Time and Eternity had the potential to be something great. A fusion of role-playing game and anime developed by Fate/Extra team Imageepoch and the animators at Satelight, it promises an avant-garde experience where hand-drawn characters inhabit three-dimensional worlds.
Unfortunately, that promise is never fully realized. Time and Eternity is a conundrum wherein creative ideas are squandered by haphazard implementation and juxtaposed with some of the most indolent writing in recent memory.
Time and Eternity (PlayStation 3)
Publisher: NIS America
Released: July 16, 2013 (US) / June 28, 2013 (EU)
Time and Eternity begins on a rather macabre note. A joyous scene with church bells and clear skies descends into bloodshed when a royal wedding is interrupted by some uninvited guests. A band of assassins barge into a packed cathedral just after Princess Toki of Kamza and her knightly husband-to-be, Zack, exchange vows. The groom is left mortally wounded as the demure Toki flies into a range, transforming into her fiery alternate personality, Towa. She makes quick work of the assailants then turns back time in hopes of saving her fiance.
The narrative isn't as serious or exciting as it initially lets on. After the grisly opening things take a turn for the jocose and mundane. Time and Eternity attempts to be a romantic comedy, but undermines itself at every turn with painfully crass writing. Jokes are used as a crutch to help along a rather banal plot, but they're almost always sophomoric and repeated over and over to the point of exhaustion. Even if they manage to garner a smirk the first time around, most players will likely find themselves tired of Time and Eternity's brand of humor before long.
The characters don't fare any better. The cast is populated with tropes and anime cliches that never manage to provide more depth than their two-dimensional character models. The male lead is by far the worst offender. Zack is inadvertently transported back in time alongside Toki and Towa. In a humorous twist, his soul is trapped inside the body of the princess' pet dragon, Drake. At first it's amusing seeing the male lead emasculated. The shoe is on the other foot as the heroine sets out to save her damseled man. However, Zack soon uses his newfound position to his advantage. Revealing himself to be an unlikable pervert, he spends the majority of the game trying to get a glimpse of Toki in the bath or peer up her skirt.
The gameplay at least threatens to be interesting. Combat is action-oriented, rhythmic, and even entertaining at times. Battles take place on two planes where Toki or Towa shoot enemies at a distance with a rifle or charge into close combat with a knife in-hand. Fighting basically boils down to dodging left and right to avoid enemy attacks whilst peppering them with volleys and slashes of your own. Normal attacks contribute to a special meter which can be used to unleash more powerful attacks that are unlocked over the course of the campaign.
Toki and Towa each have their own unique abilities, which come in both active and passive varieties including various spells, special attacks, and combat bonuses. At times, due to elemental strengths and weaknesses, one persona will be better suited to taking down a particular foe than the other. Unfortunately, players cannot switch freely between the heroines and will need to grind in order to level-up and transform.
Combat is the highlight of the experience, but it definitely has its limits. After initially coming across as engaging, it eventually loses its luster. Time and Eternity is a short experience, as far as role-playing games go, and the developers seem to compensate for this by elongating the experience with fetch quests and tedious fights full of enemies with ridiculous amounts of health. Eventually, virtually every random encounter becomes a battle of attrition where persistence and constitution are more key to victory than strategy or skill.
Graphically, it's a mixed bag. The hand-drawn characters look gorgeous until you see them in motion. Time and Eternity wastes this bright, incredibly detailed artwork with clumsy animation. It looks awkward and, given that aesthetics were one of the title's main selling points, those hoping for a role-playing game that looks like a full-fledged anime best stay away.
Environments are dull, monotonous, and sparsely populated. And objectives are clearly marked on the map, giving players no reason to explore dungeons. Enemies look just as nice as the main cast, but also suffer from repetition as they're comprised largely of palette-swapped versions of the same designs. Virtually every facet of the project feels slapdash and hastily constructed. It's strange that something so clearly ambitious can also be this lazy.
At least the audio seems to hold up its end of the bargain. In typical NIS America fashion, players are given the choice between Japanese and English vocal tracks, both of which are solid. The soundtrack is penned by famed composer Yuzo Koshiro, who turns in a fitting if somewhat forgettable score.
Time and Eternity is a wasted opportunity. The premise of a Japanese role-playing game that looks and feels like an interactive anime is a sound one. But this game is anything but sound. A vapid story, obnoxious characters, and heaps of unrealized potential awaits those that fall for Time and Eternity's glossy veneer.