Players: 1 - 3
Price: $59.99
Platform(s): Xbox 360
Developer: Tri-Crescendo
Publisher: Namco-Bandai
ESRB: Teen
Website: Eternal Sonata
Release Date: September 17, 2007

Sure, Blue Dragon is arriving to satiate the rare Japanese RPG fan gaming on a 360. But the title that you should keep your eye on is Eternal Sonata, a game that takes place in the dreams of composer Chopin while on his deathbed. It’s a surreal concept for a game, and the visuals live up to it. Of course, like Blue Dragon this new title from developer Tri-Crescendo is rife with turned based combat and vibrant visuals.

The high definition anime style cel-shaded characters are a treat for the eyes. The cutesy appearance of the characters is enough to placate any sweet tooth you may have. Aside from the phenomenal styling of the Corporeal attack in Blue Dragon, the visuals here might be better. Of course, that depends on how much you love Dragon Ball Z as compared to traditional anime style. Fan based shenanigans aside, what really matters is how the game plays. In that aspect Eternal Sonata delivers in triplets.

As each character takes their turn, enemy and friend alike, a timer counts down allowing as many attacks as possible. This battle system innovates on traditional Japanese RPG standards by allowing characters to roam freely, as well as use light and dark to deliver powerful attacks. Each character has a light and dark version of a special attack, and depending on the enemies vulnerability you’ll want to be standing in a specific location. Related to that is where an enemy stands. If your foe is in the shadows and extra powerful, it is to your benefit to lure him into the sunlight. Once you learn the system, the beauty of simplicity makes it a welcome addition to this RPG. Just as intriguing is the combo system: players can string together basic attacks to increase your “Echoes” rating, strengthening your special attacks. Later you’ll use “Harmony Chains” to string special attacks together.

Of course, any game based in the dreams of Frederic Chopin is going to feature a breathtaking score. Pianist Stanislav Bunin performs some of Chopin’s greatest original compositions throughout the game, adding a beautiful depth of fantasy. But the music doesn’t stop there, as players take up instruments and combine compositions (called “Score Pieces” in the game) with NPC’s encountered in the game world. Unfortunately, this intriguing game mechanic is not immediately accessible to those without the ability to read music.

If you’re willing to give Eternal Sonata a chance you’ll find a deep storyline told through the world of music. This is exactly what the game’s director, Hiroya Hatsuhiba, intended when the idea of sharing his favorite composer with today’s youth. Eternal Sonata will arrive in North America on September, 17th.

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