Time and Eternity (PS3) Review
Ben Sheene / Jul 15th, 2013 1 Comment
[adsense250itp]Accurately translating anime through the medium of video games has never been an easy road. Hardware on gaming platforms has always been one of the primary issues for displaying anime they way it is intended. How can developers take the stylistic and intricate animations from the source material and turn it into something that resembles a game? More often than not, the solution has been pared down into fighting games. Recently, Naruto Shippuden: Ultimate Ninja Storm 3 set the bar for anime visuals in a game. Still, why must something so inherently Japanese be almost exclusively limited to the fighting genre? Time and Eternity takes a bold approach in trying to bring a harmony with anime visuals in a genre that would benefit from it the most: the RPG. But when it comes down to it, does this unique approach have enough style and substance to live up to its lofty aspirations?
Toki’s wedding was supposed to be a wonderful event full of love and marital bliss. She was supposed to share her first (yes, FIRST) kiss with husband Zack (or whatever the player chooses to call him). That all goes to hell when assassins interrupt the ceremony and try to kill Toki. Instead, Zack is mortally wounded and in his last moments sees Toki change into a slightly different version of herself that proceeds to beat the crap out of the assassins.
It doesn’t end there, however, because Toki has the ability to travel back in time. As she sends herself six months into the past, Zack’s soul is also transported into her pet dragon Drake. This begins one of the more bizarre RPG stories anyone will probably ever play. Who cares about saving the world when a marriage is at stake! We have Zack spending a good chunk of the game dwelling on kissing and getting a bubble bath from girls in his dragon form. Toki and her alternate self, Towa provide the contrasting cutesy and domineering personalities that Zack drools over. In no way is much of this traditional. A helping of pervy humor, assassin’s with Spanish accents and redneck twangs, talking monsters, time travel and romance fill Time and Eternity with a lot of content. Will it work for everyone? No. Not at all. Whether it’s tongue-in-cheek or completley off the wall, not everyone will be able to detach themselves from the weirdness that encompasses the game. Dialogue can range from silly to strange. It doesn’t always work but can ellicit a few snorts and chuckles for those relishing in the moment. Though it might not seem like it, when the game tries to be romantic it isn’t contrived but actually kind of cute. There are a few “dating sim” elements in place where the player can choose what to say. Depending on the choices Zack will favor Toki or Towa more, affecting dialogue and the end of the game.
Time and Eternity is definitely an RPG but it’s also a collaboration of so many other elements. Featuring the traditional random enemy encounters, experience gain, acquiring of new skills and equipment system, the game’s basics are easy enough to latch onto. Instead of turn based combat, the game uses a real-time action system. This system is very similar to developer Imageepoch‘s previous title Black Rock Shooter: The Game. Players only control Toki/Towa as she fights against various enemies. Pressing circle will use either long or short range attacks depending on distance from the enemy. Moving left or right on the control stick will use a sort of side-step or dodge to evade attacks. Time magic and special skills add to the repertoire. Where Black Rock Shooter was very fast-paced, Time and Eternity is considerably slower and deliberate. Fights might have multiple enemies but players will only face them one at a time. Initially it’s fun learning the attack patterns of varying enemy classes. But later in the game the constant reskins means the same general strategies will be used over and over.
When enough experience is gained and the player levels up, Toki will change into Towa (and vice-versa). Toki performs better at a distance with her gun while Towa does better damage up close with a knife. Though this helps add strategy to fights where enemies attack differently based on distance as well, it can sometimes stretch out fights in certain areas. Time and Eternity never feels too hard but it doesn’t stop it from feeling very grind heavy. Combining random encounters with extended battles doesn’t do the action any favors.
Apart from the main quest, side quests provide some distraction to spread out the player’s time. Instead of the traditional searching for NPCs, Time and Eternity merely asks that you briefly scan a town or world map for a blue circle with an exclamation point. Move to one of those and a quest is given. Much of the exploration aspect of the game is similarly streamlined to an extreme degree. Areas where quests take you are large but full of empty space. Since enemies are nowhere to be found, the only things seen are Toki/Towa and Drake. The map points out where any items, chests, save spots or points of interest are. So instead of requiring any guesswork or explanation, players can just make beelines to where they need to go. It results in a hollow experience that leaves the player wanting more than just another fight to break up the gameplay.
Graphics & Sound
Creating a good marriage between gameplay and true anime visuals is one of Time and Eternity’s essential selling points. Without a doubt, the art style is extremely distinct but to a fault. Characters and enemies look great. They are animated well and are just as creative. During battles and cutscenes it looks like characters from an anime are interacting with each other. But beyond that is where things are a little bit different. Because environments in the game are 3D models, they don’t look as vibrant as other parts. Often it looks like Toki is either superimposed or just floating across the barren environments. It’s not ugly per se, just not up to the standards of the other visuals. Perhaps it is this sacrifice that ensures most of the game runs smoothly. From time to time battles will get a little choppy but never slow to a stutter. It guarantees the battles (for the most part) are consistent.
One of the biggest letdowns is that so much of the game becomes too familiar over the course of playing. As standard as reskinning enemies in an RPG is, it happens frequently in Time and Eternity. Not only do enemies look the same, they have similar animations. The same even goes for our main heroine. Toki and Towa are literally reskins of each other. Their only differences are hair color and voice. It’s not even uncommon to encounter a quest giving NPC in a town only to find their twin in the same town just with different colored clothes and hair. This isn’t to say that the animations in place aren’t of good quality, it’s just that they are spread so far and so thin over the course of the game it begins to take a toll on the overall presentation.
The localization of Time and Eternity is of the quality to be expected from such a niche title. A good vocal cast makes the silly dialogue wonderfully over the top. Plenty of repeated lines are in place during combat to the point of annoyance but everything else works. There is a disappointing lack of audio during the majority of side quests, making them seem like a big afterthought. One section early in the game involving Toki and a flirtatious assassin has the same dialogue and animation repeated three times, it’s strange.
Time and Eternity tries hard to be one of the most unique RPG experiences in recent memory. That hunger to stand out is complimented by its unparalleled art direction. The story won’t win many fans with it’s odd nature but will please those who enjoy the more bizarre fare that the genre offers. Still, the game can’t always recover from the stumbles it makes by repeating gameplay and visual elements throughout the course of the tale. RPGs typically rely on grinding constantly through the hours of gameplay. But where those games are ripe with interesting side quests and packed towns and environments, Time and Eternity asks the player to rinse and repeat without enough substance to back up the investment. At its core there is a strong game with good ideas. Would better technology and a bigger budget amount to something more? Perhaps. If anything, Toki and Towa’s time traveling adventure is a decent addition to anyone’s niche RPG collection.
tags: Imageepoch , NIS America , ps3 , review , Time and Eternity