Eternal Sonata: Craptastic

I don’t usually like to write pieces about the suckiness of creative works. Most games are crafted with care and I’m sure soul fragments and heart residue are often inadvertently left behind as a result of much toil.

But I gotta say, I’m sorely perplexed to see the general review scores for Eternal Sonata.

eternal_sonata

I played this one back in my college years on XBox 360. From what I remember of it, it was a pretty decent game up to a point. The premise of the story was unique and interesting – historical composer Frederic Chopin is lying on his deathbed dreaming about an imaginary world. All of the characters you play are merely acting out his unconscious dream-fantasy. Combat was fun and music-themed, and the music was good. Dialogue was…no worse than your typical JRPG. And the story was fine until the sudden climax and descent into madness.

The plot had been about an evil kingdom, Forte, distributing a magical-disease-inducing “mineral powder” to the masses in an effort to overcome a rival kingdom, Baroque. There’s a mysterious girl who’s dying of magic cancer, adventures and intrigue, pirates; all good stuff.

Then you reach a point and it feels like the developer ran out of money and just made some shit up. You’ve just joined up with the prince and princess of the “good” kingdom, who crave peace to a foolish degree. Now we’re going to kick some ass, you think. Then all of a sudden you discover they’ve left to surrender to the “bad” kingdom because they’d rather give up their kingdom than consider war. Ah, right.

You roll up and try to save the royals, but they naively want to give themselves up. The evil boy-king spurns them, saying he doesn’t want them – he wants the magical disease girl so he can study her powers, or something. Her friends refuse and smack the king around a little bit. Then things go bonkers. He orders his butler (?) to drink some wacky tonic and he transforms into a monster hellbeast.

 

The bad guys escape to the moon or some other crazy place. You pursue them and eventually beat them. Then you wind up in some bizarre shadow world, and well. Let me just quote you the plot section of the game’s Wikipedia entry:

“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.”

Then you’re treated to some credits where the characters sermonize about moral and philosophical babbledy-boo.

9/10?

In fairness, I’ve read that the PS3 version added some additional characters and story. Perhaps they were able to more gracefully transition to a sensical ending? Either way, aside from dutiful fanship of JRPGs, I just can’t fathom why at least the XBox 360 version of the game is so highly rated.

-Bushi

bushi

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Eternal Sonata: Craptastic

5 thoughts on “Eternal Sonata: Craptastic

  1. I can’t think of any JRPGs I’ve played past the 16 bit era that didn’t have mondo bizarro endings. One of the only newish ones I really liked was Tales of Vesperia, but that’s because it had a really fun combat system – I also appreciated that the game was spectacularly grimdark for such a cutesy candy-colored pastel setting.

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    1. Yeah, I think the whole genre has become bogged down by overly repetitive themes like friendship, environmentalism, and the atrocities of war, which are not bad considerations in and of themselves, but are often carried home in preachy ways and with tired plot devices. Too many J games these days try to be philosophical instead of just crafting fun games with good stories.

      I think this is one of the reasons for the rise of Western series like Fallout, the Elderscrolls, Mass Effect, etc. Of course JRPGs are still hugely popular, especially domestically, but for many of us they’re just not as magical or groundbreaking as they once were.

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      1. There was an old JRPG I played ages ago called Mad Paradox – it was kind of a cheesy bodice-ripper (there were some pinup-y bits and waist up nudity) and was nominally a soft etchi game but it was stapled to a slightly better than competent 16 bit RPG engine. The beauty was in the simplicity and straightforward nature of the story; the bad-guy was the bad-guy, he was not some pawn in a scheme of abstract evil, and the good-guy was a pretty decent dude, even if he was not above accepting sex as a reward on a couple of occasions when he rescued some lady from monsters.

        I feel like if someone made a retro RPG based on Fafhrd & Gray Mouser or some Howard or Offutt characters, it would probably look like Mad Paradox.

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