Time & Eternity is a very ambitious attempt at what is definitely a very difficult pursuit, and although it does come away with a fair share of cuts and bruises by featuring a distinct lack of polish, I found a nice assortment of things to enjoy during my time with the game.
The story begins with a wedding taking place between the Princess Toki and her knight, Zack. After being warned by the fortune teller Makimona that someone will be killed at her wedding, she has chosen to ignore the prediction and allow the occasion to proceed as normal. Before the princess is able to seal the vow with a kiss, an assassin leaps from the shadows and murders her husband-to-be.
Inflamed with anger, Princess Toki’s other personality, Towa, awakens and fights off the assassin. In order to find out what had caused this to happen in the first place, and to figure out a way to prevent her beloved fiance from dying, Toki and Towa travel back in time 6 months before the wedding where she had first encountered Makimona. The role of time plays a focal point in both the plot and during battle.
The combat is played out in sort of a rhythm-based format. Wielding either a knife or a rifle, the player is allowed to attack as many times as they want, building up a combo meter along the way. However, they have to learn and adapt for when the enemy will strike in order to dodge or even counter it and keep their combo going. There is also a special SP meter that will allows players to use certain moves that are assigned to one of the face buttons.
It's a lot of juking and jiving; learning when to leap in for a close attack and when to roll to the back to get some ranged shots in. There is a fair amount of animation priority where I had to lign up the attack pattern of the enemy with the time it takes to unleash a spell or special move. It's kinetic, it's involving, and it's downright enjoyable. Nothing felt better than when I had overpowered my character to a state where nothing would shake her.
At first, I was bothered by the fact that every time I leveled, the game would switch between Toki and Towa. Then it hit me - they are basically providing an incentive to grind. If I wanted to take advantage of Toki's quick reflexes or Towa's aggressive dizzying attacks, I would need to work my way through a few battles first.
In other titles, this would just be a mundane task of running around in circles for a while just to see that level go up. Here, at least I have another purpose tacked on top of that. There are items that let you switch them manually, but they are very rare and thus are not really worth the hassle unless your intention is gaining the full affection of either Toki or Towa.
There is also a skill progression system called "Gifts" that unlock both active and passive abilities that can be used in battle. This includes powerful magic spells, buffs and debuffs, and the aforementioned manipulation of time. By providing each female lead with her own skill layout, one is able to tailor directly to their distinct strengths. It's very cleverly designed and
The only real knock I could put against Time & Eternity is that there really is no need to explore any of the fields. Everything on the map is visible under some sort of marker. For that reason, there's a lot of traveling from Point A to Point B, and gives off a feeling of desolation in many areas of the map. Maybe that was the intention and the idea is that you always know where to go and you never felt lost. Although the locations themselves were a bit bland, I can't say it's something I was really bothered by since I hardly pay attention to that sort of thing anyway.
The graphics themselves look pretty sharp. Each 2D character sprite has their own hand-drawn animations, and effort has been put in to make sure that each important character is outfitted with their own unique personality that exudes from their mannerisms. It can look a little silly superimposed onto a completely different dimension, especially with the third-person camera in every controlled moment of the game, but I was able to get used to that part of it fairly quickly.
Where things get uncomfortable is just the sheer degree of palette swapping that occurs here, especially during the first half. I can't count the number of times where i met the exact same NPC just with different colored hair or clothes. I guess you could chock it up to a small company trying to avoid having to spend untold gobs of money making sure every character is different, but there's not a lot of variety to be found among the characters or the monsters.
It helps that everything is supporting by an amazing Japanese voice cast. Kana Hanazawa and Eri Kitamura play the roles of Toki and Towa respectively, while Aoi Yuuki, Yukana Nogami, Noto Mamiko, Endou Aya, and Sugita Tomokazu provide good supporting roles. If you are an anime diehard like I am, these names should mean as much to you as they do to me (look them up if you aren't).
That isn't to say that the English voice cast is any bad, either. Cristina Valenzuela and Stephanie Sheh have been in a lot of big roles before and they pull off solid performances here as well. It doesn't stack up to the Japanese side, but they do their job very well.
Legendary composer Yuzo Koshiro also does an incredible job with the soundtrack. Many different styles of music are employed here, with Celtic, wind instruments, strings, brass, and guitars all making an appearance. The battle music for me stood out the most. It's easily the best part of the game that supersedes everything else.
Put simply, Time & Eternity to me is not a bad game by any means. It's certainly a very different game that appeals to a very specific audience. I do recognize that anyone outside that target demographic is bound to look at this game with a lot of contempt, but by flying in the face of convention in terms of its storyline and bucking of a few popular trends, it beguiled me into appreciating what it is trying to accomplish. The beginning is very haphazard, but it transforms into one of sublime entertainment starting from the middle and all the way to the end.