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  • Writer's pictureNate Hermanson

REVIEW: Eternights shrinks the Persona experience down to a tight action-romance package

You know that awkward conversation you have when recommending certain anime to friends? It goes something like: "It's animated so beautifully, the characters have amazing arcs, the humor is well-placed... but there's this one guy who like ogles every femme character and tries peeking under their skirts and stuff and it's so weird... But I swear it's so worth it anyway!"


That's kind of how I'd approach recommending the character action Persona-like Eternights.


As the internet might say, Eternights is "degen-friendly." It's a game that wears that concept on its sleeve, opening with two characters setting up dating profiles that eventually lead to a chance for your character to ask for nudes. Characters jiggle and wear short shorts. The main character is nicknamed "Tentacle Boy" by one of the romantic interests. (It's all worse out of context. Kind of.)


But it's also a game that handles its relationships with grace, one that centers on a group of people finding strength in one another to grow and change together. A game that takes a beloved franchise and offers a streamlined version of its experience. And a game whose gameplay variety and flashy style awed us from such a small and clearly passionate team.


So yeah, in short: it's complicated. In long? Let's talk.

An animated GIF depicting snippets of the various romantic scenes in Eternights. First you can see a scene where a girl is pressed up against the main character in some sort of locker. She says: "It's... not opening." It cuts to a sequence with the character Min where the protagonist and Min are sitting with their feet in foot baths. She says: "I'll get everything ready then, coach." It cuts to the two of them hugging as Min has tears in her eyes in a nice piece of 2D art. She says: "It was just... too much all of a sudden." It then cuts to the protagonist and Min looking up at the sky when a prompt to hold R2 to hold hands appears.

​Just the Facts

Developer: Studio Sai

Publisher: Studio Sai

Platform(s): PC, PlayStation 4 and 5* *platform reviewed on

Price: $29.99

Release Date: Sept. 12, 2023

Review key provided by Tinsley PR.

Studio Sai's coming out party


Eternights is the debut release from Studio Sai, a team that only employed one full-time developer until August of this year. After posting concept footage on Reddit for years, Jae (Fkkcloud) Hyun Yoo found himself premiering Eternight's debut trailer during a PlayStation State of Play that featured the first major looks at games like Resident Evil 4 Remake and Final Fantasy 16. The jump from dreaming about this game to being placed in center stage would be overwhelming for most, but Yoo was clearly ready for it after years of VFX work at Disney, Riot, and even Apple.


Studio Sai is advertised as a team whose focus is on relationships being forged in peculiar situations, with "sai" meaning a relationship between two people in Korean. And there is no better display of that intention than their first game, a Persona-like that hones in on the relationship-building between an oddball group of new friends amidst... the end of the world.


"What surprised me about each one of these characters and the potential relationships the player can choose to dive into with them is the depth of their arcs and the surprisingly emotional moments found within."

In Eternights, players inhabit the blankest avatar possible, a generic anime boy with tousled blue-black hair who wears a plain white t-shirt. He's your traditional no-luck 18-year-old, living alone, with only his porn-obsessed best friend and wingman Chani to keep him company now and again.


In the background, a mystical conflict is unfolding between two god-like beings who recruit their "children" into the battle by tapping into their innate powers. Their fight seemingly spills into reality when a giant wall forms in the middle of Seoul and an "anti-aging drug" leaks into the streets to turn people into monsters, setting up an apocalyptic setting that persists throughout the game.


The player, who at this point has retreated into an emergency shelter with Chani while the world burns outside, gets roped into this battle when his arm is chopped off and replaced with an arm made of light that can take on the form of anything he thinks of.


It's... a lot very quickly, but it boils down to this: our heroes have secret magic abilities, these beings are in an eternal conflict, and the only way to end it is to burst through these magical walls and take back a very important thing called "The Stone." While it's the thrust of the narrative, it certainly doesn't feel like Studio Sai's focus.


What makes Eternights' narrative sing is instead the people and the relationships that are forged during this chaos.

An animated GIF depicting Eternights' calendar-based system. It shows the character walking up to someone during the day, the time shifting to night, the character walking up to someone else and going on a scavenging run in a convenience store with them.

Finding love at the end of the world


Throughout your journey to the wall, the player gathers a party of survivors who all find themselves drawn into this conflict, and most importantly, drawn together through this hell they're living through. There's the gentle but goofy pop star Yuna, the shy athlete Min, the bold scientist Sia, and the eccentric coffee aficionado Yohan. One of the key aspects of Eternights, pulled straight from one of Studio Sai's greatest inspirations in Persona, is the relationship system and the burgeoning romance between the main character and these archetypical characters.


Thankfully, Eternights doesn't carry over one of Persona's greatest weaknesses. In Eternights, you can form a queer romance.


A note here: the characters in Eternights are completely voiced! English, Japanese, and Korean voice actors lent their talents and certainly helped to elevate the experience and sell these characters fully.


What surprised me about each one of these characters and the potential relationships the player can choose to dive into with them is the depth of their arcs and the surprisingly emotional moments found within. Sure, there are those classic WHOOPSIE moments where you walk in on someone changing or you fall into a pit and find a girl's hand on your crotch, but those aren't the kinds of things that I remember as I look back.


It was watching a shy girl grapple with believing she was worthless after what happened with her teammates when the apocalypse broke out. It was seeing a pop star struggle to make actual friends in spite of her fame. It was watching the best friend struggle with comparing himself against the protagonist's sudden importance and power. That aforementioned "degen-friendly" nature of the game is persistent throughout, but it never feels like it truly breaks into actual harmful rhetoric, as many other stories like this do. It's silly and it wears it fully and there's something admirable in that.


All it takes is one trailer, one glimpse at the GIFs playing in this review, and you've got a good idea if this is your kind of game or not. If you can shrug off tentacle jokes or mentions of shared memories of porn between bros, you'll be fine pushing through Eternights. And it's well worth it to see where these characters end up. Even if the ending seems to crash in abruptly, reminding you that the mystical mumbo-jumbo is still there.


Just like Persona, it isn't just the strength of these characters, their bonds, and how it all develops that makes it so appealing. It's how it all loops back into the gameplay that makes it all the more impactful.


The core loop at the center of Eternights is a pretty traditional character action experience with some light RPG elements alongside the calendar-based progression and dungeon exploring of the Persona series. Each chapter of the story introduces a building to explore, a task to complete within it, and a deadline on the calendar to accomplish that task by. How you spend each day is up to you, as you decide whether to spend time getting to know your new friends and love interests, train with them for stat boosts, go on scavenging runs for skill points, or simply head into the dungeon to see how far you can get before retreating.


"Systems feel more engaging simply because you're never spending too long doing one thing."

It captures that time management concept beautifully, where you consider risking deeper dives into the dungeon so that you're free to woo your potential love interests in your off time.


Fighting time itself is one thing, but fightin' monsters is another altogether. Let's talk combat, a key part of the Eternights experience, but one that's far from my favorite.


If you've played any modern character action game, you'll be in for an easy-to-understand and generally familiar experience with Eternights' combat. You'll be dodging or parrying at the exact frame to punish enemies, spamming basic combos over and over, and using a series of skills that trigger QTEs and add a few light layers of depth onto what is otherwise a pretty shallow combat experience.

An animated GIF showcasing short clips of Eternights' combat system. Starting with a clip in a red room where the protagonist shifts their magical arm into a giant sword and swings it at an enemy, next a clip of the character floating into the air as he prepares a magical blast, and last a clip of one of the game's quick time events that require mashing and timed button presses.

LOVE IS A BATTLEFIELD, just not the most engaging one...


The biggest twist that Eternights introduces is an elemental system that assigns weaknesses to each enemy and even provides shields to them that only specific elemental attacks can break through. Each new character you meet brings some elemental magic to the party (Yuna has fire, Min has electricity, and so on) and through the bonds you build with them outside of combat, new skills, stat boosts, and layers to those elemental abilities are unlocked.


Even with the elemental twist, the combat felt basic and weirdly stiff to me personally, and by the end, it was more of a chore than anything else.


Because Eternights keeps things tight, coming in anywhere from 10-15 hours for your first playthrough, pacing can be tricky. While I mainly found the experience refreshingly light, there were certainly moments in the narrative and in the gameplay that I wished could be mined a bit deeper, but I'll gladly take what we got over the hundreds of hours that games like this can end up being.


Difficulty should also be noted here as something that bugged me at times with its inconsistency. It may have more to do with how I decided to spend my time and build up the character, but combat encounters could swing wildly from easy breezy to suddenly overwhelming on a dime. The checkpoint system and ability to retreat from dungeons definitely helped and I made it through without too many problems, but some fights simply felt unfair.


While combat is at the core of Eternights, what surprised me most was the variety of play styles hidden throughout the experience. Each dungeon comes equipped with a handful of themed puzzles, with no two ideas used too much or repeated across dungeons. There are minigames to be found both in scripted sequences in these dungeons and in those training sessions you can take on with your friends. And of course, there's the more visual novel dating sim-like relationship building all throughout. It makes for play sessions marked by regular shifts in style that help even the shallowest systems feel more engaging simply because you're never spending too long doing one thing.


Especially when you consider the deadline-based progression, you'll find yourself doing all you can to balance these tasks as your due date looms over you.


What also helps mask some of the lacking depth of these systems is probably the best thing Eternights nabbed from Persona: incredibly flashy style. Studio Sai employs a few fun tricks with its visual style, alternating between incredibly stylized anime-inspired visuals in its 3D art and Korean studio-supported 2D animated sequences and static scenes to highlight particularly important moments... mostly kissing.


It all works so well visually, but what probably stood out to me the most was the incredible use of lighting. From the glow that emits from the player's magic light-up arm to the shadows that stream in through the train the party uses to move through Seoul, the mood is strikingly set between the quiet moments of intimacy shared between characters and the overwhelming danger of the dark dungeons they find themselves exploring.


I also appreciated the fascinating monster designs that seemed to echo themes of identity and sexuality, and are generally just cool to look at. With strange long-necked, lightly phallic schoolgirls and flower-faced police officers that would make Georgia O'Keefe blush, I looked forward to meeting each new horrifying beast waiting around the corner.

An animated GIF of one of Eternights' animated sequences. It shows three characters falling through the sky before cutting to a close up of a pink-haired girl screaming at the camera, presumably for help, as tears flow out of her face. The gif then cuts to a high quality 2D art highlight scene of the protagonist kissing Sia, one of the characters you can romance in the game.

I find Eternights really interesting, even if in the end, I recommend it conditionally. It's a game that shows a ton of talent on the side of a new team that already has its eyes on a new project and even more growth. The bones here have me excited for whatever they do next. Persona has been brought up a lot in this review and if I had to point at a specific game in the series it reminds me of, it's Persona 3.


Persona 3 set a new standard for the series but was only the beginning of what was to come. Persona 4 and 5 became all-time greats in the genre and only built their best mechanics off of the back of what 3 set up. And that's what I feel like Eternights is doing for whatever Studio Sai does next.


If you can excuse some iffy bits of writing and degeneracy, if you're looking to enjoy combat but aren't here just for combat, and if you are willing to accept some rough around the edges bits from a team that literally only had one full-time employee throughout most of its development, there's a lot to love in what Eternights is doing.


Video Games Are Good and Eternights is . . . GOOD. (7.5/10)


+ surprisingly powerful character arcs and relationship development, tons of gameplay variety, and a tight package that consolidates an experience that is usually hundreds of hours long


- awkward, lightly degenerate moments all throughout, shallow combat that feels undercooked, understandably rough around the edges at times

The key art for Eternights depicts a line up of all of the game's main characters, with the protagonist in the middle and the game's name at the bottom. From left to right there's: Yorhan, a white haired masc person wearing all black, a pink-haired femme person wearing a schoolgirl-like outfit and jewelry in her hair, the protagonist in the center with blue-black hair and a glowing right arm, Sia, a femme person with black hair pulled into pigtails who wears a choker and a hoodie, and finally Min, a femme person with short hair in a bob who wears a zip-up tracksuit. They all stand above the horizon of planet Earth where you can see bits of a city skyline underneath.

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