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Video Game / Uncommon Time

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Uncommon Time is an Eastern RPG made in RPG Maker VX Ace by Feralphoenix.

Contralto "Alto" Cantabile, scion of the wealthy Cantabile family, is sent to the country of Harmonia on a special mission: to perform the World Tuning, a musical ritual that "tunes" the magical currents of the world as if it were an instrument, reversing the environmental degradation caused by human activity in the past few centuries. If she fails, the world will be swallowed by eternal winter.


Alto is initially accompanied only by her childhood friend Teagan, but as she progresses through Harmonia, she is joined by violist and fortune teller Totoki Saki, violinist and traveling performer Otowa Meirin, and time-displaced singer Aubrey Spica. Together they plan to uncover the lost sheet music of the World Tuning and make the performance of a lifetime.

Naturally, not everything goes as planned. Though the story initially begins as a typical plot to collect Plot Coupons and Save the World, the meat of the story lies in examining the relationships between the cast and Alto's own perspective on the World Tuning. Alto and her party end up learning more about the history than they bargained for, and must confront dark and deeply-buried truths about themselves if they wish to succeed. This gives the story a strong character focus that deals with heavy topics of abuse, isolation, failure, and death.


Examples of tropes in Uncommon Time include:

  • Action Girl: It's probably easier to list women who aren't Action Heroes in this game. Teagan is a particularly notable example, as she's a purely physical fighter and the toughest of your five party members.
  • Ambiguously Brown: Teagan.
  • Badass Normal: Unlike the rest of the party, Teagan can't do flashy magic — she just hits stuff really hard. She does have some affinity for earth magic, but can only use it to improve her physical strikes.
  • Bare Your Midriff: Half the elemental spirits — Bravura, Tacet, and Solenna — do this.
  • Bonus Boss: Altair at the end of Aubrey's Uncommon Time, and Arietta at the end of Arietta's.
  • Bonus Dungeon: After visiting the titular Uncommon Time in the main story, other gates to the dimension will activate — once in the temple where Aubrey was hibernating, and after that, Arietta's grave. The former explores Aubrey's backstory, and the latter elaborates on Arietta's life during the time of the first World Tuning. Defeating the True Final Boss after clearing both will net you the Golden Ending.
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  • Call a Hit Point a "Smeerp": Consumable items are named after musical notation — Healing Potions are "Sharps", mana potions are "Flats", and so on. Weirdly, they actually do seem to be literal potions, just given odd names.
  • Calling Your Attacks: The Limit Breaks all involve the characters doing this, along with an additional dramatic line.
    Alto: "The hatred, the hope... All of it is my power! Disappear!! Grand Concerto!"
  • Climax Boss:
    • Though it's a Giant Space Flea from Nowhere, the Winterspirit, fought at the end of Movement 1 immediately after the World Tuning fails, probably counts.
    • Teagan, fought at the end of Movement 2.
    • The Herald of Winter, fought at the end of Alto's Vision Quest. It represents Alto's subconscious hatred and desire to destroy the world.
  • Crutch Character: Teagan. She has the best HP and defense, making her useful for the early battles that mainly come down to damage races. However, she never gets very varied or impressive skills — she gets no multi-target attacks at all, and in fact has the only Limit Breaks that don't target all enemies. This ends up leaving her behind other characters who get more distinct specialties, and she's quickly outclassed by Alto for pure damage potential.
  • Dark and Troubled Past: Everyone.
    • Alto was horrifically abused by her family; she was forced to practice music and Bowing until her hands were nearly destroyed from carpal tunnel and tendonitis, and she was kept extremely isolated from the rest of the world, effectively a prisoner in her own house. This messed her up so bad she learned to put on a persona of false happiness and suppress all her true emotions, leading to her inability to recognize her own hatred at the world that leads to the initial failure of the World Tuning. She gets to confront this and partially overcome it during a Vision Quest late in the story.
    • Teagan couldn't turn away from the abuse Alto was suffering and devoted herself to helping Alto. She worked herself to the bone studying music in order to prove she could stay with Alto despite being a commoner, but Alto's Stepford Smiler behavior just made her snap and decide she had to control Alto's life for her, since Alto was clearly incapable of acting on her own desires. Tragically, this only made Alto's emotional repression worse.
    • Saki's magical powers manifested when he was only a child, causing him to see a vision of the future: his own death. Specifically, he learned he was destined to die of a congenital disease before he was even 30. This utterly terrified him and still does; he projects a false air of aloofness because he's scared that forming attachments will drag him down even further into despair.
    • Meirin was the middle child of a minor noble family, and was often neglected. She tried learning music, but chafed against her teachers' insistence on proper form. Tired of the trappings and expectations foisted on her, she ran away and became a traveling performer. This actually worked out surprisingly well for her, but she's still terrified of living up to expectationsl
    • Aubrey doesn't seem to have one at first, but viewing their Uncommon Time reveals this in spades. They were orphaned by the Metronome Tower disasters before they were even 10 years old, and while they grew up in a loving family under Altair, they could never get over their survivor's guilt and depression, leading to feelings of personal worthlessness. Their choice to become a test subject for the hibernation spell was actually a kind of suicide, as they believed the only way they could have worth was to be a sacrifice for Altair's success.
  • Deconstruction: Of The Chosen One and Divine Parentage tropes: the responsibility of carrying out the World Tuning falls squarely on the shoulders of a quintet that must be led by a Cantabile, because that line alone possesses the power of Bowing needed to carry out the ritual. However, the only reason that the Cantabiles have such power in the first place is that the family is descended from an almost certainly non-consensual relation between a human and a spirit. In order to keep that power strong despite no further spirit blood being introduced, each Cantabile's marriage is arranged to a powerful human mage (which leads to loveless marriages like the one between Alto's parents). Eventually, a system eventually arose where the Cantabile heir is worked until their hands need to receive corrective surgery to continue Bowing even in childhood and is shown no unnecessary affection. In addition, the World Tuning has happened multiple times, when it was originally meant to be something to buy humanity time to develop other technology and general habits that aren't destroying the planet (and while this is something that isn't revealed in full until the Bonus Dungeon, even beforehand, Alto is aware of how ridiculous it is that her family's had to undo humanity's mistakes again and again for almost two thousand years). Over time, the World Tuning has become Shrouded in Myth to everyone except the Harmonians to the point that Teagan doesn't even believe it's real until she sees a piece of the Grand Score for herself, meaning humanity never takes the repeated oncoming ice ages caused by their way of life seriously, since they all look like false alarms or something the planet works out itself. This all culminates in creating a chosen one, Alto, who hates the world that she was supposed to save (and who might even end up destroying it).
  • Disc-One Final Dungeon: The first visit to the Metronome Tower. You finally have a full ensemble and the complete Grand Score, the characters have all spent a very long time rehearsing, it's time to Save the World, right? Of course you're not going to finish the story that early — the World Tuning fails, the party is scattered, and Alto is forced to try a different approach.
  • Distressed Dude: Saki during Movement 2, as he's poisoned in the fight with the behemoth and is bedridden until you can find an antidote.
  • Driven to Suicide:
    • In Ending 6, Meirin is absolutely distraught after the party fails to save Saki, and kills herself in the hotel room the next day.
    • In Ending 4, Saki and Meirin both commit suicide. In his suicide note, Saki explains that he's terminally ill, and preferred to die by his own hand than let it catch up to him. Meirin's reasoning is less clear; presumably, she couldn't bear to live without him.
    • In Aubrey's Uncommon Time, we learn that their decision to participate in the hibernation experiment was effectively this; their depression was so extreme they felt that the only way they could have worth was to sacrifice themselves for Altair's success.
  • The End of the World as We Know It: If the World Tuning isn't successfully performed by the end of the year, the world will experience global cooling and enter an ice age. This happens in Ending 4, where Alto decides the world doesn't deserve to be saved and allows the eternal winter to spread.
  • Gameplay and Story Segregation: Saki has the second-best HP growth in the game, despite repeated claims that he's extremely frail and sickly. This is mechanically necessary since it would be inconvenient for the healer to always go down first, but it's still quite glaring.
  • Giant Space Flea from Nowhere: Lots. Most egregiously, the Final Boss is one.
  • Ill Girl: Saki is a gender-flipped version, and somewhat subverted in that he's still capable of going adventuring with the heroes. He's very frail and sickly, and sometimes collapses and has to be taken care of. This is in fact very serious; he is terminally ill with a congenital disease and knows he's likely to die soon. He keeps this a secret from the others, but his Love Interest Meirin finds out anyway. In the Golden Ending, she promises to find a cure for him.
  • Improbable Weapon User:
    • Alto fights with cello bows... somehow.
    • Saki fights with card decks, though magic seems to be involved based on the attack animation.
    • Aubrey fights with handchimes, though again the animation implies they may be magical.
  • Informed Attribute: Chantal's beautiful contralto voice. The player never hears it, nor a melody representing it, but just reads the impressed reactions of the people who hear it.
  • Jerk with a Heart of Gold: Teagan is a very dark and borderline deconstructionist take on this. She is motivated by a genuine desire to protect Alto and look out for her best interests, but the stress of fighting against such a powerful family and dealing with Alto's Stepford Smiler tendencies made her snap, and she now dismisses Alto as a Broken Bird and an idiot who can't think for herself. Her belligerence doesn't stop at Alto, either, and she's particularly mean to Meirin. To her credit, when Alto finally snaps and voices all the resentment she's kept bottled up, Teagan immediately has a My God, What Have I Done? moment and profusely apologizes. She becomes much less hostile after this and makes genuine attempts to be friendlier with the rest of the cast. Alto still refuses to forgive her for the years of verbal abuse, however, saying the damage has already been done.
  • Lazy Backup: Five playable characters, but only four characters can fight at one time. If the four characters doing the fighting go down, it's Game Over, regardless of what state the fifth character in the back might be in.
  • Love at First Sight: Aubrey falls hopelessly in love with Alto the moment they see her.
  • Magic Knight: Meirin is the only one of your magic-users whose physical attacks aren't worthless. Interestingly, she actually has the best magic attack in the game despite this, even outclassing Aubrey.
  • The Medic: Saki. Though in a twist, he's actually a dark mage, giving him decent offensive potential as well.
  • Mercy Kill: Losing the battle against Teagan will result in Teagan killing Alto in cold blood, believing that it's the only way to free Alto from the burden of her responsibilities.
  • Multiple Endings: Six. Three are Nonstandard Game Overs and one is a miscellaneous bad ending (see Take Your Time, below). The other two are the normal ending and the Golden Ending, the latter of which is seen after clearing the Bonus Dungeons.
  • My God, What Have I Done?:
    • At the end of Movement 2, Alto unleashes all of the anger and resentment towards Teagan's Jerkass behavior that she's kept bottled up for years. Teagan is stunned to speechlessness, and has a near-breakdown when she realizes just how badly she's screwed up. She spends of the rest of the game in constant self-flagellating apology mode.
    • It's more minor, but when Teagan comes out as asexual to Meirin, the latter immediately realizes that her extreme promiscuity and flirtatiousness must have made Teagan immensely uncomfortable throughout their journey and apologizes profusely.
  • Mystical White Hair: Altair is regarded as one of the greatest magicians to ever live, and he has silver hair. There may also be some of this going on with Aubrey, your white-haired Squishy Wizard.
  • No Antagonist: Ostensibly, but Teagan fits the role pretty well during the first half of the game. Her belligerence is the main source of conflict between the characters, and it's this conflict that causes the first World Tuning to fail. The Herald of Winter, Alto's subconscious hatred toward the world, may also count, as she's the even bigger reason why the first World Tuning fails, and in fact directly causes The End of the World as We Know It if she achieves dominance over Alto's will.
  • Non-Action Guy: Saki. Though he does participate in battle, he's The Medic and is very frail.
  • Non-Standard Game Over: Three of the Multiple Endings are this, caused by losing to Climax Bosses and the Final Boss.
    • Losing to Teagan results in her deciding to Mercy Kill Alto afterwards.
    • If you lose to the Herald of Winter, Alto's resentful subconscious takes control of her actions and chooses to sabotage the World Tuning to usher in The End of the World as We Know It.
    • If you lose to the Final Boss, the party dies, but Alto is somehow able to pull through long enough to perform the World Tuning with the assistance of the elemental spirits.
  • Plot Coupon: The Grand Scores in the first part of the game.
  • Platonic Life-Partners: Saki and Meirin. They're close enough to sleep in the same bed without being uncomfortable, joke about Meirin being Saki's "prince", and Meirin is deeply, intensely protective of Saki, but their relationship is entirely platonic. Saki makes it clear early in the game isn't interested in women at all, while Meirin isn't interested in him because he's ten years older than her.
  • Random Encounters
  • Shrouded in Myth: The World Tuning, to the point that Teagan refuses to believe Alto's mission is real until she sees the Grand Score for herself.
  • Strength Equals Worthiness: The elemental spirits all want to "test" the party to determine if they're worthy of receiving the Grand Score. Naturally, this means a Boss Fight. Toward the end of the game, this is lampshaded as being a part of fairy culture.
  • Stripperiffic: The elemental spirits tend to wear very revealing outfits — particularly Bravura, who appears to be in her underwear. Scherzo also wears a Leotard of Power. Averted with Poetica and Luminoso, who wear full dresses.
  • Super Move Portrait Attack: The Limit Breaks. Each one uses a unique portrait, in fact, with everyone having different portraits for each of their two attacks.
  • Squishy Wizard: Aubrey and Saki. They have good magic stats (though slightly worse than Meirin), but it's a rare occurrence when their physical attacks do any damage at all. In Aubrey's case, this can be changed after the first Bonus Dungeon, as equipping Altair's scythe Luthier gives them much better physical attack at the cost of giving up the magic bonus of their regular weapons.
  • Take Our Word for It: The player never hears the song for the World Tuning, or its replacement. Instead, the player only reads the cast's opinion on them.
  • Take Your Time: Averted in one case. After Saki is poisoned, the doctor gives him two weeks to live. Rest at inns 14 times before getting the antidote and he actually will die, leading to a bad ending.
  • True Final Boss: After clearing the two Bonus Dungeons, the Distortion will have had enough time to manifest directly, giving it a different appearance and more powerful attacks — including Arietta's, Altair's, and Chantal's Limit Breaks from Grand Pause.
  • White Hair, Black Heart: Inverted by Aubrey and Altair, who have Mystical White Hair but are the probably the nicest characters in the cast.
  • Ye Olde Butchered English: Spoken by Bravura.