Saturday, August 10, 2013

Chamberlain & Chance on Time & Eternity - Part 1.

This time around, Chamberlain and I agree that Time & Eternity is actually entertaining.  Chamberlain, of course, writes Infinite Backlog, which you should be reading.

Once upon a time, Time & Eternity was one of my most-anticipated releases of the summer, due entirely to its remarkable and unique presentation - every frame of the game is a hand-drawn 2D character sprite (just like in an anime!) on top of a 3D polygonal background.  I've been following the game for months, even going so far as to send my first-ever tweet, begging the president of Imageepoch to localize it to North America.

Well, he did.  By the time he did, it had been hammered with terribad reviews, and the game dropped at a time when I was returning to gainful employment after three months of no income - though I had the game preordered, I had no money to purchase it - and so, I let it slide.  Though I felt guilty about it.

Then, over the weekend, I logged in to PSN and saw Chamberlain playing it.

CHANCE :  WTF.  How is it?  I've not heard much good.

CHAMBERLAIN :  Just started and no, it's not.  The whole thing makes me feel a little skeevy.  It's just so, well, anime.

CHANCE : Sugoi!

* * *

And with that, newly paycheck'd, I snapped up a copy of T&E and put a half-dozen hours into it - so Chamberlain and I could chat on it, and you could read of it.

* * *

"Skeevy"?  There's nothing skeevy about a hero, bravely battling the thousand phallic limbs of the Pedobeast.

CHANCE : It is very, very anime.  The cutscenes in Toki's house move pretty slow with all the characters - and oh my God I hate the fiancee so much - but the actual gameplay is... nice.

CHAMBERLAIN : It’s nice but unresponsive when in combat. None of the animations can be interrupted by another one so once you commit to three standard attacks you can’t stop to block. I understand that this is side effect of literally playing a cartoon but Ni No Kuni proved that you can get a similar effect with 3d characters instead of 2D ones on a 3D background.

Still, I like the direction the combat is taking and Toki and Towa having different skills keeps things interesting. Somehow I end up as Towa every time I go back home, which is fine with me, as her wanting to simply kill everyone is about the same reaction I have.

Questionable content aside, the game looks like nothing else.

CHANCE : I'm not sure the "playing a cartoon" defense holds water.  Muramasa, Dragon's Crown and any recent fighter from Arc System Works establishes you can have buttery-smooth high-def animation while still providing the player total control.

Granted, Time and Eternity's sprites are absolutely gigantic - but I don't want to give these folks too much credit.  You and I - mere civilians, a half a world away - can perceive how this could have been done better.

Still, we haven't seen all it has to offer yet, and as I unlock new active and passive skills, the combat seems to be on its way to becoming much broader.  What I think is kind of holding me to the game and keeps me coming back is the fact that this - a rather-traditional JRPG setup with totally-different presentation - feels so new.  My thinker is punching holes in it, but the kid in me loves wallowing in such rarity.

Like seeing a 16-bit Mario run for the first time.  That's just something you don't get every day.

Ricardo needs to piss off, though.  Every time he hits on me (I refuse to think of the fiancee as 'me') at the end of an Assassin island, I'm playing as Towa and the same thing happens - Drake bites his head, Towa puts her knife to his throat and lets him leave. I really want her to just cut it, but that would go against what the game is shooting for.

It is... weird to be playing an RPG that's also, unabashedly, a sex comedy.

Trapped in the body of Toki's pet dragon, her fiancé is always flipping out
at the idea of taking a bath with Toki and her friends.   Skeevy prick.

CHAMBERLAIN : I don’t want to spoil anything for you as I have a day head start, but the best comedy bit, the fiancé being trapped in a dragon and unable to speak, goes away far too soon. He goes from pervy and amusing to pervy and trying to improve himself. Nothing ruins comedy faster than trying to better ones self.

So far the game passes the most important test: I am looking forward to play it again tonight.

CHANCE : Aw yeah babbleberries - haven't found one, yet - curious to see where that goes. But so far... the game is doing a good job of keeping things lighthearted and downright silly.  Beating the crap out of a bunch of assassins, only for it to be revealed that they're actually the Assassins Fan Club, is pretty amusing.

A lot of this game feels like it could be told just as well though those super-expressive, cheaply-animated chibi renditions of characters that sometimes pop in Fullmetal Alchemist Brotherhood or Teen Titans.  It just goes straight into stupid-crazy, and for a game that tries to rely so much on hot babes, I appreciate at least that it refuses to take itself in any way seriously.

I'm not entirely sure why it takes the tack it does, though.  It has this marvelous ambition to its aesthetics, but I feel like it squanders them a bit in its attempt to court the Horny Teen Male demographic.

For the record, I am a fan of sexy ladies - and if Towa were laying in the grass in front of me with her boobs all skooshed together (you can find "memories" in the game with sexy-ish screens), I'd definitely give 'em a glance - but the "hero"'s ridiculous reactions are off-putting. I find the game's conceit that this horndog's behavior is somehow representative of The Everyman... insulting.  And sad.

...I wonder how it sold in Japan?

The eye-poke screenshot never gets old.

CHAMBERLAIN : Glad you chose Towa and not Toki. Towa is clearly the more attractive of the two.


VGchartz has total sales in Japan since release at 57,701. US sales are 17,189. Canadian sales come in at 1 copy, which I assume is you.

It’s certainly a niche game but I think it misjudges its niche. The game is so easy and so streamlined that there is no reason to actually explore areas or spend time grinding out levels, things that fans of JRPGs generally enjoy doing.  The combat itself has all the necessary bits and pieces to be varied and interesting but at nine hours in all I need to do is save up for a magic attack and almost everything dies in one hit. I really hope buffs and debuffs become more important later, at least for boss fights.

I am jealous of your sound track disc. The music in chapter two for the haunted woods is fantastic.

CHANCE : Yeah the magic spells are an I Win Button against any normal enemy - but that does make them kinda' satisfying.  Taptaptap with the rifle to build up some SP, dodge a dude's miniquake and let loose with a fireball that one-shots him?

That's fun.  I can see it getting old, but for now, that's fun.

I actually haven't thought much of the music so far - and lord knows when I shall ever get to Chapter 2 now that Dragon's Crown has appeared in my PS3 (and Vita!).

Oh my God it's so gorgeous and fun. This is a game I need the soundtrack for - but the art book will do, for now.

* * *

And so, while I have tumbled down the rabbit hole of Dragon's Crown, Chamberlain has soldiered on with Time & Eternity - and the story, he says, gets better.

I titled this Part 1 because I'm really hoping he and I can return to it once more of the game has been absorbed, and offer some more definitive judgments on its qualities.  For now, though, if you were to ask me how Time & Eternity is?

It's fun.  And pretty skeevy.

[update]  Chamberlain's just about done with the game, and from the sounds of it it remains an acceptable, light and frothy diversion right up to the end.  To quote, "it's not a great RPG but it was a good enough time." [/update]

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