VGGS Eternal Sonata

Written by ritabuuk
Posted on November 11th 2018

Here's another game that we never wanted to look at again, but, alas, it keeps following us. As we have already discussed at great length, Eternal Sonata is a JRPG with a unique concept - it revolves around Polish composer Frédéric François Chopin on his deathbed, dreaming about various music-inspired characters in his last hours. Which is weird, but interesting. However, Eternal Sonata is a deeply flawed game riddled with meaningless and inconsistent plotpoints, shallow characters, and generally terrible writing. It looks very pretty, it has a fun gameplay, but it ended up being a giant disappointment for us. Now, let's review it as part of the Video Game Gender Survey Project, hopefully for the last time.

The main character

Allegretto

The role of main character in Eternal Sonata is already a mess to talk about. The story revolves around Chopin, who is a playable character in this game, but he is notably not the player avatar. In the beginning of the game, the player avatar is Polka, who is a stand-in for Chopin's deceased young sister, and whose story is otherwise the primary drive of the plot. But after the first hour or two, the point-of-view character is switched to Allegretto, and that's it for the rest of the game, except for one small part where his little brother Beat is the avatar. If Chopin appears as himself, and Polka represents his younger sister, Allegretto means absolutely nothing to Chopin, or to this universe at all. He is just there, adding nothing to the plot and pretending to be the main character. His only function is to have a crush on Polka.

Why is he placed in the role of the main character? We suspect the developers thought it was too weird to play as Chopin, and surely you can't play as Polka the whole game, she's a girl, so, Allegretto, whatever.

The party members

Playable Characters
Category Number of playable characters Percentage
Male Playable Characters:
5male
41.67%
Female Playable Characters:
7female
58.33%

Male Playable Characters

  • Frédéric François Chopin
  • Allegretto
  • Beat
  • Jazz
  • Prince Crescendo

Female Playable Characters

  • Polka
  • Salsa
  • March
  • Viola
  • Falsetto
  • Claves
  • Princess Serenade

There are indeed more female playable characters than male. However, most of them have the primary feature of their character being that they're paired off with someone. Namely, Claves, Falsetto, and Viola are all in a love polygon with Jazz. Serenade is dating Crescendo, and her conflict over that is the only feature of her character (that, and having a dog). Salsa gets that strange thing with Beat. Polka, as the almost-main-character, gets characterization that's not directly tied to her romantic status, but the game still has to ship her with Allegretto. March is the only female character spared from this shipping nonsense, but then again, she is also spared from having any character at all.

In any case, all of the characters of this game are disasters, but we wrote about that already.

All characters

This is the list of all named (or otherwise recognizably unique) characters that appear in Eternal Sonata:

All Characters
Category Number of characters Percentage
All Male Characters:
46male
41.82%
All Female Characters:
40female
36.36%
All Other Characters:
24other
21.82%
Name Gender Appearance type Species Age Notes
Ad MaleMale Required NPC HumanHuman Symbol
Allegretto MaleMale Required Playable POV Character HumanHuman Symbol 16
Aloof Fiddle OtherOther Optional NPC HumanHuman Symbol
Arco MaleMale Required NPC UnknownUnknown Symbol
Bass MaleMale Required NPC HumanHuman Symbol
Beat MaleMale Required Playable Limited POV Character HumanHuman Symbol 8
Captain Dolce FemaleFemale Required Boss Pirate HumanPirate Human Symbol
Captive Conga OtherOther Optional NPC HumanHuman Symbol
Celebrity Marcato FemaleFemale Optional NPC HumanHuman Symbol
Chaconne FemaleFemale Required NPC HumanHuman Symbol
Claves FemaleFemale Required Playable Party Member HumanHuman Symbol 24
Conceited Choir OtherOther Optional NPC HumanHuman Symbol
Contrary Marimba MaleMale Optional NPC HumanHuman Symbol
Count Waltz MaleMale Required Boss HumanHuman Symbol 16
Darling MaleMale Required NPC HumanHuman Symbol
Delfina Potocka FemaleFemale Required NPC HumanHuman Symbol
Desolate Saburo OtherOther Optional NPC RockRock Symbol
Disappointed Note OtherOther Unlockable NPC HumanHuman Symbol
Easygoing Flat OtherOther Unlockable NPC HumanHuman Symbol
Emilia Chopin FemaleFemale Required Mentioned HumanHuman Symbol 14
Etude MaleMale Required NPC HumanHuman Symbol
Falsetto FemaleFemale Required Playable Party Member HumanHuman Symbol 22
First Lieutenant Bass MaleMale Required Enemy Pirate HumanPirate Human Symbol
MaleMale Required Playable Party Member HumanHuman Symbol 39
Fugue MaleMale Required Boss HumanHuman Symbol
Gentle Harp FemaleFemale Unlockable NPC HumanHuman Symbol
Gentlemanly Pop MaleMale Optional NPC HumanHuman Symbol
George Sand FemaleFemale Required Mentioned HumanHuman Symbol
Glamorous Oboe OtherOther Optional NPC HumanHuman Symbol
Granny's Girl Quena FemaleFemale Optional NPC HumanHuman Symbol
Guitar MaleMale Required Enemy Pirate HumanPirate Human Symbol
Hanako FemaleFemale Optional NPC HorseHorse Symbol
Henpecked Phil's Dad MaleMale Unlockable NPC HumanHuman Symbol
Honey FemaleFemale Required NPC HumanHuman Symbol
Hungry Drum OtherOther Optional NPC HumanHuman Symbol
Impatient Pizzicato FemaleFemale Optional NPC HumanHuman Symbol
Jazz MaleMale Required Playable Party Member HumanHuman Symbol 27
Killer Bell Lyre OtherOther Optional NPC HumanHuman Symbol
King Baroque MaleMale Required NPC Memory HumanMemory Human Symbol
Koto FemaleFemale Required NPC HumanHuman Symbol
Legato MaleMale Required Boss HumanHuman Symbol
Lib FemaleFemale Required NPC HumanHuman Symbol
Lonely Pitch OtherOther Optional NPC HumanHuman Symbol
Lonesome Loco MaleMale Optional NPC HumanHuman Symbol
Lord Forte MaleMale Required NPC Memory HumanMemory Human Symbol
Ludwika Jedrzejewicz FemaleFemale Required NPC HumanHuman Symbol
March FemaleFemale Required Playable Party Member Forest GuardianForest Guardian Symbol 8
Methodical Gospel OtherOther Unlockable NPC HumanHuman Symbol
Minister MaleMale Required NPC Memory HumanMemory Human Symbol
Minuet FemaleFemale Required NPC DogDog Symbol
Mr. Squeakers MaleMale Optional NPC RatRat Symbol
Mute FemaleFemale Optional NPC Ghost HumanGhost Human Symbol
Petty Oud OtherOther Unlockable NPC HumanHuman Symbol
Phil MaleMale Required NPC HumanHuman Symbol
Phony FemaleFemale Required NPC HumanHuman Symbol
Polka FemaleFemale Required Playable Limited POV Character HumanHuman Symbol 14
Precocious Flute OtherOther Optional NPC HumanHuman Symbol
Prince Crescendo MaleMale Required Playable Party Member HumanHuman Symbol 29
Princess Serenade FemaleFemale Required Playable Party Member HumanHuman Symbol 23
Quack Ukulele OtherOther Unlockable NPC HumanHuman Symbol
Quartet MaleMale Required NPC UnknownUnknown Symbol
Quintet OtherOther Required NPC UnknownUnknown Symbol
Rano FemaleFemale Optional NPC HumanHuman Symbol
Rondo FemaleFemale Required Boss HumanHuman Symbol
Salsa FemaleFemale Required Playable Party Member Forest GuardianForest Guardian Symbol 8
Shallow Sweet OtherOther Optional NPC HumanHuman Symbol
Sister Loving Trumpet FemaleFemale Unlockable NPC HumanHuman Symbol
Solfege FemaleFemale Required NPC HumanHuman Symbol
Solitary String OtherOther Unlockable NPC CatCat Symbol
Sop FemaleFemale Optional NPC HumanHuman Symbol
Strolling Ghost Note OtherOther Unlockable NPC HumanHuman Symbol
Sullen Melody FemaleFemale Optional NPC HumanHuman Symbol
Sym OtherOther Required NPC HumanHuman Symbol
Tenacious Cornet OtherOther Unlockable NPC HumanHuman Symbol
Tenor OtherOther Required Mentioned HumanHuman Symbol
The Agogo Queen Mother FemaleFemale Required NPC AgogoAgogo Symbol
The Great EZI MaleMale Unlockable Boss DeityDeity Symbol
Thief Slur OtherOther Optional NPC HumanHuman Symbol
Trio MaleMale Required NPC UnknownUnknown Symbol
Tuba MaleMale Required Boss HumanHuman Symbol
Twilight JuJu OtherOther Unlockable NPC HumanHuman Symbol
Unnamed Amateur Comedian MaleMale Optional NPC HumanHuman Symbol
Unnamed Angry Man MaleMale Optional NPC HumanHuman Symbol
Unnamed Baker FemaleFemale Required NPC HumanHuman Symbol
Unnamed Boy MaleMale Optional NPC HumanHuman Symbol
Unnamed Brother of Darling MaleMale Required NPC HumanHuman Symbol
Unnamed Doctor tending Chopin MaleMale Required NPC HumanHuman Symbol
Unnamed Elder of Elegy of the Moon MaleMale Required NPC Ghost HumanGhost Human Symbol
Unnamed Father of Girl with Simile Flower MaleMale Required NPC HumanHuman Symbol
Unnamed Fortune Teller FemaleFemale Required NPC HumanHuman Symbol
Unnamed Goatherd MaleMale Optional NPC HumanHuman Symbol
Unnamed Grandma in Baroque City FemaleFemale Optional NPC HumanHuman Symbol
Unnamed Husband of Gentle Harp MaleMale Unlockable NPC HumanHuman Symbol
Unnamed Letter Carrier MaleMale Optional NPC HumanHuman Symbol
Unnamed Little Sister with Simile Flower FemaleFemale Required NPC HumanHuman Symbol
Unnamed Man with Dentures MaleMale Optional NPC HumanHuman Symbol
Unnamed Older Brother of Girl with Simile Flower MaleMale Required NPC HumanHuman Symbol
Unnamed Owner of Mr. Squeakers MaleMale Optional NPC HumanHuman Symbol
Unnamed Painter MaleMale Optional NPC HumanHuman Symbol
Unnamed Priest in Baroque City MaleMale Required NPC HumanHuman Symbol
Unnamed Sister of Elegy of the Moon FemaleFemale Required NPC Ghost HumanGhost Human Symbol
Unnamed Sister of Sop and Rano wearing Blue FemaleFemale Optional NPC HumanHuman Symbol
Unnamed Sister of Sop and Rano wearing Pink FemaleFemale Optional NPC HumanHuman Symbol
Unnamed Traveler MaleMale Optional NPC HumanHuman Symbol
Unnamed Warp Room Guide MaleMale Required NPC HumanHuman Symbol
Unnamed Wife of the Angry Man FemaleFemale Optional NPC HumanHuman Symbol
Unnamed Woman with Cold Medicine FemaleFemale Optional NPC HumanHuman Symbol
Viola FemaleFemale Required Playable Party Member HumanHuman Symbol 26
Wiseman Maracas MaleMale Optional NPC HumanHuman Symbol
Worrywort Horn OtherOther Optional NPC HumanHuman Symbol

Download table as csv

Once you count the NPCs, it's 36.36% female characters to 41.82% male. This is maybe a little bit better than the usual pitfall of having just one-third of characters be female, depending on if the characters we were unsure on were actually intended to be male or female or neither.

The most notable feature of this list is the presence of so many characters with strange names. They are the NPCs of the Score Sessions and so, suitably, they have awful names to match this awful sidequest. This list also features not one but two characters named Bass, just because. Probably the developers forgot they already named a minor character Bass (from the pair of Jazz's friends, Treble and Bass) when they named another minor character Bass (from the pair of Dolce's minions, Guitar and Bass).

Regarding pirates

The developers of Eternal Sonata made a point of challenging the stereotype about gender of pirate captains.

  1. Beat

    Well, just because she has an eye patch and a hook doesn’t mean she’s the captain. I thought pirate captains were, you know, supposed to be grizzly old men with scraggly beards.

  2. Salsa

    Don’t stereotype! Who says they have to be men? Plenty of women are pirate captains!

Captain Dolce
Female pirate captains exist, but you don't need to take them too seriously because their top concern is wrinkles. Got it.

What Salsa says is factually true in real life -- despite stereotypes, there were female pirates and even female pirate captains, although they sometimes needed to disguise themselves as men to trick their superstitious crews.

Despite Eternal Sonata drawing attention to this real life fact, and despite Eternal Sonata taking place in a fantastic land that doesn't even need to feel tethered to our world's literal history, it turns out that Captain Dolce is the only female pirate in a ship full of all endless male pirate crew that you face in random encounters. There are no random female pirates on her ship at all. On top of this, if you manage to unlock all the hidden sidequests about Captain Dolce, you find that her story culminates in a cheap joke about her fear of getting wrinkles. Wow. Thanks for that.

The color of your soul

In the world of Eternal Sonata, gender is shown to be an innate feature of your very soul -- and, in fact, the only feature of your being that is still visible after death. When the party visits Elegy of the Moon, which is essentially purgatory, all the spirits that they meet are either a burning orb of blue energy or a burning orb of red energy: the blue souls were once men and the red souls were once women. It's good to know that, in the universe of Eternal Sonata, even if you get trapped forever in purgatory, at least random strangers will always know at a glance and won't have any confusion with regard to your gender.

Elegy of the Moon
Color-coded for your convenience

In case you cannot tell, I am being super sarcastic here. A big problem faced by anyone in real life who doesn't fit super neatly into a gender-conforming box is that random strangers are confused by their gender, can't deal with a moment's uncertainty regarding this trivia, and end up being really rude about it. This unstoppable need to know is so important that the game developers here didn't want the player to be in a moment's agony, so the souls are color-coded, and it is always clear if you are talking with a male ghost or a female ghost. No other aspect of the person's life or personality is visible in their soul. Note also the implications that a male soul is inherently different from a female soul, and that these are the only two types of souls that exist. Why aren't all the souls the same color, showing that, in death, they are all equal? Or, why aren't all the souls completely different colors, showing that they are all unique individuals shaped by their unique lives?

Nope, the gender binary. That's all that matters.

In conclusion

I get the sense that Eternal Sonata was trying to have good gender representation, at least marginally. They managed to have a party of more female playable characters than male characters, even though the game is literally about the real life man Frédéric François Chopin. They even made a point of challenging the stereotype about pirate captains being old men. But then they botched it in other ways. The main character is male seemingly just to avoid having a female main character; the majority of the female party members are only in the story because of their love lives; Captain Dolce is just a jab at the lame joke of women caring too much about their appearances; the gender binary is enshrined in Elegy of the Moon. Honestly, video game developers will need to try a lot harder to overcome their sub-conscious biases and achieve truly equal gender representation in their games.

References

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