Cope

James Wallis levels with you

The Song Remains The Same

It’s taken me a while but I finally tore myself away from WoW to start playing Eternal Sonata (Bandai/Namco, Xbox 360) today. I have been looking forward to this. It’s a JRPG set in the dreams of Frédéric Chopin as he lies dying of tuberculosis in Paris in 1849. And that is the kind of idea for an RPG that gets me really excited.

I mean that in all honesty. When I play a game I want to see things I’ve never seen before. Admittedly my usual taste in music is for stuff that sounds like a 70s analog synthesizer being fed through a wood-chipper covered in beeswax, while someone uses a sledgehammer to beat out the baseline on the Forth Bridge and someone else fires off the James Soane Collection of Badboy Kickdrums in the background. But Chopin’s dying dreams filtered through a Japanese sensibility, and interactive, from the same house that brought us Katamari and Xenosaga? Oooooo in approving and anticipatory tones.

Things begin quite promisingly. The first (game-engine-based) cutscene is beautifully animated and intriguing. The next one is also beautifully animated, is too long, and has voiceover that clanks more than Marley’s chains. The third one is about the same. But there’s a sense of atmosphere building, themes and mood, and a couple of (clanky) musical metaphors that bode well.

And finally the game itself begins, and I find myself escorting a young girl called Polka along a sun-dappled woodland path. It is very pretty. What’s that curious object sparkling over there? Why, it’s a save-point—how quaint! I am feeling quietly excited about the potential of the coming experience.

Suddenly Polka collides with something that looks like the mutant offspring of a leek and a pumpkin, and can’t proceed until she’s battered it to death with her umbrella, to the swelling sounds of a musical score that is almost completely unlike Chopin.

Then there are more leek-pumpkins. And a chest that someone’s left in a clearing, perhaps in tribute to the thousands of old-school RPGs with chests containing health-ups left in unlikely locations. And then more leek-pumpkins.

Ah well.


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2 Comments

  1. Ian Sturrock says:

    Thank you James! It’s a brave man who will undergo the crushing disappointment of getting his hopes up about a new console game, only to have them dashed when it turns out to be exactly like all the other console games, purely for the amusement of his peers. You gave me a much-needed early morning laugh here.

  2. NickD says:

    I pointed my RPG playing brother at your review, he replied with “Played a demo for about 2 minutes. Bag o’ Wank.”

    Nice build up James, but something the direct approach is best ;)

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