|System: DS||Review Rating Legend|
|Dev: Tenky||1.0 - 1.9 = Avoid||4.0 - 4.4 = Great|
|Pub: Konami||2.0 - 2.4 = Poor||4.5 - 4.9 = Must Buy|
|Release: Sep. 23, 2008||2.5 - 2.9 = Average||5.0 = The Best|
|3.0 - 3.4 = Fair|
|Players: 1||3.5 - 3.9 = Good|
by Bill Gray
February 27, 2008 - Perhaps inspired by the success of Capcom's Phoenix Wright series, Konami revealed its new adventure/drama for the DS, Time Hollow, at the 2008 Tokyo Game Show.
With high-production value, anime-inspired visuals, an apparently meaty story, and a fascinating game mechanic, Time Hollow shows a lot of promise, though it has not yet been confirmed that the game will be localized for release in the U.S. And, judging from preliminary reports, screenshots, and a video trailer of the game, there's enough text in the game to keep Konami's translators busy for a long, long time.
Time Hollow centers around the life of a Japanese high school student named Horo Tokio and his efforts to uncover the mystery of his parents' sudden disappearance. Apparently, on the eve of his seventeenth birthday, Horo had a strange dream where he was suddenly a child again and surrounded by a burning building. Upon awakening the next morning, Horo finds out that his parents are gone. In fact, in the new world he wakes up in, they've been gone for the past 12 years. The only other difference is that Horo suddenly has an eerie, glowing green pen known as a "Hollow Pen." Using the "Hollow Pen" as a Pullman-esque subtle knife, Horo can literally cut holes in the present that act as windows to the past. The kicker? Changes that Horo makes to the past take immediate effect in the here and now, so an accident that takes place from, say, a faulty bike chain that you fix, wouldn't happen, which can lead to a cascade of other good and bad events. Players will have to decipher, from dialogue and experimentation, what in the past should be changed, what would be better left alone, and ultimately, how to bring Horo's parents back to life again.
Actual gameplay seems to consist of navigating a two-dimensional map navigated using the DS's stylus and touch screen. Once you've traveled to a particular location, you're given a view of the scene from Horo's perspective, and can move from place to place within the scene by using your stylus to highlight paths and doors, or investigate particular parts of an area by clicking on them. You talk to characters present in the various scenes in the same way. It all seems very simple and intuitive, really. Of course, where things get really interesting is when you transform your little plastic stylus into a glowing, green pen that can cut holes through time!
This creative use of the DS's stylus isn't the only thing Time Hollow has going for it. Konami tapped Japanese author Takehito Hata, who has written numerous mystery novels and screenplays, and Junko Kawano of Suikoden fame, to craft Time Hollow's story and characters. The gorgeous anime cutscene on display in the trailer featured full vocalization, although at this point none of the text in-game seems to be voiced. And the characters are illustrated in typical Japanese-anime fashion, resplendent with spiky haircuts, humongous eyes, and unusual outfits. But don't let the artwork fool you-from the trailers and early information, Time Hollow is heavily text-based and requires you to pay attention to every detail.
Indeed, this may prove one of the biggest obstacles to bringing the game to U.S. shores-the sheer volume of work required to localize a game that seems very "Japanese" in nature. It also appears that Horo has a love interest in the game. This leads me to speculate that one of the mysteries you'll have to solve is how to help Horo win the girl, which treads dangerously close to "dating-simulation game" territory, something that's never really caught on with a Western audience. And I can only wish that Time Hollow avoids some of the problems found in Trace Memory and Hotel Dusk, namely, that they were short and lacked significant replayability due to the linear nature of their stories. Konami should at least have the decency to include multiple endings in the game.
Such speculation may be premature, true. But with a game with as much obvious potential as Time Hollow, here's hoping that Konami takes the necessary time (sorry, no pun intended!) to create a well-crafted, appropriate localization, and brings it stateside for North American audiences to enjoy. And as always, visit Cheat Code Central for the latest news on Time Hollow and other DS titles!
CCC Freelance Writer