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Monday, June 16, 2008

Eternal Sonata: The Good and The Bad

Eternal Sonata is sucking me in big time. I wasn't too sure what to expect when I first started spending more time with the game. After playing through the first 30 minutes of the game as Polka (a.k.a. little girl w/umbrella), I wasn't sure what to expect from the rest of the game.

Well, my fears we're completely unfounded and ridiculous. What started out as a "girly" RPG has quickly turned into a great looking and interesting adventure that I'm looking forward to playing through to the end. The story and scenery are very well done, the voice acting is well above par, and the combat is loads of fun.

Eternal Sonata does so many of the little things right.

  • Giving players the ability to pause cut-scenes is a great feature that should be present in all games. It's hard to put everything on hold for a 30 minute cut-scene.
  • No random battles! It's nice being able to navigate an area without having to slice your way through enough enemies to make some sort sort of...something that takes a lot of enemies...parts and such. If you've ever played a Final Fantasy game, you'll know exactly what I'm talking about here.
  • Buying and selling items is efficient and easy. If I need to see if a particular item will aid my team, I need only glance at the left-side of the screen. Eternal Sonata displays all potential bonuses and benefits on-the-fly for each character/item combination.
  • The concept of Party Levels keeps combat challenging while also providing enough extra abilities to give players an overall sense of improved skill and raw power.
  • Save points - an antiquated convention at best, a horrible carry-over from the days when games tried to punish their players at worst - are frequent and well-positioned to reduce frustration.
  • Game difficulty is extremely well-balanced. I haven't found anything so easy that I've been bored nor have I encountered any bits of the game that have left me frustrated.
My only beef with Eternal Sonata so far is with the control scheme. There are two characters - Viola and Beat - who have special abilities and attacks that require me to aim a targetting reticle on the screen. Unfortunately, the Y-axis is inverted. I'm not playing a flight sim here: let up mean up and down mean down!

And while we're on the subject of controls, I really dislike how players are supposed to make use of secondary special abilities. Once you hit Party Level 3, each character can make use of four special abilities: two can be used in light/daylight and two can be used in darkness/shadow. If the character you're controlling is standing in the light, you hit to trigger a special light ability or attack. if you'd like the character to access his/her second special light ability, you need to hold down until the special ability name changes on screen before releasing .

In theory, this sounds reasonable; in practice, it's brutal! Combat is timed and pretty fast-paced. Do you really think I have time to get a character in position for an attack, press and hold a button, and release it in time? I think a better control scheme could have made use of buttons to access secondary special abilities. For example, how about + ? Or how about a click of to toggle between primary and secondary special abilities?

I cleared a few more Eternal Sonata achievements over the weekend. I'll discuss those tomorrow and also pass along an update of what's been happening in the game so far.

Have a good one!


chronic-doodler said...

I hear you about the Party Level 3 "y" attack thing! I haven't been able to get the hang of that at all! I'm glad somebody else is having the same problem, I've been googling around a while for advice :(

Do you just have to hold it down for a really long time? Because seriously, I haven't even been able to get that to work ONCE.

Klopzi said...

chronic-doodler -

Yes, just hold down the special attack button and release as soon as the special attack changes.

Honestly, after ten or twenty battles, you'll get the hang of it. Just be sure to keep your most used special attacks as Special Attack 1 and save those rarely used special abilities for Special Attack 2.

For example, I typically placed my healing abilities in the #2 slot.

Hope this helps! Stick with it and you'll have the game beat in no time.

Anonymous said...

The battle system is very easy. It takes about 2-3 hours to get the hang of it.