Time and Eternity Review

TimeAndEternityTime and Eternity (Available exclusively on PlayStation 3)
ESRB Rating: T
Number of Players: 1
Genre: RPG
Publisher: NIS America
Developer: Image Epoch
Release Date: July 16th, 2013

Parent Talk: Time and Eternity has some sexual content and suggestive (and not at all subtle) innuendo, so the game may not be appropriate for younger children.

Plays Like: Time and Eternity is a role-playing game at its core, but it has elements of dating-sim games thrown in, which may make gamers think of the Persona series of games. Like most RPGs, you have to talk to NPCs to advance the story, buy and sell equipment, build your character’s skills, and fight enemies in battle, but you also can go on dates. The primary goal in this game is not to save a kingdom or stop an evil lord, but rather, to save your marriage.

Review Basis: Reached two of the three endings, currently on New Game +.

Time and Eternity is a game I wanted to like. I’m an outspoken fan of Japanese anime, I love RPGs, and I especially love the Shin Megami Tensei: Persona series. When I heard about this game, I thought that it was interesting and unique—an adventure game focused on saving your husband from death and reaching a happy marriage? That sounds great! To me, it seemed like a combination of Catherine, The Last Story, and Persona, all of which are great games. Unfortunately, Time and Eternity is far from great, it’s mediocre at best.

The plot is about a young man named Zack, who is a knight engaged to the princess Toki. On the day of their marriage, Zack is mortally wounded. Toki then unveils two surprises about herself. First, she actually has a split personality, an entirely other persona named Towa. Towa is the rough tomboy to Toki’s demure princess, and she fights off the assassin. Then, Toki uses her abilities to travel back in time in the hopes of preventing her marriage from being ruined and preventing Zack from coming to harm. Zack is sent along for the ride, but his soul is placed into the body of Toki’s pet drake.

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The Great:

+ The premise. Playing as a young woman who has to save her husband and her marriage makes for a great concept. I was looking forward to this and was hoping that we’d have a strong, interesting lead with a great supporting cast. Unfortunately, the game failed to deliver on this. The idea that you’re playing as Toki/Towa is thrown at the window since Zack doesn’t die at all. He’s just put into the body of Toki/Towa’s pet drake. With a story based on love and time travel, I was expecting more. It has some traces of great ideas though and if you want something different, this certainly is far from the norm. The story could have been far better, but it’s told in a juvenile, uninteresting way.

The Good:

+ The battle system. If nothing else, combat in Time and Eternity is unique. Rather than fighting enemies en masse, you engage with foes in one-on-one combat in a third-person perspective. You play as either Toki or Towa in a real-time combat system. If you stay far away from the enemy, you’ll use a rifle to attack. If you get in close, you’ll switch to sword-based combat. You also have a list of skills and magic to use, as well as a list of “time magic.” Your list of skills starts rather small, but as you progress, you’ll gain access to new skills and you can even expand your list of usable combat skills. The combat still has a sense of rigidness to it, so it’s not necessarily the same as other action-RPGs like Kingdom Hearts. You can only be in two main positions: near and far. You can dodge to the left or right, and you can block. This isn’t to knock the game entirely. This sense of rigidness gives it a kind of timing that you need to master. Understanding when to block, when to dodge, and how to counter makes the system interesting. Unfortunately, poor difficulty balancing (everything is way too easy), overpowered magic, “limit break” attacks that are far too infrequent to be useful, and some annoying enemy patterns, bring down what could have been a great combat system. I had a lot of fun adapting to the combat, learning the timing of attacks, and so on. With some re-balancing, it could be really great.

+ Time magic system. This is definitely what makes combat more interesting, but unfortunately makes it too easy. With the time abilities, you can rewind combat to undo a mistake, you can speed yourself up to attack more quickly, and you can even stop an enemy clean in their tracks. Unfortunately, using these skills is kind of game breaking. You’ll win without effort. I never had any trouble defeating any enemies as a result.

+ The anime characters. While certainly nowhere near as exquisite as the visuals in Valkyria Chronicles or Ni No Kuni, there’s something charming about the characters in Time and Eternity. In the game, the characters are represented through 2D anime portraits, giving the illusion that you’re basically playing an episode of the anime. Sometimes, it looks great; other times, not so much. When in combat and when shown in stills, the visuals look great.

+ Quests and skills. Even though the game has its share of faults, there are some good ideas. The skill system, called “Gifts” here, is actually quite cool. After defeating enemies, you accumulate skill points, which you can use to purchase a gift. Each gift is basically a selection of skills, focused on a particular area. For example, one may focus on passive skills, while others focus in certain types of elemental magic. You learn the skills from the gift the next time you level up, and after unlocking several gifts, you reach new tiers. That and the abundance of side quests at least provide some nice distractions from the main quest. The adventure on its on is rather brief and is only four chapters long. I’d guess many could complete it in less than ten hours. With all of the extra quests, it’s about 20 or more.

+Toki/Towa. Toki and Towa are probably the only decent characters in this game at all. Unfortunately, they cannot carry the adventure alone, because the supporting cast just fails. Considering that the entire focus of the game is about getting to know Toki and Towa and then ultimately marrying one of them, it makes sense that they would be the most developed characters of the bunch. Even so, the characters could have been refined more.

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The Bad:

-The animation is terrible. The character portraits are a nice touch and occasionally look nice, until they move that is. The animation is stilted and they tend to re-use the same frames. For example, one character had a falling down animation, which repeated several times—it looks extremely awkward. The walking and turning animation for Toki/Towa’s movement also seems odd and she moves like a forklift. Turning feels odd. The combat animation is far more fluid and is far more interesting visually, but even that is ruined when there’s slowdown. Toki/Towa’s sword attacks for example are far smoother and pleasant to look at. But during dialog scenes, characters have a certain set of actions that they repeat. For example, Toki may cross her legs, but she does it repeatedly during dialog, which just makes it look awkward.

-Characters are re-used and dull. Aside from, the supporting characters are bland and generic. Of course, it doesn’t help that most of the main characters are bland as well. Many of the characters are re-used and simply re-colored. For example, there’s a young boy character, a young girl character, a young female character, a young male character, an assassin character, etc. The same characters are just slapped on and given a new color scheme. It’s simply dull. Aside from that, most of the characters are just a waste of space. I didn’t really get to know much about Enda aside from the fact she’s Toki’s friend. She’s uninteresting and hardly contributes anything. Toki and Towa are the only interesting characters, and even then, they aren’t that different from each other. It seems like they were meant to be opposites: a princess and a tomboy, but the way they’re portrayed in the story after being introduced clashes with the original idea. The main character, Zack, is unlikable.

-Slowdown during combat. The animation during combat is smoother than the dialog scenes thankfully, but it doesn’t help when the action slows down during the fray. This seems to happen later in the game especially.

-The writing. Most of the jokes are just cringe-worthy, not in a good way either. Bad  jokes can be fun and I’m all for campy material, but most of the writing in the game is just juvenile and unfunny. The game can’t decide what it’s trying to be. Sometimes, it’s trying to be dramatic and sincere, like with the ending sequences that make you choose between Toki or Towa. It’s mean to tug at your heart strings because you’re supposed to have become attached to her, but it doesn’t work very well, not because Toki or Towa are bad, but because Zack is just not an interesting character nor is he written well. He’s basically the bland everyman. Other times, especially when dealing with characters like Makimona or Ricardo, the game tries to be silly. There’s a fourth-wall breaking character named iNew who talks about the latest trends and his dialog references Facebook, Twitter, etc. It’s not clever and it’s not amusing.  One of the game’s running jokes is about Ricardo’s cakes, which are awful. The character is dull to begin with, but the game draws it out over such a long period of time. The story is a poorly written mess.

-No sense of exploration. There’s not much point in exploring the world map, because the game explicitly points out where everything is anywhere. It gives you all the quest objectives, treasure chests, and so on.

-The date system. Persona 3 and 4 handled the dating-sim element rather well. You would choose to hang out with someone, answer questions, and do things to raise the person’s level of affection. The mechanics made sense. Here, it seems like you just happen to have events, and there isn’t much difference no matter what you do. For many of these sequences, if you happen to answer “correctly,” you’ll be awarded with a picture of Toki or Towa. Other sequences are simply there to advance the story or explain more about the relationship between Zack and Toki/Towa, but because Zack isn’t likable at all, it doesn’t make them interesting to watch. I didn’t really have to plan anything or give gifts or anything special. I managed to see every date event just by simply selecting it and there wasn’t really a reward for getting to know Toki or Towa, when that’s what should have been the focus.

-The shooting mini-game is out-of-place and has awkward controls. There are a few segments where the game will dramatically shift to a third-person shooter mode. This is done when you fight with a large boss, but it’s done so infrequently I wonder why it was implemented at all. You basically have four options: light attack, heavy attack, heal, and shield. The fight wasn’t challenging whatsoever. All I had to do was move back and forth, wait for the enemy to attack, then fire a blast and counterattack. It’s completely un-blanaced.

-The level of difficulty is just laughable. If you do happen to die, you can just immediately restart the battle. Most of the enemies are ridiculously simple to beat. If you use magic, you can mow over most enemies in one or a few hits. Even the final boss is a pushover. If you use time magic, you have no fear of losing.

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The Ugly

The environments are lifeless and bland. Most of the field graphics are completely dull. When in town and in other areas, during story segments for example, it looks better. However, when out exploring in the fields, everything looks generic.

The Lowdown:

There’s an interesting idea or two buried in here. I imagine some gamers, especially fans of niche RPGs from NIS and Gust, will want to look at this one just like I did. Admittedly, I had some moments of enjoyment, but there are significant problems here and they’re impossible to ignore. The bland characters, absolutely atrocious environments, stilted animation, and juvenile writing make the game difficult to recommend, but the other myriad of problems make the game impossible to recommend.

Score: 4/10 

2 thoughts on “Time and Eternity Review”

  1. The most fair review of the game I’ve read. Most of the sites completely bashed this game to bits, but you do give credit where credit is due even though it’s a mediocre game. It’s a shame really because I was really looking forward to it due to the unique art-style…I thought it was going to be another Ni No Kuni to be honest, but it looks like it wasn’t meant to be. I kinda regret buying this full price now.

    Any thoughts on the music and voice acting?

    1. The music is forgettable. I actually complete forgot to write about it simply because I didn’t really have much to say. I had a hard time remembering a lot of the themes, so I had to look them up on YouTube. They aren’t bad, and I like the battle theme. But they didn’t stay in my ears. As for the voice acting, the game’s default is English–and they perform about as well as I expected. I highly recommended switching to the Japanese, but even then, the dialog isn’t any better, so I don’t see much difference.

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