In Cris Tales, you possess the power to make the world around you go back or forward in time but does this time-traveling mechanic offer something substantial or is it merely a gimmick in this stylish turn-based RPG? Let's find out.
Cris Tales stars Crisbell, an orphan who is on a mission to train herself so she can defeat The Empress of the Ages and save her world. Crisbell is paired with the unlikely ally Matias who's an orange frog that dons a fancy top hat and bow tie. Matias helps Crisbell discover her power of time travel which allows her to move objects and enemies back or forward in time. Partnered with time mage Willhelm and warrior Christopher, Crisbell must travel the world while fixing catastrophic problems using her time manipulating powers.
The first thing that struck me about Cris Tales is its graphics and sound. The art style is unique with a bright and cheerful colour palette and delightfully detailed backdrops in each area. To add to the stunning visuals, the screen is split up into three sections almost the entire time with the section on the left showing the same area as it was in the past, the center being present, and the right showing the future. The soundtrack complements the graphics and I keep thinking about it, especially the more relaxing melodies.
Cris Tales is a turn-based RPG where battles have each ally and enemy take turns to complete an action of their choice. Enemies appear at Crisbell's left and right which means Crisbell has the power to send enemies on the left to the past and enemies on the right to the future. This time control mechanism adds a layer of strategy because changing time around an enemy sometimes alters their form such as making them younger or older which in turn, modifies their stats and weaknesses. On top of this, time travel allows you to get creative. For example, you can move an enemy to the past then poison them and bring them back to the future to do extra damage.
In addition to the time travel aspect of battles, you can also do critical damage to an enemy by pressing a button at just the right time and the same can be said for defence. Although these mechanics sound like they make for a rewarding battle system which is the case sometimes, it also occasionally leads to frustration. For example, in order to know what an enemy is weak against or to even see their HP, you have to inspect them and inspecting all 3 forms of a given enemy can take quite some time. Some enemies are even immune to it, leaving you to figure out their weaknesses by trial and error while trying to memorize them which can be a pain.
Meanwhile, bosses often require specific strategies to beat which aren't always obvious. Plus, if you're having difficulty inspecting a part of a boss to see its health meter, you might feel like you're stuck in an endless loop with no idea of how far you've progressed, especially if it keeps healing. If health meters were shown by default, I feel like it would have remedied some of this frustration and made battles more fun. Having said that, once I found out an enemy's weakness and fought a dozen or so of them, battles started to become repetitive and sometimes boring given how slowly characters animate during fights. A battle speed option would have worked wonders.
Anyway, the overworld in Cris Tales is unfortunately pretty bland but thankfully, the dungeons and towns are generally more interesting to explore. With multiple pathways that lead to treasures or side-quests, you can spend a lot of time in a dungeon. However, it might quickly feel like you're starting to spend too much time in one place with side-quests and main storylines requiring you to go back and forth through the same places again and again with no teleport ability available until near the end of the game. Having to walk all the way through a dungeon to exit it can be very dull and to add to the monotony, Crisbell moves quite slowly and there's no run button.
Overall, it feels like if there were some simple adjustments made, it would really help Cris Tales but without them, it doesn't feel like a very well thought-out RPG. For the first few hours of gameplay, I often felt like I missed something obvious. I was constantly dying in battles and running out of MP or CP and became puzzled when I was stuck in the middle of a dungeon with no way to get out and no way to heal myself either. Items are expensive and saving, levelling up, and visiting towns doesn't even restore all of your health.
To be clear, you have to intentionally visit an inn in order to heal completely or grind an insane 10,000 marbles so you can buy just one tent that you can use in the field once. Having the characters heal when they level-up, reducing the cost of items, and allowing for fast escape out of dungeons would have gone a long way in taking away from the tedium and adding to my enjoyment.
Cris Tales is a colourful RPG with a neat time travel mechanic that's used throughout the story as well as in battles. Although this sounds promising, it struggles to reach the heights of genre greats and its lack of fine-tuning often made me frustrated or bored.
- + Bright and colourful graphics with a delightful soundtrack to match
- + Time travel is a unique mechanism
- + Changes up the standard RPG formula
- - Slow battles and movement speed makes revisiting areas drag on with tedium
- - Healing and getting access to necessary items can be frustrating