When you think about JRPG’s you probably think about colourful spiky-haired characters with gigantic swords, magical monsters, turn-based battle systems and a story that’ll force you across lands and oceans. Well in Cris Tales, this is exactly what you’ll get…and more! A love letter to JRPG’s of old with a rather poetic setting, engaging story and a time-travelling system like I’ve not seen before. As you embark on a journey in the shoes of the heroine Crisbell, you’ll soon discover that you’re more than just an ordinary girl orphaned at birth. You’re, in fact, a time mage that has just discovered her abilities. What’s more, you’re now the only individual around with the powers to stop the evil time empress and change the future of the world!
The Cris Tales world is set out in what can only be described as an art piece
The Cris Tales world is set out in what can only be described as an art piece. With its beautifully cell shaded backdrops, joyful soundtrack and colourful characters (which I might add are voice acted) the player is taken on a journey of wonder through the world of Crystallis. Each character has quite a colourful past as well. A past which only allowed me to enjoy the journey into their lives even more. As you encounter each companion that’ll accompany you on your journey across the land, you’ll discover that although they might appear strong willed and steadfast on the surface, they can also be gentle and kind within; Helping our main character grow into her ability to become the saviour of time.
Past, Present & Future
One of the most unique things about being a time mage is obviously the ability to see into time. The past, present (well I guess if it ended there we’d all be time mages) and the all-important future. And in Cris Tales, the player for most of the game, is able to view these timeframes simultaneously. Indeed, you read that right. Splitting the game’s screen into three parts (think about a co-op split-screen but in triplicate) the player is able to view the world in the entirety of its timeframes. A feature in the game that had me panning over for hours. In some cases, I’d run around every part of a city just to be able to see what it looked like in the past, what it is now in the present, and what it’ll be like in the future. And yes, its inhabitants are included in this three-way split as well! I was able to see characters in their childhood, in their adult years and in their old age just by panning across the screen. Well, more running across the town, but you get the idea.
Splitting the game’s screen into three parts the player is able to view & interact with the world in the entirety of its timeframes – past, present and future.
You’ll be able to see buildings in their primitive form, with trees all around and buildings still being constructed in the past; The current completed stage and fully formed structure in the present; And then the ruins of what will remain in the future. But wait, with the ability to see into both the past and the future, you might ask, what use is that if you cannot interact with it? Well, thankfully Crisbell possesses the ability to send her companion Matias the frog into the past and future. And in doing so, she is able to interact with both non-current timelines, changing the present and future to bring peace and harmony to the world. In some instances, even changing the future of certain NPC’s… Saving their lives and creating a better future for them. Obviously, with every great journey there come hardships. However, luckily for Crisbell, her time mage abilities can also be used in battle.
One of the most unique things about Cris Tales is the battle system. For the most part, it remains a turn-based battle system with your battle party taking turns to perform their attacks and alternating with the enemy. In this phase, with each party member possessing their own capabilities and magical abilities, you’ll be able to sew a wide range of attack patterns together to devastate the enemy. For example, since Crisbell is a time mage, she has the ability to send enemies into the future or back into the past. So, if you are to poison an enemy with one of your other party members abilities, in Crisbell’s turn you can then send that same enemy to the future. This not only intensifies the poison effect tenfold but in most cases, also kills the enemy. On the other side of the spectrum, Crisbell can also send an enemy back in time to a point where they’re much weaker, allowing you to deal even higher levels of damage on them. It’s quite an elaborate system and quite often works in amusing and technical ways. However, it’s a bit of a double-edged sword – and time travel can have unexpected effects. In some cases, sending an enemy to the future might make them stronger and sending them to the past might negate the poisonous effect altogether. And this only becomes more technical when in boss battles.
With each party member possessing their own capabilities and magical abilities (including manipulating time), you’ll be able to sew a wide range of attack patterns together to devastate the enemy
Some bosses may become weaker in the past but often also wield trickier attacks. Sending bosses into the future means some can change their forms altogether, from a physical form (where physical attacks do the most damage), to a spiritual form where only magic can affect them. It becomes quite consulted, but if I’m being honest, it was rather fascinating figuring all this out. And more often than not, I found myself taking on the same boss more than once. Developing each strategy and discovering new ways to combine my characters abilities to devastate the enemy truly added to the enjoyment of this battle system. And if that’s not enough, your characters are also able to parry or defend some of the enemy’s incoming attacks. Reducing the damage on the attack allowing you an even greater advantage during battle. This mechanic, however, is all about timing. I found myself pressing the button either too soon or too late most times in the beginning, but after the hundreds of enemies you’ll encounter in the wild, you’ll soon get the timing down and become the battle mage god of the world!
A good time!
All in all, Cris Tales does have some downfalls. The loading screens in and out of battle are just too long. At times they created a level of frustration in me that I never knew I had. This is especially the case when you’re running across an area to get to a save point because yes, the game also does not have an auto-save option and you’re continuously harassed by enemy encounters. And while I can understand that because it is a love letter to JRPGs of old – some may consider this ‘a feature’, again and again, it forced me to repeat areas since I was too low levelled. I, therefore, was ‘stuck’ within various segments and it just became a nightmare. In other cases, you’ll be tasked with running across a dungeon area to battle a boss, only to lose and have to run across the dungeon again; All while repetitively encountering enemies. Of course, there is a runaway option but with the loading screen times, you’re just better off defeating the enemy for the added marbles (the game’s currency) and EXP. Apart from these gripes though, Cris Tales‘s story, character development, battle system and world setting is absolutely charming. You’ll probably fall in love with the simple and unique feature of seeing everything in three different time frames and if not you’re bound to fall in love with its characters. If you’re a fan of JRPG’s of old with a modern and charming update in looks and mechanics, this is a must-try!