It’s clear that Eternights, a dating sim meets action-RPG, holds a lot of reverence for the most iconic titles in those respective genres, as well as coming-of-age stories in other mediums. Saving the world, discovering your own identity and having multiple cute love interests are the main themes in this game, which are also the kind of elements you’d find in anime like Chainsaw Man or Code Geass. And while there are a few visible gaps, the overall effort to mix up the suite of ideas is incredibly impressive.
You are the Protagonist, a teenage boy about to embark on an adventure of a different kind – dating apps. Alongside your wiseguy best friend Chani, you begin updating your profile and get to swiping on profiles just as the world begins to crumble – due to Eternights, a drug that transforms humans into grotesque-looking zombie creatures. A series of events turns you and your growing band of friends (or love interests) into saviours who must stop this apocalypse from unfolding, and you discover that somehow, getting a partner and cracking a dirty joke or two is going to greatly help you in that cause.
Day and Eternight
Structurally, the events of Eternights flow in calendar format, like a simplified version of Persona 5. Each individual day is split into two phases, during which you can opt to do things that improve your relationship with the other characters, such as spending time together, training together, or going scavenging for items. These events can give you relationship XP, as well as Black Essence and White Essence, which act as points to improve character skills.
Aside from advancing specific stories and scratching that dating sim itch, these buffs greatly help the other phase of the game – combat. Eternights features a hack-and-slash style of melee action, with a few other considerations too – some monsters are shielded and need to be worn down significantly through specific heavy attacks before your regular attacks can do damage, for example.
The game also rewards focus, with perfectly executed dodges slowing down time, allowing you to land more attacks without any repercussions. The combat feels very fluid, it’s easy to get into the groove, and when you’re dealing out devastating elemental attacks, you can feel the weight of your damage through some really cool animations, akin to classic Final Fantasy Limit Breaks.
Having these two phases, along with the story sequences which connect them, breaks up the game nicely, and stops it from becoming too repetitive one way or the other. There were some points where the relationship-building aspect dragged on for too many days, but regardless, I greatly enjoyed both aspects, especially the simple but fun training mini-games for improving skills.
The two halves of Eternights feed into each other quite nicely, as well. Your combat style and abilities will continue to evolve depending on the characters you’re getting close to, and being able to choose what skills you want to activate and upgrade adds a dense layer of customisation. I found it fun to ask friends how they’d charted their Protagonists’ path, and compare it to my own.
All-Star Voice Acting
The characters of Eternights can suffer at times from feeling one-dimensional, especially if you’re not used to anime-style dialogue that can be too on the nose, and in the case of teen drama, feature crude jokes. But what really elevates the material is the top-class voice acting behind it.
Recognisable names include the likes of Kira Buckland (River City Girls, Fire Emblem Engage) and Alejandro Saab (Genshin Impact, Persona 3 Reload) who voice Sia and Chani, respectively. These are two of the spunkier characters in the game, and the actors have deftly brought their bubbly personalities and cheesy humour to life.
Brandon Winkler (Rain Code, Tower of Fantasy) who voices the Protagonist, deserves accolades of his own for strong delivery during some intimate moments, where you’ll get a keener insight into his thoughts, hopes and fears. And Aleks Le, best known in 2023 for his depiction of Luke in Street Fighter 6, truly demonstrates his range with his portrayal of the mysterious Yohan. It’s clear that voice acting adds life and colour to Eternights, elevating the overall experience.
An Indie with AAA Heart
Eternights deftly captures the essence of growing up, as told through the motions of an action-packed JRPG. Through its storyline and dialogue, the game manages to weave life into this classic genre with the aid of modern-day meme jokes and ‘anime humour’. Its simple but effective combat system, and a smattering of puzzles and mini-games, are entertaining enough to keep you hooked as you watch the plot unfold. Eternights showcases a level of complexity and refinement that is impressive, especially for Studio Sai’s debut title.
Four Stars: ★★★★
Platforms: PC, PlayStation 5, PlayStation 4
Developer: Studio Sai
Publisher: Studio Sai
Release Date: 12 September 2023
The PC version of Eternights was provided and played for the purposes of this review. GamesHub reviews are scored on a five-point scale.