Strange and quirky. Those are two words that can often come to mind when you're discussing Japanese role-playing games. And they're definitely terms that apply to the JRPG Time and Eternity—a title that packs in everything from duel spirit possession to time-traveling quests to "horny" teen-boy humor.
Your trippy trip starts off with a wedding. A pretty anime princess named Toki is excited about getting married to her, uh, let's call him an eager fiancé. But instead of a moment of shared vows and passionate kissing, the happy ceremony is interrupted by a squad of killers that kicks down the church door and charges in. The fiancé is murdered. And everything is chaos.
With many games of this type, it would now be time to break out your fancy armor and giant swords, and start flexing some serious anime muscle. But instead, Time and Eternity takes its first quirky turn.
Princess Toki, you see, secretly shares her body with her sister, Towa. (Two souls taking turns controlling the same human frame.) Where Toki is gentle and sweet, Towa is something of an Amazon warrior. And together they possess a magical family trait that allows them to manipulate time.
So they quickly decide to jump back six months in a quest to find and kill the bad guys before said bad guys can spoil a good happily ever after with their, well, bad ways. The girls are unaware, however, that the soul of their fiancé has been sucked into the past with them, and he's now taking up residence in the body of Toki's pet miniature dragon, Drake.
Getting the vibe now?
A Girl and Her Dragon
Toki/Towa and Dragon Drake—with the help of Toki's three gal pals (a boy-crazy teen, a clumsy wedding planner and a snooty rich girl)—must rally their forces and unravel a magical intrigue that involves everything from a secret assassin's guild to a wish-granting dragon.
It's all presented in water color-feeling, hand-painted animation. But despite that pretty and colorful presentation, the gameplay is much more bland and black-and-white. Gamers play as Toki and Towa as they switch back and forth between ruling their physical roost after each new skill level is earned. They set off on story-revealing quests, bloodlessly battling scores and scores of those aforementioned baddies along the way. They fight with ranged attacks involving rifles and spell-like blasts, along with some run-up-close melee attacks with knives and swords. As skills and weapons upgrade, it's a matter of timing your blocks and dodges while slipping in the right number of blows against a bunch of characters and creatures that range from ninja assassins to stony golems to dematerializing vampires to powerful sorcerers and netherdragons.
How does Drake fit in? Well, he stays by Toki/Towa's side while landing a few AI-controlled bursts of fiery dragon breath or a needed health-recovery spell. He's also "good" for the one-note humor that punctuates the game. Because while gamers fight as one of the princesses, they watch the story unfold from Drake's perspective—while hearing all his rather off-color thoughts.
A Lewd and Lusty Lizard
Nothing Drake thinks or says is ever M-rated raw, but he's constantly panting for an eyeful of bulging cleavage or revealed thigh. The various girls he sees sport low-cut tops, midriff-baring shifts and teeny, wispy skirts. The dragon-possessing guy also drools over hopes of spying his betrothed, naked in her steamy bath. (He eventually gets his desired peep; steam and well-placed hair keep his full view just out of our sight.)
Again, all of this heavy-breathing yuk-yuk is designed to keep a teen boy audience grinning, and in so doing it comes off as rather eye-rollingly uncomfortable. That's especially true in light of the heroines' obviously sincere and loving efforts to save their beloved and right a terrible wrong. It just makes Drake's randy comments feel even more obnoxiously puerile.
Add in all manner of Eastern mysticism and spiritual misdirection, including possessing spirits and spells. Also occasional language problems—including "d‑‑n," "h‑‑‑," "a‑‑," "b‑‑tard" and "jeez," along with slang references to male genitalia.
Time and Eternity is strange and quirky to be sure, but after a while it seems that the best gamers can hope for is the next snippet of oddly twisted spiritual fantasy or the next icky dragon quip.