Eternal Sonata Catch-all
(Yes, I realize there's probably no need for a "catch-all" thread for a game no one seems to be talking about, but there wasn't one already so I thought I'd make it...)
I know what you're all thinking, "Oh, jeez not another JRPG about the deathbed dreams of Frederick Chopin," but if you're willing to look past some of it's flaws, I think you'll find that Eternal Sonata is quite endearing and even a little innovative. I picked up it up on launch day and have been steadily plucking away at it since then. So far, I'm about a dozen hours in and I've got to say that I'm really enjoying it. My fairly unorganized highly unjournalistic views on the game are below.
Eternal Sonata's presentation is a mixed bag. Some of the core concepts of the story are very cool and original and, being a music geek at heart, it's really fun to see music used as the basis for many elements of the game. However, in typical JRPG style, some of the voice acting is terribly melodramatic or cartoony and much of the dialog is stilted. It's not that it's poorly translated - everything makes sense... it can just be really corny in that JRPG way we all have come to be familiar with (like it or leave it). Graphically, the art direction is fantastic. Tri-Crescendo have done a wonderful job bringing Chopin's dreamworld to life in a unique and simply breathtaking style. Many of the environments have they look of highly detailed living watercolors and are just a joy to look at. That said, the character designs, while stylish, just don't have that special "something" that gets you attached to characters like FFX's Auron, FFXII's Balthier, DQIX's Jessica and other memorable JRPG characters.
Sonata's game play is a mixed bag as well, but overall it's pretty strong. Traversing the world via the various fields is relatively painless. Encounters are not random, and therefore avoidable, but sometimes dungeons feel artificially long or save points feel awkwardly spaced. Eternal Sonata's battle system is definitely its strongest point, which is good because, like any other good JRPG, you spend a lot of time within it. Battles always seem to be fun and character skills are fun and interesting.
My only other complaint in terms of game play is that it is, so far, pretty easy. One of your characters gets the ability to take pictures of enemies in battle, which is a cool throwback to games like Dark Cloud 2, but in practice essentially breaks the game's economy by offering far too much money for the photographs you take. Rest assured that you'll never be low on funds. Even worse, though, is that at only about 12 hours in, I'm finding battles to be far from difficult, even against bosses. I generally would chock this up to my slightly-higher than mediocre skills with RPGs, but it just feels like the game, overall, is too easy.
There are certainly quite a few quirks with Eternal Sonata's presentation and game play, but it's got a certain charm to it that has just hooked me in. It is *not* the epic JRPG we've been waiting for on the 360 but, so far, it's been a really enjoyable experience. Is it worth $60? Not sure... you'll have to make that call for yourself. I'm personally not looking for another 100+ hour RPG right now, so I think this is going to be a great little tide-me-over until the likes of Mass Effect come out. Until then, I'll be toiling away at the nice little gem I've found here - and I'll be sure to post up my final impressions once I'm done.