By David Fernandes / July 22nd, 2013
|Title: Time and Eternity
Publisher: Namco Bandai/NIS America
Release Date: July 16th, 2013
Age Rating: ESRB – T
Announced back in January of 2012 in an issue of Famistu, Time and Eternity (Toki Towa in Japan) was an attempt to avoid the same conventions as other RPGs that we know and love. In a radical departure from what we normally see, one of the biggest attractions that was hyped was the fact that the game would be using 3D models for backgrounds, as well as hand-drawn 2D sprites – a living anime as some called it. With the help of anime production company Satelight with the CG, cutscenes, and character animations, it sounded like it could possibly work out, even with its ambitious nature.
It’s not too much of stretch. After all, look at Ni no Kuni, quite literally a living Studio Ghibli world inside a game. With the right people behind it, anything is possible. Every great idea usually sounds great on paper, but in execution, we are usually left with mixed results. Given the reception the game has gotten so far from Japan and from the West, it seems like the idea may have been all for naught. But is the game really as bad as some make it out to be?
Our story begins a day before the wedding of our two (or should I say three) main characters. Before they’re to be wed, our nameless male protagonist (you can pick his name) gets to know his soon to be wife, Toki’s, friends a little more and vice versa. Here, we’re introduced to the rest of the characters who become central to the game’s plot – Enda, Reijo, and Wedi. After a good chat and finding out more about the man’s personality, the scene shifts to the next day. All is well, but before they can kiss and tie the knot, tragedy strikes, and our male hero gets mortally wounded by one of the attackers while trying to save Toki. Before they can do any more harm, a traumatized Toki begins to change to a completely different person named Towa, who easily dispatches the assassins. Toki then uses her powers to go back in time 6 months before the attack to right this mishap, not knowing that she would be dragging her soon to be husband with her. We then quickly find out that the attack was apparently planned by the Assassins Guild. Not only that, but the male hero’s soul has transferred to Toki/Towa’s pet dragon, Drake.
Hilarity ensues and its up to Toki, and her alter ego Towa and her soon to be husband/pet Drake, to stop whatever attack happens to disrupt the wedding. Right off the bat, the game shows no attempt at subtlety when it comes to comedy, and it rarely takes itself seriously, even when things are looking bad. They manage to squeeze in a joke whenever they can, whether it is trying to be a parody in itself or using cliche anime archetypes. The male hero is a pervert, Toki is fearless, but naive, Towa is brash, yet shy when it comes to love, Wedi is overly clumsy, Reijo acts like a high noble, but is stuck up towards the male hero, and Enda is an airhead through and through. Then we get our secondary main character Ricardo, his two goons, and Makimona who are as cliche as you can get.
Anime stereotypes abound and time and romance play an integral role in the story, both in the narrative and in the game’s theme. Our main characters are stuck in a time loop until they figure out how to get around it, and their lives just won’t continue until they have their wedding. While the main plot isn’t exactly too exciting, I enjoyed the way the actions of the cast, in both the side quests and main story, affects every NPC you meet. Nothing new, but it is interesting to see how it all culminates, with you finding out how this person got from here to now, all because the time paradox made it this way. While the cast may be cliche, it is thanks to them that the story carries more weight. I really began to care about the plight of the main characters, especially when you realize that, while both Toki and Towa have redeeming qualities, you can only choose one or the other by the end of it.
The circle of friends have their own character arcs in each of the game’s chapters, too. Nothing extravagant, though the spotlight given to each of them is interesting to say the least. However, don’t get too attached to her friends, as their importance dwindles once their arcs are over, since they’re simply there for exposition and to give you some side quests until the climax, which is unfortunate.
While you get choices in-game, most are nothing more than picking the right answer. The other option is usually to humiliate the male hero to get a quick laugh and maybe to get one of the game’s CG art, which are nothing more than fan service. The writing, which can be summed up to be on the same level as most NIS America games, while not for everybody, can be very humorous at times. So if you’re a fan of NISA’s localized titles, you will be most pleased on what you get. Heart warming to gut wrenching humor, this is easily one of Time and Eternity’s strong points. I must say I was disappointed with how the affection meter is used, however. Its only purpose is until the new game plus option is opened, and even then, it’s just insignificant and quite irrelevant until that one time comes. While it fits with the game’s theme, it is superfluous at heart.
Besides the game’s visuals, the other eye-catching element of the title is its battle system, a unique mix of real-time action with a bit of turn-based strategy mixed in. The main emphasis is on timing, dodging and when and when not to use skills, since every enemy and boss has a pattern to memorize. Battles consist of long-range shooting with Toki’s rifle, and up close and personal slicing with Towa’s trusty knife. You’ll alternate between using the various skills at your disposal, whether it be with the rifle, knife or magic skills that cause elemental damage or using buffs/debuffs to gain the advantage. Both long-range and melee attacks have the ability to inflict daze or break the enemy’s shield when weakened, shown by a meter next to their health bar, though enemies can do the same to you. When certain conditions are met, you are given the ability to do super attack that pretty much one hit kills enemies, though it’s rare.
Toki specializes with long range combat and gains exclusive skills with the rifle, while Towa leans more towards melee and the same rules apply to her with exclusive skills utilizing the knife. You gain new skills by spending “gift points,” small amounts of which are gained through battles, but the majority of gift points are gained through side quests or through progressing the story. Then when you level up, you gain the skill(s) you spent your points on. While there are skills that are active naturally, there are other skills like magic that require a certain amount of SP, and you gain SP by getting consecutive hits on enemies, countering melee attacks when prompted, or by time passing in battle. Throughout the game, the player switches between controlling Toki and her alter ego Towa. Though its not by conventional means, and this is where one of my gripes of the game arises, as leveling up or using the rare item “pepper” is the only way to alternate between both souls.
It provides no extra challenge and is just one big inconvenience. One character might specialize in an element in a particular area to which monsters are susceptible, but you can’t use them unless you level up or use that item to force them to switch. A minor complaint, but if does raise awareness to an even bigger issue — but I will get to that. However, one of my bigger complaints is that there are only around 15 monster variations. As the game goes on, you will see start to see the same enemies over and over again. Remember when I said each monster has a certain pattern that you must memorize when fighting them? Well, get ready to see those patterns repeated over and over and over again. Sometimes you may see some differences from powered up versions of the enemies, but they’re minuscule at best, with their spells coming out more frequently or they just stay in one position and don’t bother getting up close and personal.
It doesn’t end there. The locations in the game suffer a similar problem in this regard. Areas range from very small to decently sized. One very helpful thing about the map is that it displays everything you could possibly need: chests, key items for side quests, warp stones, and even portions of the map are highlighted that give a good indication as to where you fight the particular enemies that need to be fought to get those certain item drops for side quests. Like the enemies, there aren’t many types of areas, about six in total, and the layouts never drastically change either. Most end up being giant empty spaces, even when you start getting more and more quests. While there are warp stones that are opened up from getting certain key items from side quests, which expands new portions of most of the maps in the game, they are mostly used for one or two side quests at best.
Another issue is the side quests. They’re rudimentary stuff that you would find in an MMORPG. Go talk to this specific NPC, collect X amount of things from this certain enemy, beat this powerful enemy(s), buy them X amount of this item and deliver it to them, and so forth. As I said with the story, besides getting the necessary gift points and occasional good equipment, you will most likely want to do side quests for the character interaction and seeing how our main characters affect their lives with the time loops.
Besides the skills mentioned above, as an individual with the power over time itself, the main character gets a few neat abilities to add to her arsenal through side quests. Like the ability to fast forward, giving you ample amounts of speed in all of your actions, the ability to stop time, which leaves enemies defenseless, and the ability to rewind time so you can get another chance to do better if you screwed up. Though the strong nature of the elemental spells and time abilities that plays out with the magic system gives the game another big issue, and that is that it’s poorly balanced. The ability to cause status effects through the “chemistry effect” can quite essentially break the game. While you’re not given the means right away, after a few gift abilities are achieved, using combinations like lighting and fire will cause silence and so on. Coupled with some overly powerful non-elemental spells, and it makes for a lot of easy enemy encounters, and even half the boss fights become effortless.
Pages: 1 2ImageepochNamco BandaiNIS AmericaPS3ReviewTime and Eternity