The story has you playing as a princess known as Toki who is about to marry a knight named by the player. They meet up with their friends and the game quickly establishes it's silly side. The wedding starts shortly after and just when the two are about to kiss, assassin's break in and kill the knight. The knight looks up to Toki to see that in her place is a different girl. This is Towa and it seems that she shares the same body as Toki. Towa uses Time Magic and transports herself back in time to stop the attack from happening.
The story is incredibly interesting and the characters; while they are the very definition of anime cliche, they have their charms. The game keeps it's silliness up throughout the game and it's strange to see that the silliness makes the story more charming. That isn't to say the story isn't serious and it has a very good ending. If you like anime and can stand some potentially annoying, cliche characters there is a good chance that you will enjoy Time and Eternity's story. It's different enough to stand out in the genre.
It's fine that the story is so good, but a video game is nothing without it's gameplay and that's where Time and Eternity stumbles. You control only Toki or Towa and run around on a 3D map or move a cursor to choose what map you are going to. Once on a map, you run around barren, empty environments until your encounter meter fills and you enter combat. Combat is the main focus of any JRPG's gameplay and if that fails, the game practically fails. In combat, you fight enemies one-on-one and you have to dodge their attacks while attacking them.
You attack your enemies with Toki and Towa's rifle and dagger to build up SP. When you have enough SP, you can use your special abilities that cause higher damage and they can cause status effects on your enemies. You learn magic in the game and if you cast two spells in quick succession you can cause a chemistry that causes debuffs on you enemies making things easier for you. The encounters basically have you learning enemy patterns. This isn't really a bad thing, but it is when the game is this easy. The only time I had any difficulty with this game is coming on the end and I think I was under-leveled. Every time you level up, Toki and Towa switch places and there are small differences between them other than appearance wise but it hardly changes anything. You also gain gift points from each battle that are used to unlock new skills and abilities at level up. These are hardly anything special and only a few of them are really useful.
The gameplay is extremely repetitive and you'll be fighting a lot of annoying enemies. I found myself wishing it was over many times, regardless of how much I liked the characters and how much I liked the story and that's a bad sign. The battles are extremely drawn out and the fact that you can fight multiple monsters in one encounter makes it drag on even more. On top of the easy difficulty, there isn't much depth to the combat. There is only one necessary debuff, only a few needed skills and just spam that rifle attack since there is no need to fight up close. Sure Towa is worse with a rifle than Toki, but it hardly matters.
There are also boatloads of side-quests for you to embark on. They are the typical affair but they have the game's silliness which makes them a little more interesting. What makes them annoying is actually going out and performing said tasks due to the armies of enemies you have to fight before it's completed. These side-quests also reward you with pathetic amounts of money and gift points and some new gear the odd time, making them almost worthless if it wasn't for the funny bits of dialogue. Overall, I found myself skipping them and wishing the game was over coming on the end.
The music is pretty good, soft and sweet at times and upbeat at others. It's a very well done soundtrack and the Japanese voice work is well done as well. I honestly never tried the game in English since the horrors of Imageepoch's previous console JRPG; Arc Rise Fantasia, is still fresh in my mind. It's not published by the same group, but I prefer the Japanese track for games like these. There are the occasional annoying character, but that's unavoidable in anime JRPGs.
The presentation is the strangest part about the game. There are no real character models, instead the characters and enemies are incredibly detailed 2D sprites. Here's where things get dicey however, the sprites look great, definitely some of the best sprites I've seen but they have very few animations. You'll notice they recycle the same few animations throughout the entire game and the non-important NPC characters suffer and even worse fate and have no animation aside for flapping lips. The only characters to have a moving animation is Toki and Towa so when another character needs to move, they just disappear and reappear in the new location. It's incredibly jarring and terrible to look at.
The environments are in 3D and it's down in the same style and the Paper Mario series, the characters are 3D but represented by 2D sprites, seeing as they have circular shadows as in the Paper Mario series. There are times when the game can look like an anime, which is what the developers were going for, but it's upset far too often by the lack of animations and by every so often I mean in every scene that isn't just Toki or Towa and Drake. The environments are, as mentioned before, empty and featureless and they lack any personality. The enemy design suffers here as well. Most of the monster designs are reused and just given different stats and a palette swap. Now, this is common in most games, but when you fight the same enemy with the same patterns and attacks in different areas, it comes off as lazy.
- Interesting story
- Likable, fun characters
- Great music
- Detailed, colorful sprites
- Great, silly, strange ending
- Silliness keeps things lighthearted
- Extremely repetitive combat
- Boring, empty environments
- Reused animations and monster designs
- Sidequests are almost pointless and are pretty uninspired
- Incredibly easy
- Lack of animation of the vast majority of the characters
- Cliche cast of characters
- Low amount of money given out
- Drags on for what seems like ages
Overall, Time and Eternity has a great story and great music, but it's visual issues and simple, boring gameplay keep it from reaching it's potential. I can see this visual style working, just look at the Paper Mario series, but this isn't how you go about it. The game has no life due to characters being stationary at all times and being restricted to a dull map screen for parts of the game. Most importantly, however, I must bring up the fact that this would've made a better anime than a game. I want NIS America to keep bringing games like this to North America, I just hope that the future holds something more fun for us. Story and music alone just can't carry a game far enough.