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Cris Tales Review

Initial release date: July 20, 2021

Platforms: PlayStation 4, PlayStation 5, Xbox One, Nintendo Switch, STEAM, Stadia

Developers: Dreams Uncorporated, SYCK, Poppy Works

Publishers: Modus Games, Maximum Games, Mirenad

Genres: Japanese role-playing game, Action-adventure game


"Review Copy Provided By Modus Games"

It’s wild to think about how this game that has been in development for so long is finally here. I remember seeing thi game on the Nintendo e-Shop for the Switch for years and only hearing scant details about it here and there. I was at E3 2019 and talking to some of the team at Modus and inquiring about the development of the game and playing the demo of the game and being hyped for it and then, only hearing updates and posts here and there. And now in 2021 the game has released and is one of my favorite games of the year and one of my favorite RPGs ever and is available on all platforms. After years and years of hype, does Cris Tales live up to that hype and carve their name in the RPG genre or does it fail and leave itself as another inspired but poorly executed new IP? Let’s find out!

Story

An orphan girl named Crisbell of the Narim orphanage meets a talking frog named Matias who took a rose that she was pruning and after giving chase to him; comes to discover that she can traverse through time. Crisbell is asked to go with Matias to meet a time mage named Willhelm who happens to be his friend and is then given access to a magical sword and is given more information on her powers. Later, Crisbell comes to find the village farm of Narim on fire and under attack by goblins of the Empress of Ages who aims to destroy the Crystallis Kingdom. Crisbell finds herself needing to utilize her powers and the powers of the cristals to defeat the Empress and embrace her destiny, even if she doesn’t necessarily want to.

Gameplay

Cris Tales is an RPG in the traditional JRPG format as you will encounter turn-based battles and will also encounter the (now rare) random encounters. Where Cris Tales differs is in how it incorporates its time travel mechanic not only in battles, but also in general gameplay. The game renders three different flows of time at once with the left portion of the screen being the past, the center being the present, and the right side of the screen being the future. It basically melds together the best of Chrono Trigger, Chrono Cross, Radiant Historia, XenoGears, and Final Fantasy 6 while crafting out its own unique identity.


When roaming about towns and fields you can at the press of a button be able to jump into the past or future by having Matias be the time skipper. When Matias goes in the past he becomes as tadpole and, in the future, he becomes a plump bullfrog. By moving across time, you’re able to find clues and solutions to puzzles as well as when it comes down to needing to make decisions that will affect various aspects of the game including impacting the futures of the various NPCs that you encounter.

Unlike other games that utilize time travel as a plot device, Cris Tales really hammers home that your choices having an impact in both a positive and negative way and unlike other games, there is no way to make a decision that ultimately benefits everyone. For example; there is a point in the beginning of the game where you have to find an item that allows you to fix a “rotting” issue with some buildings in Narim and you’ll need to decide if you’re going to make the decisions to give the item to either a researcher that can use potentially mass produce a solution to the “rotting” or if you’re going to help a young mother who has an infant be able to maintain their house in order to raise their child. Whichever decision you make will benefit one while being a detriment to the other and you will need to accept that you cannot help everyone. The game’s interpersonal dialogue between the characters goes a substantial way in addressing the moral conflict that this kind of power brings with it.


The time travel mechanic in battle is implemented in a way that I have not ever seen before either as it allows you to use Crisbell to use her abilities to turn the left side of the screen into the past and the right side to the future. This is unique in the sense that when you face enemies, they may either be more powerful in their present or future (sometimes even their past) incarnations and so if you find yourself getting trounced by an enemy in the present then it may be best to move them either to the future to face their older incarnation or the past to face a very young and small version of them. Willhelm is one of a few characters who can utilize status afflicting abilities such as poison and such and because he can do so you can pair that ability up with Crisbell’s time manipulation mechanic and poison someone in the past or present and then manipulate time to the present or future to speed up the process of which can either massively damage the enemy or kill them with this method. Another example of this is utilizing Christopher’s water spell on enemies and bosses utilizing metal or shields and then doing time manipulation to go in the present or future to rust and break the shield. The number of combinations with this battle system is endless.

Graphics

This is honestly one of the most beautiful games I’ve seen all year and honestly in some time since Indivisible. The art style is not done justice by just looking at still screenshots as it must be seen in motion to be fully appreciated.


The main characters all have unique and distinct looks to them, and no two playable characters looks the same. Crisbell stands out with her reddish-brown hair, blue and white battle dress and flower headdress. NPCs look really detailed as well especially the bosses. The games environments are so vividly vibrant and expressive that they just pop out of the screen at you similar to a pop-up book that you’d find in a children’s’ book. The combination of 2D and 3D elements with parallax scrolling is just jaw dropping.

What’s really cool about this game is how the game renders environments and characters in 3 different time periods of the Past, Present, and Future all in real-time with you able to see the flow of time. Seeing this flow of time let’s you see some characters and buildings that may be either younger versions of themselves or older versions of themselves.


The game runs at 1080p 30FPS docked and 720p 30FPS portably on the Nintendo Switch in comparison to the other platforms which run at 60FPS.

Audio

Every character you run into is voiced in this game and it’s something I was not at all expecting in all the years I’ve been waiting for this game to release. What really gets me is how superb the voice acting is with every delivery being just perfect. The range, emotion, and cadence is amazingly done for every character from Crisbell all the way to the Empress and it honestly puts the bulk of games, especially AAA games, to shame.


Speaking on the music, its fitting to the scenes and the situations that you’re in, however, there isn’t anything that to me stands out or catches your attention the way the graphics and voice acting does; and while that may be disappointing to many is fine with me.

Downsides

I really didn’t want to knock this game so hard because for all intents and purposes I absolutely LOVE this game, but we must keep this review honest and in keeping it honest I must talk about how GOD-AWFUL the loading times which can make running about fields and getting into and out of battles an absolute CHORE! There are times when the loading times are so bad that you’ll be waiting roughly 15-27 seconds just to get a battle started and if you decide to flee then just double up whatever you got to get into a battle, and it just becomes incredibly draining; so much so that I literally had to just stop playing the game overall because I got fed up with the load times which even happens you go from any area to another.


Next thing I find to be a downside is the fact that you cannot skip dialogue when you get into a conversation with another character or are in a cutscene so you will end up having to sit through a lot of dialogue. A simple ability to skip dialogue or cutscenes would’ve been nice but I guess it could be patched in with an update.


I wish that Crisbell moved a bit faster as her movement speed is a bit slow and is like a jogging pace. I wish we had the ability to dash/run to get around faster. Another character I wish was faster would-be Matias when he hops into either the past or future where he moves fairly slow and especially in the past when he becomes a tadpole and thus is not able to move around quickly and in the future, he becomes fatter and is slower but not as slow as his past self. Maybe if he had some form of time shift immunity to circumvent this for the players sake?


The last thing I want to mention is how the game has some of the highest encounter rates in an RPG since Breath of Fire 1 and 2. Take a few steps and the next thing you know you will be in a battle and when you combine the earlier mentioned load times with the high encounter rate then you will come to know “PROUND SADNESS” as Guy would say in Street Fighter 4. I don’t mind a high encounter rate when the combat system is fun but when you have to deal with ungodly load times on top of that then it brings down the entire experience of an overall GOTY contender.

The Wrapup

The turn-based RPG genre isn’t as prominent as it once was and many of the games that defined that the genre has gone on to change from turn-based to being more action oriented such as the Final Fantasy franchise and even (gasp) Breath of Fire. Seeing a new franchise being made in the classic format with a brilliant art style and incredibly epic battle style with an engaging story and believable characters is something I can sign on with and am incredibly excited about. Cris Tales is one of the best games of 2021 that is only hampered by it’s Nintendo Switch port having long loading times and performance issues, aside from that the game is superb and is one that I highly recommend to anyone looking for an engaging and fun experience to dive into!

The Verdict