Game: Cris Tales
Genre: RPG, Adventure
System: Nintendo Switch (Also on PS4)
Developer|Publisher: Dreams Uncorporated, SYCK | Modus Games
Age Rating: EU 12+ | US Teen
Price: UK £34.99 | US $39.99 | EU € 39,99
Release Date: July 20th, 2021
Review code provided with many thanks to DeadGood Media
Summer is now upon us which means holidays and a bit of sunshine, but, if you live in the UK, a fair few rain showers as well. When I was younger Summer holidays was the time to start that epic gaming project, usually an RPG of some sort. A game that would keep me busy for the long break to dip in and out of, which for me was usually one of the older Final Fantasy games. I have always been fond of the classic JRPG style. Level up and get better to defeat the big bad boss. So when a game like Cris Tales comes along I do become intrigued. Is this the next Summer project? Let’s dig in?
Time to Save the World
Cris Tales follows Crisbell who discovers early on in the game she is a Time Mage and has the ability to see into the past and future whilst also manipulating it. In true JRPG fashion, there is also a big bad. This comes in the form of the Time Empress who is on a mission to bring forth a cataclysmic event that will destroy the world. Familiar? Yes. But Cris Tales has an engaging approach to this story that feels unique and most importantly interesting. Crisbell encounters many companions and NPCs and I enjoyed learning their backstories.
This title doesn’t shy away from adding some much-needed humour to lighten the mood. The cast is fully voice acted and delivers an excellent performance. The game does offer you the ability to mute the voice acting but I have to say I really didn’t see the need. I kinda wish JRPGs would offer this option more often. The star of the show for me was Matias, Crisbell’s frog companion who has this very silly British voice over. Usually, a character like this would annoy me but I found his constant positive attitude in the face of danger quite charming.
The graphics of this game are stunning. A beautifully 2D drawn world which you navigate in a 3D space. There is excellent attention to detail on the sprites and environments which mixes fantasy with technology. Whether you are walking around town, exploring the great outdoors or a haunted museum, there was rarely a moment where I didn’t think ‘this art would look good on my wall’.
The art style alone is undoubtedly what will draw many players to this game. The game has a unique look and personality that will resonate with all audiences. It also comes with a beautifully scored soundtrack, which is always handy since you will easily be playing this game for over 30 hours. The only aspect I found a little weird was Cribell’s legs were incredibly skinny like Mickey Mouse which seemed a little funny when compared to her other teammates.
Time Mechanic and Choices
Cris Tales main feature is the time mechanic. When you’re exploring the world you can observe the past on the left of the screen and the future on the right. A central triangle keeps you in the present. Its stunning attention to detail and if you look carefully you can see how the environment, NPCs and the world in general looks different. Matias the frog literally has the ability to ‘HOP’ into the past and future to collect items which I found to be a quirky attention to time travel detail. Additionally, the frog will look younger, like a tadpole, in the past and older in the future. My only niggle here is the frog moves so slowly.
The game will often present you with moral choices to help NPCs or steer the plot. With the time travel mechanic, you are able to get a preview of these choices. There’s no right or wrong decision, but let’s just say often someone has to suffer for you to help someone else which makes many of these decisions hard to make. As you walk around dungeons you can also use Crisbell’s time abilities to alter the environments like creating bridges or destroying items to reach new areas. Of course, the time travel extends to the battle system as well.
The battles are turn-based like the traditional classic jRPGs. At the top of the screen, you are able to keep track of who’s turn it is to decide action. You have your usual attacks and special moves. If you tap a button at the correct moment when you attack or defend, you can deal more damage or reduce damage taken by the enemy, reminding me a lot of the gunblade from Final Fantasy 8.
This certainly makes battles more engaging but I did find it tricky to get into the rhythm of this with most of the moves. The main feature in battle is Crisbell’s time abilities. On the left of the screen, you can send enemies into the past making them younger. On the right you can send them into the future making them older, by doing this you change their stats, potentially making them stronger or weaker. But there is much more to it than that.
Poison an enemy in the present and send them into the future and they will take all the poison damage at once, often killing them instantly. It turns the battles more into puzzles than grind sessions and was easily one of my favourite parts of the game. With this design, it didn’t feel like you had to necessarily grind to get better. Using the right moves with the right characters at the right time felt like all that was needed. Unfortunately, being a classic JRPG, the game does come with a few niggles that need to be discussed.
The main problem with the game on the Switch was the load times. When you explore a dungeon or hostile area you go into unavoidable random encounters. Which takes you to a load screen every time they activate. This becomes quite the issue when you’re exploring dungeons to solve puzzles and have to backtrack to figure things out. Even if you decide to flee a battle it loads to enter and loads to come out. Backtracking in this game is also generally an issue. I found this was one of those JRPGs that doesn’t respect a player’s time. As well as regular random encounters a lot of the game is spent backtracking to familiar areas which are made more irritating by the fact that Crisbell walks at a very slow pace. This game could really use a sprint button.
You also need to manually save often which can be done in the open world or at dedicated save points. It might seem like an unpopular opinion but I feel the game could do with difficulty settings. It took me some time to get to grips with the time travel battle mechanics. Also if you leave a battle poisoned the status remains until you heal yourself or it just runs its course. I spent a lot of the early game stressing trying to buy potions and antidotes. This did get easier with time but might scare away people looking for a more casual experience.
If you fall in battle you lose all progress up to that point which can be heartbreaking. I also had one moment where I lost an hour of progress going through a tough dungeon and then a boss fight only for the game to crash, losing all that hard work, which wasn’t pleasant. I found the performance on Switch generally to be okay but there was the odd time where things seemed to slow down slightly, but it was never game-breaking.
Conclusion – Beautiful and Unique
Cris Tales is worthy of praise for its gorgeous art design and originality to its gameplay design. The time mechanic gives the game its own identity which will likely net it a dedicated fanbase hungry for a new JRPG that is traditional but different. But being classic it’s not without some classic flaws with irritating random encounters and tedious backtracking. But if you can overlook these niggles you’re in for a game well worth spending your Summer with, or any other season of the year for that matter.
Final Verdict: I Like It
If you want to try before you buy there is a free demo available on the eShop.