Naughty bubble-baths and tongue-in-cheek dirty jokes are often commonplace in the JRPG genre, but they don't typically accompany an array of mature issues, such as the death of a loved one and secrecy. This is because contrasting potty humour with a deep storyline rarely works, as it’s difficult to empathise with any character while they are simultaneously making obnoxious references to a girl's nether regions and staring at every female character’s anime assets. Unfortunately, this is Time and Eternity all over: strange, niche, slightly demoralising, and ultimately broken.
Set in the colourful, albeit rather barren, world of Kamza, the game's story begins at the celebration of Princess Toki’s marriage to her anonymous and perverted knight in shining armour. Things start getting a little strange when the wedding is hijacked by a group of ninjas who murder Toki’s groom, causing her to reveal her secret parallel soul Towa, and the two use their powers to rewind time to six months before the wedding to change the course of history in order for them to say their “I dos”. Bizarrely, the husband-to-be awakes to find himself unable to talk, and trapped inside the body of Toki’s cute blue dragon named Drake.
You take on the persona of the devious Drake during the story elements of the game, yet switch to Toki and Towa during the combat segments. Drake is one of the most shallow, sexist, and completely intolerable characters that you will ever have the displeasure of controlling. The majority of the time that you spend playing as Drake you will be forced to listen to his dirty thoughts about bathing with Toki, Towa, and their friends, and how awesome it will be now that he is marrying two ladies, rather than one. The gameplay predominantly consists of mild exploration of a variety of different locations and random encounter combat. However, these elements aren't handled particularly well, and the gameplay is often messy, repetitive, and dull.
Toki and Towa must find out where the assassins that attacked her wedding are based by venturing to different islands located on the world map and completing seemingly disconnected fetch quests in order to stop her fiancé’s murder. Of course each island is littered with monsters to defeat, which would have been an excellent distraction from the astoundingly sexist dialogue, had the combat not been dull, tedious in nature, and lazy in design. You start playing as Toki, and switch back and forth to Towa every time that you level up, which isn’t very often. The battles consist of three fighting styles: long-range rifle attacks, melee, and magic. Toki is slightly better at long-range attacks, whereas Towa prefers melee fighting.
Random encounters with enemies lead to a one-on-one battle screen, excluding Drake, who acts as a sporadic healer and every so often deals out minuscule amounts of damage. You fight in real-time, with movement restricted to jumping forward, back, and dodging to one side. Most monsters perform repetitive, patterned attacks that you can memorise quickly, allowing you to win any battle by spamming the circle button to attack and either dodging using the left stick or occasionally holding down L1 to guard. Being careful generally leads to an even slower and painful combat experience – and in many cases a game over screen, as the guard and dodge animations are often slow and unresponsive when you are most in need.
This is all made worse by Toki’s continuous battle cries every single time that she deals out damage. The random encounters are few and far between, meaning that it's difficult to properly level grind, and the sparse and uninviting maps won’t tempt you back any time soon. There are fewer than fifteen enemy designs in the whole game, with every ‘new’ version of the creature simply rebranded with a fresh name and a colour palette swap, and most possessing identical attacks. Environments are also extremely similar, each location recycling countless elements from the previous one, making it nearly impossible to differentiate one island from the other. Fighting the exact same monsters over and over in practically the same location every time is not only soul destroying, but is also simply lazy on developer Imageepoch’s behalf.
But palette swaps and desolate environments aren’t the game’s only problem, as it's also plagued by clunky character animations, and a disappointingly broken ‘love meter’ dating system. Throughout the story, the husband-to-be is faced with a bit of a conundrum – who should he marry: the red-headed, shy Toki or the blonde and ballsy Towa? Hiding in the menu screen is a relationship meter that shows you which girl you're closer to, and this changes during fights and special events, unlocking slightly questionable ‘fan-service’ images of both of the title's heroines which become progressively more sexual the further that you progress. The love mechanic would be interesting, had the whole system not been totally overridden and made purposeless by one final decision at the end of the game which forces you to pick either Toki or Towa (or a secret third option), resulting in one of three possible endings. It’s worth saving shortly before the game’s conclusion so that you can unlock each finale without having to play through the title a second or third time in the New Game + mode, which carries over money, skills, unlocked gifts, and more.
Visually, the adventure is at times really rather beautiful, complemented by gorgeous 2D hand-drawn anime characters and bright and colourful cut-scenes, which at times make you feel like you have been sucked into a real-life anime episode. However, as soon as you are transported to any islands or combat areas you are confronted by a strange and jarring juxtaposition of 2D anime sprites offset on a drab and grainy 3D landscape. It’s a bold yet strange move on Imageepoch’s behalf, and sadly doesn’t pay off, as the 3D backgrounds only help to further highlight the awkward 2D movement animations and give the impression of an early PS3 game which has graphically not aged well.
Sadly, the release is also victim to a case of bad voice-acting and ill-fitting lip-syncing. While some characters are voiced better than others, Drake’s smug and chauvinistic voice only amplifies the vulgarity of his script, and makes you crave the large chunks of gameplay where you simply have to scroll through text rather than listen to his rude musings. During spoken dialogue there are often long, awkward pauses in speech, butchering the flow of in-game conversations and causing on-screen characters to finish moving their lips long before the dialogue is over. The soundtrack is mostly atmospheric, and not overly memorable, aside from a certain jazzy track which plays during enemy encounters and will be sure to see you bobbing up and down in your seat.
Graphical issues, lazy design, broken mechanics, dull combat, vulgar dialogue, and a loathsome main character are all bundled together in Time and Eternity, resulting in a particularly uncomfortable and unenjoyable JRPG. If you're looking for dynamic battles, gorgeous visuals, and a decent yarn, pick up Tales of Xillia or Ni No Kuni instead. Just trust us on this one.