Not that this stopped me from subjecting myself to it.
During the Golden Week sale on the PSN, Time & Eternity went on sale. For PS+ members, it was a whopping $9.79. Having bought a month of PS+ to utilize the sale for Tales of Symphonia Chronicles and the Devil May Cry HD Collection, it was very tempting, even knowing the game was notorious. Another friend had said he was willing to give me $10 if I fell short earlier in the sale, and I took him up on that offer… after convincing him that I really wanted to play this game. And that is how, on the last day of the Golden Week sale, I came to own Time & Eternity.
Chapter 1 — In Which We Catch 22 Assassins
The game begins with a wedding, a murder, and a girl of two colors/souls who leaps through time to 6 months prior, to when she received the warning of an attack on her wedding from a fortune teller.
I immediately learned the downsides of having 2D anime sprites in a 3D environment when the game let me loose on the field; as it turns out, if you minimize the ways a character can move, you can minimize the number of frames that need be animated. This means Toki/Towa use tank controls on the field. Also of note, all areas you visit have a full map you can pull up at any time, with all the locations of importance, including treasure chests, quest destinations/origins, and the various crystals you can interact with (waypoints/warp points/save points).
The battle system suffers from equal awkwardness due to graphical choices. All battles are one-on-one fights, with any further enemies in a queue waiting to attack you one at a time. The player and the enemy both have a zone which they can repel the other from but cannot be moved from involuntarily, and attacks come in either ranged or melee flavors. Toki focuses on rifle skills, and Towa focuses on “sword” (knife) skills. At range, the character will fire her rifle, and in close quarters, she will use her knife and engage in melee combat. These basic attacks take no SP, the slowly-recharging resource that fuels skills, and will actually restore it more quickly.
The battles are slow at the beginning. This isn’t something unique to this game, though. Lots of JRPGs don’t speed up the battles until more options open up, and that option in T&E is the magic. Once you gain access to the first spells, Flare/Bolt, for Toki/Towa, battles shift into a paradigm of learning monster attack patterns and finding openings to punish with magic. Magic does a lot more damage than your standard attack. An order of magnitude more. A quick example from NG+: I started with all the skills I had at the end of the game in the file I loaded for NG+, so I can cast magic at the beginning of the game. Even with my pitiful stats, the ones that fuel my 50–100 points of basic attack damage, a basic Flare spell does 2300 damage to enemies with negligible magic defense (most of them) and no elemental weakness. In the endgame, I was doing 35000 damage to similarly-leveled monsters under the same conditions. It’s a potent tool, and it quickly became the cornerstone of my playstyle.
I should also mention that Toki and Towa are not infinitely interchangeable, as the active personality changes when you either gain a level or use a Pepper, a limited-quantity item. They both have distinct skill focuses, as mentioned before, as well as different magical/elemental aptitudes, and you can take them on different paths of skill acquisition, though if it’s a useful skill, it’s generally something you want on both.
Sidequests make up the majority of this game’s playtime, and oh boy, does it need them. If you don’t take the sidequests, you are subjected to a mind-numbing grind for GP, the point pool used to buy skill unlocks. Even in the endgame, single enemies give you a measly 7 GP a kill, when you need 1500 for the endgame Gifts. Alongside the nice GP bonus, they can give you free items for you to ignore because elementally focused items are never worth the general stat loss in comparison to generic equips from the store. The sidequests do open up in accordance with the main story visiting different areas, though, so you never really have to go drastically out of your way for any of them.
Speaking of the story, it’s rather barebones. Chapter 1 is spent searching out members of the Assassin’s Guild and inquiring about the attack on the wedding, which all of the assassins deny any knowledge of. The first assassin you encounter (after a fanclub mistaken for actual guild members, whose leader, Ricardo, hits on Toki/Towa and becomes a plot macguffin dispenser) is very talkative, due to eating a fruit called the babbleberry. It’s a plot point because the protagonist isn’t actually Toki/Towa, it’s their fiancee, whose soul came back with them and is stuck in their pet dragon. The babbleberry can let any creature speak the tongue of humans!
Anyway, after beating up several assassins, Ricardo goes to find the guildmaster, leaving Toki/Towa to think about finding the babbleberry instead! They do, then go slightly north and find Ricardo trying to help them by talking to the guild members. The guildmaster, a robot, shows up and gets pissed off because they are pestering them about an attack they weren’t planning. Until now. He declares there will be an attack on the wedding and then attacks the player. When he loses, the guild disbands.
“Well, that problem’s solved, there’s no way our wedding could get attacked again!”
Chapter 2 — But I Repeat Myself
The wedding gets interrupted by a bunch of spooky scary skeletons ghosts and then the princess (did I mention Toki/Towa is a princess?) gets stabbed by Reijo, a friend (did I mention you have friends?), who appears to be possessed by something.
Returning to 3 months in the past instead of 6 months like Chapter 1, you investigate and do a sidequest to qualify to continue the main quest and six more because it’s free GP. This ends with finding out that Reijo made a deal with a dragon known as Netherdrake and she has to hold up her end of the deal by killing the princess or she will lose the thing most precious to her. The group collectively assumes he means her life.
This is where the difficulty curve is rather cruel and spikes for a bit. The maps grow bigger, and with the encounter rate based on the distance traveled, this means the maps intend you to be fighting a certain number of monsters while going about your quest/sidequest business. The forests surrounding Apparition, the Wicked/Vengeful/Hateful/Cursed ones, are all rather large compared to previous areas. However, they fail to take into account both the waypoint system and the existence of Condor Wings, which warp you out of an area and to the world map. This means you can end up not gaining as much EXP as expected, and you can thus end up 6 or more levels below a tough foe, as happened to me. I had to grind for about an hour to get to a level where a single Bahamut, a bird enemy, wouldn’t take me out with one mistaken dodge timing.
The grind, itself, is a problem as well. There are no ways to speed up encounter rates until chapter 3, and the items that do it, once eventually introduced to the shops’ inventory, are pitiful in their duration and exorbitant in their cost. Accompanying this slow effort for EXP is the fact that the GP costs of gifts grow rather quickly, but the monsters don’t start giving you very large amounts of GP at all. Again, endgame numbers are 7 each, and you have to reach 1500GP for the highest tier of gifts. Quest rewards do grow with each chapter, but those are limited. It’s very aggravating.
The story returns once again to the princess and Drake causing their own problems when they realize that Reijo was trying to nullify the deal on her own by granting the wish of a witness to the deal for 100 days. However, Makimona (the fortune teller), the witness, has a wish that involves nobody knowing she is being given a cake from Ricardo every day. Ricardo’s cakes are so bad they invoke the ability to see ghosts due to near-death experiences. Toki/Towa stumbled across this exchange at the start of the chapter, so there’s no way to nullify the deal!
So they go to confront Netherdrake directly, and through some subtle language cues, he lets slip that either way Reijo goes, the princess would die. Turns out the most precious thing to Reijo was her friend’s life and her wedding going well! After this is figured out, Reijo threatens to sic the Better Business Bureau on him. This drives him to attack Toki/Towa/Drake, and a gimmick boss fight begins! He’s a giant enemy, so you get to fight him with Drake, which basically amounts to strafing out of the way of his shots and shooting him a bunch yourself. It’s really annoying and it’s one of four times you have to do it in the game.
So, the giant dark dragon cowed, they return to the future (Toki/Towa’s hourglass full of sentient sand via which she initiates the time leaps makes a comment about how much effort they’re going through) and go through with wedding #3.
Chapter 3 — Something Fresh, Something Trite, Something Something, Man, This Bites
Wedding #3 starts with Zack (fiancee) being surprisingly intelligent and noting that it’s been twice now that they prompted their own problem and then solved it, shortly before Makimona busts down the door and assaults the bride/groom. Wedi, another friend I haven’t mentioned, who sees fairies and is the wedding planner, protects them with a golem, and tells them to go a month back and tell her she’s cute, which will let past-her know they’re from the future.
They do that, she tells the other members of the group they’re from the future, they talk about the possibility ZackDrake came up with, and realize they are probably stuck in The Moebius Loop. They talk to Toki/Towa’s grandma, who taught them how to use time magic, and learn that to escape the loop, they have to acquire the Something Four. Something Old, Something New, Something Borrowed, and Something Blue. (This is a very subtle game.)
Makimona is the guardian of the gardens of heaven where the Four Great Spirits, Olden, iNew, Burrough, and Draquoise, live. She opens the gate to Olden’s garden, remarking on how she wants the Something Four instead, to bring her happiness in marriage, as she assumes they are meant to do.
Olden has a quiz you have to take to earn Something Old, but it’s trivialized by the last question, which automatically gives you enough points if you choose that you can’t choose between Toki/Towa. He doesn’t like seeing a lady’s feelings hurt! What an old softie. After that, you return to Makimona to open iNew’s garden (she makes another remark about the Something Four and how she needs them more than you do), where the recommended level suddenly jumps four levels despite containing the same monsters.
iNew, wacky as his anachronistic tech talk is, is just a boss that I was warned about and so I churned through him using time magic. It was around this time I realized that the ability to Time Surge, or enter a personal hypertime, is extremely potent. Casting several base spells in a row in the span of roughly 10 seconds leads to a frightening amount of damage. There’s even a passive ability that gives you a magic boost during Time Surge, which means the creators knew exactly what they were doing.
After hearing Makimona demand the Something Four when Toki/Towa get them, Burrough’s garden opens. Burrough is mad at Toki/Towa’s ancestor, who borrowed Something Borrowed but never returned it. They died. You go get it back, return it, then re-borrow it. After this, you hear from Wedi’s fairy friend that she’s run off to the Horror Forest to befriend the golem she was using to defend them in the future. She does it, everything’s fine.
Makimona makes one final demand for the Something Four, then opens up Draquoise’s garden. He wants a cake from Ricardo. You go find him in Enlightenment Canyon and get a cake, and return to find out it wasn’t one of his terrible cakes, but actually a decent cake. Draquoise gives you Something Blue anyway.
On your way out, Makimona steals the Something Four and attacks you! Oh no! Except by this time, I had figured out that Time Surge + SP-recharging items + massive amounts of flares was a good way to trivialize bosses. So she was defeated. She tries to return the Something Four, but they get dropped off the side of the ruin in the sky because she’s an idiot.
Our heroes return home, dejected because they will never escape the loop, but then Enda, Reijo, Wedi, and Makimona present them with hand-made Somethings, and they FEEL THE HAPPINESS OVERFLOWING FROM THEM. Or something.
And then they return to the wedding.
Chapter 4 — The Sands of Time and Eternity
Their fourth attempt at the wedding is interrupted by Toki’s hourglass being purified by the Something Four! Turns out the sentient sand who lets Toki step into the flow of time is the manifestation of the Moebius Loop. He goes by Moebius, and decides to leap back in time and possess all three of the chapter-end bosses, which were basically no trouble despite their boosted abilities.
Then he comes to the moment that Toki and Zack met. It’s revealed that Toki doesn’t remember anything about their relationship! And then Moebius turns into a kaiju drake and you can leave and go do endgame sidequests. One of which is particularly worth mentioning because it’s neat and functional.
All of the sidequests in Ch4 are setting up events for the story or sidequests in chapters 1–3, which is neat. However, there’s a questline for being part of a secret organization which culminates in the chapter 4 iteration. It tasks you with destroying four monsters around areas you’ve visited before, with the visible reward being the Sword and Gun of Eternity. However, all of the monsters drop one of the Eternity armor pieces, meaning by the time you’re done with this quest, you have the ultimate equipment, guaranteed. That’s a neat thing.
Chapter 4’s actual main story content is basically just the Moebius bossfights, though there is a revelation about Toki/Towa in their youth that makes their existence in a post-loop world mutually exclusive. They basically made a promise amounting to marriage vows, and the universe hates polygamy, so Moebius manifested. Moebius intends to eat all of Toki/Towa’s memories because apparently that will give him the power to control time itself, a power he intends to use to become the ultimate layabout. He’s a lazy guy who wants to watch his favorite TV shows at his leisure for eternity.
After knocking Moebiusdrake’s HP down to half, he stops taking damage because of Toki/Towa’s promise cementing his existence. Their grandma jumps back into the past and stops them from making that promise, thus making Moebius vulnerable to damage again. After drake form is down, you pursue him to the church square, where you choose Toki or Towa and then fight him regularly. At about half health, he stops taking damage again until you close in on him and do a finishing move, something I didn’t realize for a few minutes because there is no precedent for such a thing. After that, he can be killed.
Then you watch the ending, where the girl you chose doesn’t remember Zack, they go out for a year again and get engaged again, and he remembers how their friends acted the day before the wedding and uses that to Be A Cool Guy. The timeline is kinda flattened out into Happily Ever After stuff. Then they get married despite his anxiety about the wedding being attacked, Makimona grabs the bouquet, and the princess you chose decides that if their first kid is a daughter, they’re going to name it after the other girl.
Really, this game is more astounding than outright bad. I’m amazed the 2D animation over 3D environment style choice persisted through to the final product, for one. But past that, once the correct paradigm is reached to make it through this game, it’s entirely mediocre and super padded, yet still I managed to get through it in 26 hours. It’s baffling.
I’ve played worse games and paid more (in time and money) for them, but it’s really not worth your time. The humor’s awkward, the combat is bizarre, and the story is shallow.
It’s not really a disaster, though. Just incredibly underwhelming, especially with the catastrophic reputation I saw it hold compared to the norm for the industry in terms of scoring and such.