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Time and Eternity hands-on impressions: all that glitters

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Time and Eternity is what you'd call a looker. Even as a Japanese role-playing game, it's anything but typical in its hand-drawn visuals and battle system, we learned while demoing the game at E3. But though the game is unlike many titles we've played in the genre, the novelty we experienced during the demo eventually wore off to mediocre results.

In Time and Eternity, players take control of Toki, a young woman whose body is inhabited by two souls. During Toki's wedding, her soon-to-be husband is murdered by assassins. Joined by her alter ego Towa and pet dragon, Toki must travel back in time to prevent the attack.

The game features bright, hand-drawn 2D visuals layered on top of a 3D world. Time and Eternity's animation is easy on the eyes, but the demo's background lacked the same detail and variety. The area we explored was a vast plain with few details beyond sparse plant life or rocks. Shifting directions often yielded more of the same with a few new landmarks to signify a change.

During the demo, we spent some time playing as Toki's more agressive, blonde-haired personality, Towa. Towa's animations are also clear and detailed, whether while exploring the world map or engaging in battles. Fights are encountered randomly, and once in a brawl, Towa faces off against enemies one-on-one before spinning to take on the next.

Battles take place from a Pokemon-esque, over the shoulder perspective and attacks happen in real-time. This allows Towa to dodge to the right or left with a single button or chain attacks. Towa comes armed with a long-range gun for far-off blasts, but can dash toward an enemy for up-close damage at any time. In addition to her melee attacks, Towa also has several special abilities, including Bolt and Shrouded Moon, that can be used at long or short range. After defeating an enemy, Towa automatically pivots to challenge the next.

The game does feel different from typical RPGs in its battle systems, but in the demo this amounted to a fair amount of button-mashing for long range attacks or waiting for skills to recharge. Battles for us were most enjoyable when the need to dodge or counter an attack arose — movements that required timing and thought, rather than mindless repetition.

Although we didn't have the chance to play as Toki, we're told that Towa automatically transforms back into her red-haired doppleganger upon leveling up. Toki will apparently have slightly different skills and abilities that make her a better choice for long-range enemies.

Time and Eternity is expected to launch for PlayStation 3 this summer.