"It would not be an exaggeration to say that there is not a great deal of interactivity in Time and Eternity."
Time and Eternity, the world's first "HD Animation RPG," will be arriving this summer on European and North American shores. I was granted the opportunity by NIS America to give the game a whirl quite some time ahead of its official release date, and my impressions thus far are mixed. The game's presentation is unquestionably unique, but only time will tell (pun completely intended) if its mechanics can make for a satisfying game experience from start to finish.
So what's the story behind Time and Eternity? Imagine Kill Bill, but with a schizophrenic Beatrix Kiddo, a miniature dragon sidekick, and time-traveling hijinks thrown into the mix. Toki, the demure red-haired princess of the Kamza kingdom, shares a body with an aggressive personality named Towa, whose existence is a secret to almost everyone. On her (their?) wedding day, a mysterious assassin disrupts the ceremony by murdering the groom-to-be. Despite the fact that the player directly controls Toki and Towa, the aforementioned fiancÚ is actually the "main character" of the game, and can even be named at will. Distraught over her lover's death, Toki uses her hidden powers of time manipulation to turn back the clock and prevent the murder from ever happening. Believe it or not, this isn't the first time this premise has been used in an RPG (The 3rd Birthday, anyone?), but Time and Eternity distinguishes itself in other areas, most notably in visual presentation.
Interestingly, characters are displayed as hand-drawn 2D sprites and superimposed on 3D backgrounds. Occasionally, fully-animated cutscenes with dynamic camera angles break up the action, but the majority of the game is rendered in real-time. The idea is that the game should feel like a controllable anime, and while ImageEpoch utilized a number of creative tricks in pursuit of this goal, the execution is somewhat flawed. It makes a great first impression, but animations are frequently reused, and the behind-the-shoulder perspective during exploration feels stifling. Furthermore, combat boils down to very simple pattern recognition, with little else to spice up the action. The narrative is driven by quests with simple objectives, though some fetch quests on the side exist for meticulous players. It would not be an exaggeration to say that there is not a great deal of interactivity in Time and Eternity. However, it is entirely possible that further layers of complexity will be unveiled after I make some more progress in the game, which I will be sure to report on in my review.
Time and Eternity is fully voiced in both English and Japanese. I have only listened to the English dub so far, and the voice actors are capable, though the dialogue borders on grating. Prolific composer Yuzo Koshiro, who most recently worked on the Etrian Odyssey series, provides the game's score. Toki and Towa each have a different battle theme, both of which are excellent, but I have not noticed any standout tracks aside from those. Continued exposure is the only way I can make an accurate judgment of the soundtrack as a whole.
I am curious to see how Time and Eternity's seemingly simple gameplay might evolve as I progress further into Toki and Towa's adventure. Rest assured that I will uncover as many of the game's nuances as I can before penning my full review later this month.