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July 31, 2013
Time and Eternity - PS3 Review
Release Distributer Publisher Developer Offline Players Online Players
16/7/2013NamcoBandaiNamcoBandaiImageepoch/Statelight1None
Media HDD Install Resolution Move Controls Tilt Controls OFLC Rating
Disc13.5GB (PSN)1080pNoNoM

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Time & Eternity is a PS3 exclusive.
There was a time, not so very long ago, when very few Japanese RPGs made their way to PAL territories. Luckily, thanks to the success of series like Final Fantasy, Dragon’s Quest and Disgaea that trend is coming to an end. Having enjoyed Ni No Kuni and Atelier Ayesha earlier in the year, it was with some excitement that I sat down to play Time and Eternity. How does it stack up?

Time and Eternity begins the day before Princess Toki and her partner Zack are due to get married. The marriage is interrupted by assassins who bust in mid-ceremony and kill Zack. When that happens we catch our first glimpse of Towa, a second soul that resides in the body of the princess. The one upside to proceedings is that the royal family have the ability to travel through time, so Toki/Towa decides to travel back in time and stop the assassin attack, thus reviving Zack.

Unbeknownst to the princess, Zack’s spirit travels back in time with her and ends up in the body of her pet dragon Drake. Outside of combat the game is played from Zack/Drake’s perspective, and to be honest he’s a bit of a lecher. Much of the opening few scenes are spent with Zack salivating at the prospect of sneaking into the bath and getting an eyeful of the unsuspecting Toki. The game is rife with sexual innuendo so if that kind of thing makes you laugh or gets your motor running then Time and Eternity is targeted at you.

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The Anime visuals are quite nice.
There are three main components to the gameplay, the first of which is having conversations with Toki and her friends over tea. Toki’s friends are Enda, a flighty girl who loves the idea of love, Reijo, a rich girl who doesn’t care much for Zack or showing affection in public, and Wedi, who is a bit of a klutz and talks to invisible fairies, but is also the wedding planner for Toki and Zack. Chatting with the girls is a good way to learn more about them, but you also get leads on new side-quests through them. When you complete a story quest you’re directed home to talk things over with the girls too.

The second component of gameplay is moving around town from an overhead map to pick up and complete side-quests for local residents. Quests come in various forms –obtaining x number of a specific item, delivering said items, killing a set number of a particular enemy type or finding a person in certain area on the map.

These quest types are common to many RPGs, but Time and Eternity doesn’t take time to dress them up in any way, meaning they often feel like mindless busy work. This is especially true when you’re sent to acquire five pieces of underwear cloth, or search for improved nasal breathing techniques so you can clear the steam out of the shower room more effectively to get a better look at Toki/Towa while she’s showering (seriously). The upside is that many of the side-quests are quick to complete and earn you gift points that are used to buy new battle skills.

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In the middle of an attack (Japanes screen).
The third aspect of the gameplay is exploration and combat. The main quest will have you exploring locations such as islands, canyons, forests and plains. Maps are pre-populated with the location of everything you might want to find, including save points, treasure chests and all quest items. As you move around these areas you have random encounters with enemies. Interestingly you only ever fight one enemy at a time, though you might have to fight anywhere up to four enemies in a row to finish the fight.

During combat you play as either Toki or Towa (you change between the two every time you level up), with Drake an AI-controlled side-kick. Combat happens in real time rather than being turn-based, so both you and your enemies can attack any time. Physical attacks don’t require stamina or any sort of points to use, so you can spam the attack button to attack relentlessly if you want to. Magic attacks on the other hand require SP to use. SP builds up over time, and by landing physical attacks. Magic is significantly more powerful than physical attacks but takes a short amount of time to cast, unlike physical attacks which are instant.

When a fight starts there is a fair bit of distance between you and the enemy, but you or the enemy can close the distance any time (by pressing up on the analog stick) and turn it into a close-range scrap. Fighting up close allows you to break an enemies’ guard and thus deal more damage, while fighting at range makes it easier to avoid incoming attacks. Once you’ve learned magic there is no need to go to close-range because it is so powerful it can often wipe out enemies with a single hit, even if they’re guarding.

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While nice, the visuals can be sparse at times.
Speaking of magic, there are five elements in the game - fire, ice, thunder, earth and void. Fire and Ice are opposites, as are earth and thunder. Void isn’t weak to any element. All enemies have an elemental property and it’s wise to attack them with their opposing element, because, as mentioned above, it will wipe them out in a single hit.

Later in the game you gain access to time magic which has the power to rewind time (useful if you failed to dodge a powerful attack), pause time, or speed up your movement. The last one sounds great, but in reality I found it threw out the timing required to dodge attacks, so I didn’t use it much. You start off being able to use these spells three times before having to recharge them by heading home or going up a level, but you can increase the number through unlockable skills later on.

The combat controls are straightforward – circle launches a physical attack, while triangle, square and ‘x’ are mapped to skills, usually magic attacks, that are displayed on screen. To use time magic you simply hold down L2 and hit the button next to the magic you wish to use. Items are used similarly – just hold down R2 and select the item you want to use. Combat paused while you select an item. It is possible to run away from battle, but it’s highly unlikely you’ll ever need to. Dying in battle is not an issue as you get to retry with no penalty at all.

There are a number of issues with Time and Eternity, and they affect almost every aspect of the game. The first issue is that even with the downloaded version installed (all 13.5GB of it) you still have to wait for the game to load when moving between locations. It’s hard to stomach considering the lack of detail in any of these areas.

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Hell yar! Who doesn't like Drake!
The next issue is the script, which quite frankly isn’t very good. The story doesn’t have much to say, but it takes ages to say it. Conversations last far longer than necessary, and after a while I started skipping them without feeling like I missed much of anything. The characters start out unlikeable, particularly Zack, and despite the good intentions of Toki/Towa’s friends they’re more annoying than interesting.

The humour falls flat too. There is one character in the game – Ricardo – who flirts with Toki/Towa every time he sees her, and every time he does Zack ends up biting him on the head. While that might be funny once, you feel like punching a kitten when it happens for the 20th time. As mentioned earlier many of the quests are so feeble they feel like a complete waste of your time – Imageepoch has done little to dress them up or make them sound interesting.

Combat too has its issues. First off there is a noticeable lag between pressing a button and Toki/Towa performing that action on-screen. If you press a button before her animation is completely finished, nothing happens, which really hurts when you’re trying to dodge incoming attacks. Another issue is that enemy types repeat throughout the game but their attack patterns don’t change much at all, making combat extremely repetitive just a short while into the game.

The lack of team-work between Toki/Towa and Drake really hurts too, because it could have added another dimension to proceedings. Not that it’s needed because magic is so overpowered, but it still would have been nice to see more interaction between the two characters.

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Looking at the gifts in Time & Eternity.
Then again, perhaps the biggest issue with combat comes from a late-level skill that does combine Toki/Towa’s attacks with Drake’s. With it you can keep all enemies, right up to the final boss, in an endless loop where they can’t move or attack. With this skill in play the game is trivial, but without it some fights are all but impossible. ‘Unbalanced’ is the friendliest word I could come up for this situation, though ‘broken’ fits almost as well.

Visually the developers have gone for an interesting look, combining 3D environments with hand-drawn 2D characters. The idea was to make it feel like you’re playing an anime, and to some extent it works. If you look at the screenshots around the page you’re probably thinking it works really well, but the lack of animations is a real problem. For example during conversations with Toki/Towa at home she crosses and uncrosses her legs a huge number of times.

Character and enemy models are re-used multiple times throughout the game. The difference between Toki and Towa is that Toki has red hair and eyes, while Towa’s hair and eyes are yellow. You’ll run into the same NPCs multiple times though their clothes are usually different colours, and the same goes for enemies who re-appear in different areas with a new lick of paint, some more health, but much the same attack patterns. It all seems a bit low budget, which would be forgivable in a cheaper game, but Time and Eternity is a full-priced game and that makes it harder to excuse.

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It's a critical hit with 54 damage inflicted.
The strongest aspect of the game is its music and voice acting. The music was composed by Yuzo Koshiro and Takeshi Yanagawa according to Wikipedia, which is notable mostly because Koshiro has worked on plenty of games including Shinobi and Streets of Rage. The one down-side to the music is that it too gets repetitive, owing to the fact that you go in and out of battles every 15-20 seconds and the music restarts each time.

The voice acting is deliberately cheesy and over the top – just like anime should be! The game comes with both the Japanese and English voice acting, which is sure to please many of the more hard-core fans. The sound effects are ok, with nothing to write home about. Like the voice-acting they’d be right at home in an anime movie, so they suit the game well.

Time and Eternity is a game that has significant flaws, flaws that will test the patience of all but the most ardent anime and RPG fan. On that basis it’s extremely hard to recommend to anyone who doesn’t love both genres. It probably helps if you’re young too - if catching a glimpse of anime panties isn’t your cup of tea you’re probably too advanced for this game. If any of the above doesn’t describe you then it’s probably best to pass on Time and Eternity.

Review By: Mike Allison

GRAPHICSCombining 3D environments and 2D animations works well enough, but more animations and character models were needed to do it justice.
62%
SOUNDThe music is decent but repetitive, and the voice-acting suits the anime approach very well.
68%
GAMEPLAYAll aspects of the game have issues – disappointing story, unlikable characters and unbalanced combat that gets dull in a hurry.
45%
VALUEIt’s long, weighing in at 20+ hours, but few will want to play it that long.
74%
OVERALLIf you love anime and RPGs you just might like Time and Eternity. Maybe. Everyone else should look elsewhere.
52%

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