When I was 14, I became infatuated with anime. Since I could rarely afford to buy DVDs, I would watch whatever shows that the Cartoon Network aired on its Toonami programming block. I was willing to accept all the downsides, like the nonsensical plot changes and episode cuts that were made for the sake of censorship guidelines, or the trimming of scenes to fit in more commercials. The shows were still weirder and more exciting than anything I was going to find anywhere else.
If I had come across Time And Eternity then, I would have loved it. The game opens in a typical fantasy kingdom where Princess Toki is about to marry your character, a knight. Assassins interrupt the wedding, and your hero gets in the way of a blow meant for his bride. As he lays dying, exultant in the fact that that is the manliest way to go, Toki reveals that she has a second soul occupying her body, a combat badass named Towa. When they travel back in time to prevent the tragedy, Toki and Towa accidentally bring the knight’s soul with them. But they don’t even realize what they’ve done because he’s stuck in the body of their pet dragon, Drake, and can only communicate in cute baby animal noises.
While the plot is delightfully insane, the dubbing is awful. There are lines that don’t make any sense, likely because of translation errors, and Drake’s mouth is constantly moving long after the voice acting has ended. I could ignore that if it weren’t for the playable portions, which actually made me long for commercial breaks. At least those give you the opportunity to go to the bathroom or get a snack.
Here, you’re wandering through bland landscapes fighting constant random encounters with generic fantasy creatures. The basic real-time combat system pits you against a single opponent at a time, though you’ll often fight many in sequence. Your options are to shoot a rifle from the distance, close in to stab, or guard/dodge when the enemy unleashes an offensive. Every once in a while, you can use a special attack or finishing move. Fights are easy, but if you get lazy and get hit hard, you can use one of the abundant healing items. It’s a dull, repetitive, button-mashing slog that’s punctuated by lame fetch quests like finding a bunch of lost hamsters.
The most disappointing thing about Time and Eternity is how poorly it uses the dual souls plot device. Toki is supposed to be a dainty princess while Towa’s a tough girl, but the two are equally effective in combat—Toki’s just better at long-range attacks while Towa shines in mêlée. This is depressingly apparent early on when you have to fight the same set of adversaries with both women. For a game that seems to take a purposeful glee in embracing anime clichés, the fact that Towa isn’t a Super Saiyan-style upgrade model—she’s even blonde!—is a huge missed opportunity. You switch from one character to another every time you level up, and in theory, this could heighten the tension, as it would be possible for you to transform at an inopportune moment. In practice, though, it just means your avatar has a different color palette.
Now that my PlayStation 3 can stream a near-endless amount of anime from Netflix, Toonami just doesn’t hold up, and the same is true for Time and Eternity. I can get my dose of Japanese weirdness without editing, commercial breaks, or half-assed game design.