Time and Eternity, the new JRPG from Imageepoch (responsible for Arc Rise Fantasia and the Luminous Arc series), starts off well enough. Toki, the princess of Kamza, is about to marry her fiancé, a knight named Zack, when her friends show up at their house. It is at this point, a mere five minutes into the game, that you start to have a sinking feeling.
After the pre-wedding visit by Toki’s friends, the ceremony starts. Near the end, though, assassins show up and attack the princess, though Zack takes a fatal wound while defending her. In an attempt to prevent this from happening, Toki travels six months into the past to uncover the culprits and stop the attack.
Time travel isn’t for everyone though; Toki can only do so because she shares her body with another soul, a woman named Towa. On the way into the past, Zack’s consciousness somehow ends up inside Toki’s tiny pet dragon. It becomes obvious within minutes of this very strange opening that not only will there be plenty of anime fan service in Time and Eternity, but also a host of atrocious writing and characters.
When you meet Toki’s best friends for the first time, you’ll quickly notice that they all correspond to very common, very shallow anime tropes. There’s the snobbish rich one, the bookish one and the one that looks like a child. They all react exactly as you would expect to everything, and never gain any depth beyond their generic characterizations.
Zack, Toki and everyone else you’ll meet while playing don’t really have any depth either, for that matter. You can tell at a glance what role they will likely serve and never be surprised. All the girls think of nothing except men, and all the men think of nothing except, well, parts of girls. While there is a market for this, the writing and voice acting is egregious. It’s almost as if the actors and writers themselves were bored while doing their jobs.
The plot progresses via quest assignments, while outside of cities you’ll be faced with random encounters and one on one combat. Each battle is real-time while Toki or Towa face off against enemies one at a time. You have both a melee and ranged attack available, though both use the same button for all normal attacks, it simply depends on whether you are near an enemy or not. On the other three face buttons, special attacks can be set, once they are learned. You can also dodge, block attacks and use items during battle as well.
Unfortunately, combat is broken. Many enemies you can beat simply by mashing the normal attack button repeatedly. The enemy will never get a chance to attack and will simply and silently die. Against bosses, it is more of a pattern recognition puzzle in which you learn when to dodge or block and when to attack. The problem? There’s so much lag between when dodging and blocking would be useful and when you actually do it that you have to predict when you’ll need to dodge ahead of time. And by level three, you can gain access to spells like bolt and fire, which will do more damage to any non-boss enemy than they have HP for quite some time. As a result, combat just isn’t very enjoyable. It’s either too easy or frustrating due to that lag.
The visuals are crisp and clean, and also one of the weaker aspects of the game. There is an overall dearth of animation frames for everything, which makes it look kind of like a Philips CD-i game. Exploring the world uses an over-the-shoulder third person view, and thanks to that CD-i feel, it actually gave me headaches and slight motion sickness.
During conversations among characters, everyone seems to have idle hands syndrome, moving back and forth between two stances regardless of whether or not the conversation warrants it. All of the voice actors sound bored, and seem to put a minimal amount of effort into their lines. The music, however, sounds great. It doesn’t always fit the tone of the setting or the mood, but it is definitely the highlight of Time and Eternity.
NIS America has taken chances on many games that other publishers wouldn’t touch for localization in America, and it generally works out. With Time and Eternity, it probably shouldn’t have bothered. If it hadn’t, I wouldn’t be sympathizing with the assassins.
Pros: Good music, interesting premise
Cons: Shallow characters, bad voice acting, headache-inducing animation, poor writing