Title: Time and Eternity
Publisher: NIS America
Release Date: 16-07-2013 (NA), 11-10-2012 (JP)
A whole bag of unrealized potential and insufficient budget. It’s like a low-budget 12 episode harem anime focused on ecchi and comedy, except it tried to sell itself as something more to people who don’t like that kind of thing and the reaction isn’t pretty.
Time and Eternity was trashed by reviewers on both sides of the ocean, and while I don’t disagree that the game is incredibly flawed, unpolished, and all too easy to break, I’ll acknowledge that it is entirely possible to enjoy it. I liked it heaps better than Lunar Dragon Song, that’s for sure. The first thing to note is that this game targets to a very niche audience, and is probably as far from the concept of “universal appeal” as you can get. All sorts of potentially dramatic moments are thrown out in favor of jokes and tendencies to poke fun at itself. The story is not so much a crawling epic as it is 12 episode late night budget anime material, being centered on the marriage of three individuals. Also, it’s not exactly a harem, as you only get to choose between two girls despite being surrounded by females.
The protagonist (default name Zack, but can be changed) is about to get married to Toki, the princess of Kamza. On the day of their wedding, however, they get attacked by assassins and Zack takes the hit for her. Because members of the royal family have the power to control time, Toki uses her powers to rewind time back to prevent the sabotage of her wedding. However, each time she gets rid of a potential disruption, a new one appears to take its place in attacking her wedding. Also, Toki has an alternate soul living in her body. Said alternate soul is Towa, a tsundere who surfaces when the wedding is attacked. On top of stopping the wedding, Zack must also decide whether he wants to marry Toki or Towa.
While the premise sounds potentially serious, the conflicts themselves are comical in nature. The first group of “assassins” that you confront turn out to be members of the Assassins Fanclub who greatly idolize the profession and are only, in actuality, the owners of a bakery. The gigantic dragon who makes contracts and grants wishes in exchange for some nasty conditions is deathly afraid of being reported to the Better Business Bureau for abusing his contracts. That mysterious lady in the stripperific outfit with a color scheme of Evil Purple? She is really only a wandering Jill-of-all-trades who takes on all kinds of lame, shady jobs (like horrible fortune tellers and ineffectual spirit mediums) to earn a living.
The actual plot itself is not very engaging, and a lot of elements are unexplained or handwaved with magic. The reveal at the end for why the protagonist’s wedding never succeeds comes out of nowhere and is one of the dumbest reasons for starting a loop, and for a story that supposedly focuses on a romantic event between two characters, the development of said romance is completely ignored in favor of skipping straight to the love-dovey “we are about to get married” stage of the relationship. There aren’t even any flashbacks regarding how they met or fall in love. Instead, the game shines light on the ecchi aspect, with a script loaded with innuendo and some rather racy CG events that look much more appealing than the rest of the game.
The game’s battle system is very obviously experimental. It’s a real-time system involving one-on-one fights between Toki/Towa and an enemy. Pressing circle makes her execute a physical attack, be it through the rifle or the sword depending on your distance from the enemy, and skills can be mapped on to the X, square, and triangle buttons. She can also guard, or dodge incoming enemy attacks by moving the left analog stick left or right. There is no free movement in battle, so Toki/Towa can only dodge to the side or move between ranged and melee. It’s interesting on paper and managed to provide some button-mashing fun for the first two hours while trying to figure out enemy patterns, but here’s the thing: the first two hours is the same as the rest of the game. All palette swaps of the same enemy will have the same attack pattern, and enemy AI never improves. That level 50 Golem you fight will feel like the exact same Golem you fought at level 2, and will fall to the exact same strategy. There aren’t even a lot of different types of enemies, so battles get very monotonous. You can tell if you will enjoy the game or not within the first two hours, because the combat will remain the exact same ten hours later. There are no promises of “it’ll get better later.”
The only way to make the game less tedious is to completely break the system, which is no difficult task at all. Magic is ridiculously overpowered, to the point that there are absolutely no advantages to focusing on physical skills. Enemies that take forever to kill with physical attacks will quickly die to magic, and every enemy will give you enough time to cast a low-level spell which usually gets the job done, even late into the game. Toki/Towa also has time spells that run on their own meter, and while the Time Leap that you initially get doesn’t seem too impressive, Time Surge is very helpful for casting spells and building SP, and Time Freeze completely freezes the enemy’s movements. Not only that, you can use Time Freeze consecutively to make sure the final boss doesn’t get to act, ever. All bosses are vulnerable to debuffs and status ailments, and every boss after you get Time Freeze can become a complete joke.
The game, outside of the main story, has a ton of subquests. In fact, in my 24 hours of gameplay total, nearly half of that was dedicated to completing them. Not only does every subquest come with its own set of dialogue and excuse plot, there is also continuity between the subquests of each chapter (a lot of the sidequests are repeatedly given by the same people), and they do reveal some amusing tidbits here and there. I find the subquest dialogue funnier and better written than the main story’s, and you’d be doing a huge disservice to yourself by ignoring them and rushing through the (rather short) story.
The visuals are kind of a mixed bag. The concept art is fantastic and the character designs by VOFAN are beautiful. However, the in-game animations are generic-looking and feel rather stiff. For something that advertises itself as the world’s first HD animation RPG, the lip-syncing is terrible even in Japanese, the animation looks low-budget, and there are tons of re-used clips everywhere. Add to the fact that you have hand-drawn 2D sprites on top of dull, low quality 3D backgrounds and you’ve got a game that looks very, very rough. For some additional complaints, dungeon maps are needlessly huge with gigantic fields that have nothing in them (aside from a few treasure chests) and character movement is slow. There are also long loading times, and the world map is entirely point-and-click. It’s not like there aren’t any good-looking parts though, since the cutscenes that are entirely animated instead of just re-using the same few sprite movements look genuinely nice. The fanservicey CG events also look very well-drawn and polished.
Despite the fact that I had more complaints than praise for Time and Eternity, I laughed here and there at jokes that crossed the lame line twice and had fun completing the subquests and mindless combat. It’s a somewhat relaxing game that satisfied my occasional craving for the McDonald’s of RPGs, just not suitable for its launch price. Then again, I am slowly turning into someone who enjoys playing through kusoge (“shitty games”), and might have crossed the line already. If you happen to fall into the intended audience and occasionally want to have some fast food rather than fancy French dinners, then go for it at a discount. If you want first-hand experience on a ridiculously easy to break game, look no further.