Time and Eternity Review
Review by Shawn Denney
Time and Eternity is a game developed by Image Epoch and localized by NIS America. Image Epoch is the developer of such games as Luminous Arc, Sands of Destruction, and Arc Rise Fantasia (just the game, not the tragic localization it received in the west). Sadly, Time and Eternity doesn’t even come close to any of those games in terms of quality. It is billed as an RPG with a real-time battle system and high def animation game. By the end of this review, I will have addressed all of that and more. Also, be aware their will be spoilers in this review because they serve to prove points and really the story is so bad spoilers won’t even matter.
Time and Eternity’s story follows the princess of a kingdom. at her wedding, assassin’s attack and stab the fiancee. She then uses her magical time traveling powers (which only the royal family has) to go back in time and stop the attack from taking place. The story is broken up into four chapters with each one playing out largely the same. The wedding gets attacked, you travel back in time to deal with it and somehow one of your “closest friends” is involved. In the first chapter, you try to stop the assassin’s guild from attacking your wedding. By the end of that chapter, you’ve found out that they had literally no intention of attacking your wedding but because of how annoying you have been to them they are going to attack the wedding. Then you return to the wedding again having resolved nothing and instead instigated the attack only to have someone else attack the wedding. What? So the entirety of the first chapter is completely useless and the events ignored?? Whoever wrote the scenarios for this game should be ashamed.
The characters in this game are another perplexing conundrum. The main character is a girl with two souls living in the same body, Toki and Towa. Whenever one of the souls becomes dominant the hair color of the character changes. So the soul has a physical effect on the body or something like that. I know it was done for visual distinctiveness so you could tell which character was prominent but I could help but think how absurd it is. Imagine if your talking to someone and mid conversation their hair just turns a completely different color. Anyway, while you control Toki/Towa the main character is actually the fiancee who dies at the beginning of the game but when you go back in time his soul invades a mini dragon named Drake, yet their is no physical changes to Drake when his soul invades and takes over. WHERE IS THE CONSISTENCY?! The other characters that round out the cast are some playboy baker, a jack-of-all-trades woman, and Toki’s 3 friends: a little girl who wants to get married, a rich brat, and a clumsy oaf who walks around in a bra.
Toki is a sincere character who holds love for her fiancee above everything else. Towa is a hardass who pretty much is doing what she can to help Toki. The personalities switch off every time your character levels up. Drake (your main character) is the most perverted useless character possibly ever conceived. Seriously, how Toki can love the guy is absurd. He spends the entire game talking about making babies with her, wanting to sneak into the shower while she is bathing, trying to convince all of Toki’s friends to bathe with her, and going on quests to further his perverted ambitions. As for his usefulness, he flat out admits that every quest he did to help Toki (before becoming engaged) required assistance yet he took all the credit and refuses to let her know. So we have a lying, lecherous, incompetent guy as the character whose point of view we experience…….awesome…..
Battles are random encounters where you fight one enemy at a time and they queue up to fight you. Its not uncommon to fight 5 monsters in a row. Battles themselves play out far more like a rhythm game than an RPG. You have a ranged attack, a melee attack, a dodge, and a move between ranged and melee. Battles boil down to finding the enemies pattern and dodging when they attack, then hammer on the attacks in between. This changes slightly when magic is introduced though because it utterly breaks the game. Magic is so overpowered that enemies become an absolute joke once you get it. The regenerate health over time spell pretty much guarantees you will not die ever, the buff spells make you a walking tank, and the damage spells might as well be called “summon magical apocalypse”. Each quest in the game has a recommended level to complete the quest. I never once hit the level it recommended and I steamrolled the whole game. For example, the final boss had roughly 330,000 health. My ranged/melee attack would hit for 800 per strike. My “summon magical apocalypse” spell hit the end boss for almost 700,000 damage. That’s right. I killed the end boss in ONE ATTACK when I was UNDER the recommended level. Oh, and the end boss was hitting me for 0 damage. How is that not a completely broken combat system?! There are a few enemies that have a spell seal technique which makes fights take a lot longer and increase the challenge but their aren’t very many of them.
Speaking of Spell Seal, sometimes the item to cure it didn’t work. Other times it would work just fine and I think I figured out why but it was not clearly explained. Each status effect stacks but not in the traditional sense. So if you cast increase defense, which say improves defense by 20%, 3 times on yourself you do not get +60% defense. Instead you only get +20% defense but the enemy would have to debuff you 3 times to get rid of it. If you get hit with 4 Spell Seal techniques, then you have to use the “remove spell seal” items 4 times to be able to use spells again. Unless you use a macro level removal item such as “remove all debuffs” then it goes away regardless of how many stacks their are.
Their aren’t very many bosses in the game so when they come about you may be expecting a challenge beyond the normal grind. WHile in one particular case that is true, their is a bigger problem present. 2 of the bosses in the game which should by all rights have been the best fights around are instead fought in a poorly implemented 3rd person shooter style. That’s right, 2 of the 5 main bosses in the game are fought in a 3rd person shooting style that has nothing to do with how you’ve built your character up.
When I spoke of how broken the magic system is, perhaps you were thinking “well maybe its balanced by having a very limited number of spells? or maybe it can only be used under certain conditions?” You have an SP meter that starts out with 10 bars. Each attack you do fills it one bar and just gradually over time it also fills up. This system encourages spamming of spells as frequently as you can as their is really no penalty. IF you get attacked in the middle of casting you will be interrupted but that goes back to the rhythm game idea. Time it well and all will be fine. If for some reason you are really struggling in a fight though, you also get time magic which is completely separate and allows you to freeze an enemy, speed up an enemy or reverse time. That’s right, you can freeze the enemy to give you time to cast your “summon magical apocalypse” at no cost to your SP. You have 3 time spells at any given time which can be recharged by visiting your house.
Your house is an abysmal attempt at providing context for characters to bounce dialogue off of each other and also to try and introduce a dating sim element to the game. I say dating sim but that would imply your decisions matter. Really it is just and excuse for Toki/Towa to have boring girl talk with her pals while Drake makes lewd comments. What makes it even worse is the dialogue that happens at the house could easily have happened anywhere but needed an excuses to go back to the house and pad out gameplay. One aspect of the game I have yet to mention is Toki/Towa’s affection rating. Throughout the game by interacting with one specific girl you will gain affection with her which will change which ending you get. Really this is just a way to make you play the game twice, or if you are smart you will just avoid going back to the house as one of the girls the whole game, beat it and then go to the house and watch all the “affection skits” with the other girl that you’ve neglected the whole game to build up her love and get the second ending without having to do much of anything if you are a completionist.
Their are two distinct areas for the visuals in Time and Eternity. The 3D models for environments, and the hand drawn animation for the characters and enemies. The hand drawn stuff looks nice overall, but feels awkwardly implemented the majority of the time. For example, when two characters talk they each have to go through an animation every time they talk. So Toki will look away shyly then turn and respond. Drake will say something and Toki will look away shyly and then respond. Rinse, repeat ad nauseam. The point of improving the animations and artwork for 2D character models is to enhance immersion (at least that is what I perceived as the goal) but the awkward animation of looking away in between EVERY line of dialogue rips you out of the experience harder than the dialogue, and that is saying something!
The other half of the visuals is the 3D environments which look like an early PS2 game. Games like Wild Arms 4 had environments that looked just as good if not better and that game came out in 2005 on the previous console generation. Their is no excuse for the bland textures, open areas of nothing, invisible walls, and general lack on anything appealing. When navigating, you control a camera that floats about in first person with the image of Toki/Towa and Drake drawn in front of it. Think an FPS game but instead of a gun or hands as the periphreal view you get an animated girl in a short skirt.
Let’s talk about the environments a bit more. Every quest is marked by a a glowing marker on the field. I realize that programming in 3D makes things easier when their is an object to associate and event to but this was just lazy. They stand out really bad and make each map feel so generic rather than having characters with personality waiting for you. Another design choice that I can see the idea behind it being sound but the execution failing.
If I had to make a guess, I would say that Time and Eternity wanted to be an HD version of Ar Tonelico II. Unlike Ar Tonelico II, which is a superb game, we got the reject version where none of the pieces fell into place properly. Ar Tonelico II is an RPG with turn based combat that is pseudo realtime with timed button presses, blocking attacks, and interesting cast of characters and a world that is unique and wondrous. Oh, the game is also part dating sim and full of sexual innuendos. The difference is it is really fun to play. Persona 3/4 is another game that incorporates dating sim into an RPG to magnificent results. Time and Eternity missed every lessen it could have taken from those games.
Time and Eternity is a bad game. A really bad game. Avoid this mess at all costs. The combat is broken, the story is awful with massive plot holes, the characters are bland and their motivations don’t make sense, plus the animation (the games main selling point) isn’t even well implemented. Their are no redeeming qualities about this game.