NOTE: THIS WAS ORIGINALLY PUBLISHED AS A STAFF WRITER AT THE NOW DEFUNCT SPLITKICK.COM
REVIEWED BY JEFF CONOLLY ON PS3
Everyone has that movie or TV show they like even though they know it’s terrible, because it could have been great. For me, it’s a video game called Time and Eternity. I’ll be honest; there are ways in which this game is horrible. It deserves the poor marks it’s gotten across the board, but its raw potential and ambition is something I can’t help but admire.
For the JRPG genre, there’s usually a standard formula: you (usually an androgynous male) are the only one who can save the world, and do so with a party of rag-tag adventurers. This game attempts to usurp those tropes. You play as Toki and Towa, two souls that possess the same body and are trying to get married to their fiancé. When this wedding goes violently wrong due to assassins, Toki/Towa rush back in time to prevent the attack. Their fiancé is accidentally taken back in time as well; his soul getting stuck in the pet dragon because of, well, video game logic.
This transformation causes the boyfriend to learn the secret of his fiancé’s dual nature. However, whenever he tries to communicate, only dragon noises come out. This could be the set up of a great exploration of what we hide from our partners, how we accept the inherent differences in others, and the importance of communication. Unfortunately, this game mostly uses it to volley jokes about the dragon boyfriend wanting to see them naked.
And that’s the major problem with this game. It’s a love story with a male lead that you want to stick down a garbage disposal and it’s immaturely unfit to deal with the brilliant narrative conflicts it sets up. JRPG’s live and die on the story, and unfortunately this one is poorly executed. Worse, the “best” ending is barred from you until a second playthrough, meaning that if playing games for story is your thing, you might be denied your narrative satisfaction until you complete it twice. That’s unacceptable.
Like the story, the other aspects of the game are brimming with unfilled potential. The Toki/Towa concept is great. They are entirely different characters with entirely different strengths and weaknesses. A transition is forced at every level up, forcing you to change your tactics on the battlefield. Outside of the level ups, there is an item in the game that switches the characters in case you require the range tactics of Toki or the brawling tactics of Towa for a particular fight.
The battle system is basically Mike Tyson’s Punch Out with RPG elements and magical attacks. This means, unlike most JRPG combat systems, it’s possible to leave almost every battle unscathed. There is even a PS trophy associated with going twenty straight battles without taking any damage, but that would mean more perfectly timed dodging and blocking than I ever achieved.
At first glance, the art is great. The characters are all hand drawn, which leads to an aesthetic of pasting 2D sprites on 3D rendered backgrounds that either works for you or doesn’t, but I personally enjoyed. The tragedy is that, maybe due to budget or time, there’s only about a third of the hand drawn art needed for a game this size, and that’s being generous. This ruins the potential of every other game mechanic.
As said, the combat is unique and engaging, but since so much art is reused it becomes terrible and repetitive. There are maybe 20 enemy types (again being generous) throughout with different coats of paint. Only the final boss isn’t reused somewhere. Also, the painfully obvious recycled character art started making even standard RPG conversations stale. This turned a game that I was eager to play at the outset into an absolute chore to finish.
The dating sim aspects were needless. Had they been used to explore the interesting notion of dating a girl with dual personalities, they might have been brilliant. Instead they are 50/50 chances of seeing full screen art of either Toki or Towa in seductive poses and clothing. I won’t bang the “sexism” drum that other reviewers are beating so loudly, but there were more than a few times when I was uncomfortable playing it. Most often that came from the male protagonist making penis or orgasm puns that at best felt tonally off and at worse were just unsettling.
It’s disappointing. There’s a really good game here that never came to fruition. In my first couple of sessions, I was ready to defend Time and Eternity from what I thought was unjust press hate. By the end, I was ready to take it out back, shoot it, and bury it with the rest of them. Unless you collect JRPGs, you should probably pass on this one. My only hope is that some game designer somewhere is playing this and will one day give us a game that delivers on all this potential.