Eternal Sonata, or Trusty Bell as it is known in Japan, is bound for the Xbox 360 in a few months. With only a handful of RPGs currently available for the system, RPGamers with Xbox 360s are longing for something to play. Eternal Sonata might just fill that void. The story takes place in a fantasy, dream world where people with incurable diseases are granted magical powers. This includes the famed composer Chopin, who is just hours from death in the real world.
My playthrough focused on combat. All enemy encounters are viewable on-screen, but the pathways are fairly small, so they are tough to avoid. Upon entering combat, gamers enter a real-time combat system with turn-based features. Each of the three characters in the party get their own turn to move around the battle field and attack within a specified amount of time. Attacking requires the player to position their character near enough to hit the enemy and then press the specified attack button as fast and as often as possible before the time limit runs out. Characters deal more damage when they move around behind the enemy, so relative positioning is a major factor. Characters can perform standard attacks or use special moves within that time. Using standard attacks builds up a meter that makes special moves more powerful when used. These special moves are unique to each character and range from powerful attacks to healing to taking pictures of battle. These moves also differ depending on whether or not the character is in an area of the battle field that is light or dark, so that adds another unique element to the gameplay.
"Eternal Sonata paints a pretty picture for Xbox 360 owners."
Along with attacking, characters are able to select items to use in battle as well. Guarding during enemy turns also adds another strategic element in combat. If the player can time it just right, they can guard enemy attacks in order to take less damage. Characters level up in typical fashion, but there are also party levels as well. This level is adjustable and offers less time per turn for each character, but makes for quicker battles, faster leveling, and maybe even more of a challenge. The only complaint I had was the camera angles during combat. Though they could be changed at any time, they never really seemed to focus in on the character I was using at a decent angle to see the enemies as well.
Outside of combat, Eternal Sonata was fairly smooth as well. Loading times were minimal and menu options were plentiful. You could view character stats, item collections, and the interesting score sheet collection. Keeping with the musical theme of the game, you can collect items known as scores. Occasionally, you will find someone else with a score and you are given the opportunity to play your scores together. Depending on how well the scores sound together, you are graded and if you score high enough, you will get new items. On the subject of music, all in-game pieces are very melodic and pleasant to listen to. The game's voice acting seems to be on par as well, though the battle phrases did start to get a little repetitive. Graphics in Eternal Sonata are very impressive; one of the most awe-inspiring features of the game. All areas and characters are extremely bright, fluid, and highly detailed. Character motions and expressions give this game a style of its own.
Eternal Sonata paints a pretty picture for Xbox 360 owners. They will be treated to a traditional, yet unique combat system as well as one of the most detailed RPG worlds to date. Whether the plot will pan out is yet to be seen, but just looking at the basic mechanics of Eternal Sonata, Namco Bandai has a remarkable RPG on their hands.