Time and Eternity - Staff Review  

I Want a Divorce
by Sam Marchello

20-40 Hours
+ Okay localization
- Dreadful story and cast of characters
- Stilted animation and awful graphics
- Poor soundtrack and voice work
- Tedious battle system
- Palette swapping up the ying-yang
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   Every girl wishes to have the most ideal wedding day — the perfect dress, place, and of course an amazing groom to share your life with. However, if people are attempting to murder you on your special day, you should be asking yourself: do you deserve it? In the case of Imageepoch's latest offering, Time and Eternity, I find myself siding with those having a strong desire to destroy the bride and groom. Playing through Time and Eternity, or Tokitowa for short, made me want to shoot myself repeatedly. It's the most disastrous wedding adventure I've ever had the displeasure of being invited to.

   The story begins with poor Princess Toki on her special day. While attempting to tie the knot with her fiancé, Zack, the two are attacked by assassins and Zack is murdered most spectacularly within the first few minutes of the game. Toki turns out to have a second personality, a palette swapped version of herself named Towa, who saves the moment, but not the day. Zack's soul has been transferred into Toki and Towa's pet dragon, Drake, causing the crew to warp back in time (more than once) to stop their wedding from being destroyed by various villains and creepers.

   It's clear that Imageepoch was not aiming to tell an emotional or even interesting story with Tokitowa. In fact the game runs entirely on dreadfully unfunny jokes and clichés, chocking up the sexual humor to eleven. Tokitowa spends most of the time suggesting that the female cast of characters is moronic and only obsessed with men, and the males are horny pigs with nothing better to do than drool over their female counterparts. It gets to the point where this happens so frequently, and the objectification and sexism is so overbearing, that one has to question how anyone should care about these vapid, one-note characters. To make matters worse, there's such a focus on trying to empower Toki and Towa through physical strength, but what's problematic is that they are so nave and acceptive of Zack/Drake's sleazy behavior. It's depressing that the game couldn't create fleshed out characters that could go beyond these disgusting stereotypes. It's not funny considering how completely degrading the characters are.

   Furthermore, while the localization is still the standard that NIS America produces, it does more to enhance this tripe than mitigate it. When coupled with the voice work in both the English and Japanese, it's obvious that people treated this game as a pay check, and rightfully so since the dialogue is so offensive the majority of the time. While NISA's humor is almost always welcome, Tokitowa does more to harm their image than save it. There's nothing redeeming within the overall construction of Tokitowa's writing, and unfortunately its graphics and gameplay are equally as distasteful.

Zack, if your life had a face, I'd punch it. Zack, if your life had a face, I'd punch it.

   Tokitowa is graphically misleading in a lot of ways. While the animation looks crisp and clear, the game actually looks older than it should based on its poor animation and bare-bones backgrounds. The animation in particular is the worst offender, as a lot of the time it jerks about awkwardly. Characters are frequently moving on overdrive in scenes, looking robotic, with the sort of quality seen from the Phillips CD-I era. Most of the time the characters often don't know what to do with their hands, moving for the sake of having movement in a scene when it's not necessary. This creates a stilted and unpolished feel to the overall graphical quality. The cel-animation also looks exceptionally awkward on top of the grainy, clunky looking environments. While the anime aspects should look great, the end result comes across ugly and unappealing.

   Outside of the hideous animation and graphics, there lies a second issue: palette swapping is incredibly frequent. In fact, even the bodacious heroines are palette swaps of each other. There are approximately twelve enemy types, with their appearances only changing slightly with the use of a new colour. Most of the time the characters look more like cut-outs than actual characters, and the amount of recycling produced by Imageepoch shows little effort to create a varied world or environment. Furthermore, environments also suffer from recycling as many of the areas are either a forest or an open plain. This doesn't stop here, as all of our heroines' battle animations are completely recycled as well, from attacks to spells. While one should make allowances for the game's low budget, it's hard to be empathetic towards Tokitowa's quality when it's so lazily put together.

   Which leads to the battle system: Tokitowa's combat is boring, tedious, and, coupled with the dreadful animation, it makes for a jarring experience as a whole. Random battles are abundant, with players starting off the battle as either Toki or Towa, and changing the heroine each time they level up. Both heroines possess the same weapons, although Toki is a better long-ranged fighter and Towa is a stronger melee fighter. However, this doesn't matter much as both characters play exactly the same way during battles. Abilities are mapped to the face buttons on the controller, with L2 for Time Magic and R2 for items. Battles involve players watching enemy patterns while attacking when there are periods in which the enemy is open or dodging when an enemy is charging. Drake can also help in combat (barely) by attacking and healing. Players can also chain together combos and perform chemistry attacks with the heroines and Drake.

   Chemistry occurs when both the heroine and Drake combine their magic. For example if Drake uses a fire spell and Towa uses a bolt right afterwards, it creates an effect which takes off tons of hit points, and stuns the enemy briefly. Learning how chemistry works is critical to having constant success in battles as different combinations also create status effects. Toki and Towa possess time magic that can allow them to freeze, leap or surge time, creating great advantages over tough enemies, though unlike chemistry, it's very limited in its usage.

Notice you? I'm trying to run away from you! Notice you? I'm trying to run away from you!

   How do these aspects make the battles boring? Well, there's not a lot of variety within the combat to speak of, and the amount of abilities learned is surprisingly limited. Time magic often is the savior in tough situations, as players will find themselves repeating the same patterns repeatedly for easy victories. However, the game isn't as easy as it seems because pattern recognition does get unpredictable at times, and moreover, the difficulty is quite unbalanced, as the heroine can go about crushing enemies ten times her level, only to be one-shotted by a boss just because the devs wanted to put some grinding in. Consistency in RPGs is exceptionally important, and Tokitowa fails in this department with ease.

   Admittedly there's one area Tokitowa doesn't entirely fail in, and that's in its menu and skill trees. Toki and Towa earn gift points through completing quests or winning battles. As they accumulate gift points, they can then purchase new skills that are both active and passive. However, skills unlocked in the tree cannot be used until the heroines have reached the proper level for usage. There's a lot of different ways to customize Toki and Towa, though it still doesn't add enough variety considering that there's a lot of useless skills that would likely not be very helpful in battle. Still, the menus are crisp, clean and the least offensive aspect within Tokitowa.

   It's amazing how much wasted potential Tokitowa has in terms of music and voice acting. The voice actors in both English and Japanese sound so bored out of their skulls that they can't even infuse any personality into the characters. Even worse is that the enemy voice acting in English comes across more like gibberish then actual speaking, especially the vampires who sound as if they are saying "blah blah blah." Blah is exactly the right term for how dull the sound department is in this game. Musically there aren't many tracks to speak of, and the ones that exist do a terrible job of exerting themselves enough to be memorable.

   Tokitowa didn't take an eternity to play, but its twenty hours of game time sure felt like it. Time and Eternity is utterly embarrassing in so many ways that I do question how much it will hurt NISA's overall image. Tokitowa is a game that suffers from a lack of content and it shows in the game's poor pacing and overall structure. Couple that with the rampantly horny dialogue and you have a recipe for one of the most half-assed and disastrous titles to ever grace the PlayStation 3. Tokitowa is a game that makes you wish you could turn back the hands of time so that it never existed in the first place.

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