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Time and Eternity

Platform(s): PlayStation 3
Genre: Role-Playing
Publisher: NIS America
Developer: Namco Bandai Games
Release Date: July 16, 2013 (US), June 28, 2013 (EU)


PS3 Review - 'Time and Eternity'

by Chris "Atom" DeAngelus on Sept. 1, 2013 @ 12:00 a.m. PDT

Time and Eternity is a brand-new style of hand-drawn animation RPG where you witness your own death at your wedding before traveling back in time with your wife-to-be to track down your killer!

Time and Eternity is set in the kingdom of Kamza, where Princess Toki is set to marry her fiancé, Zack. On the day of their wedding, they are attacked by assassins, and Zack is mortally wounded. As he is dying, Zack discovers two very strange things: His fiancée, Toki, has a second soul named Towa, and she has the power to control time. They leap back six months before the assassination to stop it. Zack is also dragged back, but due to a mix-up, his soul is stuffed into the body of Toki's pet dragon, Drake. Together, the two — four? — of them must solve Zack's murder before it occurs so they can get married.

Time and Eternity's biggest problem is that it squanders its premise with unlikeable or bland characters. Zack may be head and shoulders ahead in the race for the least-likeable video game protagonist. He's supposed to be a "wacky" pervert but comes across simultaneously as creepy and weird. He hasn't ever kissed his wife-to-be on the cheek but takes every chance to remind the player that he can't wait to spy on her in the bath. The "jokes" about his antics make it difficult for us to want Toki and Towa to save him. It's actually pretty easy to sympathize with the assassins.

Perhaps that could be salvaged if Toki or Towa were interesting characters, but they're not. They're supposed to be polar opposites, but the differences between the characters are rarely stressed. Towa is supposed to be more violent and aggressive and Toki more meek and friendly, but their personalities are all over the place. Towa seems to forget the whole "I'm the violent one" half the time and even acts meek. Neither character has enough presence to feel like a character instead of a bundle of character traits that fixate on Zack.  They're not funny, and they're not sympathetic. There are some date sim elements where the player must pick a favored girl, but it often ends up feeling weird, and that's helped along by Zack's continuous string of perverse comments.

The supporting cast is similarly bland. Each has a single character trait that is repeated over and over. I hope you think it's funny that Towi's rich friend is rich because that will be her sole contribution to the plot. It's possible to create an enjoyable game with simple archetypes, but Time and Eternity didn't succeed in this area. The cast isn't bad because being bad would require more from the stock anime archetypes than they can provide. The game is a bland oatmeal of badly rehashed jokes, and it's held together by the barest semblance of a plot. 

The first thing players will notice about Time and Eternity is that it looks cheap. It may not be apparent from static screenshots, but in motion, the game is a bit of a mess. The idea behind it is sound. Instead of still artwork that's often found in JRPGs, the game uses brief animation clips for everything — superimposed over a 3-D background, and it looks terrible. The low-budget animations have an awful frame rate, jerky movement, and repetitive animation. It looks worse than static screenshots and draws attention to the lack of variety and effort in the animations. This might be passable if it only applied to the talking sequences, but this is applied to everything. When you walk around on the map, a badly superimposed Toki or Towa is in the center of the screen, where she repeats the worst walking animation that tries to imply movement. Fights are twice as bad, with ridiculous animations, tons of palette swaps, and awkward combat animations. Even if Time and Eternity had a lot going for it otherwise, the animations would turn off all but the most dedicated of fans.

The world in Time and Eternity is dull, and there's no reason to explore. The town areas are simple overmaps where you select an icon to see a scene. Dungeons are empty, open expanses with little to do beyond walk along a path and fight random battles. Anything you need, from side-quests to chests and items, is clearly marked on the map. Any period of time between those items involves walking forward until you reach the item or a battle occurs. Like the rest of the game, the dungeons contain an absurd amount of recycling and rehashing. There are only a handful of areas that look vaguely original. Otherwise, you're exploring the same three or four areas in slightly different configurations. There aren't any puzzles or mazes; there's only padding between story segments, monster fights, and the occasional side-quest.

Combat is a bit of a mess. The idea is part Dragon's Lair and part action game. Toki or Towa stand at one side of the screen, and the enemy stands at the other. The enemies attack, and you have to dodge or block. You can press left or right to dodge attacks or press the L1 button to block. When there is a gap in the enemy's defenses, you can press the Circle button to attack or use a special move. You'll automatically use a gun if the enemy is far away or a sword if the enemy is close. Special moves use a recharging MP bar that fills up as you attack the enemy and is lost if you are knocked down by an enemy attack, so fights are about building up your MP bar while dodging and guarding, unleashing it, and repeating the process. You only fight one monster at a time, although some fights may involve fighting more than one monster in a row.

In theory, there is some complexity to this system. Enemies can stand close or far away and have different attack patterns depending on where they're standing. You can move closer to change their attack pattern, or they may charge you to prevent ranged special attacks. Every enemy has a pattern, and once you've discovered it, every fight against that enemy plays out exactly the same. The fights are tedious since you have to make the attack pattern play out, but that just makes the fights longer, not more difficult. You can also use buffs and debuffs or special "time" spells to turn back the clock or slow down time, but these don't provide interesting strategies.

There's very little interactivity or freedom in the fights. Technically, you can unlock a variety of moves and abilities, but most of them are worthless. Magic Spells are so powerful that there's no reason to use anything else, aside from a buffing spell to make it easier to use magic. Unlike Shin Megami Tensei, there's nothing interesting about using weaknesses. As a result, every fight is about dodging a simple attack pattern and then spamming magic spells until the enemy falls over.

Even if you wanted to use other moves, all it will do is reveal the flaws of the combat system. Attack animations are poorly implemented. There's a noticeable lag between choosing to dodge and it occurring, and the flailing attack animations make it tough to tell when you're going to properly dodge. Instead of razor-sharp timing, every melee attack or gunshot feels awkward, slow and weird. There's no sense of impact to your attacks, and it can sometimes be difficult to tell where an enemy is because the animations are a mess. The non-magic special moves feel weird and rarely seem to work as intended. The "stun" moves are useful for keeping enemies from interrupting your magic cast, but that's about it for meaningful non-magic attacks.

The dual souls system is no help. You only have one character in combat, either Toki or Towa. You switch between them every time you level up. Each character has equipment slots, skill slots, and a leveling tree. In theory, you can build two different characters and switch between them, but in practice, the two characters are extremely similar. They have the same attack animations and movement animations. Toki has slightly better ranged skills and Towa has slightly better melee skills, but they play the same except for the flavor of their elemental skills. That becomes a nonissue as soon as you unlock non-elemental "void" spells. Likewise, you can't switch between the two characters at will because that ability is tied to an item or when you level up, and that only makes the game more tedious. The two characters don't play noticeably different, so it doesn't encourage you to try a different play style. It's just wasting your time.

Dungeon-crawling and fighting are about all the game offers. You can do side-quests, but they're the least engaging and least interesting side-quests I've encountered. They revolve around talking to people for "humorous" scenes or collecting items and killing monsters for paltry rewards. They're boring and tedious, and they don't lead you to more plot points or interesting bosses. At best, they flesh out the incoherent world of Time and Eternity a tad or take you to another palette-swapped enemy who uses the same handful of moves that you've seen many times before.

Time and Eternity has one saving grace, and that is the music. Yuzo Koshiro, the phenomenal composer behind games like Etrian Odyssey IV, brings forth an excellent and upbeat soundtrack that is a delight. From the energetic combat theme to some of the ominous dungeon soundtracks, it represents the best part of the game. Listening to the combat theme is infinitely more fun than actually fighting. Unfortunately, the same can't be said of the voice acting. Time and Eternity offers both Japanese and English voice work, but neither is very good. Both sets of voice actors sound incredibly bored, and many sound like they're halfheartedly reading the script. It's hard to believe that a character is flustered and upset when he sounds bored.

Through and through, Time and Eternity is wasted potential. The initial premise is convoluted but potentially interesting, but it is squandered. The plot, combat and dungeons are boring, and the game is further held back by the cheap-looking visuals. The soundtrack manages to pull through where the rest of the game doesn't, but there's no reason to play the game just for that. It isn't as if the game takes great risks and fails; it's just safe, bland and boring. Even if you're the most die-hard of RPG fans, there's no reason to bother with Time and Eternity.

Score: 5.0/10

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