I bet you all forgot who I am. Hah! But no, Blargnauts, I’m certainly still around… and today I’m bringing you a very special exclusive interview on NIS America’s upcoming animated RPG, Time and Eternity. Created by Namco Bandai Games and released as the “first HD animation RPG” for the Playstation 3, Time and Eternity mixes the interactivity of role-playing games with the graphics of anime to create a unique experience for players. So without further time-wasting, let’s get right into it!
For those who haven’t heard of it (or just don’t know much about it), could you briefly introduce Time and Eternity and give us a short summary of the game?
NISA: Time and Eternity begins with the hero, a knight named Zack (or whatever you decide to name him), preparing to marry Toki, a princess. But just as they’re about to say their vows, their wedding is attacked by a group of assassins, and Zack is mortally wounded. As he’s fading out, he sees Toki transform into another person, who attacks the assassins. He soon discovers that Toki is actually two souls in one body. He also discovers that she can travel through time. Together, they travel back into the past to try and find out who attacked them, which sets a whole series of events into motion.
NISA has released a number of JRPGs in the past, like the Hyperdimension Neptunia series (which has an anime coming out this summer) and many games from GUST’s Atelier series. On the other hand, Time and Eternity has sometimes been described as a “Playable Anime” both in terms of art style and the way it’s presented. What is it that makes Time and Eternity different from the games you’ve released in the past?
NISA: For starters, one big difference is exactly what you described – the art style. The game world is all in 3D, while the character bust-ups and battle animations are all hand-drawn. This is different from computer-based cel-shading, giving it a unique, lovingly crafted feel. The battle system is also very different from other titles – it’s a fast-paced real-time system where your timing and reflexes are key. You control one character in battle and must time your dodges, blocks, and attacks very precisely with that character.
So, would it be fair to say that Time and Eternity is more about the storytelling and experience than, say, the exploration and challenge that many other JRPGs focus on?
NISA: Along with the visual presentation, storytelling and characterization are definitely at the center of the experience. Reading the brief summary I gave up above, you might think the story is very serious and grim, but there are plenty of lighthearted, even goofy moments in the game, which all come from character presentation and interaction. The scope of the story is purposefully limited (you’re not saving the world here, only your life) so that you can focus on individual character personalities and interactions. That being said, while the game does feature an Easy Mode, you won’t be able to just sit back and let the game play itself – you’ll still have to go in there and kick some butt.
Let’s talk characters for a bit. Some materials have referred to the “Prince” in the game as the Main Character, but at the same time, you seem to be controlling Toki and Towa on the map and in battle. Who’s really the avatar of the player in this game?
NISA: Honestly, it’s really sort of a split, which was a conscious choice to allow the player to develop a closer connection to everyone involved in this central relationship. During cutscenes and story bits, you’ll see things from the knight Zack’s perspective and make dialogue choices for him, which allows you to see and shape his feelings for Toki and Towa. But once you get into battle, you’ll be controlling the girls, allowing you to experience first-hand their strength and independence in the world.
As long as we’re talking about protagonists, what’s the Prince actually like? Does he have a personality of his own that we’ll be watching or does he act as more of a stand-in for the player with little existence of his own?
NISA: Zack absolutely does have a personality of his own, covering all ends of the emotional and dramatic spectrum. He can be courageous, cool, goofy, comically angry, even sometimes a bit dirty. And while much of this personality is predetermined, there are plenty of points in the game where the player will be making key choices for him, in terms of how he presents himself to Toki, Towa and others, as well as important decisions about his future with the two girls.
How about the supporting cast of the game? Are there any interesting or unusual characters among them? For that matter, is there any favorite supporting character at NISA’s offices?
NISA: Absolutely. While the main thrust of the game’s story is fairly serious, the supporting cast is given plenty of room to breathe and grow and get all kinds of silly. It’s actually not so different from other NISA titles in that regard. Self-absorbed swimsuit designers, robotic record producers, cake-obsessed dragons, there’s plenty to look forward to. He’s kind of a bit player, but my personal favorite is the overblown vampire who’s also an aspiring comedian.
Let’s move on to the system and mechanics of the game. Could you briefly explain the combat system to us and tell us a little about what players will need to do to succeed when they play?
NISA: You’ll start off controlling either Toki or Towa on a field map, running around completeing objectives, looking for treasure, all that good stuff. The game has random battles, and once you go battle you’ll be in direct control of your character. Battles play out in real-time, so you’ll have to dodge and block, adjust your positioning (melee or ranged), and execute attacks all at the same time. You have a basic attack, and can assign three more attacks to your face buttons. As you level up, you’ll gain a wide variety attacks, as well as the option to set up multiple skill “palettes” that you can swap to mid-battle, so you can move between different skill/attack setups. So to succeed, you’ll have to pay attention to many different things, learning the timing of enemy attacks, figuring out when they’re vulnerable and what they’re vulnerable to, attack combinations, and so on.
The battle system of Time and Eternity.
Time and Eternity relies on an unusual animation style for much of what’s going on. Has this presented any challenges for the way NISA localizes the script?
NISA: While it’s a very unique style for the end-user to enjoy, it didn’t pose any particular problems for us during localization. Line lengths were auto-adjusted, as were lip flaps, so we never had to worry about anything like that. Battle lines had to be timed to be roughly as long as the Japanese, but that’s common for us so we didn’t have any issue there.
One element of JRPGs that many fans care about is the voice-acting. Does NISA plan to stay with its usual format of including both the Japanese dub and a new English voice-over for this game, or do you plan to do something else?
NISA: We totally understand how important the Japanese dub is to many of our fans, and we’re happy to let everyone know that the game will feature the full original Japanese voice track, as well as an English track for everyone else. (For the record, we did not voice the side story lines in English, but the main story is fully voiced.)
In the same vein, sometimes direct translations just don’t work very well for the way you’re presenting the game. How much of the game is distinctly localized, compared to a straight translation, and how does this compare to other games you’ve released in the past?
NISA: It’s really hard to say “this line is directly translated” or “this line is completely localized.” That kind of thing is on a sliding scale, and the distinction can be very subtle. That being said, our philosophy has always been to try to understand exactly what effect a line is intended to have on a Japanese player, and then translate/localize that line in a way that will create the same effect for a Western player. Sometimes this is very easy with a literal translation, sometimes the line needs to be massaged a bit. In the case of Time and Eternity, there wasn’t too much in the way of cultural references or anything, which is usually the biggest challenge on our games, so we really didn’t have to stray very far from the original Japanese.
Out of every game you could have chosen, what was it that made NISA pick this one?
NISA: There are so many factors that go into deciding which games we bring over, so it’s hard to nail down the reasoning to one specific thing. But what I can say is that this game does offer a very unique experience in terms of its visuals and its story. We were founded on the idea of bringing over niche titles that certain types of players can really get into and invest themselves in, and we believe this is that kind of title.
Finally, is there anything else you’d like to tell us about the game?
NISA: Everyone at NISA is really excited about the game, and we hope everyone reading this gets just as excited. We’ve always relied on word of mouth and fan enthusiasm to help spread the word, so if you dig this game, feel free to shout about it from the rooftops! (While taking every necessary safety precaution, of course.)
Thank you for taking the time to answer our questions!
Time and Eternity is scheduled for release this summer in North America and the EU.
Your wives. Yes, the plural is plot-relevant.
About NIS America
In 2003, NIS America was established in Southern California to bring exciting, one-of-a-kind Japanese culture to North America. NIS America’s team members devote themselves to the fans. Their respect for their fans is at the heart of everything they do. As an established entertainment publisher in the U.S., NIS America is committed to continuous growth and improvement.
NIS America is a subsidiary of Nippon Ichi Software, Inc., a Japanese company famous for its unique line of strategy RPGs with titles such as Disgaea, Phantom Brave, and Makai Kingdom. NIS America has also become a publisher of Japanese anime titles, such as Toradora!, anohana: The Flower We Saw That Day and bunny drop.
Contact: NIS America, Inc. 1221 E. Dyer Road, Suite 100, Santa Ana, CA 92705 / 714-540-1122 / NISAmerica.com
Screenshots used in this article may not be representative of the final game.