Eternal Sonata Impressions

Namco Bandai shows off previously unseen areas from its upcoming role-playing game at a press event in San Francisco.

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Earlier this week while attending Namco Bandai's 2007 Editors' Day in San Francisco, we had an opportunity to check out a work-in-progress version of Tri-Crescendo's Eternal Sonata. We played through an enjoyable Xbox Live demo of Eternal Sonata just last month, and although we weren't permitted to take the controls on this occasion, we were still able to glean some interesting new information on the game during the presentation.

The previously unseen Salsa is one of 10 playable characters.
The previously unseen Salsa is one of 10 playable characters.

Our presentation set sail with an in-engine cinematic that saw a handful of Eternal Sonata's 10 playable characters aboard a galleon that was in danger of being boarded by pirates. The galleon that the good guys were aboard appeared to be a relatively conventional craft, but the pirate ship was highly stylized and, in places, appeared to be constructed from huge bones. Allegretto was the only character we recognized from our time with the Xbox Live demo, but he was joined by two new characters named Jazz and Salsa. The same party was also used when the presentation moved to a gameplay sequence. Because Salsa had been nominated as the leader by the player, it was her character model that we saw negotiating jumps over lava pits and the like.

By the time you read this, Eternal Sonata will already be available in Japan as Trusty Bell, so we were not surprised that changes to the gameplay mechanics we had so much fun with in the Xbox Live demo were not readily apparent. But we did notice that the sequence we were being shown was taken from much later in the game, so the battles were played out at a much more frenetic pace. Specifically, the five seconds that you have to perform each character's actions when it's his or her turn at the start of the game will be down to just four seconds by the time your party reaches level six. The infinite "tactical time" that you're afforded between turns early on will also be nonexistent later on in the game.

This fishlike creature was a dragon earlier, honest.
This fishlike creature was a dragon earlier, honest.

During our presentation, all of the battles were against enemies that we hadn't seen before, and some of them exhibited interesting abilities. The dragonlike "Haken Büsche" transform into floating fishlike creatures known as "Coelacanth" when they move out of the shadows into well-lit areas of the battlefield. Another enemy that we saw, which we unfortunately didn't catch the name of, had its own light source, which will make it impossible for any of your characters to use their dark attacks once they get close to it.

Our time with Eternal Sonata was all too brief on this occasion, but with the game's September North American release date closing in fast, we're hopeful that we'll have an opportunity to spend some quality time with it soon. We'll be bringing you more information as soon as it becomes available.

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