Developer – Imageepoch, Satelight
Publisher –Namco Bandai Games, NIS America
Platforms – PS3
Voice Track Played – Subbed
[Disclaimer: I did not finish Time and Eternity, so this review does not cover the entire game.]
Looking back through some of my previous reviews, I often see the phrase “different is good” popping up, and I have to agree with myself on that one. Novelty is enough to grip people when it comes to a new game or story and immediately interest them in what’s going to happen next. However, new or altered features can only carry a title so far and Time and Eternity is a stunning example of this. While its art style and combat are more or less unique in the field of video games, and begin to take it in the right direction, its horrific production quality, poor writing and sheer repetitiveness render it not worth your time.
On the day of his wedding to Princess Toki, the knight Zack is killed protecting his wife-to-be from an assassination attempt. To his complete surprise, Toki then casts a spell to take the two of them back in time to before the attack, with Zack’s current personality being deposited into her pet dragon, Drake. On top of that all, it turns out that Toki shares her body with an alternate personality called Towa, which Zack had never been aware of. Completely unaware of their fiancé’s current situation, Toki and Towa set out to discover who orchestrated the attack on the wedding and stop it, while Zack learns more than ever before about the two women he was set to marry.
Because of the limited time I spent with the game, the story is the feature I am least qualified to comment on. The game starts off with an interesting concept that could have a lot of potential, choosing to go for a more comedic than serious approach. That’s absolutely fine, of course, but most of the jokes and characters are the same old fare you get from anime and the storyline itself isn’t particularly compelling either. The inclusion of two main characters to control, each with different personalities, spices things up a little, though it doesn’t make up for the rest of the writing. While it may be a localisation thing most of the content, whether it be humor or plot, never really interested me without quite falling into the category of “bad”. Still, I only played through two of the five-ish chapters, so it’s entirely possible that things pick up further down the line.
So what about that novelty I mentioned earlier? Time and Eternity utilises a play system that I haven’t seen anywhere else. It’s unique, and it was one of the sole reasons I played the game for as long as I did. Your character, being completely hand-drawn (as are your enemies), is controlled via an over-the-shoulder camera as you run around 3D environments. It’s really quite cool. The 2D art itself is great and I really enjoyed the designs used for both enemies and friendly individuals. Unfortunately the animation is jerky in some non-combat scenes, with some characters’ actions even cutting and restarting part-way through their sequence. Additionally, the number of animations each character has is very limited, with each one being repeated often and sometimes unnecessarily (i.e. where a separate animation would have been more appropriate). The feeling that the studio had only done the bare minimum amount of work needed to ship the game was hard to shake.
When it came to the combat, at least, the animations were smooth and complete. Being either Toki or Towa (with each having their own combat style), and switching each time you level up, each fight consists of timing your attacks to hit between your enemies’ own attack sequences and dodging anything harmful coming your way. Each fight is one-on-one and for the first chapter or so the experience is very enjoyable because of how novel it is. After that, however, the repetitiveness kicks in and that’s about where the game as a whole stops being fun. Each enemy has a scripted sequence of attacks that does not change from encounter to encounter, meaning that once you’ve learned it you end up doing the exact same thing in every single fight and that gets old, fast. That wouldn’t be a problem if the types of enemies changed but as soon as you hit chapter two you’re in for recolors galore and only minute attack pattern changes. The other issue is that the only way to raise the difficulty of the combat system was to make attacks undodgeable, transforming boss fights into checks to see how many health potions you have. As a final note, while you have a choice between both melee and ranged attacks, magic blows them both out of the water, so that’s just one more thing you’ll be doing over and over again for each fight.
To cover some of the features I’ve missed, I should mention that the environments themselves are quite basic, using visuals that wouldn’t look out of place on the PS2. There are side quests available which seem somewhat half-hearted, falling into the MMO trap of “collect xx of yy” and only sending you to places you’ve already been without exception. If you go back to locations you’ve visited previously you can find extra items and areas unlocked, though it’s hardly worthwhile. I ended up playing with the Japanese voice actors because I simply couldn’t stand the English ones; the English voices chosen grated on my nerves and the performances were pretty poor as well, whereas the Japanese voices were simply adequate. Still, it’s nice that the option to switch between the two was included. As a final note that probably should have been included earlier, I appreciated the attempt to include conversations between characters in the field. Unfortunately, they’re so short and few in number that they only serve to highlight another feature that needed more work.
Summary – Time and Eternity is an example of massively squandered potential. While it can hold attention for a while with its sheer uniqueness, poor design and a lack of basic polishing make this a game I simply can’t recommend. Taking an interesting concept and novel mechanics and producing this borderline-unfinished product takes some real skill, albeit not the kind I’m willing to praise. However, if someone were to create a similar game with a great deal more effort put into it I’d been keen to give it a try.
Score: 4/10 – Bad