I have had my eye on this game for some time, and now that I managed to try out the demo and got the game on a sale (I got the game for $3.74, which is awesome!), I can finally experience such a beautiful game.
Let us start with the story... it is centers around the 19th century musician, Frédéric François Chopin, or just 'Frederic' or 'Chopin' would be fine, who is in his deathbed, unconscious as he tries to battle his sickness. In his final hours, he would live in a dream, a dream that is exactly like another world all together. In this world, there are people that can use Magic. Anyone can use magic... but only when they are dying. By either an illness, injury, or something else. Honestly, that part isn't really fully explained, along with other things. Anyway! In this world, Chopin must travel through a world based on music and try to find out the truth... is the world he is in a dream? Or is it a whole new world entirely? Or could it be that that world is the real reality, while Paris and his own world was the fake world all along?
This alone is a rather interesting idea. Some people say, in real life, that our own reality might be fake as well, or is experienced through a different matter than others. The sad part is... well...
The plot and story of the game is very interesting, and had some real potential, but at the very end, at the last two hours or so, it falls flat on itself. The game will go from a fairly realistic world, with it's own twists of course, then suddenly gives a twist in the plot and, literally, have one character turn into a giant monster before your eyes and ripes a hole in time and space into the world of the dead. This I am not kidding. At this point, I actually jolted in place in shock, having it leave a bad taste in my mouth. Not because it happened, but because of how SUDDEN it was. And at the very end, it is like the game remembers 'Oh wait! This is Chopin's dream! We gotta focus on that now before we forget!'.
Quite honestly, I think that they should have stayed focused on the dream world, at least for a bit longer, and hit to Chopin's dreaming this. But I digress... up until that part, the story was interesting, the characters were fun, and the gameplay was well done. Think of it like the case with Mass Effect 3, for those who have played it. All until the last ten minutes, it is a wonderful game, and the last part (as some would say) ruins the trilogy. (It's not that bad to me, but that is a whole different topic altogether). I should also note that the ending is VERY confusing. I had to look up the details on the Internet to figure out what really happened, and why. Because it seemed like that scene (to avoid spoilers I won't go into detail) just happened out of the blue. With the character going 'Oh wow, we just beat the real final boss. Hey guys, see ya!' and... well, yeah.
The gameplay itself is fairly simple, yet fun, as well. You have 'A' as your regular attack, 'B' as your Guard, which you have to time yourself to press to use and cannot just rapidly press it (trust me, that doesn't work... it would have helped if it did, though!), 'X' to use your items, and 'Y' to use your Special attacks. For each character and enemy on the field, they are timed by the Action Gauge, which constantly decreased from five seconds to zero, then moves to the next fastest character or enemy. Also, the Special attack changes depending on whether you are in the light or in shadows. In the sunlight, for example, you can use a Light Special Attack, yet in a shadow of an enemy or behind an object, in darkness of any kind, you can use a Dark Special Attack. This goes the same for enemies, and some will actually change form and grow either stronger or weaker depending on if they are in the light or the shade. The first one you will see is a tiny melon enemy with stubby legs, which transforms into a giant rock/onion with demonic red eyes, which are REALLY freaky looking.
With this, the game also inputs what is called a 'Party Level'. It starts out at level one, which gives you more time and allows you to stay still and not have the Gauge decrease at all. After a certain battle, it increased to two, giving you less of a break, but allowing you to deal more damage. It goes all the way up to level 6, with up to 5 being unlocked through the story of the game. Level five has it where you have only four seconds to attack, but each playable character moves quickly through the field and can chain together special attacks and form powerful combos. The game basically changes things up bit by bit as you play, so things won't all be the same throughout the game. I honestly don't know how to feel about this... it gets harder, yet more rewarding, as the Party Level increases, so... I guess it depends on the person. On Encore Mode, which is basically New Game Plus and hard mode, you can change the Party Level to whatever level you would prefer as well.
I would also like to note that you gain a lot of party members in the game, yet you do not have to battle with each one to have them level up. In a game like Star Ocean: Till the End of Time, you have to use the character to level him or her up. Most of the time, a player will stay with one team set and the others will stay at a low level, which, if the game's story decides to have one of the characters you don't use to fight alone, it can... well, frankly, be a HUGE hassle. In this game, everyone levels up and gains experience through the battles, however, the ones who fight gets the majority of the XP, while the ones who don't fight gets about half I think. Whatever case it is, you can rest easy and use one set team, of which ever characters you would like, and not have to worry about the others.
The sound and music... holy... I... it is amazing! The music is based off of Chopin's own works, as well as having his music in the game as well. The battle music is usually the same song, except for certain boss fights, yet it is so good you do not get tired of it.
The graphics are... well, it came out in 2007, so the graphics for the characters are hit and miss. The biggest problems are their expressions, eyes, and their hands. Their fingers and hands do not really move, and you can tell everything was done with Motion Capture. Still, other than those parts, the graphics are truly beautiful to look at, and are crisp, even compared to some games now.
The voice acting is well done, too. There are a few great voice actors I know and love in the game, like Johnny Bosch, Liam O'Brien, and Stephanie Sheh as a few examples.
Each character stands out in his or her own way as well, and some even has their own side plots... which are not resolved.
I will say this now, many of the side plots, such as one character falling in love with another in the party, is never resolved, nor is much explained, as to why Polka has such a reaction to... well, no details here, but you will see if you play the game.
One important thing to note is that there is a PS3 version of the game, which includes two extra playable characters which are not in the 360 version and are not DLC (which stinks...), as well as an extra dungeon, and with items changed around in the story and other dungeons as well. So if you are going to get this game, get the PS3 version. I got the game for $3.74, so I'm not really complaining much that I don't have it all. It would just be nice if they released it as DLC for the 360 owners...
All in all, I very much enjoyed the game. The fighting did not become repetitive to me, which happens even in the best of games, the music was beautiful, the graphics, with a few exceptions, are wonder to look at, the world feels huge, the characters are fun to watch, and the story, up until a certain point, will grab your attention.
I would recommend this game to anyone, especially since it is so cheap these days. For me, it was a pretty easy game. I did not die once in the game, and rarely had a character be KOed in battle. I think that was I battled a lot because of how much fun I had in the battle system, though...
If you enjoy RPGs and Star Ocean-like games (this game seriously brought me some nostalgia from my past with Till the End of Time), you will love this game. Even with the bad ending, it is still a great experience and has some great complex things to think about...
Except for one ruler's reason for not going to war against the enemy nation. Seriously! I... ugh, no spoilers, but... GAH! It drives me nuts!
Anywho! Try and buy the game, or at least try the demo and see if you like the gameplay. I hope you enjoy it!
yes: I recommend this product