Earlier today, during a meeting with Namco Bandai, we had an opportunity to spend some quality time with a near-finished version of Eternal Sonata. It was only a month ago that we last reported on the game, but today was the first time that we've been able to take the controls of all 10 playable characters. We were also allowed to explore previously unseen locales where, predictably, we encountered unfamiliar enemies.
In case you haven't been following our previous coverage of Eternal Sonata, the game takes place in the dreams of Frederic Chopin as he lies on his deathbed. The turn-based combat system in which you get to move around and perform attacks in real-time is one of the game's most innovative new features, along with the fact that your characters' and enemies' abilities change according to whether they're positioned in a well-lit area or in the shade. Many enemies even undergo radical transformations as they move between light and dark areas, which adds an interesting strategy element to the combat as you try to figure whereabouts on the battlefield enemies are more vulnerable and then try to pull them there.
One of the 10 playable characters in Eternal Sonata is Frederic himself, who appears as a young man wearing formal clothes and armed with a cane. His companions, who you'll meet and add to your party as you progress through the game, include Salsa and March, who each wield a pair of rings; Jazz, who carries a large sword that wouldn't look out of place in a Final Fantasy game; Allegretto and Claves, who carry a short sword and a dagger, respectively; an archer named Viola who has the ability to fire healing arrows at companions; the umbrella-carrying Polka; a lithe hand-to-hand fighter named Falsetto; and Beat, who shoots enemies both with a gun and with a camera. You'll only control a party of three characters at any one time, and although there will be certain points in the game where one or more of those are mandatory, you'll generally be able to change your lineup any time you're not in combat.
For the purposes of today's demo, all of our characters were maxed out at level 99, and all of them were wearing high-level gear that afforded them significant attribute bonuses. Our group level was set to four, which we're told is the first level at which you can perform "harmony chain" attacks--powerful combos that can only be used after you string together at least 24 regular attacks using any or all of your characters. Even with all of that power at our disposal, many of the enemies that we encountered proved to be quite challenging, not only because they're taken from much later in the game than any that we've seen previously, but also because they were, at times, very intelligent.
One group of enemies that we encountered in the Adagio Swamp area, for example, were fishlike monsters with pretty standard attacks while they were in the sunlight. But when they moved into the shadows, they morphed into large scorpions with the ability to heal each other, which resulted in us having to prioritize the enemies that were in the dark, even though they were tougher there. A similar-looking group of enemies inside the Wah Lava Cave transformed into dragonlike creatures rather than scorpions, and were able to attack us with their tails as well as with their usual bite attacks, which made timing our blocks more challenging.
On our travels we also encountered two enemies who had their own light sources, which was good for us in that they didn't have any dark powers in their arsenal, but bad for us because it was very difficult to use any of our own dark powers--at least the close-range ones--on them. The more memorable of those enemies was the "angel goat," which as its name suggests was a goat with the halo and wings of an angel. Weird? Sure. Out of place in a surreal and beautiful world that exists only inside the dreams of a dying musician? No.
We get a little more excited for Eternal Sonata every time we see it, and the game's September release date is now only a couple of months away. We'll bring you more information on this one as soon as it becomes available.