You’re a dashingly handsome knight, who managed to win the heart of the princess, the most beautiful woman in the entire kingdom. Marriage is on the cards and you spend your days slyly making sexual comments, but that’s ok, no one really heard you. On the big day, you gaze adoringly at your bride to be. You latch on to a stray thought crossing your mind “I am the luckiest man ali”- THEN NINJAS ATTACK!
OK so I lied, they aren’t actually ninjas they’re assassins, same-diff right? Zack, our handsome knight is engaged to Toki, afflicted with a condition known as ‘Dual Souls’, harbouring an alternate personality, Towa. Whilst Toki is a cute, charming, naive, and loveable redhead, Towa is an overly aggressive, self-reliant and street-smart blonde, both identical to one another sans their behaviour and hair colour.
As a princess of the royal kingdom, Toki has the power to manipulate time. With Zack dying and nothing she can do to save him, they travel backwards in order to prevent the meticulous attack. Zack’s soul is taken along for the ride, transferred into the body of her pet drake, rendering him unable to communicate with her.
Gameplay blends dating-simulators with traditional JRPG mechanics. The former doesn’t really extend past simple conversation scenes and ‘events’, where a special icon initiates a scene with either Toki or Towa, increasing their affection on a light / dark meter.
Using either character in battle bolsters their affection level and upon levelling up you’ll switch between the two, but there are also items that force this change. Both Toki and Towa have a skill tree where you spend Gift Points on new abilities and spells. You have to decide whether to pool your resources into one character, maximising their potential early or striving for a healthy balance between the two.
Well I might have said that if there were any real benefits for committing to one character, but each excels in different areas. Toki is better at casting fire magic and using her rifle, whilst Towa is a melee expert with a penchant for thunder spells.
Combat is without a doubt the best part of the game, revolving around a two tier system. Each battle begins with distance between you and the enemy, a long range mode, where you can cast spells, use your rifle or advance on the enemy. Close that gap and you’ll have to fall back on your spell and knife skills. From here you can also be ‘knocked-back’, forced back into the long range tier. It’s not completely one sided and you can knock back enemies that advance on you or utilise spells that rewind time. Unfortunately these focus levelling one particular skill tree, limiting your experience on an initial playthrough.
The enemy AI is frustrating at times, running a simple copy / paste routine that consists of either spamming long range attacks and interrupting spell casting or running up close to pummel you with a melee onslaught. The small stone monster is most guilty of this, running up to you at the start of battle, unleashing an unending barrage of punches.
This means the only way to beat certain enemies is to take damage, which feels… wrong. Certain enemies offer a window of opportunity, but others present no way of defeating them without taking damage. Couple this with the fact that every encounter plays out the same, so regardless of the enemy type battles feel static and unchanging.
They slipped up on design too, there’s a reasonable number of enemy types, but too often they’re recycled with a simple palette swap, a move made to stifle the cost of animating 2D characters in a 3D world. Environments and textures fare no better, reused in a similar tact and highlighting an underlying theme of Time and Eternity, recycling. Even character animations are repeated dozens of times, with Toki/Towa pulling an identical shoulder shrug every other conversation, one of the more iconic moves in her skillset and definitely not in a good way.
Voice acting is on par with what I’ve mentioned above. Its questionable quality leaves it at times, feeling forced and poorly read with rampant over exaggeration and melodramatic pronunciation only add weight to the budget feel.
The recurring juxtaposition between emotional pit stops and offbeat wackiness, throw you from sentimentally heart-warming to fighting for one’s life with no transition. Shown most evidently in the scene where Zack (despite being trapped in the body of a drake) is switching between “this is our mission” and “I wish I could have a shower with Toki”, blatant fan service isn’t a problem, but its poor timing is.
Battles are littered with fantastic sound effects, part of a memorable and iconic soundtrack. Certain tracks are repeated during multiple sections of the game, but they’re well placed, fitting comfortably into the unfolding story. One of the nicer touches is that Toki and Towa each have their own battle theme, highlighting their personality differences.
The awkward dialogue, simplistic AI and sloppy design might sound like an overriding vote of no confidence, but they pale comparison to the well-designed lead characters and entertaining combat system and it’s a massive thumbs up for the expansive progression system, iconic soundtrack and memorable experience. Fans of the genre may be split on the anime styled visuals, but I’m tackling New Game + right now and that says all you need to know about Time and Eternity.