Time And Eternity User Review
Honestly, I understand, this is not a top quality production. It’s not even a mid level quality production, but it’s not broken or anything either. It helps to know something about the audience for this title, what the developers were trying to achieve, and what some western reviewers aren’t really understanding.
Despite the $50 price tag for us, you should probably think of this as more akin to an indie title here in the west. The studio has a healthy 120 odd people but they work on numerous titles across platforms and this is their first HD PS3 game. The hand drawn animation for Time and Eternity took 3 years to produce so it’s no surprise that the rest of the game seems to kind of fill in the blanks around that.
The audience for Time and Eternity is mostly young people, tweens and adolescents already overly familiar with anime and other forms of Japanese entertainment. As is common in Japanese media it has another audience. In this case that is grown anime fans who have been into the scene for some time and have an appreciation for animation in general. It actually takes a keen ear to notice that there is a certain amount of parody going on in this game, parody of older anime tropes. Sadly it tends to fail at this more often than not, but I thought it was worth noting because if you take this game’s presentation at face value all you will be doing is rolling your eyes.
You name your hero knight character just like the good old days and then bam things go bad. At your wedding you get killed playing hero and your princess bride turns back time to put a stop to that. It turns out the nice girl Toki has another soul in her named Towa who can kick some serious butt as well as master time travel. You sort of get transposed into the body of Toki’s pet dragon Drake and team up to stop the assassination 6 months before it can happen.
The visuals are a mix. For the most part the hand drawn animations look great, even close up. It’s actually quite an achievement to make this work and look this good in HD. Part of the fun of the gameplay is just in getting to see more of the animation at work. Unfortunately there are obvious corners cut all over the place. The enemies include a lot of palette-swaps and simple resizing. The oversize enemies do show a little bit of graphical wear from being stretched out. There are a few frames missing from the animations here and there, but they get the job done. The special effects are brief but attractive.
For basic character interaction the main characters have a fairly limited number of animations that are reused over and over. Toki’s friends will keep making the same gestures as they discuss various topics, but at least it’s mostly smooth. The quest NPCs are pretty drab and dull as well as less detailed. They also include many palette-swaps to make new characters.
The town areas are just backdrops that you choose locations on, they are fine and serve their purpose. Some areas have their own renders where the characters stand, completely improperly sized mind you, for drab dialogues. The explorable levels where you do your questing are pretty flat and unimaginative. They do have a nice dreamy, soft quality to them though. They may not be detailed but they are easy on the eyes and you tend to focus on Toki or Towa who has a forward moving animation and a backward stepping animation. Also there are nice details like her hair whipping in the wind.
Gameplay is dead simple but if you stick with it things get interesting. What appears to be a heavily lacking JRPG is actually something of a hybrid. It’s part point and click visual novel, part JRPG, part 2D fighter and part dating sim. You pick your locations from maps with a cursor and there’s a little narration from Drake and Toki or Towa. Toki and Towa switch places every time you level up or eat a pepper. You can’t switch the ladies in battle though, which was a bummer because I think it could have mixed things up.
You can outfit them with the same or different gear and they have different battle specialties. In battle Drake handles himself, so it’s basically a one on one confrontation with you versus one enemy at a time. When there are encounters with numerous foes you take them one by one with the vantage point shifting each time a new bad guy emerges. There are two planes, you can fight from a distance or jump in close. Enemies can also close the distance between you and take the fight to your face so you can’t move away for range attacks. At range you fire your gun as a basic attack and up close you slice with your knife.
Special moves are mapped to the face buttons as you learn them and getting them to work for you effectively is all about timing. If you start a spell at the wrong time it will easily be interrupted by an enemy blow. You can customize where you want your moves placed on the gamepad and there are also slots for passive abilities. Inside this combat system is where the classic JRPG skills fit. Within your passive abilities you can sacrifice a slot to include an extra 3-slot array of combat moves so you will have access to more specials in battle. Doing quests nets you money and gift points, money is used for items, armor and weapons while gift points are used to unlock new moves for your lovely ladies to perform in battle. There are also Drake-specific abilities you can gain and then direct your little guy to focus on.
There isn’t really enemy AI to speak of, instead you have to identify enemy attack and defense patterns and develop a strategy to deal with them. If they are too aggressive in any particular way there are buffs that help you keep pace. To keep you engaged and not just poking buttons you’ll be rewarded for combos with an opportunity for lethal strikes with a brief animated cut scene. You can block for reduced damage or try to dodge left or right. The battle system is fun at first but the extra enemies make it tedious after a few hours because you haven’t been able to open up many moves yet. Gaining magic speeds things up because it’s very powerful, and then when you learn enough skills and finally encounter enough different types of enemies the battles actually become a blast for fans of 2D fighters and action JRPGs alike, but you have to hang on about 13 hours for that to really kick in. That is if you do all the side quests anyway. If that sounds difficult remember it took 20 hours before Final Fantasy XIII was presentable.
Moving through maps isn’t all that riveting, as I said it’s a simple set of mechanics. Once you’ve activated quests the game puts markers on the maps where you can find everything you need to complete the quests. Most of them are fetch quests and other uninteresting chores that Toki and Towa agree to do for no particular reason. Running across these many planes can be a tad exhausting for people who don’t have patience so the game provides you with warp points that you can activate on each level to avoid too many random encounters while questing. I think the balance of random encounters is good, but if you disagree you can hold the joystick downward to run away and pay a small fee.
Unfortunately the story is about as flat as a pancake for those first 13 hours too, but then things finally start to get interesting when you have to question who to trust. The characters never really break out of mediocre-land and the humor is going to be pretty painful unless you can properly get yourself back into the mind of a 12 year old. If you thought Ni No Kuni‘s story presentation was too simplistic you are in for a culture shock, Time and Eternity is blatantly three times as simply told. But hey, us anime fans are sometimes used to being treated like idiots in order to get to the good parts of things.
The sound is okay, but largely just does the bare minimum. The English voices are pretty bad but believe me it’s not as bad as the 80′s and 90′s anime it makes fun of. So I suggest picking the Japanese audio because it’s more enjoyable to experience a foreign performance. I’m not the kind who automatically thinks all Japanese audio is always better though, the acting quality isn’t much higher than the English but that only tells me again that it’s really aimed at younger players who don’t care about the nuance in performance and instead grasp the personalities based on the tone of voice used.
The sound effects are nice, effective, just plentiful enough, but not very lively. The music has been a bone of contention for some as certain tracks are brief loops of not so great music. The better music is pretty solid I think, with one of the battle tracks even playing in my head right now. If you want to not be bothered by the less enjoyable tracks, like the teatime with the girls one, it helps a lot to just turn down the BGM and leave it there. It all becomes background music instead of something blaring at you above the voices and effects.
The replayability of this game lies in the dating sim part. As Drake you’ll have to make certain decisions with the girls that lead to different conversation options, scenes, collectible flirty screens, and different endings. So if you enjoy the game you can go through it multiple times to see it all.
Time and Eternity is not a monumental achievement, it is not even a particularly good game, but for the right audience it is plenty of fun. It’s one of those weird games from Japan that fans of NIS America releases are likely to just be happy enough that it was localized. The best parts are the combat, the original animation, and the novelty of playing an anime. It’s a sub-par anime, but I still plan to play it right on through to the end.
Whatever else people say about this game, let them say Imageepoch really tried to pull off something nobody ever tried before.
This user review does not reflect the views of the PSX Extreme Staff.