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“Eternal Sonata” depicts a beautiful dreamlike world that hovers on the fringes of death.

Is it a dream? Is it reality? It is a little melodramatic?

The answer to the last question is “yes.”

The role-playing game for the Xbox 360 was developed by Tri-Crescendo for Namco Bandai. It follows the paths of Polka, whose fatal illness makes her magical, and Frederic Francois Chopin, the famous composer. The setting jumps between Polka’s world — where everyone and everything carries a musical moniker — and the real world, where Chopin is lying on his death bed, apparently dreaming.

The pair meet in Polka’s world and are joined by young do-gooders who discover that something’s amiss in their land and decide to confront its ruler. Along the way, they battle a number of creatures and gain experience, power-ups and new skills in the typical RPG manner.

Battles involve an interesting combination of turn- based and free-roaming action. Since characters can move around during their turns, combat feels more lively than in many other RPGs. That movement is essential to game play because characters deliver different kinds of attacks depending on whether they’re in the light or in shadow. Up to three players at a time can engage in combat sequences.

The settings and characters are beautifully rendered, and the score features Chopin’s emotion-laden piano masterpieces. It’s a great combination that gives the game some artistic weight that others lack.

The story line, which unfolds through extended cut scenes, is good but the dialogue tends to get a little melodramatic at times. This is probably to be expected from a game that seeks to explore the dividing line between life, death and dreams.

Platform: Xbox 360.


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