Eternal Sonata is a pseudo-action RPG that attempts to blend music deeply into its experience.
The game puts players in the shoes of Chopin... well, sort of. In fact, most of the game takes place within the world of Chopin's last dream as he lies on his deathbed. In this dream, there are ten playable characters (many of whom are named after musical terms). The downside is that most of these characters are affected by terminal illness. With a premise like that, it's obvious the game is extremely lighthearted and cheerful (not really). Fortunately for these characters, however, their illness happens to unlock latent magical abilities within them, allowing them to be powerful for the rest of their time on the world.
Eternal Sonata features an overworld map with enemies that can be seen on-screen, but not easily avoided. As with almost any Japanese RPG, there are chests and other things to discover as one wanders about on "the outside."
The battle system of Eternal Sonata is turn-based with a minor twist. When a character's turn comes up, players have a certain amount of time to squeeze in all the actions they want that character to take. Movement around the battle screen can also run the meter down. As the game progresses and players get more skilled, the time given to them to complete actions shortens, keeping the difficulty higher. Essentially, though, it's a turn-based action RPG.
The developers of the game claim that the music in the game is a "key element in the environment and story." While it hasn't been revealed how music will affect the game directly, there is another presentational twist that adds a unique twist to the gameplay. Lighting is a key element in battle, as some enemies can change forms as they move into and out of the light. Some enemies comlpetely change their bodies and abilities each time they enter light, such as changing from a dragon into a beta fish lookalike. It is an interesting aspect with implications for battles that have yet to be seen.
The presentation of Eternal Sonata is obviously an important aspect due to the themes present in the game, and the musical score features both many works from Chopin himself, as well as several original works. The graphics cel shaded, and the environments look lush with life and quite vibrant, which is an interesting contrast to the rather depressing themes in the game.
Players can look forward to some musically named, terminally diseased, yet gifted with magic characters to have fun with when Eternal Sonata releases on September 17 for the Xbox 360.