Hours Played: 1.75
First Impressions - A World Full of People With Giant Shoes
This will be the first game that I officially review. I had played the demo for this game and was pleasantly surprised. It seems like it was made specifically for me. A music-themed anime-style RPG based around Chopin, my favorite classical composer (from playing the piano since I was young).
I gave the manual a read, as I always have when I get a new game, and was surprised to find that it actually contained some information! This is horribly uncommon these days. It even explained game mechanics and character stats! Too bad the character stats are so simple and don't really need explanation, but still, this was a good sign that someone cares.
The opening cutscenes were a bit vague to me, and the scenes seemed to be perhaps a bit out of order. If I didn't already know the basic gist of the game's storyline, I probably wouldn't know exactly what the deal was with the world I was playing in. I'm going to go back and watch it again. Not a major issue, the opening was still enjoyable.
I like how there is a choice to play the game using Japanese audio and English subtitles, as I am somewhat of a purist when it comes to works originally created in another country. For the sake of this review, I'm playing the game in English. The English voices are working for me right now, though some of them do have a bit of a high pitch.
The music theme can be seen everywhere, from the score pieces you collect, to the music player available right in the menu, to the musical instrument shaped scenery. The music and sound effects themselves are great, and I can't wait to see/hear which of Chopin's pieces they included in the game.
The graphics are beautiful in 720p. Characters, enemies, and scenery all look great. The only graphical flaw, which is acceptable to me because I assume it is because of performance reasons, are the textures on plants and trees (they just doesn't fit with the rest of the gorgeous graphics).
Battles are fun, though they always are at the beginning of most RPGs. I spent some time grinding with the first character, since I needed to grind to get through the demo. The light/dark mechanic and placement of enemies gives each battle a different feel. The battle tutorials (of the two I viewed) were clear and quick, and told in the voices of the characters you play as, which I liked. I am wondering if targeting may become an issue in the future, since the manual states that you don't actually choose targets to cast healing spells/use items, you just go near and face them. Currently, I like the way that each battle action is regulated by one "time" gauge, rather than using traditional magic/skill points. I am also intrigued by how my "party level" will increase, leading to new abilities and changing how battles work.
For those curious, Eternal Sonata for the PS3 supposedly contains some new quests/an expanded storyline, new playable characters, new dungeons, new music, and a new costume system. I will let people know about these extra inclusions once I encounter them.
And that's my first first impression. More to come.
Time Played 6.75 hours
"Huh, I'm supposed to fight this?"
I spent some time grinding and figuring out how much each attack cost my action gauge when I was party level one. This was silly, and I'm not sure why I did it, since I hit party level 2 soon after. Still, it helped me to realize that the more you attack in a combo, the less each successive attack costs.
I really love the battle system, and I have high hopes for it. A nice touch is how when you build up enough "Echoes" (kind of combo points), and unleash a special attack, you are treated to a special more-cinematic attack animation. I'm big on stuff like that. The timed defense "chance" button presses seem perfectly balanced. The light/dark mechanic is not just a gimmick, and I love how even characters/enemies/objects' shadows (or the light shining off their tails) are incorporated
Taking photos is cool, though it seems like it makes making money too easy. I am still figuring out how to take the best photos.
I like how leveling up really makes a difference almost with each level (at least at this point), and it's noticeable in battles with the current enemies you are fighting.
Exploring is done fairly well, though I don't like how you have to be facing certain points perfectly to be able to search. The graphics and scenery are very beautiful and inventively designed.
I have gone through the first two expositions on the history of Chopin, and am satisfied with the Chopin pieces used and with the quality of the history taught.
I haven't been bored with the cutscenes yet, and I feel the dialogue is well written (not spectacular, but not bad either).
I did encounter one my my pet peeves of video games...the unbeatable enemy. This is just not necessary in games anymore. Instead of putting me in a fight where I am wasting my items, just have the enemy strike me down in a cutscene. Annoying, but items are easy for me to come by, so not that bad.
Time Played: 14 hours
"I'm ready to go, all I have to do is let loose!"
Beat's beginning of battle quotes keep getting better (see title of this and the last update), and it doesn't hurt that they're said in that squeaky voice of his.
With each new game I start, as long as it's not a complete piece of junk, I will love it in the beginning and it can't do any wrong. That "honeymoon" phase for this game is now over, and it specifically ended in what could be considered the first dungeon of the game. Not that the dungeon was awful, but I did think it was a little too big, so combat became repetitive.
However, the combat system and the way it is handled I still like very much. The game allows you to skip enemies by running around them; with random battles this game would be very tedious. Each battle has a random-ish placement of enemies along with random-ish light and dark spots. You can reduce damage done to you by using properly timed button presses during the enemies' attack phases. Positioning is important as you can't reduce damage done from your back. Attacks and special attacks vary by character, and some can hit multiple enemies depending on the character's facing when used. Every character's attacks and special attacks work differently, and none are horribly weak (though some are stronger than others), so swapping new characters into your party regularly is actually viable. Some enemies morph when moving between light and dark areas. Enemies use varied attacks, and even once you think you've seen them all, an enemy may throw a new one at you. Battles require strategy to use the best abilities possible while maximizing the use of the Action Gauge. All these elements work together to stop battles from becoming unbearably tedious. It is battling itself that becomes repetitive, but that again is mitigated by being able to see enemies on the field and avoid them if possible.
I got game over for the first time against one of the bosses. He was pretty strong, and I was arrogant enough to save up my "echoes" (combo points which make special moves stronger) too much, and I didn't take the battle seriously enough. I actually like the fact that I died, because it means that the game will hopefully stay challenging throughout. Using timed button presses for defense was almost required against this boss.
Photos seem simpler than I thought they might be, but that's not bad. You basically just need to get the subject into the center, and have a proper amount of zoom (trying to get other subjects in the background too). Waiting for a "photographer to be in the store" when you sell them nets huge amounts of profit on your good photos.
The Score system, where the player finds scores to perform along with certain NPCs throughout the world, seems like it may be annoying without a guide. I wish it was implemented in a different way, maybe through a section of the menu, where you could unlock the NPCs' scores once you've met them, so you don't have to go back to find them once you get new scores. Not far enough into the system to see if this even matters yet.
AI is a little wonky, but not terrible. Sometimes enemies take odd paths to you (giant circles), or walk right up to you and don't attack. Only specific enemies have specific problems though. Some of the enemy models were reused awfully fast.
Still enjoying it.
Hours Played - 22
I made it through the first (to my knowledge) dungeon added for the PS3. In case people were wondering, it appears that the new characters are only playable in these new areas (though we'll see later). What basically happens, is that at a certain point, a new scene is thrown in and you travel off to a new dungeon. The dungeon was of fair quality, and it explored the past of the world somewhat, but it wasn't incredible. It had decent variation exploration-wise, and tt did contain another fairly challenging boss. Inside this dungeon, you find a new costume (the first that I found), which does nothing but change the look of one of your characters (no battle changing abilities).
Scores, once an appealing side-system to me, I now hate. All you do is collect them, and then find another person with one, and run through them from top to bottom to see if you have the right one. Sometimes one that sounds good ends up being completely wrong. This could have been handled better, but after each performance it takes you out of the score comparison screen, which makes it tedious and annoying to talk to the person again each time you want to try a score.
The photo system seems fairly pointless too. If you can take a few "A" rank photos and sell them when a "photographer is in the store," you get tons of money to the point where you don't even worry about it. Money is not that necessary either. The photo system needs to add more to the game (maybe it does later?).
The game is taking on a "Metal Gear Sonata" feel, with the cutscenes running way too long for me sometimes, and I actually yearn for just some simple text scenes which I could skip through quickly. One character's <span class="spoiler">death</span> scene runs on WAY too long. Chopin's history scenes are still interesting at least. I am hoping to finish the game within one more week.
Final Played Time - 38 hours
I finished the game, including the optional dungeon. Thanks to Clix for the heads up on that dungeon, because in my opinion the thing is impossible to find if you don't know about it. The new PS3 characters are not only available for one dungeon; they also become available towards the later part of the game for good. Unless more PS3 content is available in Encore playthroughs, there doesn't seem to be a whole lot. Going along with a guide for the Xbox 360 version of the game, there was only one extra dungeon and one extra boss fight. I only found one costume, and I explored fairly well, so these might be found in the Encore as well (the costume screen shows at least 3 more can be found or unlocked).
I enjoyed the game, but it became tedious. The battle system is progressive and fun, but not deep enough. I didn't care much for the characters, and the cutscenes mostly had too slow a pace. Cutscenes basically could be broken down to...
Boss - "I'm evil"
Character - "You're evil!"
Boss - "I'm, evil"
Character - "We don't like evil!"
Character - "My insecurities are a hindrance!"
Character - "I regret my past!"
Boss - "I'm evil"
This is not something that is compelling to watch when it draws on for 10-20 minutes. The best cutscene in the game is the ending (rightfully so), and was surprisingly touching. Review coming soon.
You must gather your party before venturing forth