Eternights Preview – Not Persona, But Something Unique

When games take inspiration from a more popular series, the result can easily be a project that mirrors its muse too closely. However, I can see how the lines can blur during development. I’ve been following Eternights for a long time, ever since I saw the developer posting questions and sharing ideas within the Visual Novel subreddit.

The passion I saw from Studio Sai in those early days of conception can still be seen today. While many point to the developer’s statement that the Persona series was a huge inspiration, I believe I see more of Studio Sai within Eternights than anything related to Persona.

After playing through the demo, this game appears to be the product of a group of fans creating something for themselves without holding back who they are within the game’s writing, systems, and direction. The result is a unique experience that takes chances you’d normally say would be too ambitious from an indie developer, but here, it works better than anyone could have imagined.

Eternights allows you to name your protagonist, a college boy simply trying to go on a date. With the help of his best friend Chani, he sets up his online profile and plays the swiping game. The opening of the game shows just how normal these characters’ lives are before all hell breaks loose as the protagonist makes his way to go on a date. A giant wall surrounds the city, and the citizens trap inside begin to transform into zombie-like creatures.

After meeting back up with Chani, and ditching the date, the two run into Yuna, a popular idol with a strange healing power. The events become even stranger when the protagonist’s arm is cut off, revealing a magical arm that can turn into a sword and fight back against the threat. The group is led by a woman talking through a drone, promising them their questions will be answered, but they need to follow her guidance.

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Reflecting back on the opening moments and the writing in general. These characters aren’t written in a way that we would be envious of. I often recall playing Persona 5 and thinking about how cool the protagonist is, but also that I could never be him. In Eternights, I instantly connected to the overly perverted jokes between friends or the subtle jabs of making an out-of-pocket comment at an awkward time.

This is also highlighted in the dialogue choices, which raise personality stats depending on your response. Sometimes I couldn’t really connect the stat that was raised with what I replied with, but I enjoyed the responses. On top of that, I think the writers did a good job of highlighting other emotions, such as jealousy and anger. These aren’t perfect characters by any means, and just a few days prior, they were normal college kids, so it was good to see these various facets explored in the game’s opening.

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Once you acquire the sword, you’ll face rooms of enemies. Combat is action-based, where you have a light and strong attack that leads to a special ability or even a deadly blow. As you land hits, you’ll raise a gauge to unleash a special ability. This is followed by a few quick time events, which are necessary to master to break the shield of certain bosses. You can also utilize the abilities of your party members, who are just running around otherwise since it’s explained the enemies only care about the protagonist.

Combat also has a dodge mechanic that slows down time and grants some invincibility. After getting the hang of the timing and follow-up actions, I found it possible to just destroy bosses without taking much damage. I would say a higher difficulty might be necessary, but I found the combat to provide a balanced experience.

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There’s plenty to be excited about when looking at the systems and overall promising aspects of Eternights. Other elements of gameplay that I didn’t get to experience too much are the puzzles and dating mechanics. Still, what I was able to play, has left me confident that the passion behind the development of this game is thriving, and I can’t wait to play more.

Eternights is coming to PlayStation 4, PlayStation 5, and PC via Epic Games Store and Steam on September 21, 2023.

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Azario Lopez

Hanging out max, relaxing all cool.