TGS '07: Time Hollow Hands-On

We attempted to travel through time in Konami's new anime-stylized Nintendo DS adventure game.

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TOKYO--Konami announced a new adventure game for the DS called Time Hollow at its pre-TGS press conference yesterday, and today we played the game in the company's sweltering booth on the show floor. The somewhat sci-fi-tinged premise here revolves around a schoolboy (you) named Horo Tokio who obtains a pen that can reveal the past and otherwise change history in order to affect events or solve mysteries in the present. This uncanny pen is an obvious gameplay metaphor for the DS's stylus, but it looks like the game mechanics will provide for quite a unique adventure when the game hits retail.

This is a typical character-driven adventure game, meaning it's intensely dialogue-heavy. And since the version of Time Hollow at TGS was entirely in Japanese, we didn't get a lot out of the storyline. However, we can say that we were able to follow Horo between his school and a house nearby (though we couldn't tell if it was his own house or not). We also encountered a willowy, purple-haired girl named Kanon Junibayashi, who it seems will serve as Horo's love interest or the object of his affections. We picked up a number of scenarios that needed solving with our time pen, and these missions appear to be stored in your pause menu for later review.

Aside from the time-revealing gameplay with the pen, your character and environment interactions in Time Hollow look like standard adventuring fare. Dialogue is presented with both characters' up-close portraits filling the top screen, and you can navigate through a variety of conversation choices with the stylus. An overhead map of the city shows locations you can visit (limited to the school and one house in our demo), and once you arrive at a location, you can tap on relevant hot spots to move to or otherwise interact with them. An icon will appear when you touch each area, indicating what sort of action you can perform there.

So what's with that time pen? As hinted at in the trailer at Konami's conference yesterday, once you visit a scene where you need to view or interact with some past event, the game will switch to a drawing interface that allows you to draw a small circle around the area you want to turn into a window on history. That concept is probably better viewed firsthand than described in words, but we'll do our best here. In the example we found in the demo, we saw a past scene on the top screen where two schoolgirls were having some kind of confrontation. On the bottom screen, we saw the present-day version of the same area, and we could draw a small circle anywhere on this screen to see the past events inside that circle. Then we could drag the environment back and forth with the stylus to make the various figures in the scene (in this case, the two girls) move at different speeds with a sort of parallax scrolling effect. In this particular case, the point seemed to be to reveal a clue about the confrontation; specifically, we found some sort of parcel in one of the girls' hands when we moved them in a particular way. This item spawned more conversation and gave us clues that allowed us to move on to a later stage of the mission.

This time-drawing mechanic is actually quite unique and compelling, even if it's difficult to explain on paper. Of course, the entertainment value of Time Hollow will ultimately depend on the quality of its storyline, and to ensure that the plot here is engaging and suitably twisty, Konami is employing Japanese writer Takehito Hata to pen the storyline. We'll bring you much more thorough impressions of Time Hollow as soon as we get our hands on an English version of the game.

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