Release date: September 12, 2023
Platforms: PlayStation 5, PlayStation 4, Microsoft Windows
Developer: Studio Sai
Genres: Role-playing video game, Fighting game, Adventure game, Indie game, Casual game
Mode: Single-player video game
Publisher: Studio Sai
"Review Copy Provided By Studio Sai"
Don’t sleep on this one!
Delving into Eternights, Studio Sai's hybrid of hack-and-slash and dating sim mechanics, it's evident that it's influenced by the likes of Persona. My initial interaction with the game during Summer Game Fest left me questioning the depth of its combat mechanics and the originality of its characters. But diving into the complete version, while it doesn't completely mirror the prowess of its inspirations, Eternights dares to make bold narrative choices, especially towards its end. The game's minor issues, however, sometimes overshadow its strengths.
We're introduced to the protagonist and Chani, his friend, setting up dating app accounts. Concurrently, the world buzzes about the new Eternights drug and Yuna, an upcoming pop sensation. But as the background fades, Chani shares a unique dating app, leading to a yacht date invitation from a stranger. The narrative twists when most humans transform into monstrous entities. Trapped in a city shelter, adversity escalates, pushing you into a battle for humanity's survival with allies you grow close to.
Eternights is fundamentally an action RPG. You navigate creepy dungeons, battle creatures, and combine attacks, dodging enemies. Special elemental QTEs break down strong enemy defenses, enabling real damage. Mastering this is challenging initially but becomes easier as your skill set expands. Allies accompany you on these perilous quests. Yuna, Min, and Sia are primary allies; each brings elemental prowess: Yuna (fire), Min (lightning), and Sia (ice). Yohan, another ally, offers support but avoids direct confrontation. Strengthening bonds with these characters enhances your combat effectiveness. Character relationships are central. Spending quality time and collecting White Essence enhances your allies' stats. Black Essence, garnered from dungeons and enemies, boosts your weapon abilities. Managing SP efficiently allows you to tackle dungeons more aggressively as you progress. Eternights keeps its dungeon quests concise and varied, incorporating puzzles and mini-games to disrupt potential redundancy. Memory challenges, tile rearrangements, stealth sections, and even motorcycle races keep players engaged, preventing repetitiveness.
Eternights shines with its bond system, focusing on Yuna, Min, Sia, and Yohan as potential romantic partners. Building these relationships through special activities and timely decisions reveals the game's authentic climax. The time-restriction feature compels strategic choices: days are for character interactions or dungeon exploration, while nights are reserved for character training.
Character depth is where Eternights excels. Each character initially feels clichéd but evolves to reveal intricate, relatable personalities. From Yuna's personal redemption journey to Min's resilience, from Sia's passionate but concealed love for science to Yohan's battle with past traumas, Eternights brings them all to life. Other memorable figures include Eunji, a quirky Yuna fan, Aria, the compassionate researcher, Lux with her enigmatic allure, and Delia, the melancholic antagonist. But Chani's transformation from a stereotypical sidekick to a mature supporter, especially when confronted with diverse romantic preferences, is especially commendable. Aesthetically, Eternights leans towards anime-style visuals, which occasionally feel outdated. Nevertheless, the animated sequences and CG graphics interspersed throughout offer an artistic touch. The user interface is intuitive, and the auditory experience, available in multiple languages, heightens the game's ambiance, with Lorien's end theme being particularly notable. However, Eternights isn't without flaws. Shaky camera work can be distracting, and occasionally, disorienting. Several gameplay mechanics, although designed to diversify the experience, appear too briefly. Additionally, the game's focus narrows over time, limiting interactions with all characters in a single playthrough. Yet, the character-centric storytelling remains commendable.
To sum it up, Eternights, despite its imperfections, provides an engaging gaming experience. The final act, especially if loyal to your chosen partner, reserves a heartwarming surprise. Comparatively, Eternights holds its own against other titles in the genre and establishes Studio Sai as a developer worth monitoring. Eternights successfully reminds us that navigating the challenges of love can be ultimately rewarding.