Eternal Sonata is not-so-obviously part of the "Tales of" franchise. It is by the same people and uses many of the same game mechanics, but the story is a little different from the norm.
You are playing a game based on the life and music of Chopin. When you think Chopin, you probably would not think of anime characters and living plants and faeries and so on, but that is what you get with this title. Between each chapter of the story, you are presented with a boring history lesson about Chopin, but you can skip it easily.
Chopin is one of the playable characters. Chopin thinks he is in a dream, because he remembers his life in our world, so it is only fair to assume you are playing in a dream world. However, the game does not blatantly tell you it is a dream, and that is a subplot of the game's main story, which involves Chopin and his friends leveling up and killing bad guys and monsters.
The story may not be what you would expect, and it can be very slow-paced and not so interesting at times, but it is interesting some of the time, and other times, it can be funny, if you let it be.
Characters are mostly annoying, but every once in a while, you come across a character you love, and some characters which may seem like crap in battle become very useful as they level up.
Visuals are stunningly beautiful, and characters look great. Outfits are interesting, though sometimes very awkward or weird. Animations are mostly smooth and fairly entertaining.
While you can technically play this game with friends, it is very much 1-player. I bold that because you may be under the impression this game is for coop. The battle system is turn-based. Therefore, your friends have to wait a while between moves, and battles are generally more fun on your own.
Battles are boring at first, but they quickly become interesting. As you progress through the chapters, the battles get more challenging, though I still found it easy to exploit the battle system's flaws, and your characters gain more abilities to mess with as you level up.
The battle system changes over time! You will start with a purely turn-based battle system, but you will eventually have active time battles with a combo system and many characters to control. I have not played all the way through the story yet, but the game seems to only allow up to 3 characters show up in your party at a time. This is similar to Final Fantasy in many ways, but in many ways, it is also more fun.
The game has a lot of classical music rather than the traditional JRPG adventure themes heard in "Tales of" games. However, you can collect piano sheets and listen to the music of the game. I found that rather nifty.
I also find the character voices fairly cheesy, in an anime way, but my big problem is in the pauses between dialogue. When a scene loads, the characters sit around for seconds before saying anything. Lips are not synced with audio often, so visuals may be pretty, but when characters talk, you get a little disappointed.
The game does not present its story very well. You may find it too annoying to bare. For that reason, I have to strongly recommend you stay away from this game if you are looking for an enjoyable story.
That said, you may like the game enough to play through it once. If you can find it under $15, or if you can rent it using a rental service like Gamefly, I say "Go for it." Otherwise, you may want to pass on this one.
Tales of Vesperia (Xbox 360)