"Symphony of Eternity, and most of Kemco's RPGs, refuse to 'get with the times.' Instead, they recreate, to a fault, the highs and lows of traditional JRPGs."
In ye olden times (late 80s/early 90s) RPGs were predictable, but lovable, creatures. A hapless hero; a couple of sidekicks; an evil, world-conquering villain; a big, though mostly empty, world map to wander; some elemental magic to fling; and maybe even some class-based skills were all a best-seller needed. As the times changed, so did the role-playing genre. Yet Symphony of Eternity, and most of Kemco's RPGs, refuse to "get with the times." Instead, they recreate, to a fault, the highs and lows of traditional JRPGs.
Symphony of Eternity follows generic hero Kreist and his magical golem friend Dauturu as they search for the wish-granting device Regratlute. They soon meet up with Princess Laishutia after she escapes a coup d'état in her own kingdom. The story of collecting magical objects across the globe progresses much as you would expect, though the introduction of other golems from Dauturu's past provides a few interesting twists. The plot features the same sort of character depth and development found in early Final Fantasy titles (ie. not much). Unfortunately, the localization is poor too, so the already mediocre script is often laughable.
Following this trend, the aesthetic presentation of the game is just as subpar. Character art and sprites are acceptable, though enemy palette-swaps are frequent. Frightening dragon bosses showcase better design, but fighting tiny enemy character sprites for major battles is underwhelming. Environments run the gamut from passable to downright ugly, but trees are a particular eyesore, and merely glancing at the screen during those areas is a painful experience. While the musical score maintains a safely average level of quality, sound effects tend to grate. No dialogue is voiced, though characters occasionally make remarks in Japanese during battle.
Combat is a traditional, turn-based affair. Characters with the highest speed or using the "fastest" moves go first, and your party of three dukes it out with their foes until one side is victorious. Thanks to the flexible class-based tablet system, there are plenty of abilities to learn and options to access. You can find and buy tablets throughout the game and then apply them, one at a time, to Kreist, Laishutia and Dauturu. Each tablet brings with it a host of new abilities and stat boosts. The cleric tablet, for example, teaches healing, Dauturu's high mobility kits provide new attacks and improved speed, and assassin focuses on speed and poison. There are a couple of dozen to find, so there's no shortage of new abilities to learn.
As you level up, each character is awarded with merit points. These stat points can be used to boost attack, defense, magic power, cost of spells and so on. They have little effect unless ten are used per skill, which makes improving them seem like a slow slog rather than an enticing reward. That said, most towns offer the chance to craft new equipment and you can assign merit points to a weapon or armor that stack with the character wielding it. Experimenting with merit points and tablets was fun enough to keep me playing.
At ten to fifteen hours long, there's plenty to see in Symphony of Eternity. The game drags you across the world map from dungeon to dungeon, and each individual location is a relatively short affair. Dungeons are all quite similar in design, though navigating in near-darkness in one and unlocking gates in another provides just enough variation to avoid monotony. There's little in the way of optional content, and outside of dungeons, there's absolutely nothing to explore or find in towns and other locations. As someone who normally takes time to explore every nook and cranny and talk to every NPC in an RPG, I quickly realized this was a waste of time in Symphony of Eternity. Not to mention the clumsy movement controls make it a chore.
Though it may be a mediocre old-school RPG, it's hard not to recommend even an average game priced at $2.99. While it's not great, it provides enough enjoyment in the way of character customization to make it mildly entertaining. You can save at any time too, so playing on the go is easy. If you're in the mood for a Final Fantasy I-esque adventure, with all the ups and downs early-nineties game design brings, then you could do worse than Symphony of Eternity.