- "The animals that live in the forest around here aren't really very strong, so I should be able to defeat them without too much trouble. But, just to be safe, I'll go over the basics of how to fight again."
- —Polka in a tutorial battle on the Path to Tenuto
In the World of Eternal Sonata, the various playable characters must take part in battles in order to make their way through various areas and progress in their journey. Battles generally consist of two types - those with roaming monsters that may be fought at the player's discretion and boss battles that are required to progress with the story. Occasionally, the player will also encounter fixed battles (some of which cannot be escaped from) with non-boss opponents. A battle ends either when all opponents are defeated, if the playable characters escape, or if they are defeated. Winning or escaping allows continued progress, while defeat (with the exception of the first battle with Fugue) results in a Game Over.
A battle takes place either when the player character avatar on-screen encounters a roaming enemy, or enters an area that begins a cutscene sequence followed by a boss battle. The playable characters in the first three positions in the menu (only one at the beginning of Eternal Sonata and two for a brief while following) are then sent to a battlefield consisting of sometimes moving areas of light and darkness. Both enemies and characters may freely roam about this battlefield when it is their turn, or execute actions. Battles may place with only a single opponent, or up to three.
- "...this time I really mean business. 'Cause my life's on the line, too!"
- —Tuba when he confronts the party on the Cabasa Bridge.
A boss battle is a battle against an opponent that is tougher than the normal opponents in an area, generally occurring at certain fixed points throughout the story. Bosses are sometimes accompanied by normal monsters and some also possess the ability to resurrect these monsters at a critical state of health. Bosses often possess powerful Special Attacks that allow them to deal greater damage or attack from behind, and are also more likely to approach the player characters from behind in order to prevent Guarding or Counterattacking. Boss battles cannot be escaped from, so the player must emerge victorious in these battles in order to avoid a Game Over. Certain boss battles, such as the additional fights with Dolce and her lieutenants, are optional, but the conditions for these battles are otherwise the same. Photos of bosses generally sell for a premium.
Item Set and UsageEdit
Item usage in battle in Eternal Sonata is not unlimited. Instead, the player is provided with a limited item set which must be stocked in order to have those items available during battle. Each item carries a weighted point value and the total weight of items that may be included in the set is determined by the Party Level. The item set begins at 10p and increases to 20p at Party Level 3, 30p at Party Level 4, 40p at Party Level 5 and 50p at Party Level 6. In Encore Mode, the amount is always 40p or 50p depending on whether or not the player gained Party Level 6, regardless of whether the player chooses to change the Party Level. There is also a hidden maximum of 25 of the same item in the set at any given time.
Items can be used either to heal the party, inflict negative statuses on opponents or lower their stats, or give party members special statuses. Using items is the only way to revive KOed characters, hence standard strategies often revolve on loading the item set mostly with these types of items. Items are used by pressing the X in the Xbox 360 version and Square in the PlaySation 3 version. The item to use is selected by rotating to through the item set, which can be done at any time action is taking place during battle, including the enemy's turn. A wise use of Tactical Time is often to select an item prior to using it. When using healing items, the character that needs it most based on percentage of remaining HP is selected, if in range. Some items have an unlimited range, while others require the user of the item to be within a certain distance of the target. It is not possible to manually select a target, though when using attacking items or items that grant special statuses, it may be possible to determine the target by angling the character using the item towards the target, or first getting the target to move out of range of any others. One other safe strategy in boss battles with multiple opponents is to simply kill off weaker opponents first and then use such items on a stronger target. Outside of battle, healing items can be freely used from the menu. It is not necessary to use reviving items outside of battle, as KOed characters are automatically revived with 1 HP following each battle.
Like any other move, using items takes up time on the Action Gauge, in this case, two seconds. If there is not enough time remaining, then the item cannot be used before the character's turn ends.
Light and DarknessEdit
- Main article: Light and Darkness
All battles take place on a field with areas of both light and darkness. These areas may be fixed or may shift from position to position depending on the light source, such as a swinging overhead lantern. Both characters and enemies also generate a shadow that creates an area of darkness. Light and darkness affect the Special Attacks that may be used by the playable characters, and some monsters change between two forms depending upon whether they are standing in light or darkness. Certain abilities and accessories can cause characters to generate a field of either light or darkness around them, placing them in the statuses "Shining Body" or "Darkness Body."
- Main article: Party Level
The Party Level increases at fixed points throughout the game and controls a number of elements related to the flow of battle. Tactical Time is generally decreased with each increase in Party Level, but the player gains access to new abilities such as additional Special Attack slots, as well as the use of Counterattacks and Harmony Chains. In an Encore Mode playthrough, the Party Level can be freely chosen. The maximum Party Level is 6.
- Main article: Tactical Time
Tactical Time is a feature that allows a character to survey the battlefield prior to their turn. Tactical Time is immediately reduced to zero the second the character takes any action, though they may rotate freely through the item list to select an item during Tactical Time and this will not count as having made a move, so long as the item is not used.
- Main article: Special Attacks
Both playable characters and opponents have Special Attacks that can be used in battle to do great damage. The term, however, is actually something of a misnomer, as some of these moves heal instead. Some also possess the ability to inflict status ailments or stat reductions.
- Main article: Harmony Chains
Beginning at Party Level 4, Harmony Chains can be used to add additional Special Attacks following a Special Attack. At Party Level 5, a total of three Special Attacks may be used if there are characters in range and at Party Level 6, up to six may be used, but the command buttons for everything other than item usage will rotate randomly each time another Special Attack is used as part of a Harmony Chain.
- Main article: Guard
By pressing the Guard button within a certain window of time, the player can block most of the damage from a particular attack. Certain opponents also make use of Guard, implemented automatically if the player attacks them directly from the front, though these guards may be 'broken' after enough hits.
- Main article: Counterattack
Beginning at Party Level 4, the Counterattack option is sometimes offered instead of Guard the first time that an enemy attacks within their turn. The option is offered randomly and less often for some opponents than others. If Counterattack is successful, then no damage is taken from the enemy's attack and the character that Counterattacked is given 2 seconds on the Action Gauge to act.
Knockdown and KnockbackEdit
Many attacks by both the playable characters and enemies carry either knockdown or knockback effects. These effects are present in a number of playable characters' Special Attacks, as well as those of the enemies, and some very large enemies can even inflict them with their normal attacks. The effects come in three strengths - weak, medium and strong. A target that is knocked down will fall to the ground and will be unable to take any actions until they get back up again, including not being able to Guard if it is not yet their turn. A target that is knocked back is sent flying back a certain distance across the battlefield and must therefore once again close distance before being able to attack at melee range. These effects are far less likely to happen if an attack is Guarded against. Proper utilization of these abilities can provide the player a great advantage in battle, but failure to Guard against those of opponents can place the player at a severe disadvantage.
- Main article: Status
During battle, characters and opponents may fall a number of statuses. These include ones that affect conditions of light and darkness such as Shining Body, Darkness Body and Air Body, harmful statuses such as Poison or Slow, and positive statuses like Regenerate. Statuses can be protected against or inflicted on characters by certain items and equipment, healed by certain items, and also inflicted on opponents by items, character weapons, and two of March's Special Attacks.
Behind the scenesEdit
- The battle system of Eternal Sonata has been both praised for its dynamic and often challenging battles, as well as criticized, for a number of reasons. Some chief complaints include the lack of monster variety (many monsters are simply palette swaps of others and use similar moves) and a system that is quite challenging for novice players to master (with little in-game help regarding battle mechanics provided, save a couple initial tutorials), but easy for those with some experience and knowledge to manipulate.
- Many elements of battle are altered to be more challenging in the PlayStation 3 version of Eternal Sonata, as compared with the Xbox 360 version. In general, defeated enemies give less EXP and are as strong as a Xbox 360 version Encore Mode run the first time one plays through the PlayStation 3 version; this also means that the PlayStation 3's Encore Mode is vastly more difficult. On occasion, however, PlayStation 3 opponents have less HP to compensate for the lower levels at which they will likely to be battled, particularly bosses, but for some other opponents, HP totals are actually increased. It is more challenging to obtain high-quality Photos using Beat's photo skills and those that are obtained sell for less, regardless of quality. Several characters are nerfed to have lesser stats and the levels at which characters learn Special Attacks are often altered. Additionally, the weights in the item set for certain items have been altered, most notably the reviving Angel Trumpet item, which carries a weight of 2p in the Xbox 360 version, but 3p in the PlayStation 3 version. Furthermore, the weight of the Goddess Bouquet, which revives two characters, was increased from 4p to 5p.
- While no more than three characters can ever be present in the active battle party, some of the dialogue in the scenes following the boss fights in the Double Reed Tower of Sand in the PlayStation 3 release intimate that all characters present at the time actually take part in the battle, regardless of whether or not they are actually in the active party that the player is using at the time. This is also supported by the fact that characters in the available party, but not in the active one, still receive half EXP.