Time and Eternity is unlike any game I have ever played before in my entire life, but I say that for all the wrong reasons. I would like to tell you that it's full of captivating dialogue, engaging gameplay, deep characters and a riveting plot, but telling you that couldn't be any farther from the truth. Time and Eternity is one of those games that fails to deliver on so many fundamental levels, I have trouble describing my displeasure. While I can't say without a doubt it's the worst game I've ever played, it's definitely high on the list.
Full disclosure - I've never been much of a fan for the "otaku" style fan-service games that occasionally make their way over to the West. With that being said, JRPGs are one of my favorite subgenres in gaming of all time. I've played and enjoyed several, but ultimately, a game has to have substance to work - this goes double for RPGs. If I'm going to spend upwards of dozens of hours in a world, it has to be an interesting place to inhabit. There have to be a cast of interesting characters, with interesting things to say. If you haven't noticed yet, there's a theme - it needs to be interesting. Time and Eternity has that...almost.
The opening bits of the game revolve around Zack, the stereotypically sex-crazed leading male of the game. He and his soon-to-be wife, Toki, are talking on the eve of their wedding in their home. The next day, just before tying the knot, assassins bust in and kill Zack. In her anger, Toki transforms into her much more aggressive alter ego, Towa. Somehow Zack inhabits the body of a pet dragon and Toki/Towa set off on a time-travelling adventure to stop his death from ever happening.
When time is introduced into a story, things always get more complicated, but increase their potential for awesome, it's basically a law. Unfortunately, Time and Eternity never truly breaks out from the mold to establish its own identity. Combined with the lackluster world and setting, Time and Eternity fails to leave any type of positive lasting impression.
If there were anything positive about the game, it would definitely be the character designs and overall art style. Each character is designed with more personality in their physical representation than all of the lines of dialog in the game combined. Thankfully, dialogue pretty much exclusively features character stills with minimal animation - further emphasizing the great detail. Ultimately though, even those details are lost under the burden of poor environment designs and seemingly unfinished animation.
During conversation, characters fidget and move in-between statements with a grand total of roughly 2 or 3 frames of animation. It's extremely jarring to watch as their mouths move out-of-sync with the words they speak, their limbs shifting side to side and their faces contorting in the most random of expressions. When navigating the environment, the great-looking visuals are lost due to poor environments. Instead of employing a similarly impressive anime-style art for backdrops, the worlds appear to roll beneath Toki/Towa as she moves. Her animations consist of alternating her legs in the air to "resemble" movement, but it ends up looking like a game that was meant to be in 3D, then they changed their mind right before it released, but forgot and left the visuals in two planes.
Taking all of this into consideration and combined with the actual dialogue, Time and Eternity made me cringe roughly one million times more than it made me smile. Maybe it was just bad localization and translation, but even the writing truly fell flat almost all of the time from all of the characters. Zack hardly ever speaks of anything other than sex, Toki is annoyingly innocent, Towa is overtly aggressive and each of her other friends fill in the other items on the checklist of cliche anime stereotypes. While some of the voice-acting is of an objectively high quality, the content the actors have to work with made me embarrassed for them when they spoke.
All is not lost, yet, right? What if the combat is incredibly innovative and full of fun challenges? I reluctantly report that this is, in fact, not the case. While the perspective is unique and positioned behind Toki/Towa in battles, that's about as far as the gimmick goes. Everything else boils down to mashing the attack button and occasionally using your special abilities. Most enemy attacks can be entirely dodges by sliding your character to one side or another, adding an almost rhythmic element to combat. It feels as if the developers sacrificed depth and originality, for a streamlined system.
Unfortunately for players, it gets boring fast and reaches its highest points far too soon. Each time you level up Toki and Towa switch, slightly altering the already simplistic combat, but not in any sort of way that changes how you press the attack button. Boss encounters change things up a bit with large creatures and an even more on-rails action game approach, but it once again fails to feel meaningful.
I wanted to like Time and Eternity, I really did. Each time I loaded up the game, I tried to go in with a blank slate and just enjoy the product I was given, but it actively fought my attempts and resisted my desires to have a good time. From the unfinished and choppy animations, to the horrible writing, all the way to the mind-numbing combat, Time and Eternity is an unfortunately dull experience. Throughout my experience with the game, it constantly felt like a chore. I forced myself to continue playing in hopes of uncovering some hidden greatness buried deep within, but it all ended up feeling like nothing more than a waste of time.
This review is based on a digital download copy of the game for the PlayStation 3 provided by NIS America.