When it launched in its native home of Japan earlier this year, Time and Eternity (or TokiTowa as it’s known over there) received exceptionally polarising reviews. Some critics loved its bizarre characters and undeniably pervy humour, while others slated it with the sort of venomous passion not seen since the 1692 Salem Witchcraft Trials. You don’t have to play the game for long to see why.
Time and Eternity is an interesting attempt at combining a hand-drawn visual style, one-on-one real-time combat, time travel and dating two girls that inhabit the same body. But does its quirkiness come at the cost of being enjoyable to play?
Toki has two personalities inside her: Toki, who the knight fell in love with, and a notably more dangerous woman named Towa
Like many fantasy games you start with an unnamed character – a knight and soon-to-be prince in this case – that you can name whatever you like (not that it makes much difference, as your character is never referred to by name). You’re about to marry Princess Toki when no sooner have you exchanged vows and gone in for the clinch, a bunch of assassins rudely interrupt the ceremonies by attempting to murder your beloved. So like any good man would, you throw yourself in front of the killing blow. Struck down and about to die, you witness the princess undergoing a complete personality and hair colour change that ends with her fighting off the assassins and whisking you both six months back in time. You manage to cheat death, but at the expense of your consciousness being trapped in the body of Toki’s pet dragon, Drake.
Toki has two personalities inside her: Toki, who the knight fell in love with, and a notably more dangerous woman named Towa who he has no knowledge of as the game begins. She also has the ability to travel through time, which is later used as an attack and defence move in the gameplay but is mostly used as a storytelling device. Lastly, while the knight stuck in a tiny dragon’s body is the main character as far as interactions like dialogue choices and narrative are concerned, he’s pretty useless in battle, so most of the gameplay involves controlling Toki or Towa. You can eventually unlock the ability to tell him what to do in a fight but the curious gameplay mechanic does raise the question of just who the main character really is.
Anyone expecting Final Fantasy levels of melodrama and soul searching won’t find it here – the story is a lighthearted affair that plays heavily for laughs and sparingly for any sort of emotional engagement. If you’re into Japanese humour then you’ll absolutely love it, but if pervy asides and innuendos aren’t your bag, then you’ll have about as much fun as a male chauvinist at a live performance of The Vagina Monologues.
Humour is the game’s strong point and while there are some plenty of groan-inducing moments and cheese-laden dialogue, Time and Eternity is at its best when the knight is being a pervert or local cake maker/assassin’s fan club leader Ricardo is attempting to seduce one of the game’s women (badly) for what feels like the millionth time. The characters don’t take themselves any more seriously than the story and while there are some subtly emotive moments, like Towa worrying about whether the knight would reject her if he knew she also inhabited Toki’s body, there’s nothing here that’ll have an emotional impact on you. The game’s final moments are clearly meant to be heart wrenching but with all the silliness that’s gone before it’s hard to get too invested in what happens to any of the characters.
Aside from yourself and Toki/Towa, the supporting cast of the couple’s friends are almost always gathered in your home, ready to dish out quests and prattle on about their views on various things happening in the game’s narrative. Most of the side quests are pretty repetitive and earn you little more than mediocre items to assist you in battle but some of them do reap serious dividends. Towa’s ability to rewind time during battle, for instance, is unlocked during the game’s early stages courtesy of one of Toki’s friends.
What You Say?
Characters are all hand-drawn and endearing, even if the animations are often repeated and are also a bit stilted.
Characters are all hand-drawn and endearing, even if the animations are often repeated and are also a bit stilted. The voice acting is well done, albeit fairly emotionless thanks to the game’s lack of sincerity, although as is often the way with Japanese games there’s at least one character whose voice will tempt you to puncture your own eardrums. Something definitely seems to have got lost in translation too, with several grammar and spelling errors cropping up throughout the game. Curiously, only half the dialogue scenes have voice acting attached to them, which forces you to rely on one of the games bigger problems – the subtitles. Simply put, they’re bloody difficult to read. It’s not that they aren’t clear or big enough, it’s that they seem to disappear when set against lighter backgrounds. Sometimes it’s just parts of conversations, other times it’s entire swathes of dialogue, which becomes particularly troublesome when you’re relying on it to tell you what your next objective is. I was playing the game on a 46 inch HDTV and was sat reasonably close, yet there were times when I had to sit with my nose almost touching the screen just to read what was being said. It takes you out of the story and above all else is a major pain in the ass.
The battle system is made up of mostly one-on-one battles, with the knight-dragon chipping in every now and then with dragon breath attacks. Unlike many RPGs, this one allows you to actually move around during battle, although your choices are still fairly limited – you can move towards the opponent or away with up and down on the left analog stick, while pressing left and right on the analog lets you dodge in that direction. Learning when to time a dodge move is essential to your survival and several of the game’s later enemies simply can’t be beaten if you fail to get it right. Thankfully it’s a simple enough mechanic that the only thing holding you back from success is forgetting to do it. More often than not you’ll find jumping left to right more effective than moving back and forth because if an opponent runs up at you it’s not possible to simply back away from them. Attacks come in three varieties: knife (up close), rifle (ranged) and spells. You can also use items or time altering abilities to boost your performance or slow down enemies.
Each battle comes down to pattern recognition. Spells are by far the fastest way to take out an opponent, but they have a long lead-in and can be interrupted, so you have to time them correctly. Figure out the enemy’s attack patterns to dodge at the right times so that you have a long enough delay to cast a spell and you win 99% of the time. It’s a lot more fun than it sounds but the game’s love of throwing enemy after enemy at you, one after another, can turn it into a bit of a grind.
Killing monsters and completing side quests rewards you with points that unlock new abilities for Toki or Towa. You’ll only get the ability when Toki/Towa levels up and that’s also when they switch places, so if you’re playing as Toki and unlock a cool new ability for her you’ll actually have to wait two levels before getting to try it out. Toki and Towa have slightly different play styles, but it’s not significant enough to affect the strategies you’ll use when fighting even the toughest of opponents.
If you perform the side quests – most of which are pretty short – then it’ll take between 22 and 24 hours to finish the game. Time and Eternity offers a a bit more replay than your standard JRPG thanks to multiple difficulty levels, differing dialogue choices and an affinity meter between Toki and Towa that decides the game’s final outcome. Playing new game plus allows you to get the affinity meter balanced perfectly between the two… what that means I’ll leave to the imagination.
A review copy of Time and Eternity was provided courtesy of Nippon Ichi.
Time and Eternity definitely isn’t for everyone and to be honest, you’d have to be a pretty big fan of the genre to really appreciate its merits and to overlook its flaws. The anime-style visuals are wonderful to look at and a pleasure to see in motion, while the game’s interesting battle system and pervy humour make it worth checking out for anyone who’s into that sort of thing. But if you’re not already a big fan of Japanese humour, daft romances and turn-based combat, even the briefest of interactions with Time and Eternity will feel like it’s dragging for… well… an eternity.