Just as JRPGs seem to be getting bigger and more confusing, supporting the fans but alienating newcomers, it comes as a refreshing change when someone tries a slightly different approach, simplifying the genre in trying to revitalise and create a more accessible adventure for all to enjoy. Though Time and Eternity has its heart in the right place, the final product is far from perfect.
Time and Eternity kicks off with a gathering of friends a day before a wedding between Toki and the “hero” (you personalise his name). Spirits are high until Toki mentions about a terrible premonition that had been handed to her by a fortune teller in which someone will die at the wedding. Passing it of as nonsense everyone continues with their plans, the big day arrives and lo and behold, assassin ninjas gate-crash the nuptials, mortally wounding your hero, but with his dying breaths he witnesses something strange, Toki changes appearance before his very eyes. Expecting to be dead, the hero comes to but all is not right, not only has Toki used her powers to transport them back six months to when she first met the fortune teller, hoping in vain to stop the assault, but he has also been spirited in soul and mind into the pet dragon of Toki, Drake, acting as a kind of narrator, players voice and also backup to Toki when in battle.
Time and Eternity instantly stands out from other JRPGs with a very original visual approach, sporting some well-drawn 2D anime style characters that inhabit a 3D world and whilst it stands out and is very visually appealing when with screen grabs during battles or interacting with other characters, this fails when in the field mode, with a very barren and bland land surrounding you, with only invisible assailants populating the world, it feels very dry and empty.
With Toki and Drake trying to solve why the assassins attacked on the wedding they will travel all over the lands, helping out locals and battling many monsters, who are again represented with fantastic looking hand drawn sprites, but this is spoilt by far too many reuses of the same characters with changed colour palettes, each battle being triggered by the classic JRPG style with just what appears to be random encounters, you are walking along and all of a sudden the game freezes and you are whisked away to the battle screen. Time and Eternity tries a slightly different approach to the tried and tested battle system, but as a whole it does fall very flat. Instead of turn based attacked with huge teams to command and groups of large enemies to battle they are all one (though you are supported by Drake) on one, real time. Most fights result in lots of spamming with close melee and ranged attacks, with you jumping in and out of range whilst dodging and blocking, all the while your special powers are charging, letting you activate them with the assigned face button. In the later areas you start to take on groups of enemies, but rather than all at once, you still have the one on one approach and with each enemy defeated the camera will pan around so you face the next, really drawing out battles for far too long.
This gets very stale very quickly so to try to and add a little variety to the fights, Toki has a rather unique personality trait, or said better, she has dual souls, meaning there are two personalities sharing the one body; with every time you rank up they switch over. Toki is the more achieved ranged fighter, using her rifle and ranged specials, with Towa more up close and personal. In reality though it does very little in to the way you play the game.
Usually in JRPGs their saving grace can be the humour and characters that reside in the game world, sadly this is not the case in Time and Eternity, hosting plenty of “same old” characters that you have seen plenty of times before, the clumsy one wearing glasses, the one infatuated with boys and the snooty posh one. The worst of the bunch though is the hero/Drake, which makes it hard as he is for some reason the main character though you do not really control him other than in specific talking sections. This guy is a complete sleaze bag, an over the top pervert and very self-centred, which makes it hard to believe that he managed to woo Toki, even with the story progressing, he is a character you cannot reflect to and is normally one that is resigned to the side-lines but here he is the main joke.
Even though streamlined, Imageepoch have missed out far too many crucial basics that in turn make Time and Eternity feel like a budget release rather than a full price title. JRPG fans will get some enjoyment but it lacks so much of the depth and polish commonly found in the genre.
Words by Ash Buchanan.
(Version Tested: PS3)
+ Beautifully drawn character
- The anime/3D idea does not quite work
- Repetitive fighting mechanic
- Repetitive fighting mechanic