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Crossing the bridge between dreams and reality - Let's Play Eternal Sonata!

Albatoss

Prince
(He/him, they/them)
(Note: this is a migrated thread from the old forums that originally started in May 2020, hence the lack of responses to this thread for the first few pages. I'll provide a link to the old thread once I'm able to.)

Table of Contents
Chapter 1: Raindrops
Verse 1-1: The Dream Begins
Verse 1-2: The Seaside Town of Ritardando
Verse 1-3: The Forest of Feelings
Verse 1-4: The Rain-soaked Wood, Part One
Verse 1-5: The Rain-soaked wood, Part Two
Verse 1-6: Ogre Battle

Chapter 2: Revolution
Verse 2-1: The Road to Forte
Verse 2-2: The Abandoned Fortress
Verse 2-3: The Nervous Capital City
Verse 2-4: Cliff-sides and Confrontations
Verse 2-5: Clash on the Big Bridge

Chapter 3: Fantaisie-Impromptu
Verse 3-1: The Silent Swamp
Verse 3-2: The Poisoned Groves
Verse 3-3: The Haunted Cemetery


Chapter 4: Grande Valse Brillante
Verse 4-1: Pirates!
Verse 4-2: The Royal Mirror, Part One
Verse 4-3: The Royal Mirror, Part Two
Verse 4-4: The Snowbound Kingdom of Baroque

♪♪~ Soundtrack (in order of appearance)

(All non-Chopin music composed by Motoi Sakuraba)
Think of Me
Reflect the Sky, Bloom the Life
Relaxing Place
Leap the Precipice
Well-Done
A Faint Light Grasped in the Hand
The Mediocrity Sought Out By Everyone
An Inspection Which Values Harmony
Underground for Underhand
Rapid Fire
Opposition Resignation
Can You Recite the Dream
Illuminant Lives
Pyroxene of the Heart
When We Are Together
Your Circumstances
A Step
Innumerable Animals
Raindrops (Prelude in D Flat Major, Op. 28 No. 15)
Pressure
A Flicker Which Divides Light and Darkness
Can We Be Both Different and Alike
Strategy
Revolution (Étude in C Minor, Op. 10 No. 12)
Dive into the Vast Expanse of Plains
A Wall With No Front or Back
Breeze the Conductor
Trembling Homefront
Mazurka in B Minor, Op. 33 No. 4
DANTOTSU!
The Posture You Do Not Despise
From Strength to Kindness
Pursuit
I Bet My Belief
Silence and Life
Wonderland of Wanderer
Endure and Resist
No No I Don't Die Noooo!
Fantaisie-Impromptu in C Sharp Minor, Op. posth. 66
A Buffer for Quiet
Walk of the Heart
Seize the Artifact for Tallness
White Mirror
Grande Valse Brillante in E Flat Major, Op. 18
Journey to the Projective Mind
The Royal Mirror
Little Dog Waltz (Waltz in D Flat Major, Op. 64 No. 1)

From Tomorrow On...

Glossary of Musical Terms
1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 14 15 16

Score Pieces

1 (piano) / 2 (violin) / 3 (recorder) / 4 (accordion) / 5 (violin) / 6 (harpsichord) / 7 (violin) / 8 (oboe) / 9 (piano) / 10 (recorder) / 11 (clarinet) / 12 (string section) / 13 (piano) / 14 (violin)

Bonus Material

Artwork
Allegretto (scratchy) (sword detail) (in-game render)
Baroque Castle exterior
Beat (alternate pose) (in-game render) (box art render)
Claves (alternate pose) (in-game render)
Crescendo (in-game render)
Falsetto (in-game render)
Frederic (alternate pose) (in-game render)
Heaven's Mirror Forest (flower field)
Jazz (in-game render)
Polka (scratchy) (with parasol) (in-game render)
Salsa (in-game render)
Serenade (in-game render)
Tuba (in-game render)
US PS3 box art
Viola (no bow) (alternate pose) (in-game render)

A Closer Look at Motoi Sakuraba's Musical Career

Part 1: Beginnings (Before Game Music)
Part 2: Solo Albums
Part 3: The Early Days

Sources:
Motoi Sakuraba Profile for VGM Online by Chris Greening
progarchives entry for Deja Vu
progarchives entry for Pazzo Fanfano di Musica
Translated interview on shmupulations
VGMdb discography

♪♪~ Recommended Listening

Pieces by Chopin:
12 Études, Op. 10: No. 1 in C Major / No. 4 in C Sharp Minor / No. 8 in F Major / No. 9 in F Minor
Fantasy on Polish Airs in A Major, Op. 13
Piano Concerto No. 2 in F Minor, Op. 21
Ballade No. 1 in G Minor, Op. 23
24 Preludes, Op. 28: No. 2 in A Minor / No. 3 in G Major / No. 8 in F Sharp Minor / No. 9 in E Major / No. 13 in F Sharp Major / No. 16 in B Flat Minor / No. 17 in A Flat Major / No. 21 in B Flat Major
Impromptu No. 1 in A Flat Major, Op. 29
Four Mazurkas, Op. 33
Waltz in A Flat Major, Op. 34 No. 1
Impromptu No. 2 in F Sharp Major, Op. 36
Waltz in A Flat Major, Op. 42
Fantaisie in F Minor, Op. 49
Impromptu No. 3 in G Flat Major, Op. 51
Three Mazurkas, Op. 59

Three Waltzes, Op. 64: No. 2 in C Sharp Minor / No. 3 in A Flat Major

Pieces by other composers:
Keiko Abe - Dream of the Cherry Blossoms
Samuel Barber - Hermit Songs, Op. 29
Amy Beach - Romance in A Major for Violin and Piano, Op. 23
Margaret Bonds - The Negro Speaks of Rivers / Troubled Water
Lili Boulanger - Prelude in D Flat
Frank Bridge - A Fairy Tale
John Cage - Dream / In a Landscape
Claude Debussy - Bruyères
Julius Eastman - Gay Guerrilla
Inti Figgis-Vizueta - a bridge between starshine and clay
Jennifer Higdon - blue cathedral
Leoš Janáček - On an Overgrown Path
Franz Liszt - Grandes Études de Paganini, No. 3 in G Sharp Minor ("La campanella")
Fanny Mendelssohn - Easter Sonata
Francis Poulenc - Concerto for Organ, Timpani and Strings in G Minor
Maurice Ravel - Jeux d'eau / Menuet Antique / Sonatine
Steve Reich - Eight Lines
Ethel Smyth - Cello Sonata in A Minor, Op. 5
Maria Szymanowska - Caprice sur la romance de Joconde
Germaine Tailleferre - Ballade for Piano and Orchestra
Pyotr Tchaikovsky - Piano Sonata in G Major, Op. 37
 
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Albatoss

Prince
(He/him, they/them)
Hello everyone. It’s been a while for me – I haven’t made a thread in this subforum since 2013, and that’s far too long, in my opinion. But I’m back, and I’m here to showcase a game that I care probably entirely too much about. Fellow members of Talking Time, Let’s Play…





Eternal Sonata is one of my favorite games, and I don’t care that I’m the only person I know who will say that. It was originally released as an Xbox 360 exclusive in 2007; I was 15 at the time, and as both a musician and a lifelong fan of RPGs I was a total mark for the game. It was the first and only Xbox 360 game I got a perfect Gamerscore on, and I played it for quite a while after reaching that point. I unfortunately no longer have my original copy of the game, or an Xbox 360, but I do have…



The PS3 port, which was released in 2008 and is what I’ll be playing through in this thread.* This is much, much more than just a straight port, however – there are a bunch of changes between the original and the PS3 release, including:

-rebalanced enemies and bosses, generally to make them tougher
-tweaks to several game mechanics, as well as a couple of new ones
-reshuffling of certain items to different locations
-two new playable characters
-two entirely new dungeons, one optional and one as part of the main story
-significant reworking and expansion of the plot

I’ll be pointing out all of these differences as we go through the game. Unfortunately I can’t do a direct side-by-side comparison between both versions – as previously stated, I no longer have an Xbox 360 or a copy of the original game – but I’m pulling from several different resources (and my own pretty decent long-term memory) to make sure I’m as accurate as possible.

Before I get started, I’m going to do something I haven’t done in any of my previous threads and put a spoiler policy in place. If we haven’t gotten to a certain section of the game in the thread, I must politely ask that you either refrain from discussing it or put it behind a spoiler bar/pop. That goes for mechanical spoilers, too! I know this might seem like a weird request from me, given that I didn’t even ask for it back when I played Legend of Legaia (another of my favorite games, and a thread I really wish I could redo), but Eternal Sonata does some cool, interesting things, and I want to showcase this game the absolute best way I can.

Feel free to speculate, though! I trust y’all to be cool about it and not take advantage of that statement in a wink-wink nudge-nudge sort of way. Fair warning before we proceed – it’s been a long time since I’ve last made a Let’s Play, and a fair chunk of this first update is going to be spent talking about how this thread is going to be structured and formatted going forward, as well as going over technical stuff that will hopefully be set in stone in future updates. It is my assumption (and hope) that future updates won’t be nearly as wordy about boring technical junk, and I apologize in advance.

Now without further ado, let’s get started!

*(North American box art not posted because it technically has mechanical spoilers concerning this version of the game. It’ll make sense later.)
 
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Albatoss

Prince
(He/him, they/them)
Verse 1-1: The Dream Begins
In this update (and hopefully future ones), my commentary will be in plain text; *stage directions during cutscenes/descriptions of what’s happening in the game will be formatted like this*; “and dialogue will be in quotes like this, prefaced with a character’s name if need be”. If enough people don’t like this formatting and would like me to change it to something different, I’m open to suggestions.

Also, just to be on the safe side, I’m going to give a content warning
(for suicide).
It’s a relatively tame depiction, and the game hides a lot of it, but I just want to be sure you’re warned beforehand in case someone reading the thread is sensitive to the above issue.



Bandai Namco is the publisher; you know them for… well a bunch of things, really. Tekken, Soulcalibur, the Tales series, a bunch of DBZ and Naruto games – the list goes on.



tri-Crescendo are the developers. They initially got their start handling sound development for tri-Ace games, with Valkyrie Profile being their first work in that capacity. They also shared co-development duties on both Baten Kaitos games before moving on to Eternal Sonata, their first solo project (hence the “Op. 1” beneath their logo, which is a clever double reference both to classical music and the fact that this was their first game). Aside from a Digimon game that I haven’t played, all of tri-Crescendo’s other projects have been co-developed with other companies; the other noteworthy game that is largely theirs is probably Fragile Dreams, which I haven’t played but would like to at some point.



♪♪~ Think of Me

Here’s the title screen, featuring two characters we’ll get to know in due time, as well as a strange glowing stone. Since this is a game largely about music, I will of course be linking to the soundtrack throughout. I won’t link to a given track every time the music changes in-game – I trust y’all to either keep tabs open or not at your own discretion – but I’ll be sharing my thoughts on most of the music as it first appears. Anything longer than a few sentences will go under a spoilerpop so it doesn’t interrupt the flow of updates if a given person isn’t interested in reading said digression.

Speaking of which, title screen theme! I like it a lot; it’s short and sweet. I like that the piano sounds like an old upright you’d find in someone’s house, and the harp flourishes and chime blend with it well. And the vocals at the end are a nice touch.

The soundtrack, if you were wondering, was composed entirely by Motoi Sakuraba, who’s known for being the unofficial in-house composer for pretty much all of tri-Ace’s games, as well as one of the main composers for the Tales series and a bunch of other games we don’t have time to get into here. (Seriously, he’s one of the busiest composers in video games; most of those games after the mid-90’s are huge RPGs with equally large soundtracks, and he’s often the sole composer. Give the man a break!) I won’t do so in this update – it’s going to be long enough as it is – but periodically I’ll be looking at various other entries in Sakuraba’s musical career; the man’s done a lot of good work, and I will be delighted to share it with you all.

Anyway, enough preamble; let’s start a new game.



♪♪~ No music

Click to watch the opening cutscenes (recommended viewing)

*We begin in a field of flowers at night; petals are blowing in the breeze. A woman walks into view from offscreen.*



*A man’s voice rings out, seemingly from far away.*



*The camera pans up.*



*The camera pans right as we transition to another place.*



*A large, twisted-looking tree slowly comes into view, an old woman standing near it.*





*The old woman speaks:*



*She turns to look up at the night sky as we hear the man’s voice again:*





*We transition back to the flower field, as the first woman speaks:*



*She holds her arms outstretched and begins walking forward, looking up at the night sky.*



Those differences between the two versions of the game I talked about earlier? They start right here at the beginning; if you were playing the original Xbox 360 release, you wouldn’t have seen this cutscene at all. Instead, you would immediately start…



Here. Believe it or not, the previous scene does provide some context for what you’re about to see, although it won’t make sense until almost the end of the game, which is a long ways off yet.







*The girl opens her eyes as she lifts herself up.*







*She falls into view.*



“If I blow him a kiss, I wonder, will it reach him up there?”



*A single tear is barely visible as she falls off-screen.*



This is heavy stuff to be opening a game with… let’s look at something more pleasant, shall we?
 
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Albatoss

Prince
(He/him, they/them)


♪♪~ Reflect the Sky, Bloom the Life

I’m not kidding, this is the very next thing the game transitions to. It’s a pretty effective mood whiplash.



It at least looks pretty, I’ll give it that.



This is the narrator speaking. He doesn’t show up very often; in fact, after this scene he doesn’t appear again until after the credits have rolled. Enjoy his dulcet tones while you can!



*The camera pans up to the top of the tree before we transition somewhere nearby:*







You know, I do appreciate this cutscene, and I find it charming…



But I’m half-convinced this bit exists purely to show off just how pretty the graphical style is. Seriously, go watch the video if it’s not coming across in screenshots – this game looks really good, even 13 years after its original release.



I don’t plan on doing any sort of graphical touch-ups for either recording or screenshots, because I don’t think the game really needs it. Bad video artifacting or blurry screenshots on my end are a different story, of course, but one of the universally agreed-upon things people have to say about this game is that it looks downright gorgeous, pretty much all the time.



*another transition*



“Tenuto is very lucky in this regard, for the town enjoys a wonderful cool breeze and a view that is nothing short of amazing.”



The strong art direction helps a lot – everything is super vibrant and colorful, and the cell shading helps to smooth over the animation limitations that sometimes pop up. And in the spirit of my old LPs, I’ll be keeping a counter going throughout this thread…

“Hey that would make a pretty good desktop background” count: 1

I’ll try not to update the counter every few screenshots, but no promises. =V



“They paint the landscape with color as far as the eye can see. And they are the reason Tenuto is also known by another name: ‘The Village of Flowers.’”

*Another transition, this time to Tenuto at night.*





“...and open the hearts of those who gaze upon their illustrious splendor.”





“However, no such shops are to be found. Not here.”



Only posting this screenshot to highlight the very good pig garden-ornament thing. It’s cute!





And that’s the last we’ll hear from the narrator for quite some time. See you after the credits, my dude.

*We transition back to daytime, in the flower field.*



*The camera pans over to the right as the music starts fading out...*





*Zooming in reveals the two people to be the woman from the previous cutscene, and the girl from the cliff, who is much younger here – around four years old.*



The little girl’s name will be revealed soon, but for ease of transcription I’ll just tell you what it is here: it’s Polka. Her mother’s name is never spoken in a cutscene, but for similar reasons I’ll say now that it’s Solfège.

You might be noticing a common theme – the vast majority of the places and characters in this game are named after a musical term, most of them from classical music (although there are some anachronisms). I’ll be explaining what each of them are after each update; I know most of y’all aren’t musicians, and while some of them are common sense things, a fair few terms are things you wouldn’t necessarily be familiar with if you don’t already listen to/study/perform classical music. Plus I think it’s neat where these names come from, and how some places/characters relate back thematically to the thing they’re named after.

Anyway, on with the cutscene.



Polka: “Because of the moon?”
Solfège: “That’s right. The moon charms the water in the ocean with its beauty. And because the moon is so beautiful, the sea water just can’t sit still.”
 

Albatoss

Prince
(He/him, they/them)


Polka is adorable.



Polka: “I do!”
*Polka looks over at a nearby puddle.*



Solfège: “No dear, there’s not enough water. You need lots and lots of water, like the ocean, before it can make any real waves.”
Polka: “Oh, I see. But that’s weird. Why can’t a little bit of water make waves, too?”
*Polka lets go of her mother’s hand and runs over to the puddle.*



So, this game likes to make philosophical ponderings/digressions sometimes. They can be a little clumsy, but I appreciate the effort being made all the same. I bring this up now because, well:



Solfège: “There are many things in this world that can charm people’s hearts, just like the moon charms the sea. Things like wealth, vanity, status, image, and power."





Solfège: “It can lead people to start terrible conflicts.”

Nice little illustration of the point with Polka’s rippling reflection. Also, I’m pretty sure this is the only time we see this sort of ripple effect in the whole game, although I might be misremembering.



Polka: “I guess.”

Yeah, that probably flew right over Polka’s head. She’s like four, Mom, little early to start on the complex nature of humanity!

So, Solfège here is about to say something very strange to her child. Just warning you beforehand because it’s going to seem bewilderingly alarming, and honestly it kind of is.







Much like the earlier cutscene, the context for this won’t be explained for a long time. For all that the rewriting in the PS3 port helps improve the game’s script, I do think there are still some missteps. When we finally get to the point where these opening cutscenes make sense, an inattentive player might have forgotten about them. Luckily, this thread will have the benefit of hindsight, and I can link back to previous updates as much as I want, to hopefully mitigate stuff like this. But I digress.





At least Polka is adorable!

*The camera begins panning up.*



*The scene fades out as we transition to another place entirely...*



All of the stuff that just happened? That wasn’t in the real world, at least as it pertains to this game. We are, within the game’s plot, literally in Paris, France right now, and on a significant date, at that.



The man you see sleeping in the bed is famous Polish composer and pianist Frédéric Chopin. The date – October 16th, 1849 – is the last night he was alive before succumbing to what is commonly attributed to be tuberculosis.

Also, for future reference, I will be referring to the real-life composer as “Chopin”, and his in-game counterpart as “Frederic”, to hopefully avoid confusion.



Doctor: “It seems as though he must be having a pleasant dream.”



Aside from the doctor, who is never named, there are two people in the room with Frederic, neither of whom are named until the credits. This woman here is Chopin’s older sister Ludwika Jędrzejewicz, who in real life was in fact with him at his deathbed.



Most of the characters in this game have the standard Smooth Anime Face, but I appreciate the detail of the lines under Ludwika’s eyes here. She looks tired and haggard; she obviously hasn’t been getting much, if any, sleep.



Ignoring the doctor’s terrible sense of tact for a moment… the other woman pictured here is Delfina Potocka, a Polish countess and singer who in her youth was a piano student of Chopin’s. Chopin held some romantic affection for her in his younger days and even dedicated a few of his pieces to her, and although she did not reciprocate those feelings, the two remained close friends throughout his life. In real life, though she did visit him in his final days, Potocka was not present in Chopin’s apartment at the time of his death; this is an artistic license on the part of the developers that will make sense towards the end of the game.



Doctor: “I apologize. Hopefully, it’s just an old wives’ tale.”



These glimpses into the real world only happen a few times, and taper off greatly after the early hours of the game. For now, however…



We’re about to dive back into where we left off. Eternal Sonata is divided into eight chapters of varying length, and each of them aside from the finale is named after a famous piece of music that Chopin wrote. I won’t be explaining those, because the game itself will be doing it for me at certain points – but that won’t be for a while yet. In the meantime, let’s check back in with Polka, shall we?





♪♪~ Relaxing Place

Each area of the game gets its own little title card the first time you visit it. It’s a nice touch.

Man, “Relaxing Place” is just gorgeous. This is the first track where the flute really gets to flex its muscles, and it’s put to great use, especially the brief parts where it harmonizes with another flute. I also really enjoy the long stretches with just the harp doing its thing. This whole track just oozes “peaceful serenity” to me.
 

Albatoss

Prince
(He/him, they/them)


Polka: “Oh! I guess I took longer than usual.”

Here we are with Polka once again, now at the same age as when we first saw her (14, if you were wondering).



She starts heading off as the cutscene ends, and we at last gain control. Before we head back to Tenuto Village, let’s look at a couple things first.



A question mark over Polka’s head indicates something we can examine. Doing so will usually result either in some flavor text or an item, sometimes both. In this case...



Right, obviously. If we instead try and go back the way we came…



Don’t worry, we’ll be back wherever Polka was later. We will be able to explore more freely later on, but Eternal Sonata is largely a pretty linear game; think one of the more linear Final Fantasy games and you have a pretty good idea. Unlike those games, however, there isn’t any kind of map system here, minimap or otherwise. It’s not really a problem except in a few cases, but we’ll get there much later.



For now we should get back to our mom!



Before that, though, we have a couple more things to go over. That blue thing at the top is a save point, while the green round dude that’s hopping up and down is an enemy – Eternal Sonata has symbol encounters, so there’s no need to worry about getting into random fights every few steps. We’ll save first before we look at the combat tutorial.



Save points light up when you touch them and make a pleasant little chime sound. I’ll try and show it off in a future video sometime. You might also notice its shape – they’re made to look like fancy cellos. I didn’t notice this my first time through the game, so I thought I’d point it out now in case anyone else experiences the same thing.



You can have five save files per profile on your PS3. I’m usually a “one save file per game” kinda guy, but for recording purposes I’ll probably be making liberal use of all the slots for this playthrough.



Each save marks the party leader, how much time you’ve spent playing, where you are, and what chapter you’re on. Thirteen minutes and change before your first save is pretty good by JRPG standards; I can’t think of any egregiously long intros off the top of my head, but I’m sure there’s some game out there with like, an hour or more, which I shudder to think about.



So instead of thinking about it, let’s fight this little green thing!



♪♪~ Leap the Precipice

The battle transition is a cool dissolving effect.

Can we talk about “Leap the Precipice” for a minute? Let’s talk about “Leap the Precipice.”

First off, holy crap! Right off the bat it launches into Maximum Hype Mode. Motoi Sakuraba is really good at writing battle themes with super energetic intros; I’ll link some when I talk more about his work in general. This track is largely driven by the dramatic string melody, punctuated with brass stabs and little percussion and choral fills. Take note also of the piano; most of this game’s soundtrack heavily uses the piano in some form or another, and here it’s either following the melody or doing dramatic runs of its own. The tune never stays in one place for very long; I count at least three key changes before it loops, and several more temporary digressions to one passing chord or another.

There are several different boss themes in this game, but only one for normal encounters, so it’s a good thing it’s so great! I seriously never get tired of listening to this track; it always gets me hyped for every single fight, even the easy ones at the start of the game.





Click to watch the combat tutorial

Polka will happily explain the basics of this game’s battle system, and you can click the link above and watch if you wish – it’s a pretty good tutorial, I think, and it’s worth watching anyway to see it in motion – but I’ll be taking over here to give a more detailed explanation. It’s pretty unique, and there’s a lot to take in, so brace yourselves for JRPG Technical Jargon!



At the top left, next to Polka’s portrait and HP (the musical note is just a stylistic touch) is the Tactical Time counter, represented here by an infinity symbol. Tactical Time is the amount of time measured in seconds that you have before your turn starts. Here, since we have infinite Tactical Time, we can take as long as we want to figure out what we want to do with our turn.

Once we start moving, the Action Gauge directly below our Tactical Time will start going down. Our Action Gauge is also measured in seconds, so once we start moving we have five seconds before our turn ends. Right now the Action Gauge will only go down if we take an action – moving, attacking, etc. – so if we stop moving it will freeze, and we can keep thinking about the best course of action to take.



Let’s go give that enemy a piece of our mind, eh?

Note that turn order goes from fastest to slowest, and takes every participant in the battle into account – here it goes Polka → Enemy, but later on it might go Enemy → Party Member1 → Party Member2, etc. Note also that Polka is wielding her parasol as a weapon. It’s kind of impractical, and also it rules.



Once we’re in range we can start mashing the attack button to wail on the opponent. Each time you hit an enemy with a standard attack, a small amount of time is added to the Action Gauge, so in practice a given turn is often a fair bit longer than five seconds.



A yellow damage number is just a standard hit, while this red number is a critical; it deals more damage and, more importantly, breaks an enemy’s guard, should they be doing so. Polka’s melee attacks chain into a three-hit combo; there’s a noticeable pause between the end of one combo and the start of the next as she lifts her parasol above her head, so she can’t hit things forever, but it’s fine here.



Now it’s the enemy’s turn; this little dude, who it turns out is called a Very Very Empty, won’t do anything but hop up and down since we’re in Tutorial Mode. Note that enemies don’t get any Tactical Time, so their turns are almost always shorter than yours. The little “Next” above Polka’s portrait, as well as the similar arrow pointing towards her, indicate that her turn is coming up after the enemy's; these “Next” indicators are blue for your party and red for enemies.



Now it’s our turn again, so we can wail on the VVE some more. It’s been made tougher than usual so the tutorial can showcase some more mechanics, otherwise it would be close to dead here. At the bottom of the screen, you can see that the face buttons have been labeled with their functions: X for basic attacks, O to guard (more on this in a minute), Triangle to use special attacks (more on this a little later on), and Square for items. You can scroll through your items with L1 and R1 if you want to use a particular item, and this works even if you’re performing another action. Importantly, you can also scroll through your items during the enemy’s turn, so if you need to get to a particular item in a hurry there’s nothing stopping you from doing so.

L1 and R1 also have another function: if you hold them down simultaneously for your entire turn, you’ll escape from battle. It really does have to be for every single bit of your turn or it won’t work, so it’s best to start holding the buttons down before your turn starts to make sure you flee successfully.

Also, over on the right side of the screen, the game records the number of consecutive hits you land on the enemy. This isn’t important now, but it will be in the future. After your turn is done, a number will pop up showing the total amount of damage you dealt with that character for that turn.



During the VVE’s next turn, a very important mechanic comes up: guarding.



Here’s a better shot of the guard icon. It makes a little chime sound when it appears to make it easier to press the button in time. Guarding properly greatly reduces the damage you take from an enemy’s attacks, whereas fumbling it or pressing the button too early can hurt, especially during boss fights. Each enemy has different timing to their attacks, and some of them are pretty tricky, but these little guys are pretty easy to guard against, to help you practice.

That covers the bare essentials of fighting in this game; there are some more mechanics and nuances I’ll go over as we continue through this area.



Now that the tutorial’s over we can take the VVE out for good. Enemies in this game explode in a pretty cool shower of sparkly stuff, for lack of a better term.



♪♪~ Well-Done

That counts as a job well done, I think – hence the title of the victory theme I guess! It’s nice and triumphant and then mellows out for the rest of its duration.



Polka: “There!”

That is a uh, pretty minuscule amount of gold we just got. Aside from a couple of sources, money is pretty hard to come by in Eternal Sonata, especially compared to the original release. Thankfully I know my way around this game pretty well, and I shouldn’t have to do much, if any money-grinding offscreen. Plus the early parts of the game give us enough items that it won’t be necessary anyways.
 

Albatoss

Prince
(He/him, they/them)


♪♪~ Relaxing Place

Let’s continue on. There’s another enemy up ahead, but it’s turned away from us, which gives us an advantage. Touching an enemy from behind results in a preemptive strike, and if we had more characters the entire party would get to act before the enemy. Conversely, if an enemy touches us from behind, we get ambushed, which is almost always disastrous, so you’ll want to avoid that situation at all costs.



After mopping up the VVE, I head down a side-path here to the game’s first treasure chest.





Score! Opening a chest comes with a satisfying glowy animation and accompanying sound effect. Grabbing this item is a good excuse to look at the pause menu, so let’s do that.



In addition to a handy little window with a quick look at Polka’s stats, the menu has a bunch of tabs we can look at. I’ll explain most of them as they become relevant; for now we’ll look at our stash of items.



Cookies are the basic healing item of this game; they heal a single character by a fixed amount. Peach Cookies are the weakest, healing 1,000 HP. This game likes using big numbers – eventually we’ll have characters with five-digit HP who can also deal that much damage under the right circumstances – but right now we’re still small-time, so this will suit us just fine. Note that we have a stack of zero Floral Powders, which is peculiar; that can be explained by looking at the next tab…



This is our Item Set. Each item is worth a set amount of points, and we can carry an amount of items in battle up to our maximum amount of points. Right now we can only use ten points’ worth of items; Floral Powders are worth two, whereas Peach Cookies are worth one. Floral items heal a percentage of HP instead of a fixed number; Floral Powders heal 50% of a given character’s max HP, and will thus always remain useful.

I go ahead and put the Peach Cookie we found in our Item Set; since we’re still at level 1 it’ll fully heal us, and it’s always handy to have more items even if you don’t necessarily need them. Note that we can access our Item Set directly from the pause menu, so we don’t have to look at our stash of items first.



The other tabs in the Items section of the menu are for weapons (the sword icon), armor (the breastplate), accessories (the ring), key items (the key), and newly-acquired items (the pouch with the arrow pointing to it).



Skipping over about half the icons in the menu for now, we select the musical notes, which let us listen to every track we’ve heard in the game so far. Each track is grouped into one of three tabs depending on if it plays during a cutscene, in the field, or in battle. While I’m here: there are a few different translations of the track names floating around, and the in-game translations differ from the official soundtrack titles that I’ve been using. I’ll try to be consistent about this – since referring to a track by its in-game name but linking to a video that uses the official translation would be kind of confusing – but a few of the tracks have strange official names; you’ll see when we get to them.



Finally, for now, selecting the gears brings us to the Options menu, where we can adjust the settings you see here. A note about the Language option – the French translation/subtitles for this game uses most of the same names for places and characters as the English translation, but a few of them were translated differently. I’ll point them out as they come up. (And some of the characters have different names in the original Japanese as well, which I will also point out.)



If you can wrangle some friends into doing it, Eternal Sonata supports local co-op for up to three players during battles. It’s a lot of fun! Even just two people playing together is a good time. My roommate and I have been playing through this game, actually, and we’re almost at the end; it’s been a blast.

Also, the vaguely console-looking icons at the far end of the pause menu are for saving and loading your game; the former can only be used at save points, but you can load a save file whenever, if you want.



Right, let’s get back to our trek to Tenuto. I’ve stopped here because, well, it’s a pretty nice view to look at, you know?





Moving on, we’ve come to the second half of this little path. Let’s go give that VVE what for.



Polka: “Just watch this!”

Now that we’re out of the tutorial, future fights will have intro lines at the start.



I head over and start beating up this VVE, but I’ve made a tactical error. If you attack an enemy from behind, they can’t guard against your attacks, but the same thing applies to you as well, and I’m currently facing away from the second VVE behind the rock...



Who knows an opportunity when it sees one, unfortunately.



Thankfully it’s not very threatening even with my blunder. I fumbled the input here, but if you press the guard button right before an enemy hits you while facing away from them, your character will turn to face them, allowing you to properly guard against future attacks. Still, I have taken some damage, which gives me a good opportunity to go over this game’s special attack system.





As stated earlier, pressing Triangle will let you use your currently set special attack – in this case it’s Orange Glow, a healing move that patches us back up nicely. Specials don’t subtract from an MP pool; instead, each special takes a certain amount of time from the Action Gauge to use. Orange Glow takes exactly 2.3 seconds to use, which is nearly half our total turn time, so against stronger enemies you’re better off waiting until your turn is almost over before using it.



Here, though, it’s perfectly fine to pop off a quick heal before going to town on the enemy. VVE’s are the weakest monsters in the game, and they really can’t take much punishment; three combos from a level 1 Polka will take them out pretty quickly.



The little strip of cloth floats along on the breeze.





Heading across another bridge, we come to another enemy and this little mural, which I’m assuming is the official symbol of Tenuto.



♪♪~ Leap the Precipice

While fighting this group of VVE’s, I come across an annoying property of theirs: they can potentially guard from attacks at all angles. They don’t do it very often though, and the number of other enemies that can also do this is vanishingly small.
 

Albatoss

Prince
(He/him, they/them)


I head over by the trees at the edge of the battlefield to demonstrate another wrinkle in the battle system. Notice how the special attack has changed from Orange Glow to Shade Comet? That’s because we’ve moved into the shade. Depending on if you’re standing in light (sunlight, lamplight, etc.) or darkness (shade, shadow, etc.), you have access to different special attacks. Right now we can only equip one light special and one dark special – Orange Glow in the light, and Shade Comet in the darkness – so we have to be mindful of our position on the battlefield depending on what we want to do.





As for Shade Comet itself, it’s a long-range special that can hit an enemy from anywhere on the battlefield, as long as you’re facing said enemy when you use it. It takes 2.4 seconds to use (although it can take longer if you’re far enough away), and can be disrupted by environmental objects; if I had tried hitting this VVE through the nearby rock it would have disappeared without doing anything. The damage here also isn’t impressive, but only because I tried hitting the VVE from the front, which let it guard against the attack. It sure looks cool, though!



Moving right along…



Click to watch the cutscene

*The music fades as Polka walks along the path.*



Polka: “There are so many people living in Ritardando. Why won’t any of them buy from me? And now….”



*Suddenly, Polka notices...*



A squirrel!



I see that Polka is a friend to animals. Good trait to have!



*The squirrel briefly edges closer, but then scurries off.*



*Polka watches the squirrel run off as we transition into a brief flashback.*



Ah, this must be the Ritardando place she mentioned earlier.



Selling floral powder next to a floral arrangement, eh? Clever marketing strategy.



There are a fair few people walking by, but nobody seems interested…



Woman: “Now, I don’t mean to be rude, honey, but floral powder just isn’t useful anymore.”

Says you. A guaranteed 50% heal is pretty good in my book!



*As Polka stares down at the ground, crestfallen, suddenly a commotion starts from offscreen...*



*thwack*
“Ow! Hey, what was that for?”
“What’s your problem?!”
“Huh? But I didn’t do anything!”
*thwack* *punch*
“Who do you think you’re talkin’ to?!”
*shattering glass*





Whoa, what the heck? Who knocked this guy on his butt?

*Polka runs over to check on the man.*



*Without waiting for an answer, Polka holds out her arms, her hands facing palm downward toward the man.*





What’s all this? Is she trying to heal him?





That indeed seems to have been the case – he’s getting right back up as if nothing had happened.



Well that was nice of you, Polka, helping out a stranger like that.
 

Albatoss

Prince
(He/him, they/them)


*The man runs away.*

What? Well that was rude – she just helped you out, dude! And it’s not exactly a good look to run away in terror from a teenager, just sayin’.



Although, come to think of it, the crowd that was here earlier is gone too…



♪♪~ A Faint Light Grasped in the Hand

Mom: “Come back here, right now. Never go near anyone that glows like that girl did. Do you understand me?”
Boy: “But why?”
Mom: “Because I said so, that’s why! Now come on.”



Geez, that’s cold. A kind girl helps out a stranger and everyone repays her by running away and shunning her. Something’s not right here…



♪♪~ Relaxing Place

In the meantime, there’s not much we can do about it, so we’ll keep heading towards Tenuto. There’s nothing off to the right, so we’ll grab what’s in that chest and continue onwards.



Yoink! Now our Item Set is full. Between our items and Orange Glow we’re pretty set for healing.





Here’s a better look at Shade Comet’s damage output against the last enemy in the area. That’s pretty good! Nailing a VVE with it at the end of our turn pretty well ensures our victory. Sadly we didn’t quite earn enough Exp to level up, so I’ll go over stats and such next time.







♪♪~ Reflect the Sky, Bloom the Life

Ah, home at last. (Also pictured: a good cat. There are lots of them in this game!)

This track is pure, pastoral relaxation. A fair few instruments get their chance to shine here – clarinet, bassoon, harp, and especially the acoustic guitar, which only shows up in a few tracks but is always used very tastefully. The whole thing just floats right along; it’s very pleasant to listen to.







Before we head back to Polka’s house, we have a bit of exploring to do. There’s a few goodies we can find if we poke around some.



“You don’t look very good. You’re probably tired. You better hurry on home and get some rest.”

Many NPCs have additional lines of dialogue if you talk to them again, like so:



Currently I’m not sure how to represent multiple dialogue trees through text; the best I’ve come up with is putting the second conversation in its own set of quotation marks, but I’m open to suggestions for any better ideas. Anyway, let’s pop a quick save offscreen and then talk to some more folks:



“I’d love to go see the big city someday.”
“Take me with you next time you go to the city, okay?”



“B’gawk!”

Some good chickens here. Let’s head up those stairs.



“I’ve gone pretty far to try and sell things, but it’s really tough. All the markets are filled with mineral powders. Not a lot of people are buying floral powders.”
“You let me know if you hear of any promising business leads. We’ve got to stick together, you know?”

Sure thing, Mr. Merchant. In the meantime, let’s check out what’s in that house.



Those are some comfy-lookin’ beds.



Heaven only knows what’s in there…





Yoink! Take note: it pays to examine your surroundings. You never know what you might find!



“He’s always getting into something.”

Sounds like a wacky guy. Back outside...



Rock on.
 

Albatoss

Prince
(He/him, they/them)


“The city? Oh, you went to sell floral powder, huh? Oh, it’s nothing really, I was just wondering how you liked the bread I gave you earlier. It was good? That’s great.”
“Next time, I’ll teach you how to make it yourself. I’m a strict teacher though, so you’d better be ready.”

Looking forward to it, ma’am! Freshly-baked bread is delicious.



We’ll be back here later, don’t worry. For now let’s head back down the stairs and into the other side of the village.





“Oh, Chris. What can I do for you?”
“Oh, hi there, Maria. No, that’s not right. Mariko? No, it was Candy, wasn’t it?”
“Oh, Miss Polmina. Isn’t dinner ready yet?”

Um, not exactly… Moving right along:



There aren’t any items in here, but it sure is cozy!



“Oh, dear. There’s still some dust here. I almost missed it.”

You seem pretty busy, so we’ll just take our leave.



“Mraow!”

Aw, what a good kitty.





*whinny*

Only the horse knows for sure…



That’s Polka’s house next to the sign, but we’ll have a look at the flower field first.



I love the way the sunlight is shining through the trees here. Light and lighting in general is kind of a big deal in this game, and it’s used to pretty expressive effect in a bunch of different places.



That’s all that’s here on this little side path, so let’s check out the field itself.



There are a couple kids playing in the flowers nearby. We’ll talk to them in a bit.



I bet it does. This area seems like a prime spot for a nice picnic.



Very cute, game. =V

Sop: “A lot of flowers blossomed this year.”
Rano: “Yeah! And they’re so pretty!”
Sop: “I bet these will make great floral powders.”
Rano: “We’ll put them into nice containers.”



This game will take every available opportunity to show us something adorable, and I am here for it.



Rano: “Make a doll out of flowers for me later, okay?”

I mean, since you asked so nicely… assuming we aren’t busy later anyway!





This item is very sneakily hidden; I had no idea it was here my first couple playthroughs. As for what it does, Angel Trumpets are the basic revival item – using one will revive a KO’ed character with 50% HP. Most items require you to be standing close enough to the intended target to use them, but an Angel Trumpet will work from anywhere on the battlefield, which is extremely handy. Of course, Polka is our only party member at the moment, so her being KO’ed would result in an instant Game Over, but we don’t have to worry about any of that in Tenuto.



“Hey that would make a pretty good desktop background” count: 2





That’s the last item in the village. We could put this in our Item Set instead of the two Peach Cookies, but I’d prefer to save it for a rainy day instead.



Right, time to head back home and- oh, excuse me for a second.



=3

Okay, now we can go inside Polka’s house.



♪♪~ No music

Click to watch the cutscene
 

Albatoss

Prince
(He/him, they/them)






What a lovely home. I just want to sit in that dining room and have a nice hot cup of tea. And look, you can see the bread that woman was talking about earlier, just waiting to be eaten.





Yeah, I saw. I bet it’s delicious.



I don’t think Polka’s in the mood for stew, though…





♪♪~ A Faint Light Grasped in the Hand

If you’ve been wondering, you can see it more clearly here: those are long ribbons in Polka’s hair, not part of her hair themselves.





*She hesitates.*





Solfège: “You used your magic in Ritardando, didn’t you?”



Solfège: “Because they think they’ll get sick if they touch you. Even though it’s not true.”





*She hesitates again.*



Oh. Oh no. Oh no, Polka…



*We transition to outside of Polka’s house at night...*



Well, I hate to end this update on a somber note, and there’s actually another cutscene right after this one, but I think I’m going to call it here. This is a good stopping point before the next section of gameplay – the following cutscene features unrelated characters, and I don’t want to break the flow of this update too much by stopping there instead of here. The game’s given us a fair bit to chew on while I work on recording and putting the next update together, anyways. Speaking of which…

I need feedback! It’s been ages since the last time I’ve made an LP thread and I’m still pretty rusty. Do the videos look okay? Are the screenshots too small? Too big? Am I covering things in a reasonable and comprehensible manner? Any bit of advice/constructive criticism will be helpful. I sort of rushed this first update just so I could get it out the door, but I don’t necessarily want it to take a couple weeks between posts either, so the sooner I can nail down the process for making these updates, the better.

I’m not sure yet how often updates will happen – they probably won’t be posted on Tuesdays or Thursdays for the foreseeable future, since I’m playing in a D&D group over Discord on those days – but I’ll try my hardest to post these at least once a week. Hopefully future updates will be smaller, as well; even after pruning a bunch of screenshots this update still ended up much larger than I thought it would be, but there was a lot of ground to cover.

I was planning on posting some bonus material right after this update, but considering how large it ended up being, I think I’m going to hold off until tomorrow before doing that; that’s probably a good policy going forward, actually, so there isn’t too much content to wade through at any one time. I have a lot of stuff I want to show y’all, and spacing it out seems like a good idea. But I still have that glossary of musical terms to post, so stay tuned for that! Until then…

Next time: New characters and our first dungeon.
 

Albatoss

Prince
(He/him, they/them)
Glossary of Musical Terms

Do note that, although I am a musician, I’m not an expert, and I’ve only been performing classical music since I began attending (and then graduated) college a few years ago. I’m likely to get something wrong at some point, or fail to elaborate upon something I don’t know much about, so if either of those things happen y’all are more than welcome to contribute to the discussion. In addition, while I will be linking to wikipedia for a majority of these terms, it should be noted that it is a poor place to end one's research on a given subject, and I highly encourage the reader to look up a given term or terms on their own if it interests them enough. That being said, here are the terms we encountered in this first update:

Sonata – What? It’s right in the title of the game, of course I’m covering it first! =p

Anyway, it’s kind of complicated to define what exactly a sonata is, since it largely depends on the context and time period you’re talking about to nail down an exact definition. I would say that most of the time when people talk about a sonata, they’re discussing the musical form of the same name, wherein a piece of music is divided into three main sections: the exposition (wherein a main theme is introduced), the development (wherein the theme is elaborated upon in various ways), and the recapitulation (wherein the theme is reintroduced in its original form, usually in a more dramatic way to signify that the piece is coming to an end).

Tenuto – A tenuto marking is used in musical notation to indicate that a given note should be held or sustained for its full length. It’s indicated either with the word tenuto, the abbreviated form ten., or with a straight horizontal line immediately above or below the note in question, like this.

Polka – The polka is a traditional folk dance of Czech origin, but it has a wide variety of styles and a rich tradition that I, sadly, don’t know much about. If anyone has anything to contribute to the subject, I’m all ears! I can at least say that a polka song commonly has a 2/4 time signature, and a fast, lively tempo and rhythm. This is probably not the best example, but it is one that I like.

Solfège - Solfège, also called solfeggio and a bunch of other names, is a music education method that’s used to teach students aural skills, pitch recognition, and sight singing. Each note of a given scale is assigned its own syllable so that the student can audiate, or mentally hear, the notes and accurately sing them when reading them for the first time. You know the old “do-re-me-fa-so-la-ti-do” thing you did in music classes when you were a kid? That’s solfège.

Ritardando – A ritardando is a tempo marking, used to signify that the indicated section of music should slow down gradually.

Soprano – A soprano is a type of classical singing voice, encompassing the highest vocal range of all singing types. It typically refers to women, but there are some men that can also sing in this range; some countertenors can sing in the soprano range, and a trained boy singer that hasn’t yet reached puberty can sing in this range as well. In choral music, soprano refers to the highest vocal range in a given choir, and is usually given the melody in a typical choral piece.

And that’s it for this update! See y’all next time.
 
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Albatoss

Prince
(He/him, they/them)
It's time to share some artwork! Just like my old Breath of Fire LP, I'll be posting some art after most updates. Unlike that thread, however, I'm being smart about it - most of the art I posted for Breath of Fire has been unfortunately lost because the website that was hosting it got taken down. So I downloaded all the art I found for this game so I could upload it myself and keep that from happening. Now, with that preamble out of the way...



Here's Polka! The character designer for Eternal Sonata is one Kumiko Yoshioka, who I unfortunately can't find much information about; she apparently worked in the animation department for Star Ocean 3, but beyond that I can't find any solid information at all. Any contributions toward this would be greatly appreciated!



That being said, I love the style here. It's at once super adorable, very expressive, and highly detailed.



Here's a side-by-side comparison between an illustration of Polka and her in-game model. Check out all the details on her outfit - the little clovers on her dress and shoes, the heart pattern above the pouch, the flower on one sleeve, and of course the hair ribbons, all of which is perfectly replicated in the render. The art style here is pretty much a perfect match for this game.

More bonus stuff coming tomorrow, of a different nature than the art, but still relevant to this thread, I would say. See you then!
 
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Albatoss

Prince
(He/him, they/them)
Today I'm here to share some music with you all! Chopin wrote a lot more pieces than the game uses - at least a couple hundred published in his lifetime - and I thought it might be nice to post some of it as we go through the game. Since Chapter 1 is named after one of his more famous preludes, I'll start with those.

Chopin - Prelude in E Major, Op. 28 No. 9
Prelude in F Sharp Major, Op. 28 No. 13

A prelude is generally a short piece that can be thought of as a musical preface or introduction to longer, more complex pieces, but Chopin helped popularize the prelude as a standalone, concert-worthy genre in its own right. He published his book of 24 preludes for solo piano in 1839; there's a lot of variety here, since the pieces vary greatly in length and cover every major and minor key. If you want to listen to the whole collection, I'm sure you'd have no trouble finding it, since it's been recorded many, many times.

-----------

I'll also be sharing some works by other composers that I like. These pieces might vaguely have something to do with a given update, or I could just like the piece in question; it depends on how I'm feeling when I write these posts, honestly.

Lili Boulanger - Prelude in D Flat
Claude Debussy - Bruyères

The first is by a composer named Lili Boulanger, the younger sister of famous composer-pedagogue Nadia Boulanger. She was also the first female winner of the Prix de Rome - which for a couple hundred years was the arts scholarship to win if you wanted to make a name for yourself in France - at age nineteen. I'll be posting more of her work in the future; sadly she didn't live long enough to write very many pieces, but pretty much all of them are hauntingly beautiful, and I really think she deserves to be better known than she is. (If you don't want to wait, this playlist is a good place to start.)

The second piece is by Claude Debussy, who happens to be one of my favorite composers. He was one of the leading composers of the Impressionist movement in the early 20th century, although he would be extremely annoyed to hear anyone say that. The above piece is from one of Debussy's own books of preludes, written between 1909-1913. I'll also be sharing more of his work in the future; the man wrote some pretty good tunes!

That's all for now; see y'all next update!
 

Albatoss

Prince
(He/him, they/them)
Verse 1-2: The Seaside Town of Ritardando

Hello everyone, and welcome back to Eternal Sonata. Last time we left off in the middle of a cutscene, so let’s pick up right where we were…



Click to watch the cutscene

♪♪~ No Music



Hmm. Seems we’re in the middle of a case of Grand Theft Bakery.



“It’s those brats again! Maybe I should poison the dough next time.”

Whoa, lady, ease off the gas! Apparently this isn’t the first time it’s happened, but that’s no reason to be so harsh to a couple of kids.



In any case, the coast seems clear for these two.



Allegretto: “Nah, that was easy.”
Beat: “Easy? Geez. If that’s what you call easy, I’d hate to see hard.”



*The two of them start walking off.*
Beat: “Yeah, okay. But I don’t like the rats down there.”
Allegretto: “Come on, what do you expect? I mean, they live in the sewers. There’s bound to be a rat or two!”



Beat: “Well, what do we do if we get attacked?”
Allegretto: “Don’t let a few rats get you all freaked out. Hey, I took care of them the last time, didn’t I?”
Beat: “Yeah, I guess.”



*The camera pans over to the sewer entrance:*



Guess we’ll be heading down there later...



♪♪~ The Mediocrity Sought Out By Everyone

But in the meantime, we have a town to explore.









It’s not all sunshine and roses, if Beat and Allegretto’s circumstances are anything to go by, but Ritardando is a beautiful town.

And what a track to accompany it! The proper word to describe it would be “stately”, I think. The melody flows between the flute and violin in a very logical-sounding manner, and the lush accompaniment is always perfectly appropriate. The whole track sounds like something you would hear in a noble court being performed by a specially-hired chamber ensemble.



We start here near the entrance to the sewers, but let’s look around some before we head down that way.



“Once they’re gone, they’re gone! So get yours today!”

I won’t be buying anything this update – we have next to no gold to our name at the moment – but I’ll pop into the item shop later on anyway, just to have a look around.



Pictured: expert screenshot timing.

“Oh, that’s right. You were in the choir for a while, but quit pretty quickly. Was that because the priest forced you to join?”

Something tells me that’s not quite the reason.



I wonder what time it is right now. Judging by how high the sun is I’d say noonish?





Anyway, let’s swipe some pocket change out of this fountain. Every little bit of gold counts in the early game!



“You’re disrupting business. Scoot, now! Scoot!”
“Come one, come all! Fresh flowers direct from Tenuto!”

Kind makes me wonder how many of the flowers around town come from Tenuto. A fair few at least, if I had to guess.



We’re in front of the pharmacy. I’ll check out the interior once we’ve talked to everyone outside.



“Wait a minute. No, you’d never do anything like that, right?”
“That reminds me, just a little while ago I saw some suspicious looking children. They were sneaking into the sewers. Maybe they were the thieves!”

You uh, you don’t say… Don’t mind the bread we’re carrying that we definitely just bought with money okaygottagobye



“If you’ve got so much spare time, why don’t you go with the men and help them haul in fish?”
“You’re still here? Don’t hang around an old bag like me! Get your act together and maybe you’ll find a girlfriend.”

Whoa now, ease up lady. I wouldn’t call our present situation having spare time, exactly…



At least there’s a nice view from the pier.
 

Albatoss

Prince
(He/him, they/them)


“Hey that would make a pretty good desktop background” count: 3



“I’m sleepy. But I won’t let myself sleep.”

I don’t know dude, this seems like prime napping weather to me.



Indeed they aren’t! This doesn’t lead to Tenuto either – it’s a path to somewhere else that we’ll be seeing in more detail later. For now let’s go back to town.



“You know, sort of stretch it out really thin and then eat it a little bit at a time. I wonder if I could get full that way.”
“I bet you think you can’t measure a day, don’t you? Well, you can. All you need is a stick.”

This man is onto… something. I’m not sure what exactly, but surely it’s something…



“Wah ha ha! Wah ha ha! Say goodbye to tears! Wah ha ha! Wah ha ha!”



“1! 2! 3! Feel the burn! Wah ha ha! Wah ha ha!”
“Wah ha ha! Wah ha ha! I haven’t been able to swim since I was a kid! But I still love the ocean! Wah ha ha! Wah ha ha!”

This game has a strange sense of humor sometimes. Also, there isn’t anything in that boat over by the save point. I thought for sure there was, but I guess I was just misremembering.



This boat doesn’t have any items either, but it apparently does have bugs for days.



Boy 2: “And then when we peeked in there, there was this huge rat! He took one look and was like, ‘Aaaaah!’”
Girl: “Geez! What a loser!”

These kids are blocking the way to Tenuto, so we won’t be visiting it this update. Also, this conversation is kind of foreshadowing a future encounter? You’ll see what I mean later.



So as you might have guessed, this is the bakery that Allegretto and Beat hightailed it out of earlier. We can go back in…



Allegretto: “Yikes! Let’s get out of here, Beat!”



But then this happens. So yeah, we won’t actually be looking inside the bakery for a while.



Instead let’s check out this house near the other exit from Ritardando.



“If you see him, please tell him to come home.”

I’ll try to remember to do that.





I have an organist friend, and let me tell you, playing one of these is not easy. You see those little wooden boards underneath the keyboards? Those are foot pedals so you can play bass notes. Yes, that means you have to read three different staves when playing the organ – two in treble cleff and one in bass clef – and that is in fact as difficult as it sounds.



But I digress; let’s check out the pharmacy.



Allegretto: “’Warning: All muscle turns to fat after three weeks.’ On second thought….”



Allegretto: “Hey, this sounds like something Beat could use. ‘Note: nose grows 10 meters.’ Hah hah. Yeah, definitely need to get Beat to try this.”



Allegretto: “’Also decreases height by 50 percent. Please consume with Mineral Powder Growth Tonic.’ Sheesh, that’s crazy!”

I’m sensing kind of a theme from these mineral powder products…



Store Clerk: “Not to worry, mineral powder can fix it all. Mineral powder is a government-approved miracle drug. No matter what your ailment, you’ll recover in no time.”
Allegretto: “Uh, we’ll pass on the mineral powder for now.”
Store Clerk: “Please come back when you want some mineral powder.”

I don’t know, this stuff sounds like bad news. We’ll just be on our way...





Always handy to have more Angel Trumpets.



This ladder leads to Allegretto and Beat’s secret hideout; the exclamation point over Retto’s head indicates that you can interact with the environment in some way, in this case by climbing down.



Well that’s unfortunate, but I’m going to look around some more anyway and you can’t stop me. =V



Oof, big mood.
 

Albatoss

Prince
(He/him, they/them)




Note the chest that’s semi-hidden in the background – we’ll be getting it at a later date, but for now it’ll be teasing us while we’re in here.



Allegretto: “Stuff about fighting. I was going to make Beat read it. Oh, well.”

It’s very good advice, regardless! It’s a good idea to try and mitigate how often you’re facing away from enemies as much as possible.



On that slightly depressing note, we’ll head back out of here and to the item shop.





“There are lots of different types of armor. Armor like this is really sturdy, but it’s heavy so you have to be strong to use it. Lighter armor isn’t quite as dependable, but it’s easier to move around in so it’s better for small kids.”
“Oh, there are monsters who like the light and those who like the dark. The ones that like the light are said to have light attributes and the ones that like the dark are said to have dark attributes.”

Thanks for the gameplay tips, my dude; I’ll go over them in more detail later once they become more relevant.



Allegretto: “One million?! Man, that’s expensive!”



Allegretto: “One million?! Wow.”

That’s a pretty hilariously absurd price-tag, given how slowly we’ve been earning cash so far. Don’t worry though, we have ways of getting… well, not rich, but richer, at least.



In any case, we’re almost broke, so instead of buying anything let’s see what the church is like.



♪♪~ An Inspection Which Values Harmony

More on the tune later – we won’t be in here for very long.



This will be important for a sidequest later.



Priest: “Kindness, compassion and affection for our fellow brethren: these are the things we can truly not live without.”
“Do you understand what it is I’m trying to tell you, Allegretto? I’ve known you since you were very little. And you’ve grown up well even though you have no parents. People in town may think you’re a bad seed, but I know better than anyone that you really have a kind heart.”



The screen briefly fades out and you get a cute little jingle as the party is fully healed. It’s a nice bonus if the sewers give you any trouble, but we should be fine.



Guess we won’t be poking around behind this door anytime soon.



Right, that’s everything in Ritardando for right now; it’s time to head into the sewers at last.



♪♪~ Underground for Underhand

You know, sewer levels in video games have kind of a bad reputation. And I can understand why; they’re often samey-looking and hard to navigate.



But because this is the introductory dungeon, we shouldn’t be getting lost too often.





And since this is Eternal Sonata we’re playing, they’re the most beautiful sewers you’ve ever seen in your life. Let’s get started!

Aside from a couple exceptions, each dungeon in the game gets its own theme. I’m glad this is one of the tracks used in more than one dungeon, because it’s pretty good! There’s enough going on here to be exciting, but it never goes fully bombastic like some of the later dungeon themes; the excitement is still here, but it’s more reserved. Also the melody is just really good.



We start next to a save point and right in front of an enemy; let’s go give it what for.



Click to watch the combat tutorial

♪♪~ Leap the Precipice

Beat: “Retto, can you tell me what it is we have to do to fight again?
Allegretto: “What? Wait a minute. I thought I taught you all that. Did you forget already?”
Beat: “Uh, well...”



This tutorial teaches you about using items and special attacks. I had forgotten this – it’s been a while since I’ve actually done any of these tutorials – and so I covered it last time instead of here. Bit of a goof on my part, but hey, it at least saves space on this update! Feel free to click the link above if you need a refresher, though.








Beat: “You’re really gonna get it!”

In the meantime, let’s press on a little further and get into a proper fight; this is a good opportunity to show off Beat and Allegretto’s combat styles.
 

Albatoss

Prince
(He/him, they/them)




Beat fights with what the game calls a hook gun, which in practice amounts to a rapid-fire musket with a hammer on one end. Technically that’s a little dangerous since Beat is 8 years old, but this is a video game so try not to think about it too hard. Beat’s combo is pretty slow; he gives two quick whacks before finishing with a point-blank shot. He won’t rack up too many hits with his melee combos, but there are other ways of landing more hits that I’ll cover later.

His light special, Vivid Shot, isn’t an offensive special, nor is it a healing move – it’s a unique skill that only Beat gets. I’ll cover it later as well.



This enemy is a Florite Mouse. They aren’t too dangerous; the Ratty Charge move you see here can deal around 100 damage if you don’t guard properly, but it has a big windup so that shouldn’t be a problem. They can also whack you with their tails and do smaller headbutts. Note that their glowing tails project an aura of light around them, so if you’re engaging them at melee range you’re forced to use your light specials.



♪♪~ Well-Done

Beat: “Good job, good job!”

Overall Florite Mice aren’t too tough to handle, and since we’re at level 1 they give pretty decent Exp.



Allegretto: “But this wanted poster looks pretty old.”

Hmm, curious…



There’s a chest down this path guarded by another Florite Mouse encounter.





Allegretto fights with a sword; his combo is faster than Beat’s, but there’s still a noticeable pause between the second and third hits.





This is his light special, Sun Slash; it’s a six-hit attack that ends with a small explosion. You can catch other enemies in the special if they’re close enough, but you’re much more likely to hit them with the explosion than any of the hits leading up to it. Unfortunately I couldn’t get any good screenshots of his dark special, Phantom Wave – it just comes out too fast – but it’s pretty much what it sounds like: a shockwave that hits the enemy once, plus any other enemies behind the original target.



This is Beat’s dark special, Rapid Shooter; it hits the enemy four times, and can be used either up close or at a distance. It has a special property, too: if you use it while far enough away from an enemy, its animation will change and it’ll only hit three times instead of four, but in exchange it’ll do more damage. However, it takes longer to use this way, so if you’d rather spend your turn spamming it you should be mindful of how far away from the enemy you are.



Allegretto: “C’mon, let’s get going.”

Enemies will sometimes drop items after battle; I’m not sure exactly what determines drop rates in this game, but items seem to drop reasonably often. It’s always consumables and the like; no shenanigans like grinding for a character’s ultimate weapon based on a 1% drop rate or anything like that. As for this item, Glowing Tails heal a little bit of HP and bestow a temporary status effect that I’ll go over later; most status effects don’t really come into play until after Chapter 1, so I’ll cover them then as they come up.



Don’t mind if I do. I take the time to rearrange our Item Set a little, swapping out a Floral Powder and Peach Cookie for an Angel Trumpet (since they cost 3 points to set).



Moving on, we find ourselves in the next section of the sewers. There are three areas in this dungeon: the West Side we were just in, the Center where we are right now, and the East Side, which is the smallest area.



Nothing down here but more Florite Mice, but I won’t say no to more Exp.



One more thing about these enemies: if you bring one down to critical HP but don’t defeat it that turn, then one of its allies will use Ratty Heal to patch it back up. It’s annoying, but not the end of the world.





Across the bridge and straight into another encounter, I think to show off Beat’s other method of fighting foes. If you face an enemy from a distance and start mashing the attack button, Beat will auto-aim towards that enemy and start rapid-firing his hook gun at them. Each individual hit is pretty weak – Beat’s melee combos are better for raw damage – but if you start his turn immediately shooting at an enemy you can easily rack up to fifteen hits. This isn’t important now, but it will be later.



♪♪~ Well-Done

This battle doled out enough Exp. to push us to level 2! I won’t be showing every level-up that happens, but you will see important ones; more on that towards the end of this update.





Allegretto: “I’m ready to take on the world!”

Each character has their own unique animation for when they level up. Allegretto tosses his sword in the air and catches it…





Beat: “Woo-hoo! Yeah!”

While Beat hops up and down in celebration. This is a good time to go over stats, so I’ll do that now.



Clicking on the Status icon in the pause menu – or just selecting a character’s portrait directly – takes you to this screen, giving you an overview of a character’s statistics and equipment. In the top left you can see Allegretto’s equipment slots: one for his weapon, one for armor, and two accessory slots (currently empty, as we have none). Each character’s weapon type is unique to them, while armor is divided into three broad categories: Light, Medium, and Heavy. Each character can equip one or two categories of armor; Allegretto here can use either Medium or Heavy armor.

Over on the right you can see Allegretto’s name, Level, Age, HP, Exp. totals, and primary stats. There are only four of them (not counting HP) in Eternal Sonata, and they work as follows:

Atk: Attack power. Affects how much damage a character deals with standard attacks.
Mag: Magic power. Affects how much damage a character deals with special attacks; also determines how effective a healing special is, should a character have one.
Def: Defense. Affects how much damage a character takes from attacks.
Spd: Speed. Oddly, this stat doesn’t affect movement speed at all; it instead determines how fast a given character’s next turn will come in battle. Movement speed is affected by other things that I’ll get into later.

Allegretto is pretty clearly meant to be a front-line attacker; his Atk is his highest stat by a fair margin, and his Mag is pretty decent too. He’s also decently fast and sturdy, but there are other characters we’ll encounter that can fill those roles better than he can.



If you scroll down and select a character’s equipped special, you can see various parameters of that special: whether it’s light or dark, range and number of hits, length of time it takes to use, whether or not it causes knockdown or knockback, and a basic description. A little diagram will appear on the right that shows the exact area of effect.
 

Albatoss

Prince
(He/him, they/them)


Here’s a closer look at Phantom Wave; it’s not especially powerful on its own, but it can hit enemies behind whoever you’re targeting. Another cool thing about it that might actually be a glitch (I’m not exactly sure) is that if an enemy is large enough and you use it at point-blank range, it has a chance of hitting that enemy twice.



Here’s a look at Beat’s stats. He’s more balanced than Allegretto, although his Mag leaves a bit to be desired, and he can equip Light or Medium armor. He’s meant to be more of a support character, attacking or doing other things as needed. This becomes more explicit later on, but right now the game’s combat hasn’t opened up very much yet. (And again, I’ll cover Vivid Shot soon.)



A closer look at Rapid Shooter. It’s not infinite-range, but it can still reach pretty far. I think those two different times listed are a hint about its animation-changing property.



♪♪~ Underground for Underhand

Enough mechanics talk for now, we have a dungeon to get through. I’ll just go ahead and throw this switch to open the nearby metal grates…



And snag this.





Then I head over to the East Side of the sewers and grab this. The Poison Whitecap is an item that can only be used in battle, and it has a 70% chance of inflicting Poison. This even works on bosses, which is very helpful, although I believe they resist it slightly more than normal enemies. We’ll be saving this for a rainy day.



“Hey that would make a pretty good desktop background” count: 4



It’s at this point that I realize I forgot to grab an item back at the start of the dungeon, so excuse me while I backtrack a little bit…





This is way down at the far end of the path you start the dungeon on. That light you see over on the right leads to the end, but it can only be reached from the Center area of the sewers, so let’s head back.



Just need to cross this ladder-bridge…





And before we know it we’re here already. We’re not quite at level 4, but we should be fine for what’s ahead. That said, I do take the time to heal up and make sure our Item Set is good to go; no need to be unprepared if you don’t have to be.



Time to see what waits for us at the end of these sewers.



Click to watch the cutscene and boss battle

♪♪~ Rapid Fire



That is a big rat…



You tell ‘em, Beat!



Boss time!



♪♪~ Opposition Resignation

Boss: Bread Gang, Florite Mouse x2
HP: 18,000
Is it seriously named “Bread Gang”: Yep! It’s wonderful.

Since it’s the first boss, Bread Gang isn’t too terribly challenging, but you should still pay attention so it doesn’t catch you off-guard.





Since this boss is apparently a scoundrel, it immediately goes after the small child and starts attacking Beat. Cheese Slicer looks much deadlier than it is; it hits 10 times but only deals a couple hundred damage unguarded.



Branch Strike does around the same amount, but it can hit both Beat and Allegretto if they’re close enough together, whereas Cheese Slicer is a single-target attack. This is a good lesson: you want to keep your party members spread out as much as you can while you’re fighting bosses so they aren’t all affected by AoE attacks.



Several bosses in this game come with standard enemies as assistants, and you generally want to take them out first so they don’t pester you while you’re dealing with the boss. These Florite Mice in particular have the potential to be really annoying and heal the boss with Ratty Heal if you beat it up enough. At this point they aren’t much trouble by themselves, though.



Beat: “Now smile!”

This is Vivid Shot, and it showcases another unique thing about Beat: he’s the only character who can take pictures of enemies! When you press Triangle, this little reticle comes up, which you can adjust with the analog stick; from there you can press either Triangle or X to start taking pictures. Any pictures you take will develop as you walk around and fight battles, and once they’re fully developed you can sell them at item shops for cash. This is the main way to get more money for a large chunk of the game, so it pays to practice.
 

Albatoss

Prince
(He/him, they/them)




The Bread Gang is still picking on Beat, but by now I’m used to its attacks and can guard much more reliably. Its standard attacks are much easier to react to, since they have bigger windups. If you watch the boss fight video you’ll notice I lose track of how many pictures I’ve taken; you can only carry a maximum of 12 photos at a time, and any pictures you take after reaching that number just don’t appear in the menu. This does have the side effect of preventing you from overwriting photos, at least.

I forgot to take a screenshot of it, but Bread Gang has another AoE attack called Exploding Breath; you can see it in the video. It’s not too deadly, but it’s another reason to keep both party members out from in front of it.





With the Florite Mice taken care of, I can have Allegretto start wailing on the boss itself, which will distract it and allow Beat to retreat to safety. The knockdown effect from Sun Slash is nice; it doesn’t always happen, but when it does the Bread Gang has to waste time at the start of its turn getting up.



Now Beat can safely pester the boss from a distance with Rapid Shooter spamming, which will help bring it down faster.







Once Bread Gang starts hunching over like this, you’ll know you’re close to winning. It has a chance of using Restore to heal itself for 2600 HP once it reaches critical condition, but I got lucky and it didn’t do that when I recorded the fight.





Allegretto lands the final blow, causing Bread Gang to explode into a burst of light. And that’s the first boss battle taken care of!



♪♪~ Well-Done

Allegretto: “What did you think?”

We earned enough Exp. to hit level 4 and gained a couple items as well. The Saber is a weapon upgrade for Allegretto; the Rat Tail is a special item that I’ll cover in a couple updates.



Allegretto: “That feels good!”



Beat: “Woo-hoo! Yeah!”

At certain levels, characters will learn new special attacks; the level requirement for a given special might be different depending on which version of the game you’re playing, but these weren’t changed from the Xbox 360 release. Most characters, including Allegretto and Beat, learn a total of eight specials – four light attacks and four dark attacks – but there are some exceptions I’ll go over later on.



Click to watch the cutscene

♪♪~ No music





I think this qualifies as a job well done. We beat up that giant rat monster and ensured these kids’ safety. But, something doesn’t seem quite right here…



Beat: “Do you think the baker lady is just being greedy?”
Allegretto: “Well, you know, Beat, it’s not actually the baker lady’s fault.”
Beat: “Huh? What do you mean?”





Beat does not know why Allegretto felt the need to do that, and neither do I.

Allegretto: “It’s not just bread, either. In Ritardando just about everything you need for everyday life has high taxes on it. That’s why there’s a lot of kids out there who can’t get a decent meal to eat these days.”
Beat: “And that’s why they need us to help them, right?”



Beat: “Oh, I see. So that’s why anybody can get it. Because it’s so cheap.”



Allegretto doesn’t seem so sure… Whatever he’s thinking, he’s not saying it for now.

Beat: “Besides, you and I have the bread problem pretty much taken care of.”
Allegretto: “Hey, don’t get cocky. Be careful what you say, Beat.”



Beat doesn’t quite understand, but he does look adorable at least.



*The scene fades as we transition to another place...*





*Polka doesn’t respond.*
Solfège: “Oh, what am I going to do with you? I guess what happened is still bothering her. Poor thing. I should just stop her from going to Ritardando.”
 

Albatoss

Prince
(He/him, they/them)
(Note: this is part of an update that started on the previous page.)





*Polka doesn’t respond; we transition back to the hideout.*



Well, the bread seems to have been worth all the effort, at least; Beat’s really digging into it.



Allegretto: “Yeah. You’re right.”
Beat: “I guess I should’ve taken a picture of her.”



Allegretto: “You’d see things a whole lot clearer if you weren’t always lookin’ at them through bent glass.”
Beat: “That’s not what photography is about at all, Retto.”



*Beat goes back to angrily eating his bread.*
Allegretto: “Still, you have to feel sorry for that girl. I guess she won’t be around for much longer.”
Beat: “What? She won’t? What are you talking about?”



Beat: “And it’s always fatal?”
Allegretto: “That’s right. Yeah, only people who are gonna die soon are able to use magic like that.”



Allegretto: “No, it’s not. You can’t use magic powers unless you’re really sick. This world’s pretty messed up.”
Beat: “I get it. That’s why no one in town wanted to get near her yesterday. They didn’t want to catch her illness, too.”



Allegretto: “That’s just a rumor somebody started.”
Beat: “A rumor?”
Allegretto: “Yeah. It’s weird. Most of the time, people don’t really trust each other...”



Allegretto: “And they’ll ignore almost anything else that doesn’t help them directly.”
Beat: “I guess.”
Allegretto: “As long as they have food on their table, they don’t care if other people out there are starving.”
Beat: “And that’s why we steal bread to bring them, right?”
*Allegretto doesn’t respond; instead he thinks for a little bit. Suddenly...*



*He has an epiphany.*





*The scene fades before we can see Allegretto explain what he means...*



Click to watch part one of the opening credits

♪♪~ Can You Recite the Dream

Time for the opening credits! I won’t be showing them all here, but you can watch them in the link above if you’re curious.



*The camera pans upward.*



*Transition to the flower field in Tenuto...*





For the Chopin pieces that appear in the game, the developers at tri-Crescendo hired a professional concert pianist to perform them. Mr. Bunin doesn’t seem to have his own website, but I found this page if you want to read more about him. From what little I’ve been able to find, it seems like recording for Eternal Sonata’s soundtrack is the most notable thing he’s done in recent memory; otherwise I’m not sure he would be very well-known outside the classical music world.





*Transition to the path outside Tenuto:*



*The camera pans left for a while.*



*Meanwhile, back at the secret hideout...*



Beat is quite seriously considering which toys to bring along for the trip.



It’s very cute!

*Later that evening...*



Oh man, I love the monster designs in this game. You’ve seen a small hint of the general weirdness of Eternal Sonata’s bestiary, but we’ve barely scratched the surface of how wild some of the monsters get. It’s small, but I think Eternal Sonata has one of my favorite bestiaries in video games. Big shoutout to Nobuya Aoki for the good work!

*We return to the hideout once more...*
 
Last edited:

Albatoss

Prince
(He/him, they/them)


*Where Allegretto and Beat are sleeping for the night. Well, one of them is anyway; Beat, restless, sits up.*





Unfortunately, Allegretto seems to be too busy sleeping to care.



*He gets up to do just that as the scene transitions one more time.*



*The camera pans down to where Beat is standing.*





*The camera pans up.*



And, just like last time, there’s more cutscene after this, but I’m stopping here for pacing reasons. I managed to make this update shorter than the previous one, but it’s still not quite the size I want it to be. I think in the future I’ll try stitching some screenshots together and see if I can save on space that way. Until then…

Next time: Polka gets a strange visitor…
 

Albatoss

Prince
(He/him, they/them)
Glossary of Musical Terms

Beat – The beat is the basic unit of time in music; also called the pulse. It can also refer to the tempo, meter, and specific rhythm of a song. Any genre of music that’s not ambient or drone-based uses a beat to measure time. It's a pretty foundational concept!

Allegretto – A tempo marking, used to signify that a piece or section of music should be moderately fast, but not quite as fast as, say, an allegro.

Mandolin – A stringed instrument in the lute family that’s usually played with a plectrum (that’s a fancy way of saying “pick”). A mandolin typically has four pairs of strings (for a total of 8), although 10-string and 12-string mandolins exist as well. There are many different styles and traditions of mandolin playing that I can’t comment on, so if anyone wants to chip in I’m all ears.

And that’s all for this update!
 

Albatoss

Prince
(He/him, they/them)
Time for some more artwork. This time, the featured character is Allegretto.





I love all the little details in his outfit - the quarter-note rest underneath his collar, the double sharp markings on his shoulder strap and the top of his boots, and (something I didn't notice until recently) the alto clef markings on his boots.



Here's a better look at his sword; part of it is constructed to resemble the scroll and pegbox of a violin. This game's character designs are full of little flourishes like this.
 

Albatoss

Prince
(He/him, they/them)
Here's a couple more pieces for your listening enjoyment:

Chopin - Prelude in A Flat Major, Op. 28 No. 17

Frank Bridge - A Fairy Tale

Frank Bridge was an English composer who was active primarily in the early 20th century. A noted pacifist, he was deeply disturbed by World War I, and this partially influenced the development of his musical style afterwards. He's also one of the few violist-composers I can think of (along with Paul Hindemith), which is notable in itself (most composers who play string instruments are violinists, for whatever reason).
 

Albatoss

Prince
(He/him, they/them)
Verse 1-3: The Forest of Feelings

Welcome back, all! We last left off close to the end of the opening credits, so let’s finish those out.



Click to watch the cutscene

♪♪~ No music



Gotta say, that is a nice view.



Solfège: “Ritardando certainly is beautiful at night.”
Polka: “Do you think so?”



Solfège: “Yes, well things always seem nicer in our memories. It’s still just as beautiful.”



*Solfège turns and heads back to their house.*
Polka: “Is Ritardando really the same as it’s always been? Really?”



And there’s our title card.

*Suddenly...*



Hey, Frederic, you’re finally here! One quick question: where did you get that spectacular tuxedo?



Polka: “Who… who are you? And what are you doing out here this late at night?”



*The scene fades as we transition to another place...*



*Ludwika stands up.*



Ludwika: “The difference between dreams and reality may very well just be subjective.”
Doctor: “Oh? And what makes you say that?”
Ludwika: “Well, I don’t know. I guess it just came into my mind when I was watching Frederic’s face while he was sleeping.”



Doctor: “Only the individual can determine what is a dream and what is reality. Just because his eyes are closed that does not necessarily mean he is dreaming. However, if he comes to think that the world he’s in on the other side is the true reality then….



In real life, Chopin died on October 17th, 1849, a little before 2:00 a.m. That would give him just under three hours here. But of course, time operates differently in dreams than it does in the real world, and we have quite a ways to go yet before we see the end of Frederic’s journey…



♪♪~ A Faint Light Grasped in the Hand

Polka: “Oh. But then that must mean you’re like me and that you’re gonna die soon, too.”
Frederic: “Yes, you’re right. I’m afraid that may very well be true.”
*There’s a short pause.*
Polka: “So, what kind of magic can you use?”



*Polka giggles.*
Polka: “You’re a strange man, Frederic.”



Polka: “Okay, then if what you say is true, can you tell what I’m thinking about right now? If we really are inside your dream, then reading my mind should be easy for you.”



*The music stops. Polka’s eyes widen, but she doesn’t answer.*
Frederic: “I don’t blame you for feeling that way. No one likes to be hurt."
*There’s another pause. After a bit, Polka stands up.*



Frederic: “You want me to go with you to the forest? You mean, right now?”



It’s interesting to me that the game waited this long to state plainly its central premise – that it takes place almost entirely within the fever dream of a dying man, and not just any dying man, but a world-famous composer and pianist. It’s impossibly high-concept for any studio, let alone a comparatively small one making their first solo game, but I admire the developers for just reaching for the stars like this, even if it doesn’t always stick the landing.



♪♪~ Reflect the Sky, Bloom the Life

In any case, we have a forest to investigate; I’m sure whatever Polka wants to show Frederic must be important. But first…



Let’s look at our party’s stats. What, you didn’t think Frederic was just going to be a guest NPC, did you? Nope! He’s a fully-fledged playable character in his own right.



Frederic fights with a sword-sized conductor’s baton (yes, really), and in addition to some Light armor, he can equip a series of Coats that are unique to him; they’re somewhere in between Light and Medium armor. His ATK and MAG are pretty even and will continue to be so as the game progresses, and while his DEF and SPD are a bit lacking now, he’ll end up decently sturdy and quite fast later on. Until he catches up to Polka’s Exp total they’ll be trading back and forth on who’s the faster character.



Like Polka, Frederic comes equipped with a healing move, so we shouldn’t have to use many items at all. Sacred Signature isn’t as powerful as Polka’s Orange Glow, but it’s faster to cast, so it’s relatively spammable. His Piu Grave, meanwhile, is a close-range dark special that hits the enemy three times, each hit dealing progressively more damage. It takes 3.4 seconds to use, so it’s best to wait until the end of your turn before you do.



Here’s a look at Polka’s stats. Her ATK is pretty respectable, and her MAG starts high and only gets higher. Her DEF isn’t the greatest – especially since she can only equip Light armor – but unlike healer characters in other RPG’s, she can hold her own on the front lines if necessary. Like I said earlier, she and Frederic will be neck-and-neck in SPD for a while, and her Orange Glow is more potent than Sacred Signature but takes longer to cast (2.3 seconds).



Now then, let’s be off. If you didn’t grab the two items in this field when you first arrived in Tenuto, you can do that now. Hang on, is somebody over there?
 

Albatoss

Prince
(He/him, they/them)


Uh, good luck with that, dude.



“Hey that would make a pretty good desktop background” count: 5



Ah well, we shouldn’t need much Floral Powder anyways.



Despite it being pretty late, all the house lights are on and a couple people are still milling about. Let’s chat with them!



“If I can see the stars, the next day will be sunny. If I can’t, well then it’ll be rain.”
“Oh, my! There’s the night wind blowing. It feels so nice.”
“I wonder what tomorrow’s weather will bring.”

Guess we’ll just have to wait and see.



Fair enough, that’s not the way to the forest anyway.



*Whinny*

Good to see you’re doing well, Hanako. Let’s check in with the people in the nearby house.



“The apples from our garden are really sweet. My mouth is looking forward to them already!”



“I’ll give you some once they’re ripe. Oh, but you better get them quickly or my sister will eat them all.”
“My younger sisters love apples, too.”

Come to think of it, it’s been a hot minute since I’ve had an apple. Maybe I’ll buy a few the next time I get groceries.



Rano: “Bananas!”
Sop: “Okay, Polka, next is ‘C’!”
Polka: “Um… hmm….”



Well, these are all technically fruits, and I’m pretty sure that your choice isn’t important here (it didn’t occur to me to check, alas). I’ll just go with cantaloupe.



Rano: “Durian!”
Sop: “Hey! No fair! It was my turn! I was going to say, ‘dates!’”

Hmm, what’s a good “e” fruit? Elderberry, maybe?



Rano: “And also, uh, it was a flying pumpkin.”

And just like that they’re on a completely different topic. Kids, eh?



Anyway, before we stop in and say hi to Solfège, let’s head down this way real quick.



Don’t mind if I do. Okay, now we can go talk to Polka’s mom.



♪♪~ No music

Polka: “This is Frederic.”
Solfège: “Oh!”
Polka: “What’s wrong, Mom?”
Solfège: “What? Oh, it’s nothing.”



Solfège: “Frederic, was it? You don’t look like you come from around here, is that correct?”
Frederic: “Uh, yes. A journey. I’ve been on a long journey searching for something.”
Solfège: “I see….”



Frederic: “Dinner? Oh, I couldn’t….”
Polka: “My mom’s stew is delicious. You should stay and try it!”



Sweet! Guess we’ll have that to look forward to when we’re done in the forest. This is an optional conversation; you can just head straight to the forest without heading into Polka’s house if you want. But you do miss out on a couple interesting tidbits of dialogue, and there are items here as well.



♪♪~ Reflect the Sky, Bloom the Life

Solfège: “You’re going to the forest? All right. But it’s pretty late, so come back soon.”

Will do. Wouldn’t want the food to get cold!



Polka’s room is pretty cozy. I’m uh, not sure why I’m turned around in this screenshot, but there isn’t anything by these curtains.



Polka: “Mom must have taken it. But she had promised that I could read it before bed.”

I wonder what she was reading. I’m not an expert in early 1800’s literature, but Jane Austen and the Brontë sisters fit in the time-frame of this game, at least.



One more for the road, why not? Time to head back outside.



He actually takes a sip out of his cup before talking to you.

“Look at that. I’ve got the full moon floating in my cup.”
“I can’t sleep on nights like these.”

I know what you mean. I’ve been staying up late making these updates. It’s nice to have a constructive way to use all this free time I have in present circumstances.



One last house and then we can head into the forest.
 

Albatoss

Prince
(He/him, they/them)


“Oh, well. I guess I’ve got no choice. I’ll get in the bed first and warm it up for her.”
“Yawn. Good night, Polka. See you tomorrow.”

Aw… =3



“All right, g’nite. I’m going to sleep.”

I’m surprised so many people are up so late, honestly. Little village like this, I figured everybody would be long asleep by now.



The wheel stops for no one.



No more dawdling – let’s see what’s in store for us in this forest.



♪♪~ Illuminant Lives

Wow, this place is gorgeous. There are what seem to be fireflies all over the place, and moonlight is shining through the canopy in several places. It’s a really striking area in motion.



Let’s get started.

It’s always been a strong background element, but this is the first time the piano has really taken a lead role in an area theme. Even as other instruments come into play – including some haunting vocals and surprisingly strong percussion – the piano never drops out entirely. It makes for a very moody piece of music, which fits the night-time forest atmosphere perfectly. It’s not menacing, but it is quite mysterious.



This screen in the opening section is quite small – it’s about as big as what’s in the screenshot – and there’s nothing important in this tiny little stretch. But I do appreciate the brief change in perspective.



That swan-thing towards the top of the screenshot is what we’ll be facing in here, so let’s go get acquainted with it.



♪♪~ Leap the Precipice

This is what the battlefield looks like for this area. It’s mostly dark, with a couple patches of moonlight here and there, so if you want to use a healing move you’ll have to head to the middle of the battlefield.



Frederic: “How pitiful. You soulless creatures!”

I didn’t get many good shots of Frederic’s fighting style in this battle, but I can at least show off his basic moves.



This is why – everyone in the battle spawns pretty randomly on the battlefield, with your party vaguely on one side and the enemies vaguely on another. Sometimes this results in you having to hoof it over to an enemy and losing a lot of time. Polka can at least spam Shade Comet if this happens, but Frederic has no such luck; he’s mainly a melee combatant.



He can more than make up for it on his next turn, though. Frederic is the only character in the game with a four-hit melee combo, and it comes out pretty fast. There’s a brief pause in between combos, but that’s not much of a problem; if Frederic starts his turn next to an enemy he can easily rack up to 20 hits on them.



♪♪~ Well-Done

Frederic: “This is but a brief parting.”

Since there was only the one monster, this fight wasn’t much of a problem. Plus Polka just leveled up!



Polka: “Perfect!”

For her level-up animation, Polka just tosses her parasol into the air. It’s a good thing it comes back the next battle, because she throws it pretty hard!



I’ll just pop over onto this little side path and take this. Handy for difficult battles.



Back over on the main path, there’s another swan-thing.



Here’s Sacred Signature in action. One or two uses will patch us back up at this level.



And here’s Piu Grave, which is incredibly flashy. It’ll be seeing plenty of use for quite a while.



As for the enemy, L’Opera Knights aren’t too bad. Aside from a basic attack, they have three different special attacks; this one, L’Opera Tornado, hits everyone around it and also comes out the fastest, making it the most dangerous move at its disposal.



Moving on, we come to the second of five sections of Heaven’s Mirror Forest, counting the entrance we were in earlier.



Up ahead there’s a fork in the path, but we’ll have to deal with this L’Opera Knight first.



L’Opera Breath isn’t as damaging as L’Opera Tornado, but you’ll still want to guard against it.



L’Opera Drill, meanwhile, is the least dangerous of the L’Opera Knight’s specials. They’re all pretty easy to guard against.




Frederic: “*chuckles*”

This fight gave enough Exp. to push Frederic to his first level-up! For his animation he waves his baton back and forth a little, as if conducting a piece. Chopin was not a conductor in real life, but it’s a neat little touch.
 

Albatoss

Prince
(He/him, they/them)


♪♪~ Illuminant Lives

Now we can head down that fork in the path I mentioned earlier. We’ll just take care of this L’Opera Knight real quick…



L’Opera Knights also sometimes drop Angel Trumpets (as well as Peach Cookies), so you shouldn’t be hurting for revival items while you’re in Heaven’s Mirror Forest.



It’s hard to see, but there’s another chest off in the distance. Gotta take care of this enemy first…



Here’s a better look at Sacred Signature. It looks pretty cool!



Won’t say no to more healing items.



Onward to the next area. I’d say we’re about halfway through the forest now.



Down another side-path we find a weapon upgrade for Polka!



Granted, it’s not much – just a two-point upgrade over her starting weapon – but every bit helps!



This forest really is something, graphically speaking. If I weren’t concerned about it slowing people’s browsers to a crawl I’d show it off in .gif form; the fireflies are all continuously moving upwards, and there are other lights randomly twinkling as we go along. The interplay of different light sources is quite striking, and really helps elevate this area beyond being a Standard JRPG Forest.



Moving on, there’s another side-path off to the left here; me accidentally hiding behind the tree as the screenshot was taken doesn’t help spot it, but the enemy does.



We’ll just head down here, take some stairs…



And grab another one of these. I think we’re up to three now? Oh, I should have mentioned earlier – inventories are shared between parties, including what’s in your Item Set, which is handy.



Back on the main path, we’ll head through this cool little archway and into the next area.



This is the Middle North section of Heaven’s Mirror Forest; just one more and we’ll be at the end. For now we’ll head down this long, winding side-path…



And score our first accessory! There are a bunch of them in this game, and some of them are pretty useful, especially the endgame ones.



This one… is not. But we’ll put it on anyway for lack of other options, plus it’ll help Polka be a little less squishy.



No more side-paths after this; from here it’s a straight shot to the end of the forest.



I make sure Polka and Frederic are healed up (an easy task thanks to their light specials) and leave my Item Set alone; it’s fine as-is. Both of them are at level 5 at the moment, which should be more than enough for what’s ahead.



Here we are at last. Whatever Polka wants to show Frederic is just ahead.



Click for cutscene and boss fight

Huh, wonder why they stopped.



♪♪~ Rapid Fire

Oh, that’s why.



Time to throw down with this random hostile giant boar, I guess!



It’s coming right at us!



♪♪~ Opposition Resignation

Boss: Forest Boar
HP: 18,000
Those horns look like they hurt: They absolutely do.



Polka: “I know I can do it!”

This boss poses about the same level of challenge as Bread Gang; its attacks hit harder, but Polka and Frederic both have access to healing moves to make up for it.
 

Albatoss

Prince
(He/him, they/them)


The good news is that they’re both faster than the boss, so we can start hitting it right away. For the first half of the fight or so, Frederic is going to keep it busy at melee range…



While Polka pesters it from a distance with Shade Comet spam. This isn’t strictly necessary – to be honest I’m being overly cautious here – but the Forest Boar can’t attack both characters at once if they’re separated, which is good because its attacks hurt.



Pictured: Forest Boar’s most dangerous attack, Charge. The timing to guard it is a little tricky; you have to wait a bit before the prompt appears, and I panic and guard too soon every single time in the recording.



It deals a good chunk of damage and knocks the character down, and likely means the affected character will have to spend their next turn healing themselves. Forest Boar can use Charge to close the distance between itself and whoever it’s targeting, but my keep-away strategy pays off, and it doesn’t go after Polka until near the end of the fight.



Aside from Charge, it has a basic two-hit combo that it sometimes extends into three hits, as well as War Cry, an AoE attack that can hit anyone nearby. They’re both easier to guard against than Charge, so you shouldn’t have too many problems there.



The fight continues this way for a few more turns – Polka throws Shade Comets, I fail to guard against Charge and spend the next turn healing, Frederic beats it up with his fancy baton.



I decide now is a good time to bring Polka over to melee range and join the fray. The Forest Boar is close to defeated at this point, so it shouldn’t be able to harm her too much.



These are the boss’s other two attacks; they’re both four-hit combos and have the same animation, but Good Combo does slightly more damage.



We’ve got it on the ropes – just a little bit more and we’ll have this fight in the bag.



Polka goes over to attack it from behind and deals the final blow, defeating the Forest Boar!



♪♪~ Well-Done

Polka: “Phew. Huh!”

This boss is one of several to be rebalanced for the PS3 version of the game. It has fewer HP here than in the original release (25, 250), but in exchange it also gives less Exp than the original did (900). The amount of Gold is the same, though. Still, this is enough to push Polka to level 6, and it also does something else:



Our Party Level has gone up! This happens automatically at certain points of the game, and essentially it gives us extra benefits in combat in exchange for making the battle system a little more complicated. I’ll go over it in more detail next update.



Click to watch the cutscene

♪♪~ No music

*Polka starts dusting off her sleeves.*
Frederic: “By the way, you never told me if I’d answered your question correctly.”
Polka: “What?”



You seem awfully smug about that, Frederic. =p



Frederic: “Wait!”
*Brief scene transition.*



Frederic: “Flowers?”
Polka: “Just watch. They’re about to blossom!”



It seems barren now, but…



♪♪~ Pyroxene of the Heart



*The flowers bloom in a great burst of light.*



I would say this was definitely worth the trip through the forest.



“Hey that would make a pretty good desktop background” count: 6



♪♪~When We Are Together

Polka: “This is the only place they bloom in the forest.”



Polka: “When the sun is up, they stay in their buds, but they’re able to absorb sunlight with their leaves.”



Frederic: “They’re beautiful. Absolutely stunning. It truly is a wondrous sight.”



♪♪~ Your Circumstances

Frederic: “Death Lights?”
Polka: “The sun brings light, but the dark brings death. And these flowers bloom in darkness. So, darkness is evil, light is good. Whether you want to call them Heaven’s Mirror or Death Lights, that’s up to you Frederic."
 
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