Developed by Dreams Uncorpored and published by Modus Games, Cris Tales is the new time-bending JRPG on the block. In a beautifully designed 2D style Cris Tales captures everything you expect in a JRPG with the addition of time manipulation that is handled so well the story has you second-guessing your choices.
The story is about a girl called Crisbell. She’s under the protection of a Mother Superior, who looks after many girls. It seems to be a sort of orphanage with the girls doing chores like looking after flowers in the garden. But in typical fashion, a magical frog steals a rose that Crisbell is tending to and so she sets off to catch it. Turns out, the frog is called Matias and is a guide to unlock Crisbell’s powers as a time mage. They cross paths with a disheartened soldier called Cristopher who is on a mission to avenge his fallen brother. He soon joins their cause as well as a fellow time mage called Willhelm who is keen to help Crisbell develop her powers. It seems the world is under control by another time mage called the Empress and it is up to Crisbell to fulfil a prophecy and shape the future for the better, which means standing against the Empress.
The game controls are relatively simple, but it is easy to get lost in the complex nature of time control. It does start quite slow, and it doesn’t help that outside of battle Crisbell is very slow exploring the land. I suppose it is lucky that the game is quite beautiful so you can take everything in, but the slow movement did start to wear on me somewhat, especially as some side missions have you backtracking which can feel chore-like at such a slow speed. It also has one of my bugbears in that you cant just save anywhere. You need to find certain plots in the area you are in which act as save points. I’d really like to see this archaic method phased out more in gaming as it’s just an irritant now.
But there are far cleverer mechanics to enjoy in this game around the time manipulation which outweigh the slow movement issue. When you awaken your time mage powers the screen splits into thirds. The left third of the screen shows the past, the centre shows the present, and the right side shows the future. You discover that although you can see the future, you have the power to alter it too For example, early on you see two houses that have collapsed in the future due to rot. You discover you can make a solution to prevent the rot using your time mage skills but you can only make enough to save one house. Depending on the decision, you soon see the reflection of this in the future which is interesting to witness. There are other story elements where you can bring items from the past or the future into the present by utilising the power of Matias the magical frog. He can time hop to the past and the future to interact with certain people or items and bring them back to the present.
The battling in Cris Tales is turn-based with a twist. There are staged battles when you reach certain areas and there are also random encounters. The order of the turns is decided by the speed of the units, but with a call back to Mario RPG there is a timing element to both attack and defence. As you attack the enemy, you can hit the button at the right time to hit the enemy again. Then as the enemy hits you, you’re able to try and time it just right to block some of the incoming damage. As expected, Crisbell’s time mage skills can also play a part in the battles. She can use the time crystals powers to send enemies to the past or the future. This can either age enemies or make them younger, which can both weaken the enemies or it can actually make them stronger, so you have to be careful when to use this power. The time power can also be used to enhance some of your skills. If you hit an enemy with metal shields or armour with a water attack and then send them to the future, their armour or shield then become rusted and weak so they are vulnerable to attacks.
I would like to add that early on in the game, Cris Tales is mean with the starting skills you and your party have. It is only when your team learn some healing skills and elemental skills do you feel the balance of the game swinging back to a comfortable level as some of the early battles are very long and tough. Once my characters learned more skills as they levelled up the strategy of the battles became clearer. Don’t get me wrong some battles are still tricky, but there is no difficulty slider in this game which is a shame as those without sufficient strategy skills that want to enjoy the story may struggle a bit here.
Cris Tales is a beautiful 2D JRPG with an interesting story and great use of time manipulation. Each of the characters are unique and bring something different to each battle. The way the screen splits to show you the past, present and future is delightful to see and invests you into the game to try and improve the future, while using time powers in battles is well executed and kept me keen on trying different strategies. Hopefully the slow movement outside of battle and the fact there is no difficulty slider doesn’t put people off as there’s a lot to enjoy here in this stunning looking JRPG.Become a Patron!
This game was tested and reviewed on Xbox Series X/S. All of the opinions and insights here are subject to that version. Game provided by publisher.Want to keep up to date with the latest Xt reviews, Xt opinions and Xt content? Follow us on Facebook, Twitter, and YouTube.