score on Xbox 360, and was a runner-up in Best RPG, Best Artistic Design on Xbox 360 and Best Use Of Sound on Xbox 360.
In Europe and the U.S., it received many high reviews. GameRankings gave the PlayStation 3 version an average aggregate score of 82.39% based on 28 reviews, and the Xbox 360 version 80.32% based on 57 reviews. Metacritic gave the PlayStation 3 version an average aggregate score of 80% based on 34 reviews, and the Xbox 360 version 79% based on 53 reviews. GameSpot gave it an 8.5 out of 10, praising its magnificent visual design, stunning musical score, inventive battle system and great cast; though it admitted that the story is completely linear. IGN gave the Xbox 360 version an 8.3 out of 10, claiming that it had some of the best visuals on the 360 and had great combat. They also stated that "the soundtrack is astounding" and claimed the story did a great job of educating the player about Frédéric Chopin. However, the game was criticized for being too short for a Japanese role-playing game and for the lack of exploration. IGN gave the PlayStation 3 version a higher 8.7 out of 10 and the Editor's Choice Award, with praise for its extension of the storyline, the inclusion of new playable characters, and the inclusion of other extras, such as new dungeons and customizable characters. X-Play gave the game a 3 out of 5 praising the combat, soundtrack and visuals but complained that there were too many mini games, a poor story and too many role-playing video game clichés. Johansen Quijano-Cruz of the Eludamos Journal for Computer Game Culture reviewed the game from an artistic and literary perspective, praising it as an excellent role-playing game, particularly for the social criticism conveyed by its storyline. He regards it as a primary example of a video game that "makes powerful statements about the society in which we live" and "incorporates, analyzes, interprets, and offers critical commentary of certain aspects of society".
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