Time and Eternity begins with the wedding of princess Toki and her knight, Mikey (his name is actually Zack, but I named him after me). You say your vows and right before you can seal the marriage with a kiss, Mikey is killed by a group of assassins while trying to protect his beloved. The red-haired Toki transforms into the blonde Towa, and she travels back in time with the intentions of preventing the attack.
Somehow, Mikey travels back with Towa, but his soul is transferred into the body of Drake, the pet mini-dragon and he experiences time traveling from this perspective. Right away, you can tell that he’s clearly a virgin (as most male characters are in Japan, it seems) and the story doesn’t take itself seriously. Despite an interesting set of circumstances, Time and Eternity chooses to be a more light-hearted and comical affair. While this seems like a missed opportunity at storytelling (it is), it never felt that way while playing because the tone is set early.
Not every joke hits the mark, but there are moments where the game is legitimately funny. I won’t spoil them, but they are quirky, anime-ish moments that catch you off-guard in the best way. Time and Eternity actually follows quite a few common anime tropes, which makes sense since you’re basically playing one. The characters are all hand-drawn and look great, standing out against what are very bland, sometimes ugly backgrounds. Toki, Towa, and Mikey are voiced well, and a couple of other less essential characters sound fine, but some may find them grating. If you’re the type to prefer your anime subbed, the Japanese voices are included in the options.
Time and Eternity splits time between round-robin conversations that take place at home and exploration in the field. The conversations are mostly dull, where you either discuss recent plot points with Toki’s friends, receive optional quests from Toki’s friends, or take part in conversations with Toki or Towa to increase their love for you. There is a sort of dating sim element, but it is neither deep nor interesting. It boils down a tug-of-war love meter that can somehow affect the ending, but only on New Game+, resulting in it being nothing more than a vanity scale for most.
Quests are the name of the game in Time and Eternity. Everything you do is associated with a quest and can be viewed in the menus. Upon completion, you’re given a small amount of money, some GP (Gift Points), and usually some items or equipment. Most side quests only give a small amount of GP, but every point counts. There are a lot of optional quests, and GP is used to buy Gifts (skills) that can make life much easier.
There are passive and active skills that can be equipped independently on each girl, allowing for two different setups of your choosing. Equipment works the same way. Toki and Towa have their own skill trees and there are quite a few skills to unlock, but they have level requirements. There are a few times I unlocked a skill I wasn’t a high enough level to use for several more levels. A little annoying, but not game-breaking.
Where Time and Eternity tries to be different is in combat. Toki and Towa alternate appearances each time they level up. Toki “specializes” in long range combat using her rifle, while Toki is supposedly better up close with her knife (emphasis because the difference is so subtle, it may as well not exist). You can jump forward and backward during battle to change your distance at any time and enemies use different attack patterns, depending on your position. Dodging is done simply by moving the left stick left or right and is important to staying alive. Enemies stick to a pretty strict pattern of attacks, so after you’ve seen it once, you know what they’ll do.
Drake, the mini-dragon, does help you in battles, though he’s controlled by the AI. He’ll occasionally attack, buff or heal you, but don’t count on him too much, as his contributions are infrequent. Later on, you can unlock Gifts that allow you to order him around a bit, giving you more control over his actions. Perhaps surprising, the battle system has a deceptive amount of depth; you can bully your way through if you’re appropriately leveled, but it’s just as possible to complete the game while being severely underleveled with the right preparation. Pulling up the items menu pauses the action and there are plenty of spells at your disposal once you’ve unlocked them.
Your spells and techniques are mapped to the other face buttons and can be used at any time once you accumulate enough SP. There’s no penalty for dying – you’re just asked to retry – so experiment away. It was interesting to play around with different combinations of skills and spells and see what is possible, but ultimately it was unnecessary since the system is easy to break about halfway through the game. Magic breaks the game by being crazy powerful and casting doesn’t have a long lead time. Once I unlocked a non-elemental spell, I was able to kill most regular enemies in one casting.
If spells break the game, then your Time powers completely shatter it. You eventually get three time powers: one that greatly speeds it up, one that slows it down, and one that stops it completely. Essentially, these are like cheat codes. Initially limited to three uses per level up, that’s often all you need. Even the final boss was a complete joke with a few uses of these powers (Time powers + magic = GameShark mode).
Difficulty aside, Time and Eternity has several other issues that are potential deal-breakers for some. The hand-drawn characters and enemies look great, but what does not are their animations. Their movements are choppy and appear to be missing several frames in every animation, and there aren’t many to begin with. There is no point where you would describe their movements as “fluid”. There are also times when the framerate drops for no particular reason. It doesn’t usually last too long, but it’s noticeable and annoying. Add in a copious amount of palette swaps for NPCs and enemies (there must be 15 character and enemy models in the whole game, excluding Toki’s friends and bosses) and a massive amount of reused environments and maps, and most areas feel like retreads, even the first time you visit them.
Time and Eternity is not a bad game and I did reasonably enjoy my time with it. But it is below average, and it takes a certain type of RPG fan to truly appreciate it. Maybe the surprising decent music will draw you in and hold your attention, maybe you’ll be intrigued by the promise of the visuals or the battle system. Whatever it is, just remember you’ll be experiencing a lot of the same over and over again.
Available on Playstation 3
Pub: NIS America
Buy: Purchase Time and Eternity from Amazon
Full disclosure: Code was provided by the publisher for review. I spent 35 hours with this game, beating it and completing all side quests.