I'm a classically trained pianist who practiced almost everyday for 10 years straight, and then taught on weekends for about 8 years after. Not that I'm saying you need this kind of background to play Eternal Sonata, but an appreciation of Frederic Chopin's fine work certainly doesn't hurt. A Japanese RPG by Tri-Crescendo (who also went on to co-develop the beautiful but sad, Fragile Dreams: Farewell Ruins of the Moon), Eternal Sonata is a beautiful work of art, with soft, lush visuals, a wonderful soundtrack, and a blast to play.
Chopin's polonaises and nocturnes were some of my favorite pieces to play on the piano, even if they were extremely difficult since he had large hands, (and I'd be kidding myself if I think I can still sit down and play one of these right now), but some of his original music is featured in the game. Most of the original score is composed by Motoi Sakuraba, who has worked on the Star Ocean and Tales series. I'm completely serious when I say this game is worth playing for the visuals and music alone. It's one of the few games that stand out for me in those categories. I mean, just look at these screenshots! SO PRETTY!
Aside from the great music and pleasing art, Eternal Sonata has a somewhat interesting story that took place in Chopin's mind as he lay on his death bed. Alright, so that may sound a bit morbid and depressing, but the game introduces you to a variety of fascinating characters with absolutely adorable musical terms as names. Polka, Allegretto, Crescendo, Falsetto, Serenade, are just a handful of people who you'll get to know as you make your way through Chopin's dreamlike world. Okay, so the story isn't the game's strong point, but it's still a well-executed RPG even if it does nothing new.
When you actually have to go around and smack some enemies with your musical instruments in between cut scenes, combat is a mix of turn-based and action moments. You can plan out what you want to do before your turn, then you get a small window to position yourself on the battlefield before actually attacking. During combat, the placement of your character whether it's in the light or shadow, will determine what kind of abilities and spells your character can use, and it affects enemies as well. There's maybe some strategy involved, but you'd have to really screw up to not survive.
I have incredibly fond memories playing through this game, as it was relatively easy, accessible, and a pleasure to watch. There are some out of place moments where you get snippets of the real Chopin's life, but they serve as an interesting history lesson if you know nothing about the Romantic era virtuoso.
If you're looking to pick the game up, get the PS3 version if you can, since it has additional content that the original Xbox 360 one didn't have. Regardless of whether you decide to play this game or not, I'd at least seek out a few of Chopin's best pieces and have a listen. The Polish composer was extremely talented and had an impressive list of works. Or you could watch The Pianist with Adrian Brody. I admit that I listened to Chopin the entire time while working on this article.
Looking for stuff to play outside of the stuff we already tell you to play on a daily basis? You're in luck! Every Saturday we'll recommend an older game for you to check out, complete with a story on how we found the game and why we recommend you play it.