In the vast realm of role-playing games, few titles manage to carve out a niche as distinct and memorable as Eternal Sonata. A game that intertwines the dreamscape of a dying composer with vibrant gameplay mechanics, it stands as a testament to the boundless creativity of the RPG genre. While many games rest on tried-and-true formulas, Eternal Sonata dares to diverge, offering players a symphonic journey through a world where music isn't just a backdrop—it's the very essence of existence. Now, without further ado, RPG Ranked presents... an Eternal Sonata Review: A symphony of innovation and melody.
Battle System - 10
This game has a distinct battle system that I have not seen replicated in any other game. The only slightly comparable experience is Final Fantasy XII with Gambits turned off, but even that's a huge stretch. The game is turn-based, but it incorporates many unique action-based elements in the battle system. On your character's turn, you get a few seconds of "Tactical Time", in which you can figure out what action you want to take. Once that time runs out, you have a few seconds to execute commands or move around the battlefield before the next turn occurs. When you execute regular attacks, you can accrue Echoes, which boosts the effectiveness of special attacks and allows you to chain powerful abilities together. Perhaps the freshest and most standout mechanic, however, is the light and dark mechanics on the battlefield. Being in these different zones alters your special abilities to do different effects! For example, Polka may have a healing ability when in the light zone and a damaging ability in the dark. This makes positioning vital at all times and makes battles genuinely tactical. Each battle has different zone layouts, too, making each battle unique! And with twelve distinctly different-to-use playable characters? Every battle is a blast. In the end, this is one of the best battle systems ever put in an RPG.
Customization System - 6
While the battle system in Eternal Sonata is incredible, the progression is mediocre. Each character learns skills as they level up, but they are very limited in number. While this alone doesn't detract too much from the overall experience, in conjunction with the lack of innate abilities and stat manipulation, this game is overly simple in its abilities. It suffices in making battles fun, but for a game full of creativity, the customization could have been fresher and more exciting.
Music - 10
With music from my all-time favorite classical composer, Chopin, and one of the greats in the RPG music genre, Motoi Sakaruba (composer for the Tales, Star Ocean, Dark Souls, Golden Sun, and Mario Sports games), this game has fantastic music through and through. Every song in this game perfectly encapsulates the tone and tempo of the game, and the game incorporates music into the themes and narrative of the game better than any other RPG I've played. This game's music is one of the most impressive video game soundtracks, as well as one of the most unforgettable.
Story - 7.5
The story of this game has a better premise than any other RPG I've played. It tells the story of classical composer Chopin on his deathbed as he deals with the grief of loss through a dream world representative of his emotions. However, as the game progresses, the story strays farther and farther away from this idea, becoming progressively more generic yet more convoluted, leading to a subpar execution of a premise that was perfect on paper. This game's story certainly isn't bad, but it isn't great. There was so much missed potential here! As an avid music enthusiast myself and a lover of many genres, including classical music, this premise was tailor-fit for me. However, the game was disappointing in this regard, and I would've loved to see a more emotional, serious take on this game instead of the sillier story this game told about mineral powder and agogo fairies...
Locations - 6
I adore the music-related names of all the locations in this game, but otherwise, this game has slightly annoying dungeons and forgettable towns. I remember the dungeons being a slog in this game, and there aren't all too many locations in this game to begin with! In the end, this game has forgettable locales, and it deserves a lower score as such.
Characters - 7.5
Other than Chopin and maybe Polka, this game's characters are not too great. They are more than serviceable for the story being told, but, yet again, with such a masterful premise, the characters in this game fall flat. I don't actively dislike these characters, but they don't stand out either, leading to an average score in this category.
Art & Graphics - 9
This game has stunning, timeless graphics that excellently convey the whimsical nature of the game. While some games may be more realistic or stylish, this game looks fantastic. The animations and UI are also made incredibly, with the game constantly oozing charm. This game is yet another testament to the fact that a blend of realism and anime-style graphics is a perfect style for the JRPG genre.
Sidequests - 7.5
With much of the sidequests locked behind a second playthrough, this game's side content is relatively brief on a first playthrough. And even still, the second playthrough doesn't add all that much. While the game has two exciting bonus dungeons, that's really the extent of this game's bonus content—it's a rather streamlined experience. It may be brief in comparison to other RPGs, but its sidequests are still respectable. They aren't entirely up to par with many other games, and since this game already could have used a much more fleshed-out world, a streamlined, no-sidequest experience didn't work. This game truly isn't up to par with many other games in terms of its side quests.
Quality of Life - 7.5
As I just mentioned, there's a little too much locked behind a second playthrough, making this game rather annoying for completionists. While that's really my only complaint for this game, it's a big detractor for someone who values their limited gaming time. While this game isn't as egregious as games like Tales of Symphonia or Final Fantasy X-2, which both essentially require several playthroughs to unlock everything, it's still very frustrating to have to replay the game to access all of its content. Most of the later Tales games do it well, with something like the Grade Shop for a second playthrough. Games that incentivize a second playthrough without requiring it are a rarity, and unfortunately, Eternal Sonata isn't one of those games.
Fun Factor: 10
Overall Score: 81%
Letter Rating: S
While this game may be generic in its plot, world, and characters, its music, battles, style, theming, and premise are all incredible. Eternal Sonata is not a perfect game, but it is definitely worth giving a try if you are a music enthusiast or like games full of eclectic charm. With fantastic combat that never gets old and carries the player through some of the game's more generic moments, Eternal Sonata is an absolute blast to play, and I'd highly recommend it to RPG fans, especially those who are craving a unique experience or a Tales-game-adjacent experience with a new turn-based spin on it.
Want to check out this awesome game? It it stuck on the Xbox 360 and Play Station 3, but feel free to check it out below and support our website in the process! The Play Station 3 version has more content but the 360 version is a little more balanced so take your pick!
Primary Version: Eternal Sonata (Play Station 3)