Time and Eternity is an interesting JRPG that looks and feels, at times, like an interactive anime – complete with cheesy dialogue and odd humour, not to mention a pretty unique story. The plot of Time and Eternity centres on an unnamed knight who is set to marry a princess, Toki. On their wedding day, a group of assassins storm the chapel and kill the blue-haired knight before the two are wed, prompting Toki to use her magical skills to travel back in time 6 months prior to defeat the killers before they can enact their plans. The blue-haired knight also travels back in time, but is trapped in the body of a small pet dragon named Drake. Oh, and it soon becomes apparent that Toki actually has two souls inhabiting her body – Toki, of course, and Towa. Toki and Towa regularly switch control over their body, and have two distinct personalities.
This is where the gameplay really starts, with players taking control of Toki and Towa for the most part, although the dialogue choices are from the perspective of ‘Drake’ and it’s really through his eyes that we see the story, hearing his inner monologue for instance. Through certain actions and quests, players can influence either Toki or Towa’s love towards Drake which affects the main story. Players control Toki and Towa during exploration, combat and questing, though, so labelling any of the three as the “main character” is a bit misleading. The dual-souls concept is a unique idea that adds some depth to the gameplay, as players control either the pink-haired Toki or the blonde-haired Towa, who each have their own personalities and dialogue choices. For instance, Towa seems a bit more violent than the mild-mannered Toki, but also has a sweet side that Drake gets to see. Interacting with the two females is interesting and as mentioned does affect the story somewhat.
When players level up Toki she switches out and Towa comes into play, and vice versa. Each character plays slightly differently, too, with different skills and magic available to them. They can also have different equipment on. Each time they level, the character learns some of the skills that were chosen by the player previously, though obviously they cannot be tried out until the player regains control of the character (by levelling again). It’s a nice concept, and creates some desire to continue battling to switch out characters and test out new abilities.
In terms of the art style and animations, Time and Eternity is a graphically impressive game that sometimes falls short. The characters look great, and are all 2-dimensional and hand-drawn, so at times it really does look and feel like an anime (especially combined with the humour and overall charm – like hearing Drake’s inner monologue as he imagines marrying two women at once). The hand-drawn aspect really makes the game and is refreshing to see, and certainly fits with the overall feel of the game. Despite this, the character styles almost clash with the 3D rendered backgrounds, which is a shame, and while the animations are well-done, some are clearly repeated. Having more fully animated cutscenes would have been welcomed, too. Unfortunately, the repetition is not confined to the animations, and is something that does drag Time and Eternity down.
Enemy types are not as varied as they could be, with the same few enemies popping up in a certain locations, sometimes with a simple colour change. Side quests also get pretty repetitive, and don’t always reward with decent loot. The dialogue, whilst well-done, occasionally drags on or seems pointless, and at times is only text-based only (mostly with side-quests). This wouldn’t be so much of an issue if the subtitles weren’t white and often difficult to read, and dialogue does play a big role in Time and Eternity. After questing and exploring the locales, the characters return to Toki’s home where they meet with their four friends, and the player has the option of conversing with each of them to grab side-quests or advance the story somewhat. The voice-acting is decent on the whole and there is a Japanese voice option to add to the authentic anime experience.
Dialogue sequences makes up a large part of the game, helping to progress the story and affecting Toki and Towa’s affinity for Drake, for example. An interest in the story certainly helps with immersion, and makes up for the game’s flaws. As for the combat and exploration, the combat is well-done though it, too, can get repetitive. The saving grace of combat is the large number of skills and abilities that Toki and Towa can unlock, ranging from buffs to magical and physical attacks, and abilities that affect Drake in battle. Whilst combat can become a by-the-numbers affair, levelling up is rewarding and there are always new skills to learn and try out in battle. Combat often becomes routine because there can be a lack of enemy variety and their attack patterns are easily memorised. It becomes a case of recognising the patterns, and dodging or attacking when appropriate. Still, the animations are well-done even if repetitive. Battles aren’t random either, but are entered when a bar fills up from taking a certain amount of steps. This prevents the frustration of random battles because at least you know when you’re getting near to combat.
During battle the characters fight on a 3-dimensional plane with Toki and Towa able to jump forwards and get up close to the enemies, slicing them with knives, or jump back to get some distance to fire rifles and spells. They can also dodge left or right to avoid attacks. Standard attacks cost nothing, but using spells and special abilities uses up SP, which is regenerated through attacking. Later, players unlock the ability to reverse time, and also Drake can get skills to aid in battle too. The number of skills and abilities that can be unlocked is impressive, and players can spec Toki and Towa differently which does make combat more interesting. As well as this, players can equip the females with stat-boosting items and elemental weapons, so this helps to add some depth to the gameplay. It helps save what can often feel like a repetitive affair. Time and Eternity certainly rewards patience, too, as it is only after the first few hours that players really get to unlock decent skills and combat becomes a bit more varied.
Exploration makes up a big part of the game too, but unfortunately the locales are fairly big yet often bland and empty, with a distinct lack of anything to really do except battle. There are often a few chests dotted around, but unfortunately characters and side quests are interacted with via glowing symbols or crystals, when it would have been nice to see a character model at least. The overall feeling is one of emptiness. As Toki or Towa run across the locale to get to the next quest marker or event, there simply isn’t much to do except wait for the battle meter to fill up to enter combat. Warp crystals can be activated to shorten journey times, which is handy, but the exploration and questing side of the game can feel a bit lacklustre.
Overall, Time and Eternity has a certain charm and does feel like a unique experience, despite the repetition and other shortfalls. It would be hard to play the game without at least some passing interest in the storyline, as it helps give some depth to the game that is needed, and the interaction with the characters occasionally feels drawn-out but is also, at times, genuinely humorous, particularly hearing Drake pondering his fate of marrying two girls or hearing his desire to bathe with Toki and Towa’s friends. Those who like japanese anime should definitely check it out, as it retains many of the standard tropes and ‘anime-isms’ that helps add to the experience. Whilst it’s not an overly short game, there is some added replay value with a new game plus and different difficulty levels, and the affinity meter that affects both Toki and Towa’s love for ‘Drake,’ and the story outcome. While the first few hours can seem pretty standard and even easy, Time and Eternity does get better, too, as players unlock more skills and different locations. Unfortunately, the shortcomings still remain and prevent Time and Eternity from reaching its true potential, though it certainly isn’t a ‘bad’ game by any measure – just something that may be an acquired taste.
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