Time and Eternity is a game which combines an anime art style with RPG elements. This is achieved to a less-than-average degree due to some outstanding weaknesses: looped visuals that resemble bad .gif images, novel combat mechanisms that quickly wear and become awkward, audio problems and musical transitions from field explorations to fights, and a very strange – and seemingly bi-polar – main character that will have you frustrated at the fact that you have little control over her personality shifts.
Developed by Imageepoch & Satelight / Published by NAMCO BANDAI Games & NIS America
Available on the Playstation 3
*Review code provided by NiS America
Time and Eternity is the story of Zack (or any other name you choose to give him), a blue-haired incarnation of every young man’s thoughts on pretty girls, and Toki, a red-headed anime cutie-pie (but then again, what anime girl isn’t cute?). The story begins the day before Zack and Toki’s wedding. Just like every single wedding, some minor detail doesn’t go according to plan and an attack by a group of assassins leaves Zack badly injured (at least the florist didn’t mix up the order and deliver calla lilies instead of tulips, because that would be the REAL disaster). This attack then prompts Toki to change into her alter ego, Towa, and kick the assassin’s asses back to wherever they came from. You take control of Toki/Towa but experience everything from Zack’s perspective because his soul is somehow now trapped in a little pet blue dragon called Drake, which is the result of following the only logical plan to solve this unprompted attack: time traveling to the past to speak with the psychic who warned Toki about it six months ago, all the while putting the pieces of the mysterious attack together. Simple enough plot, right?
While trying to solve this great puzzle of time, you embark on an adventure that is clearly anime-inspired. Japanese animation fans will find this game’s look attractive at first, but when playing and moving around the world, the 2D anime art style doesn’t blend well with the 3D landscape, as your movements resemble poorly made .gif images since they loop endlessly with no fluidity. Repetition does not end with the endless movement loop, but also extends to character models for different NPC’s in the world. Within the first hour of playtime, you will encounter various characters whom, if not for variations in hair color and name, could pass for identical copies of each other. This hints at Time and Eternity’s low success at merging RPG elements with an anime style as classic RPG characteristics such as memorable interactions with NPCs fail to be present in this game while the anime character models are a constant reminder that the 2D anime visuals do not mix well with 3D gameplay.
A big make-or-break feature of any RPG is its combat system. Time and Eternity’s tutorial makes sure you understand how battle flows and you learn to control your abilities in battle. This combat system has issues though. At first, it seems like a refreshing switch from countless, strictly turn-based games as it offers a real-time fighting system. However, you will undoubtedly notice that repetition is present in the fighting as well, as animations for attacking are just as repetitive and .gif-like as moving around and about the world.
The frequency of random encounters is regular, but they become somewhat annoying as a consequence of the one-enemy-encounter-at-a-time structure even though there is often more than one enemy to face. It’s like they line-up for you to take them down one by one. After some fights in a row, each with multiple enemies, it becomes very difficult to want to explore the somewhat large environments.
You have the ability to launch ranged attacks consisting of shooting and magic, or to get up close and punch, kick, or knife your enemies down for experience points, but there is no in-between; there is no moving around and attacking enemies that are not directly in front of you. You push forward to move and attack up close, and pull back to position yourself and attack from afar. This functions well and there is a strategic element at work, since certain enemies take more damage from one range than another, but the freedom of real-time fighting feels as if it is held back causing you to move only into two available positions. It feels like a 3D game is restricting you to move and fight in 2D.
An attempt at incorporating party fighting principles present in other RPGs is done with Drake, your dragon companion, as he attacks enemies on his own. Also, remember your alter ego, Towa? You can use both Toki and Towa in battle and they both have different strengths, but there is a huge catch: you rarely choose when you use one or the other. The game automatically switches between them once you level up, so if you’re at level 1 you use Toki but once you reach level 2, you will be using Towa and this alternating cycle continues for all following levels.
In essence the combat system comes off as very promising at first, but later proves to be awkward. This is enhanced by the transitions from world exploration to battle screens indicated by a sudden stop in the action followed by a change of music. This break in audio continuity and abrupt change of pace only helps in augmenting the game’s bad .gif-like animations as it feels like the music itself has been badly gif’d. It feels a lot like one of those amateur homemade videos with music from different songs mashed into one long soundtrack with awkward silences between transitions. If you missed the visual awkwardness, the audio will make sure you catch it and vice-versa.
Another audio issue with Time and Eternity is its English-dubbed translations and unsynced lipsynching resulting from such a practice. Rarely are Japanese animes dubbed in English and this game reminds us all why. You will see lips moving while no one is speaking and hear voices while no one is moving their lips. This is a minor issue, but still one that shows up often enough to drive certain people crazy when it’s noticed. Body language from the characters is also awkwardly looped even in cut-scene conversations. The same expression of an intense emotion such as anger or fear will keep looping when the conversation has moved onto more tranquil topics.
When it comes down to it, this game will obviously seem appealing to anime or RPG fans. If you happen to be both, you might think this game is your soul-mate, but there’s no need to rush things. No one is perfect. No game is perfect either. The only thing more insane than rushing into a marriage is rushing into Time and Eternity without at least trying out a demo or renting it out for a test play; take some time to know each other. If you can overlook the game’s faults discussed above you might still find an enjoyable anime experience underneath all the .gif’d gameplay. After all, what is love if not deciding to look pass someone’s repetitive behavior and awkward moments? While things just didn’t work out between me and Time and Eternity, they might for you.