E3 '07: Eternal Sonata Updated Hands-On

We check out previously unseen locales and playable characters from Namco Bandai's upcoming music-themed RPG.

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.

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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.

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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.

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27 comments
darthdominion
darthdominion

I like the battle system and the cel-shaded graphics. This is a must-have on my list, bro.

Xenothaulus
Xenothaulus

The demo is out on XBL and it's very fun. Definately going to get this when it comes out; I've been waiting for a good jrpg on the 360 for too long!

ChickenHounk911
ChickenHounk911

If the demo is out on OXM, then it should also be out on XBL right? I'm still not sure whether it will be this game or Blue Dragon..... oh the choices!

Llothos
Llothos

OXM Magazine has the demo available in this months issue!

nowaf
nowaf

OHHHHH come on guys am sure of it the game is rock and coool astonish if you read, the music the battle system it's all great, i played a many of RPG games but this is the first game who ever make my dreams come true 10 playable characters with many of skills and special moves a wide area so you a free to move' this game gonna make a big sale in all the land for example i am from K.S.A and i know 8 people who's eager to play this game gays wait and see

encodi
encodi

I hope not Nawras. it looks like the rpg i will get while waiting for mass effect, looking good so far from what i've read but i will have to play it to tell if it's good or not.

Nawras
Nawras

I don't know why it seems silly, but I hope it isn't.

icytower
icytower

Another game from E3 that I think I will pass on.

DanMW
DanMW

This look really sweet, reminds me of Tales of Symphonia, should be pretty good.

Hunawearl
Hunawearl

Wow- between this, Bioshock, Halo3, Blue Dragon, Mass effect, PGR4, I'm going to go broke by christmas!

DouglasBuffone
DouglasBuffone

I played the demo and I absolutely loved it. The art style is just so cool

jakeboudville
jakeboudville

Hope to see more of this before the release date

Honenheim
Honenheim

a very animesc game i likkkeezzzz :D

LINK2K9
LINK2K9

The demo was incredibly fun, love the combination of real time and turn based battles. Definitely my most anticipated game of August.

comthitnuong
comthitnuong

Eternal Sonata is a must have for me. A 99 level max cap sounds like it will have a lot of gameplay time.

Sim_genius
Sim_genius

Oh man I so want this game. I might just pick up a 360 just to play it :D

gord_mose
gord_mose

Sounds wonderful. The demo in the Official Xbox Magazine was very impressive. I am really looking forward to this one!

LordAndrew
LordAndrew

Oh wow. September? That's soon! I'm looking forward to this.