Cris Tales

Platform(s): Nintendo Switch, PC, PlayStation 4, PlayStation 5, Xbox One, Xbox Series X
Genre: Role-Playing
Publisher: Modus Games
Developer: SYCK (EU), Dreams Uncorporated (US)
Release Date: July 20, 2021


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Switch/PS4/PC Preview - 'Cris Tales'

by Chris "Atom" DeAngelus on June 8, 2021 @ 6:00 a.m. PDT

Cris Tales is a lush RPG following a heroine's quest through past and future visions of her world to curb a merciless Empress' rule and prevent a cataclysm.

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I love the wave of lower-budget indie RPGs on the market, but one can get a little burned out on 16-bit visuals. Not every game has to be a multi-million-dollar Final Fantasy-style event, so that's why Cris Tales is so intriguing. It looks to be an indie Japanese-style RPG that is putting as much time and energy into its style and visuals as something like Persona 5. Assuming the final version lives up to the preview build we've seen, it could be one of the sleeper hits of the year.

Cris Tales follows the story of a girl named Crisbell, who accidentally finds herself in possession of magical crystals that grant her the abilities of a time mage, including the power to see the past and future. Of course, the future looks dark and dreary, so Crisbell sets out to improve the world using her newfound time powers. From what we've seen, it feels like a mix of Paper Mario and Chrono Trigger, and that has certainly piqued my interest.

What makes Cris Tales stand out is its colorful and distinctive art style. The hand-drawn animation has a ton of personality, and there's a lot of charming detail visible in what we've seen of the game. Each environment exists in multiple timeframes, so you get to see neat little details like a character as a child, adult, and elderly individual, each with a distinct design. The overall production values seem very high for an indie-style game, with high-quality voice acting and a soundtrack that sounds top-notch.

Since Crisbell is a time mage, she doesn't see the world in a normal fashion, so the basic screen is divided into three parts. The leftmost part of the screen displays the past, the middle shows the present, and the right showcases the future. In short, Crisbell can see both the past and present of any area she explores, even though she is limited to living in the present. For example, when wandering through town, she may see that a building collapses in the future, or someone is alive in the past but isn't in the present. Using this knowledge, Cris can prevent disasters before they happen, although sometimes she can't avoid all problems and must decide who needs the help more.

However, knowledge can only be so helpful, and Crisbell is limited in her ability to interact with those other times. That's where her trust pal, the talking frog Matias, comes into play. Matias can "time hop" to either the future or the past and interact in a limited fashion. He's a tadpole in the past and a fat bullfrog in the future, but he's still able to interact. For example, he can go back in time and plant a seed, and in the future, you can reap the rewards instead of waiting many long years for the plant to grow.

Cris Tales is an RPG, so that includes combat. The combat system looks like it was inspired by the Mario RPG franchise. You and the enemy party members take turns attacking, and all of your spells and attacks have a timed element. You can do more damage by properly timing a button press before your attack hits and lessen damage by doing the same immediately before an enemy attacks. Each character has a distinct set of skills, with Crisbell having time magic, Cristopher having elemental magic, and Wilhelm having plant magic.

Time travel also applies to the combat system in Cris Tales. Much like the main game world, Cris can transport the left side of the screen to the past and the right side to the future. This can have an impact on how certain enemies function. Some enemies may be weaker in the past or future, while others may be stronger. More critically, you can also take advantage of time travel in conjunction with another party member's attacks. Wilhelm the nature mage can plant deadly poisoned plants to damage enemies over time. If an enemy is poisoned, you can send them to the future, where they'll take the full impact of the damage all at once, allowing you to finish off a foe quickly who might have otherwise lingered for several rounds. Likewise, if you have an enemy with tough armor, you can soak them with a water spell and send them to the future, when their armor will be damaged and rusted. Don't worry about not being able to target enemies in the past or future; your party sends out magical versions of themselves to attack enemies in other timelines — because magic.

Does it necessarily make sense? Not really. It's clear that Cris Tales' method of time travel is more fast and loose than you might see in other material, but the concept looks super cool. The preview build didn't show off a lot of interactions, but it's clear that there will be neat interactions between the various characters. I'm looking forward to seeing how the game's boss battles play out. If I have one concern, it is that the combat can be fairly slow, but there did not seem to be an overwhelming amount of it.

Based on its colorful art style and charming aesthetic alone, Cris Tales looks like it has a ton of potential to be a standout indie RPG title. Combine that with an ambitious concept and high production values, and it's easy to see how it has the potential to be a must-play game. Thankfully, we won't have to wait too much longer to find out as Cris Tales is due out for PC, PS4 and Switch on July 20, 2021.

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