Total Reviews: 4
Average Overall Score Given: 8.52500 / 10
Total Forum Posts: 3164

Prince of Persia

The Prince of Persia franchise has a long and varied history going back to the ol? Nintendo Entertainment System days as a side scroller. The Prince was resurrected a few years ago as ?dark and brooding,? and had a successful trilogy of games. Now he?s been reinvented once again, this time as a thief with a heart of gold. Specifically, his heart is wherever his gold is, and at the beginning of the game, that gold is attached to a donkey that has run off without him.

While searching for the love of his life (his money, not so much his donkey), he stumbles across another vision of love. Elika, a beautiful, dark-skinned woman, is running for her life from some ruffians. She is afraid that the Prince?s cries for his donkey are going to get HER caught. He fights off the thugs and learns that Elika is a Princess. As he and the Princess run for their lives, she demonstrates some extraordinary magical powers.

The world they live in was run by two gods who were brothers: Ormazd was the god of light and Ahriman was the god of darkness. Elika?s people were like all people, some shades of gray between good and bad. Ahriman discovered that people were easily swayed to darkness so he tempted them and tipped the scales in his favor. This actually worked to his disadvantage because with his power all spread out, he was weakened and eventually trapped inside of a magical tree, supposedly for all time. Gradually, he was able to whisper to outsiders from his prison in the tree, and the tide turned back his way.

Good god Ormazd is now nowhere to be found. Ahriman?s four most loyal subjects are preparing the world for his return to power. For some reason unknown to us, the temple itself has given some of the powers of Ormazd to Princess Elika. She concludes that she is the key to putting Ahriman away for good.

The first part of the game sets up the story and in usual fashion, serves as a tutorial for the player. The Prince learns how to do the basic mechanics of the game, such as wall-running, extended wall-runs, jumping to and from suspended columns, ?roof runs?, and so on. Then there are the combat mechanics of moving, attacking, blocking, acrobatics and the use of his armored gauntlet to grab and throw the opponent.

The game has one major mechanic that makes it stand out. You can?t die. There is no ?Game Over.? In comparison, let?s look at Halo. Any Halo. You fight, you die. Gameplay stops, reloads the last checkpoint, and resumes. For those couple of seconds, you?re taken completely out of the game. Prince of Persia?s solution to this dilemma comes in the form of a magical power given to Elika.

Elika can use the light of Ormazd to save the Prince from falling and to break up fights when he?s getting his sundial cleaned. In any other game, gameplay would be reset, but in Prince of Persia, the Prince simply lets out a shriek (it's ok, it?s a manly shriek) and Elika intervenes, dropping you right back where you were. It?s basically the exact thing that happens in Halo, but the effect is that you?re not taken out of the game.

Elika has her own attacks during combat, and you fight as partners. Some enemies can only be attacked with her ?light? attacks, or they will morph from one state to the next, forcing you to alter your style of attack. You never play as Elika, but rather, you call on her assistance. Besides the saving power of her light during falls and battles, she can assist you with a co-op jump, adding to the distance you can leap between surfaces.

Elika is also made stronger by collecting ?light seeds?. After you clear an area of ?corruption,? you heal it, and one of the results of this healing are light seeds that appear scattered throughout the level. Collecting these and returning to the Temple opens up new powers for Elika, and access to new locations in the game. The areas overlap each other a bit, so that it takes more than one power to be active before an entire area is accessible. These powers also unlock the ability to use ?light plates? that are placed around the lands. In order to get access to all of the light seeds, you need to have access to at least two of the plates in each land, which open up once their equivalent power is granted. You will play every area basically twice: once to clear it of corruption and a second time to gather the light seeds.

The game is laid out with the Temple as the central point, and four ?lands,? each land guarded by one of Ahriman?s followers. Each follower has a certain style of attack as well as a certain weakness to attacks by the Prince and Elika. Each land has an area before it, four areas inside it, and when those are complete, a fifth area beyond it where you tangle with Ahriman?s lackeys. Completing the game requires ?healing? of all 24 areas and a return to the Temple to wrap up the story.

Before I address some of the shortcomings of this game, I want to point out the one area in which it is absolutely flawless, and that is the visual department. It is done in the visual style of a graphic novel. It does not try to duplicate real life as much as it tries to create a believable fantasy world, and it absolutely nails it. Subtle dark halos behind characters make them pop during action sequences. They get lost in the darkness when they go ?corrupt? and stand out when they?re hit with Elika?s light attacks. The draw distance is unbelievable, and in fact, there are a couple of achievements available simply by going to an extreme point on the map and just LOOKING and the enormity of the environment.

The animations are also wildly impressive. Actions during travel and combat can be strung together to make one fluid series of motions. The Prince can scale down a sheer face, leap to a rod protruding from the wall, swing to a pole, flip to the other side, scurry to the top, run along the underside of the roof while hanging from rings, flip up the wall on the back side, shuffle along some hanging vines, jump and slide down a slanted ramp and? well, you get the idea.

What?s also impressive, and easily overlooked, is his relation to Elika during their travel sequences. She will dangle from his neck, or he?ll swing her with his arms. They will hold hands and spin around a point if there is not room to pass each other. My favorite is when he catches her after he scales down a wall first, or leaps to the bottom first. It?s more than just catching her and setting her down. There?s a tenderness to it that makes you go, whoa, someone really dedicated some attention to that detail.

Shortcomings? Yeah, there are a few. Light seeds are hard to spot sometimes, based more on the performance of the camera than clever placement by the developers. Stringing together attacks for combos is also practically impossible. There is an achievement available if you can string 14 of them together, and honestly, if you can pull that off, you really DID achieve something. The combat is not nearly as fluid as the traveling.

Finally, the thing that bugged me the most was the lack of people in the environment. Unlike previous PoP games, you only fight one guy at a time. The idea behind this was to make every battle like a mini-boss fight. I?m not sure what the REAL reason is behind this decision. There are no people milling about the environments. According to the story, they left because of the corruption. There are no swarms of enemies to fight off. There?s one here, there?s one there. You never run across concerned citizens, soldiers, or anyone. Except for the 3-4 soldiers in the very beginning and one other key player, there are no people at all.

I hate to write reviews and dock a game for what?s not there. Games should be reviewed on what they brought to the table, not what was omitted. If dropping out NPC?s was a trade-off for the incredible vistas, that?s fine. So rather than dock them for it, I will simply include it as a suggestion for future games in the series.

This brings me to my last point. This game was obviously set up to serve as a launching pad for a series of games, probably a trilogy. As it stands, I think a two-game arc would make a better story, but the engine is built, the universe is written, and there?s plenty of time left in this gen to squeeze out two more. (Actually , I think a ONE game story arc would have been perfect, but it would have involved changing the ending of this game. I don't want to spoil the ending so I won't comment further.)

To be up-front, I paid $32 for this game and consider it money well spent. I?m already playing it through a second time, even with four or five other games in a stack, waiting to be played. However, they don?t want you to pay $32 for it. They want you to pay $59 for it. While I personally enjoyed it enough to have done that, I?m not sure that most people would have. I?m afraid that Prince of Persia fits right in that group of games like Mirror?s Edge and Dead Space where they?re really good games whose only shortcomings are that they?re moderate length single player games. They?re asking the same price as single player games that are 200 hours in length, or multiplayer games that will get hundreds of hours of online play. Now, games have been $49-$59 for fifteen years, and once in a while you get that Bioshock-quality game that is shorter, but so well done that it demands the full price. PoP just isn?t one of those. I?m not a fan of supporting used game sales because I want the devs to have my money because they did the work. So this is one of those games that I will highly recommend, but suggest waiting for a price drop down to $39.99, which probably isn?t that far away.

Suggestions: Add NPCs.

Add multi-enemy combat.

Give us a combo-counter. I couldn't tell if I'd gotten one combo or ten, and had no idea how close I might have gotten to 14. I would be more inclined to put in the effort if I knew where I stood.

Add a middle-eastern dialect option to the voices. "Perfect, generic male American" is more offensive to me because it's "lowest common denominator" than having a actual Persian voice would have. Call Sayid and Nadia from "Lost" and see if they're free for PoP2.

And really, god of light and god of dark? There has to be a more clever way of setting up a story dilemma than that.

Overall Score: 8.5 / 10 Fracture

A whole new meaning for the term, ?shovelware.?


Imagine if humanity?s efforts to curb the global warming trend failed. Water levels rise, and globally, people are forced to higher ground. Unfortunately, there isn?t enough ?high ground? for everybody, so a science is developed that is referred to as ?terrain deformation.? TD, as its called, allows humanity to raise or lower the terrain as need sees fit. The ?needy? apparently reside on the East and West coasts of the US, since the Midwest is handed over to the fishies.

For humanity to survive, they must become stronger and stronger, and just as the country is split geographically, it is also split ideologically. The Pacifican States, which is made up of the West Coast along with Asia, has relied on genetic enhancement to improve humanity?s chances for survival. The Atlantic Alliance which includes the East Coast and Europe, has opted not to mess with human DNA and instead, rely on mechanical enhancements.

In other words, it?s ?mutants vs. cyborgs,? people.

Your particular mechanically enhanced person-of-interest is Alliance soldier Jet Brody. His family was killed by Pacificans, but he still sees the battle as one for humanity and not for his own revenge.

Your opponent for this conflict is one General Nathan Sheridan. Sheridan was an Alliance soldier until his two young daughters were born with a genetic disease. The Alliance has forbidden genetic research, so his only hope is to defect to the Pacificans and offer his assistance in exchange for their help finding a cure. His daughters die, a mere few weeks before a cure is found. Sheridan holds the Atlanticans to blame for their loss, and comes up with a plan of attack to eliminate them for good.

Brody and Co. don?t know that, of course, and head out to San Francisco to bring Sheridan back to Washington D.C. If you?ve played the demo, you know that Sheridan resists, and the game is afoot.

Fracture is a third-person shooter with the main feature being your ability to deform the environment. I have been vocal about this before, but upon first hearing of this game, it seemed to me to be simply a programming tool ? environmental sculpting ? with a shooter attached to it. Yeah, it probably had some basic storyline to explain it all, but I?m a story guy. I like games that have a story to tell, and decide how to do the game to best tell that story. Games where there is some game mechanic in place, and a story is created to explain it always seem to fall short.

A visit to Lucasarts confirms that I wasn?t that far off in my presumptions. The game was apparently not based on existing tools, though. The motivation behind TD was that games were stagnant when you played in the same environments every single time. But what if you could alter the environments to give yourself a fighting advantage? That was the motive behind TD, and THEN the story came about. The story, by the way, is a collaboration between dev Day One Studios and Lucasarts, along with some writing assistance by people from the television show, ?Jericho.? Still, it seems like the story is there because it has to be. ?We need a reason to deform the earth? and ?we need a reason to have an enemy to fight? sound like pretty shaky ground for launching a game of this magnitude. Hey, two earthquake jokes in one sentence. Can you dig it?


You are armed with an ENTRENCHER (in the Army, shovel = ?entrenching tool). This tool allows you to raise or lower the ground by using your right or left bumpers, accordingly. Ground can be altered, rock and structures can not. You will be able to tell the difference between rock and ground when you see it. Deformation will raise or lower items resting on the ground, and even in some cases, destroy them. You can use TD to provide a low point or a barricade for cover, a high point for sniping, or for access to unreachable areas. Later on, you receive a vehicle, and your TD can create ramps that the vehicle can jump.

While your entrencher is on you at all times, it does have a charge meter. After about four uses in rapid succession, it takes a delay of about a second to recharge enough to use an additional time.

Fracture comes with a large number of weapons, including both Alliance and Pacifican types:

Bulldog Rifle is a typical rifle.

Torpedo Launcher is almost like the Land Shark Gun, another Lucasarts invention. You fire the torpedo that goes out from you in a straight line, but under the ground. You can detonate it at any point. Tip: use the radar like Missile Command.

Invader is a shotgun. Great when you can smell their breath, useless if they?re 50 feet away.

Bangalore is a rocker launcher.

Black Widow is a grenade launcher. Shoot a number of grenades and detonate at will. Tip: the grenades are sticky. Shoot an enemy, let him run back to his comrades, then blow them ALL up. OR, in multiplayer, shoot one of your own guys, send him into a pack of enemies, then blow HIM up and take them with him.

Freeze gun allows you to freeze either an enemy or the ground. Freeze an enemy, then shoot or melee them into shards of ice. Freeze the ground and it can?t be TD?d. This is particularly useful on the enemies that toss the hellacious green grenades from a height advantage. Freeze them and the grenades stop. Toss them a grenade and they?re a slushy. Freeze does unthaw after a few seconds and seems to unthaw faster with some enemies.

The Rhino is just, well, dumb. You shoot a magnetically tracking ball that grabs rocks and tries to grab you as well. It?s kinda like being chased by that big stone behind Indiana Jones, but not nearly as cool.

Tectonic and Subsonic grenades. T (up arrow pic) grenades elevate the earth and throw enemies and local items up into the air. Enemies are VERY briefly stunned by the event. S grenades (down arrow pic) eliminate a hill, or create a crater.

Spike grenade creates a column of rock. This column can lift things up for better access, damage things attached to walls, or if you stand on one when it goes off, it will lift YOU to high points. They can be destroyed with a few shots so they do not make good cover.

The Vortex grenade is easily the most fun thing in the entire game and sadly, it?s the rarest weapon to stumble across and you can only carry one at a time. It creates a whirling vortex of suckage that pulls any local rock, crate or enemy into it, and then explodes. It is the weapon of choice for getting rid of a pack of enemies. Make sure there?s some distance between you and the vortex. Many times I fought the urge to find cover so I could watch the hilarious carnage, only to find myself sucked into said carnage. Not so funny then, is it, hm?

There are a couple of other weapons whose names escape me. One is similar to the Vortex in that it will provide a little bit of suckage, just enough to pull an enemy out of cover and hold him there so you can quickly change weapons and off him before he can find cover again. There is also a subterranean enemy later on in the game, and this allows you to suck them out of the ground and get a good shot. The other shoots a subterranian grenade that tracks enemies.

Unlike the entrencher which is always handy, you can only carry two weapons at one time. Like usual, it?s best to carry one high ammo count and one low ammo count weapon at a time. Use the common weapon for furious fire and the limited weapon for strategic fire.

Shooting an powerful enemy is ridiculously difficult later in the game. Your best bet is to separate enemies with TD, isolate one and go melee him. You can usually take enough damage by that point to handle a few shots while you get closer. You also save ammo that way.

Besides the weapons, there?s one additional challenge in the game. Those are data cells. Data cells glow an obvious purple and stand out from the green glow of the weapons and grenades. They really serve no purpose that I can tell, except as a collection item. With ten cells, you open up the ?weapon locker,? a tool the devs used for testing weapons that they threw in as a freebie with the game. 35 cells gets you an achievement, and getting all 100 gets you another. The data cells provide no ?data? or information though, which I thought was a missed opportunity.

player offers a number of environments and game types to soothe the savage super soldier. The environments, weapons and gameplay are taken straight out of the single player game. I won?t cover all the locations here (there are six, and more are most certainly to come). The gametypes include Free For All, Team Free For All, Capture The Flag, One Flag CTF, KingMaker and Team KingMaker (hold the point), Break-In (variation of TKM) and Excavation. Excavation has points located around the map. You must dig to the point and raise a spike which will be your team color. Protect it for three seconds and it?s yours, but it can be destroyed and rebuilt as the opposing team?s spike.


I wanted very badly to complete this game before a review was required, and I just didn?t make it. The game has three acts and I am just inside the last act. That?s probably a good thing for the review because I don?t risk hurting you with any spoilers. The bad thing is, that if the story really does pick up (which I would hope with the ?Jericho? people involved), I wouldn?t know, so I have to stick with my assessment that the story is the weakest part of this game.

Luckily for Fracture, that?s really not a big deal. Heresy! I hear you cry. Honest. It is to this game?s benefit that it?s the gameplay that pulls you along and not the story. There are auto save point every little bit in the game, and I can?t tell you how many times I blew it and said, ?I?ll give it one more shot.? Three, four, five AM and I?m still trying little sections ?one more time? before I call it a night. That means that this game has it. It has that thing that makes you want to play the next part, and the next and the next. It doesn?t matter what the story is doing. You have to get past that next challenge, that next batch of baddies. Story be damned, Fracture is FUN.

In fact, it?s so fun, I have to tell you a little story. On my trip to SF to see the game first hand (fear not ? my review is from my own, final copy of the full game), I saw another game. This other game offered some similar, common multiplayer gametypes, and it was fun enough in its own right. But after playing Fracture with the TD feature, I would be bored to tears to play a similar game without it. Instead of running around looking for protection, you have to THINK ?Hey, I can MAKE some protection!?

I certainly have some issues with it. If you get your vehicle stuck somehow, you can?t rock it, bump it, or grenade it out of place. At one point, I had to exit and reenter the game so I could get my vehicle back. I had a couple of times where the game froze completely and required a reboot. You and I both know that, at this point, it?s impossible to attribute that to a game and not the console, so I won?t point fingers. I?m just stating that it happened.

There are a couple of places where you have a ?boss? and the boss fights are an enormous pain in the butt. Dodge, shoot, dodge, shoot, die, restart. What?s bad about that is that I can?t reconfigure my weapons, TD the ground the way I want it, save, and then go battle the baddie. No, I have to do that stuff over and over and over again, before I battle the guy for a quick fifteen second death so I can spend another ten minutes getting prepared for battle so I can try something else.

?Save Anywhere? should be a freakin? law, the First Commandment of Video Games.

Fracture has taken some lumps in the online forums for the ?hand holding? it does in the demo. Again, there?s good new and bad news. The bad news is, you can?t turn it off. Weapons crates, grenade crates, and data cells will always scream at you with a glowing neon light that shows where they are. There is no ?looking for ammo.? There is only ?getting to the ammo.?

The good news is that the hand-holding is really only featured in the intro training level of the game. I?m talking about the little symbols that basically say, ?Shoot UP TD here? or ?explode this wall.? Those things DO go away, and rather quickly. The reason for them is simple. People forget that you have TD and the cues are a mental training thing to get you to think outside of the box? or in this case, the halo.

Yes, I said it. There are more than a few casual similarities between this and that other future sci-fi thing. Mechanically enhanced super soldiers fighting mutated people, the design layout, the ?warthog runs?, the dropships that crash, the girl?s voice in your head? even the concept of altering your environment seems like it might have been spawned by Forge but just kicked up a notch.

However, Halo is fun, and this is fun, and considering TD, I dare say it might even be MORE fun. I?m going to stick my neck out here and say that this is THE game to get while you?re waiting for Gears of War 2 to come out, and once you get GOW2, I?ll bet you find it missing something that you can only get in Fracture.

GRAPHICS: On the good end of this-gen games.
SOUND: Everything you could hope for from a Lucasarts title.
PERFORMANCE: I?m not one of those guys who can declare a frame-rate, but it ran solid. The only issues I had were some jumping during transitions that may have been hardware related.
CAMERA: Acceptable, generally speaking, but I occasionally found myself trying to see through leaves because of where I was. I think a free camera that you get with a first person would have worked fine. I have no idea what there is about Fracture that demands a third-person view that couldn?t have been done as a first person.
LONGEVITY: I figure 12-15 hours for the single player, medium difficulty. You get achievements for the medium and hard difficulties x three acts each. Multiplayer is very customizable with six maps and a number of gametypes. If you can get a few friends to give this a chance, I think you?ll get a LOT of play out of it.

Suggestions: - Save Anywhere. It's the law.

- Take a cue from Mass Effect. Allow players to go back into a log and see what their current mission is. At one point I apparently finished a mission and stood around, trying to figure out what I was supposed to do.

- Change difficulty on the fly. I played through on medium and found myself wanting to toughen it up a bit in spots, and just be done with a spot and move along in others.

- Make the location of the weapons, grenades and data cells a little less obvious, or at least allow the player the option of turning the beacons on or off.

- First person would solve some of the camera problems.

Overall Score: 8.4 / 10 Blue Dragon

Overall: Blue Dragon is a Japanese-styled RPG made by the writer and members of the original team from Chrono Trigger, who are now the developer Mistwalker. That would normally be the good part. And, depending on who you asked, the fact that the characters were designed by the designer of the Dragonball Z characters would be the bad part. However, after almost seventy hours in the game, I can tell you that in this particular instance, they're BOTH the bad part.

I want to do the briefest of story summaries so as not to ruin the plot (*snicker - like THAT could happen*). The story starts off with a villiage being terrorized by an unstoppable machine. Three kids have had it with this monster and rig a trap to snag the beast when it drags them out of the village and into their adventure.

In the early part of their travels, they acquire the ability to perform magic, which is revealed in the form of dragons that emerge from their shadows. Yeah, they're blue. They also meet their opponant who promptly wipes the floor with them, learning that the road they have to travel to best him will be a long one.

That, my friends, is the understatement of 2007.

Blue Dragon takes three full, dual layered DVDs to hold all the content. I spend about 25 hours on Disc One amd at the end of it, had yet to be emotionally moved at all by the story or give a @!%#*! about the characters. Where "Eternal Sonata" was a work of p@!%#*!ion (see my review), Blue Dragon seemed very much like it was just going through the motions. In fact, I didn't feel ANY sense of urgency at all until the end of the second disc, or around 50 hours into the game. Only then did I feel like there was a character in peril, or that I CARED that there was a character in peril and I was inclined to want to save said character. That's a lot of game under your belt with nothing to grab you.

I also got a whopping 50 gamerscore or something by playing the game. The achievements are so strangely obscure that one, you'll never get the majority of them through normal gameplay, and two, the ones that are open to you require revisiting the entire map. After having spent more than plenty of time in these areas, returning just for a few points was NOT an appealing option.

I should point out that I spent over 200 hours in Oblivion and did NOT feel the same way, nor am I a hater of JRPG's.

I also want to point out that towards the end of the game, you get @!%#*!istance in your abillity to traverse this large world, and you can visit any location in the game. This leades me to the conclusion that most of the space on the discs are cutscenes and boss battle info, since the entire geography of the game is included completely on the last disc.

At the end of a game, you ask yourself to grade it. My grade usually consists of: What do I feel about the time I gave up to play this game? What do I feel about the characters I just spent all that time with? In most cases, I consider it time well spent and I liked the characters (Eternal Sonata, Halo, Oblivion). In some cases, The time was well spent but the characters didn't really do anything for me (Crackdown, Viva Pinata).

In the case of Blue Dragon, do I regret spending ALL that time in the game? Well, no. But neither would I feel like I was missing anything had I not played it. The characters were out of my head and heart the second I turned the game off.

Lastly, a cartoon has been launched in Japan, there are two sets of figures/keychains available, and there was a faceplate you could only get in Japan along with the game and the five figures in a LE set. Searches on eBay turn up mousepads and the like.

So on to gameplay...

Gameplay: There are some combination of five party members depending on the place in the story. There's a cutscene where a quest is revealed, and your party members go forth. They run into randomly generated monsters in the wilderness between the actual game locations.

Now, before we get into battle aspecs, let's talk about pre-battle preparation.

There are a number of things you can do to prepare for battle. You can equip your characters with accessories that affect their stats and other things, like the ability to attack twice, resurrect, regenrate, sneak, steal items, go first in battle, etc. You can also decide the order of the line-up of your characters, and their placement in a front row/back row presentation. Finally, you can decide how you want to allocate their power up points to make them stronger in the areas you intend to use in battle. This is a very superficial description of all the things you can do. It's very detailed in the amount of flexibility offered to you.

Now, you're in battle. If you initiate the attack, you generally get to go first. If you attack from the rear, you get extra attack opportunities. If you do a surprise attack, their formation is reversed, and the same goes for your party if they surprise attack you. YOur front row is now the back and your support people are now "the front row."

The characters involved in the battle are laid out in a line at the top of your HUD. As the first person in the line makes its move, it moves to somewhere in the line depending on his stats. He doesn't necessarily go to the end of the line.

You have the option of a physical attack, a magic-@!%#*!isted physical attack, a magical attack, or an item attack. You can also use magic as a healing took or as a support tool (for things like double plays, or increased speed which drops you back into the combat queue closer to the front of the line.)

Boss battles consist of you, them, an arena, and usually pointers like "go for his head!" Duh.

Graphics: The characters aren't particularly attractive. They have limited facial expressions. The environments are spartan and unspectacular. There are nice water effects and that's about it. The magical lighting effects during battle aren't impressive anymore, two years into this gen. I don't recall a single point in the game that looked so cool that I'd like to go back and show it to someone. I guess I should say something good about it. OK, round things look round. Not jagged. Faces. And Zola's boobs, which are totally out of place in the game. And the kids are adorable. They're totally cute.

Audio: Things that annoy:

First offender: The horrible metal screaming music - the SAME SONG - during every extended boss battle, in an excruciatingly short looped 80's flashback. When I heard it in the SECOND boss battle, I could have died, because it sunk in that I'd be hearing it a LOT in the next 60-75 hours.

Second offender: Maromaru's yelling. ALL. THE. TIME.

Third offender: Birds. Birds, performed by one key on a Casio keyboard, on a loop.

Fourth offender: Nene's voice and his sidekick's voice.

Basically, the only thing that I enjoyed that was sound related was the music during the time you could traverse the whole map towards the end of the game.

Suggestions: Don't do a sequel. If you want to port this to the PS3, go with my blessing. Get a new audio guy. Get a new character designer. Hire a writer. Don't do a Chrono game until you get this whole equation fixed. Never offer a bad guy who doesn't give you a chance to at least get in a shot before wiping out your whole team. Don't put a max on your hero's hit points if you're going to have baddies who can generate 50% more damage. I have more but I consider them spoilers, so I'll just be vague and say that you should NOT do stuff that has happened in every other JRPG ever made.

Overall Score: 8.0 / 10 Eternal Sonata

Overall: Eternal Sonata is a Japanese-styled RPG created by developer Tri-Crescendo and published by Namco/Bandi. It was released in Japan as "Trusty Bell" in early 2007, and later in 2007 here in the US.

True to their name, Tri-Crescendo has delivered an RPG built on a foundation of music, and not just through a fictitious character like Marl in "Rhapsody," but real-life Polish cl@!%#*!ical composer and pianist Fryderyk Franciszek Chopin. 1849, Chopin slipped into a coma caused by tuberculosis and died shortly thereafter. "Eternal Sonata" is a work of fiction, based on the idea of one's life p@!%#*!ing before their eyes when death is imminent. Since Chopin was not awake and aware, but rather in a deep sleep, his life might have p@!%#*!ed before him as a fantastical dream.

Chopin lived a life in frailty, a voluntary exile from Poland after an attempted revolution that failed. Elements of "Eternal Sonata" parallel his personal turmoils, including the heroine Polka, who is an optimistic young girl and who is also terminally ill. In this world, a terminal illness begets the ability to perform magic, and Polka is shunned by many townsfolk who fear that a terminal disease could be communicable. She meets up with two young men who all seem to be on a similar mission: stop the leader of a hostile foreign country from turning their entire population into an army of mindless warriors.

(Oh, and a cheap plug for Faceplate Addict: A faceplate was given away free in Japan with preorders of "Trusty Bell" and a whopping five faceplates featuring the main characters of "Eternal Sonata" were given out randomly in the US to people who preordered the game here.)

Gameplay: The gameplay is cl@!%#*!ic Japanese turnbased (stop groaning), but with a twist. As you proceed through the fantasy locations, and the areas that connect them, you stumble into various enemies; smaller ones in the general areas, and usually a larger boss enemy right before you reach the next location.

Contact with an enemy results in a screen morph into a larger arena area with similarities to the last environment. These areas are partilly lit by some source of light and partially shrouded in darkness. You - and your enemies - have different powers available to you depending on whether you are in shadow or light. Striking an enemy from behind is more powerful a frontal attack, but in some cases the location of the light/dark areas are more important.

During each characters' turn, you have a short amount of time to prepare your plan, and then implement your attack. As the game progresses, the limitations on your time are tightened, taking away your time for planning.

Bosses can be easily underestimated, and there are a number of bosses that you will probably have to abandon, level up, and then confront again later.

Graphics: Visually, there isn't a more beautiful game. Period. By "beautiful," I mean the true meaning of the word. Colors are bright, environments are lush, man-made locations are elaborately detailed. Even the title screen that announces the name of each new location glistenes and unfolds elegantly before you. The game graphics are remeniscent of bright, Japanese animation. They are more interesting (to me, anyway) than pseudo-realistic graphics in games like Gears or Halo.

If I have an issues with the graphics, it is the limited animations and facial expressions of the main characters, and the somewhat ridiculous character design of the enemies. I LOVE the character designs of the main human cast, both heroes and villains, but battling a fat, walking onion leaves something to be desired.

Audio: The in-game audio is standard game fare, but it's the interstitials where the game shines. Between the main chapters, there is a "story break." Game graphics are replaced by a slide-show reflecting Chopin's real-life life, with his most famous musical pieces performed int he background. The stories tie in with what he may have been feeling that resulted in the composition of the song being played. I found the mini song bio's fascinating and rather than being a bore, I found them an interesting addition to the presentation of the game.

I don't remember a large amount of ambient sounds - which is probably a good thing, since those Casio-performed bird sounds in Blue Dragon drove me nuts.

The voice acting was fine. If anything, they all sounded a little too much like "professional voice actors" instead of people, and Salsa's suthin' twang was laid on a little strong. But I enjoyed Polka's cheer, Chopin's introspection, and Jazz' seriousness.

Suggestions: My only hope is that Tri-Crescendo has enough success with Eternal Sonata to put out a similar effort with one or more other famous composers. I visited their marketing website, "Endless Nocturne" during the launch period (and was given a free copy of the game for doing so). I was given a chance to offer feedback directly to Namco/Bandi and Tri-Crescendo for future stories. I begged for them to consider a similar game concept for other composers (who may have just been dreaming and not necessarily in a coma, lol). I suggested Mozart, Bach, Beethoven and even Scott Joplin, possibly in a racial conflict-centered story rather than a political one.

Overall Score: 9.2 / 10

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