I finished Eternal Sonata tonight, and my final impressions were positive. I can’t get over the effort that got put into making this game look pretty at every turn – there were times I’d run my characters through an area at top speed, stop, walk back to the area I’d just left, and take a few minutes to just LOOK at things.
I also really liked the combat system, particularly the way that it held your hand early in the game and slowly built up to a system that was fairly challenging but that let you pull off some really impressive combination attacks – even though I didn’t do the side quest to unlock the Final Level Of Badassery.
It made me realize something about myself: I’ve changed a lot since the 90s when pretty much all I played were JRPGs. I couldn’t beat action games at the time, because they were usually made pretty hard so you couldn’t beat them in a rental unless you had a) the reflexes of a teenager and b) memorization skills, but I could beat JRPGs that were turn based and let you simply grind your way past challenges.
Nowadays, action games are tuned to be easy enough for 30-somethings like me to beat, and I’ve played enough of them that I actually manage to feel fairly adequate at them – and the old style turn-based JRPGs are a bit, well, dull.
Oddly enough, I still like strategy JRPGs. Jeanne D’arc was huge fun, for example.
Eternal Sonata was nice and actiony AND it mostly let me decide when to blow through an area quickly, avoiding combat, or take things slow and grind up levels. More games need that.
Now, then, I do have one or two unkind things to say.
First off, the localization team gets a lot of points in my book for including the original Japanese voices and allowing you the option of subtitles.
It is, therefore, a shame that they neglected to subtitle most of the ending. It’s not that it would have made a lot of difference – from what I’ve pieced together, the story has a lot of plot that’s not ever explained even if you do understand the ending, but it would have been nice to be able to read along as all the characters talked to me.
Second, there are a few parts of the game that are never described or hinted at but that are necessary if you’re an achievement hunter. I’m not; I cheerfully breezed to the end with the fewest possible achievements, but if I cared about getting a 1000/1000 on a game I’d hate Eternal Sonata.
Lastly, it felt like it had too many characters for the small party size; towards the end of the game I had 2/3rds of my lineup benched because the three characters I’d focused on were so powerful that swapping anyone off the bench just seems counterproductive.