When you’ve been marketed as a Persona-inspired JRPG, it’s near impossible not to have expectations raised even before you press ‘New Game’ on Eternights. In many ways, it’s easy to see the blueprints of Persona within the game’s foundations — from its young-adult cast to its quirky (and often on the nose) dialogue options.
But does being inspired by one of the most critically acclaimed JRPGs in the world make Eternights just as good? The answer is, unfortunately, a resounding no.
Players take on the role of a protagonist (whose name you can choose) who, alongside their best friend Chani, is making their way into the world of dating apps to pick up girls. It’s established from the get-go that you’re just two stereotypical guys who are, frankly, seen as losers by their peers. You want to change that and, thanks to the world of modern dating, you believe you can do that with a few swipes right.
Unfortunately for you and Chani, the apocalypse comes knocking first, with a disease spread by an anti-aging drug called Eternight seemingly having turned everyone into weird, zombie-like hybrids. With nowhere else to go, you’re forced into an underground bunker alongside the rest of the city. Eventually, you’re compelled to get the hell out of there and come across Yuna — a pop idol, and one of the game’s romance options.
20-minutes later, you’re given a sword for an arm and a mandate: break through the magical walls to get to The Stone for an otherworldly entity called Lux. The Stone, held hostage by Lux’s sibling Umbra, will restore the world to what it once was.
Sounds simple right? Well, it is. Apart from the fact that everything you do is on a time limit, meaning that every little thing you do counts towards your main goal, and you’re encouraged to spend your time wisely. For example, you can only do one thing per morning and night, so you have to choose whether you either want to spend time with your favourite companion, or train your stats to help better improve your chances in combat.
Even during this small introduction, Eternights strives to connect the player to the world and its characters. As stereotypically sex-obsessed Chani and you are, there’s also real love and care between the two of you that can only be further established by dialogue options. And when you’re both thrown into a world-ending situation, where the only thing to do is bond together to try and understand these new powers and fight to restore the world back to what it was? Eternights raises the stakes quickly and, for the first hour of the game at least, it pays off.
It isn’t just Chani that players will be able to get to know during their journey, however. There are also your love interests: Yuna, Sia, Min, and Yohan. You’ll uncover and recruit each of them as you continue to adventure through Eternight’s acts, and each brings their own (often elemental) power into the fold.
You see, enemies in Eternights are often protected by shields, and these can only be broken by using the opposite elemental power. To empower you to do just that, players will need to slash, hack, and perform combos, which range from being laughably easy regardless of difficulty, to frustratingly hard, depending on the enemy. Once you do pull a combo off and fill your power bar, you can use your team’s special attack to deplete the shields and target your foe fully. Depending on your relationship with your companions, their powers (and yours) can offer a more substantial effect or damage.
It’s beneficial for you to get to know your romance options more, and not only because it helps improve your sword arm and powers. Relationships are really the bread and butter of Eternights, and how you interact with your companions is what makes your time special. Training with companions not only increases stats, but improves your relationship. What I really enjoyed was how each companion had their own training mini-game that lent insight into their personalities, such as Sia with science, Yuna being a pop idol, Min with training and sports, and Yohan with meditation. Yet this comes with its own double-edged sword because it further highlights one of Eternight’s biggest weaknesses: its characters simply aren’t developed enough to make you care about them.
Throughout this 15-hour journey with these characters, I’ve groaned and sighed aplenty. Getting to know characters like Yuna, Sia, Min and Yohan has come with its pros and cons, mostly the latter over the former. While each is a romantic interest — with Yohan being male already putting Eternight’s leagues in front of Persona in its handling of same-sex relationships and LGBTQ+ identities — it’s obvious that some are better suited for that role than others. For example, Yohan isn’t even available as a combat companion and only joins the gang during Eternight’s endgame. If you want to get to know him properly, you’ll have to maximize your Courage stat and talk to only him for the next 14 to 15 days before the end of the world starts and you’re locked into the endgame. Sure, you get to meet Yohan a few times before this, but when you’ve had Yuna, Sia, and Min for the past few acts, it’s not hard to feel as though Yohan was shafted. And not the fun kind of shafted.
What makes this worse is that Yohan is, without a doubt, the most interesting and multi-faceted of the entire group. And that isn’t saying a lot, because Yuna, Sia and Min are so often reduced to being one-note that comparing Yohan to them is like comparing a Pot Noodle to a 5-star meal. While Yohan’s past is riddled with interesting, world-building aspects that enhance Eternights‘ narrative beats and your relationship with him, the most interesting thing about all three of the girls is their relationships outside of the male protagonist. It’s no wonder then, that these relationships are focused around their friendships with other women.
Yuna’s relationship with Jisoo is an idol story gone wrong, where Jisoo loses her stardom after being pictured at a bar with a friend. This calls her stardom into question and effectively robs her of the career that Yuna thrives in, forcing the two of them apart. Throughout the story, Jisoo is often portrayed as Yuna’s top priority after saving the world, but that never really goes anywhere. It often made me question what its inclusion was even about: Yuna’s guilt or a tale about the struggles of being a pop idol?
Min and Sia’s relationships with women also play a significant role in their minimal development. For Min, it’s the team of girls she left behind that eventually gets her to overcome her fears in a moment that actually made me smile. For Sia, her relationship with colleague Ran helps her step away from being completely isolated in her work and instead actually develop friendships with others.
Yet as intriguing as these relationships are, all are left by the wayside. Either these relationships never get addressed again, or the people in question die/are dead. Their reason for being in the first place feels like a paradox of meaning. On one hand, these bonds help flesh out the girls in a way your relationship with them never does, but on the other hand, the bonds ultimately vanish as if to prepare the male protagonist to step into that role instead. All in all, it’s just yet another baffling choice that falls short of being actually great.
And truly? That’s exactly how I would describe Eternights overall. The combination of a dating sim and an action game is something that, on paper, ticks all my boxes. The combat is one of the greatest things about it, and the addition of slice-of-life activities and puzzles prevented me from putting the game back down again long after I was supposed to be doing something else. And hell, despite how one-dimensional the entire cast can feel at times, there are moments where the game is undeniably good with a charismatic voice-over cast and a fascinating concept. Its endgame sections are heart-pounding and compelling, and the epilogue is enlightening.
Even so, for Eternights? It’s a case of simply being far too little, far too late.
A copy of Eternights for PC was provided to Gayming Magazine by PR.