Time And Eternity

When Weird Isn’t Enough

Time And Eternity’s pleasingly bizarre plot can’t make up for lazy game design.

By Samantha Nelson • July 16, 2013

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.

Time And Eternity

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.

Time And Eternity

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.

Time And Eternity
Developer: Image Epoch
Publisher: NIS America
Platforms: PlayStation 3
Price: $49.99
Rating: T

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21 Responses to “When Weird Isn’t Enough”

  1. rvb1023 says:

    It always bugs me that JRPGs essentially died not because they got worse but because technology finally got good enough to make the anime retreads they always wanted to. And I still love JRPGs.

    • DrFlimFlam says:

      I still possess the ability to enjoy a JRPG, but I was so spoiled by the run of quality from FFIV-FFX (and everything in between, like Phantasy Star IV and Chrono games) that most of the bad anime retreads we see nowadays. Part of it was the newness of the genre, but part of it is how much of any genre isn’t that great, and how poorly the genre in specific has moved forward over time.

      This does not look like much fun.

    • When it comes to modern JRPGs it’s hard to find something better than the Persona series.

      The combat isn’t particularly inspired, being a fairly standard turn-based system. What really shines in the series is the out of combat activities. This fusion of High School-sim and JRPG is what makes Persona so interesting.

      The JRPG has been around as a staple of gaming for over 30 years now. The basic combat system hasn’t really changed in that time. That leaves two things for the games creators to try and do to create a new, entertaining experience. They can either create a story that is so good that you have to keep playing (particularly challenging given how much of the plots of the classic JRPGs have become hoary tropes) or create a system outside of the combat that keeps you interested. Unfortunately it looks like Image Epoch failed on both accounts.

      • DrFlimFlam says:

        It’s too bad that we’re not seeing some of the great battle systems these days. Where on earth is Grandia? I love that like it’s new every single time.

        • rvb1023 says:

           Similar to how battle systems haven’t evolved, the only way to make them stand out anymore is to make them over the top and ridiculous.

          Resonance of Fate is the clear winner in weird combat systems. It’s been years since there has been a combat system where the in game tutorials did not actually help me in anyway and I had to do a GameFAQs run to understand it.

        • Citric says:

          Radiant Historia has an excellent battle system, one of the best I’ve used recently.

        • Girard says:

          It’s strange that really successful experiments in revitalizing the JRPG battle system – like Grandia’s, or Chrono Trigger’s – don’t typically seem to catch on. It seems like we’re just stuck with either turn-based or ATB endlessly.

        • Sleverin says:

          @Citric:disqus   I agree, the Radiant Historia system was fun, not to mention that the game itself was quite impressive.  It starts off interesting and then snowballs into something better and better as it goes on.  One of those great DS RPGs (like the World Ends With You) that I’m glad to have played.  Also, I learned about it from the old AV Club Game Section way back when it was still around.  Play this game people, it is well worth your time.

      • rvb1023 says:

        Though I prefer the main series, the Persona games are great. The fact that I like them at all despite not being an anime fan speaks volumes of their greatness.

      • Citric says:

        I think the combat is pretty good in the recent Personas, at least, it plays with enemy weaknesses in a fun way to give you an advantage. Provided, of course, you don’t give the AI any control, because the AI is dumb.

        • Good point Citric. You do get the variations within the system that can really help the 100+ hours pass. 

          Another good point: the AI is dumb, so very, very dumb.

    • Citric says:

      A lot of the really bad anime retreads would have been made years ago, but nobody would localize them because they would assume nobody would buy them.

      • rvb1023 says:

         Hell, I say we got more than a few of them, like Star Ocean and Xenogears. But without voice acting and relegated to sprite graphics the anime influences seemed very underplayed.

        • Lunar, Suikoden, Wild Arms, Breath of Fire, Legend of Dragoon, Legend of Mana, Legend of Zel… ok not that last one, but yeah we got plenty back in the day too.

        • LeGrandSigh says:

           I really liked Xenogears when I first played it.  At that time my exposure to JRPGs and anime was limited to FFVII and FFVIII and the Pokemon anime.  With that background, the scope and story blew me away – it was something I had never seen before.  Now that I’ve become more seasoned, I see how a lot of the game is trope after trope.  I still maintain, however, that it can be a great game to get introduced to those tropes without having to wade through hours of Evangelion, Final Fantasy games, old anime series, etc. 

    • caspiancomic says:

       I consider myself a big fan and defender of JRPGs generally, but sometimes they make my job really difficult for me.

  2. His_Space_Holiness says:

    Speaking of bizarre JRPGs (and since I always come in too late for WAYPTW), I just started playing Disgaea 3, which I bought on a whim with a gift card. Whoa nelly, does it have weirdness in spades. The damn thing opens with an anime-style choreographed dance by the entire cast singing the theme song, for God’s sake. I appreciate a game with a sense of humor about itself, though a lot of it seems to be satirizing Japanese pop culture I’m not familiar with. Fortunately the gameplay holds up its end of the bargain. It’s nicely scratching the Shining Force itch I acquired some time ago.

    • The whole Disgaea series is like that (3 is actually my least favorite, personally, and I still think it’s fantastic.) It’s a wonderful satire of Japanese tropes and fandom norms (and I watch a ton of anime/read a lot of manga, so I’m familiar with many of them), the characters are excellent, and the gameplay is unusually well-integrated with the plot as well as being generally entertaining. The voice acting is extremely good in both English and Japanese, which certainly doesn’t hurt. And I think it’s absolutely hilarious without being so wacky that you loose all empathy for the characters.

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