The designers at Konami Japan were probably on drugs when they made this game, then known by its full title of Reiselid: Ephemeral Fantasia. Konami America was probably brainwashed into bringing the game to the US. Sure, the game has an original twist in being branded a Musical/RPG, but in my opinion, the musical part of the game is sorely lacking. Konami should have just stuck with plain RPGs and Music games instead of joining them.
Ephemeral Fantasia begins with our hero Mouse, who fortunately can be renamed. He is a travelling minstrel. He also happens to be a thief. He is accompanied by his trusty companion, Pattimo, a living and talking Violin of sorts who also is a sheath for Mouse's sword.
Our hero received a letter from the ruler of the Island of Pandule, Lord Xelpherpolis, to compose a song for his wedding. Upon reaching the Island, Mouse meets many new characters, the busty bodyguard Rummy, the Princess Loreille, Rinna, a cute girl working at the Inn, Bagoth the general of the army of Pandule and many more later in the game.
Things start going bad when Mouse stumbles upon the Island's secret. He finds out that Lord Xelpherpolis is actually an evil being from another realm and has placed the Island under a time-loop. He uses the Princess to drain Magic Power from the hapless inhabitants to sustain his existence, before looping time back again to let it all start over.
The hapless inhabitants of Pandule have no memory of what happened and are prey to Xelpherpolis' control. Mouse eventually becomes a victim as well, but strangely enough, his memory is protected from the effects of the time-loop. Thus he begins his quest to save his would-be companions from their doomed fate and eventually break the curse on Pandule.
After the general introduction of the game's plot, you'd think it would be a good game. Well, it does have its merits of being one of the few RPGs available on the PS2 right now, but that's about it. The game is played out across the Island of Pandule. Mouse will have to trek from location to location to uncover clues, get maps, find items and also unlock events.
Time passes in the game, and players can set the speed at which time passes. The game spans 5 days before it loops again, thus time is very important and can be frustrating as well. Certain events occur only on certain days and certain times, so if you missed an event, you're screwed until the next time loop. To make things worse, you have to run across the entire stretch of Pandule, and even if you have collected all the maps, you'll still find yourself seriously lost and probably not making it in time for most events.
Even more frustrating, the game is insanely non-linear. You will probably have zero idea of what to do or where to go from the 2nd loop onwards. The only way you'll make progress is if you have a photographic memory of when certain events occur and proceed to prevent them from turning bad by changing things before they occur. This isn't as easy as it sounds and you'll probably find yourself simply clueless and practically stumbling upon events basically from dumb luck.
All the stuff save quest items in the game vanish when you enter a new loop. The only way to prevent this is to place them in a special safe. The only way to get the safe is to befriend a certain character and get a special item from the 2nd loop onwards, making this an added pain in the butt, especially if you missed the event or didn't find the person. The game doesn't give many clues, either, so players will probably find themselves depending on FAQs all the way.
Weapons are upgraded at Blacksmiths on Pandule, as long as you have enough money. There are many different items to find. Most of the items simply add to defenses, heal, or allow special events. Characters in the game learn skills through repeated use or by watching others use other skills.
There aren't any 'normal' attack in the game; magic spells are gained through levels. Levels are divided into two parts: party level and character level. Party level in the games determines the overall HP level of characters who join the party as well as the strength of monsters you encounter overall, while character level determines the character's basic status and spells. Party level is especially important, as it allows weaker characters to last through battles and gain necessary experience.
Getting new characters to join the party is a pain as well, since you'll have to save them from their doomed fates first. This usually involves reaching a certain location before they do or undoing their actions before it leads to an event sealing their fate. Once a character joins, battle should be much easier. The battle party can consist of only 3 characters, including Mouse. Having a character rejoin your party means you have to hunt them down again from the places they usually go to or hang out at. This adds to the frustration as some characters move around a lot or hang out in far off locations!
Battle in the game occurs on a large circular area on the battlefield. AP or Action Points determine the number of commands a character can issue in the middle of combat. Stronger attacks require AP and characters have to wait before their AP replenishes before they are able to move again. Players can also choose from 4 points of view to suit how they like to see the battles. For instance, Enemy View locks the camera to the enemy's viewpoint while Fixed View shows the entire battlefield from a high and fixed location.
However, the biggest and most mentally demanding flaw in the game is its horrible and trigger-happy loading times. Heck, a simple step into a new area pops a loading screen up for your viewing 'pleasure'. There are no borders on the map to even give you a warning that you are entering a new area. You'll see the black loading screen a lot. In fact, it will be your most loyal 'companion' throughout the entire game. Hopefully players won't tear their skin off in frustration by then.
Control in the game is reasonable enough. Running and accessing menus are a breeze and help reduce the frustration a little. Control is especially important for the Guitar Freaks styled mini-games and players can select the option that's best suited to their style when using a standard controller. Sadly though, the more advanced tunes are nigh impossible to play properly without the Guitar Freaks controller. You have been warned.
Graphics in the game are crap as well. The standard you see is an insult to the PS2's abilities. The Nintendo 64 would have no trouble rendering such graphics. Most enemies are just a bunch of polygons thrown together. Expect to fight Chickens and Worms for the early parts of the game. They look insultingly simple and dull; even a 4-year old could draw them. Spell effects aren't impressive and neither are the character skills. You'd be better off playing an RPG on the N64 if it's graphics you want.
The music in the game is mostly instrumental and even though the game claims to be a Music/RPG the mini-game only offers 3 tunes, which are just arrangements of each other. Simply put, you'll only be able to play the same old tune over and over again until your ears decide to go AWOL. Sounds in the game are lacking as well. You'll hear simple sounds, heck, don't expect any impressive monster roaring or room-shaking explosion. After a while in this game, you wouldn't even notice any.
Overall, this game is severely flawed, a pain to play and not worth your money. Rent it at most or if you bought it, it's probably due to the fact that you are bored stiff due to the dry spell of PS2 RPGs in the US now. Konami would have done better if they localized Suikogaiden. Heck, they should just put their efforts into Suikoden III rather then waste their time making crappy games.