The game uses a contrast of real and fantastical, as the story is based on the real figure of Chopin and includes references and biographical information about the composer, while the fantasy world is represented in cell-shaded cartoon graphics. While the story itself is removed from Chopin's real world life, music makes a strong thematic presence throughout the entire game including the towns and villages you visit, to the weapons you wield. An optional side quest in the game sees you collecting bits and pieces of Chopin's music to accompany other characters in the game to gain new items. The linear story is told through real-time cutscenes that are fully voiced in either English or the original Japanese with English subtitles.
Similar to other traditional JRPGs the main gameplay is divided into two sections; the world exploration, and combat. Exploration sees you traveling to different villages, talking with people and gaining more information. You'll also traverse through dungeons collecting items, and encountering enemies. Unlike totally open world games such as Oblivion, the characters are limited to predefined paths and areas.
In Eternal Sonata the enemies are visible in the exploration mode allowing you to avoid them altogether, or approach them from behind for an advantageous position in combat. Touching an enemy triggers the battle mode where all of the combat happens. The combat itself is part turn-based and part real-time. Each character gets a turn to make their action while every other character in the arena has to wait. Real-time aspects come into play when a character's turn comes up. They have a set amount of time to move, attack, use skills, or items. All actions occur in real-time where pressing the button initiates the action immediately. Attacks can be chained together for more damage.
As you level up your characters and party new abilities are gained, and the strategic elements that go into combat are constantly changing. To add another wrinkle to the combat is the light/dark system that grants your characters different skills depending on whether or not they're standing in an area that is covered in light or shadow. Enemies are also affected by the light as they can change their form depending on the situation.
Originally slated as an Xbox 360
exclusive, Eternal Sonata is scheduled for release on the Playstation 3
sometime in 2008. Any new features and additions to the PS3 port are currently unknown.