Just a few generations ago, there was one genre that seemed solid as a rock and wasn’t going anywhere: the turn-based JRPG. The genre dominated the SNES, PS1, and PS2 systems (especially in Japan), but as the HD systems took over with the Xbox 360 and PS3 the rise of the western developers and publishers began to shift gamers’ tastes. Once the PS4 and Xbox One came to market the turn-based JRPG seemed all but forgotten, with a few released here and there. Things have begun to shift back the other way recently with the rise of indie developers and the success of the Switch and Cris Tales is hoping to capitalize on the nostalgia of past games like Chrono Trigger and Dragon Quest.
Cris Tales follows Crisbell, an orphan who becomes a time mage and gains the ability to see the past and the future. Speaking of, the future…well it isn’t so good. Turns out there is an Empress who wants to take over the world and is succeeding pretty well. Crisbell must use her powers, along with help from her friends, to stop the Empress of the Ages and her minions from taking over the world.
In the opening minutes she meets Matias the talking frog, attempting to steal a rose from the garden of the orphanage. Eventually, Crisbell gains the aforementioned ability to see into the past and peer into the future. When she does, Matias can travel there manipulating things in the past to affect the present and the future.
Quickly an attack on the town happens, and at this point she finds Cristopher, who is a warrior fighting the Empress and her forces wherever he finds them. Matias then introduces Willhelm, who is a nature time mage and starts teaching Crisbell about her powers.
Combat is turn-based, just like Final Fantasy games of yore. The top of the screen shows the turn order in which both the enemies and allies get to make moves. This is critical as being able to use Crisbell’s time powers combined with Cristopher’s elemental magic and Willhelm’s nature-based magic are keys to winning fights. For example, when an enemy is poisoned, Crisbell can send them to the future to deal all the poison damage in one shot. Or, if you are fighting a metal-based enemy, Cristopher can use water magic to make them wet and send them to the future to lower their defense. These types of tactics are exceedingly fun and rewarding.
This aspect of battle can take some getting used to as only enemies on the right side can be sent to the future, and enemies on the left can only be sent to the past. So, in order to do silly time magic to the enemies on the left you need to send them to the past first. The good news is when you send them to the past, they get weaker, as they are younger. But be careful, when you send them to the future, they can get stronger. This makes each enemy encounter a fun puzzle to solve.
But, battles can be a little frustrating. They are frequent, and when entering combat instead of having a cool transition screen, the game just goes into its default loading screen. These loading screens can take a long time, especially when entering a new area or leaving battle. On top of the longer than normal load times the game sometimes is riddled with some slowdown for a few seconds after, which is an unfortunate blemish that can hopefully be rectified in a performance patch of some sort. Also it’s a bit disappointing that after only four hours or so into the game you begin to encounter the same enemies but just different color variations of them. This was acceptable in older JRPGs, but it sticks out in today’s games. Understandably this is probably a budget problem, and it doesn’t ruin the game or anything, but it definitely stood out.
Even with the repeating enemies, the art style of the game is awesome. The hand-drawn graphics style of the game looks amazing. Everything is brightly colored and very stylized. The overworld could use a little help in the sense that it can be difficult to tell what is an area you can enter versus just a background in the world.
When exploring a town the screen is split three ways. The left side is the past the right side is the future and the middle is the present. At any time you can send Matias to either the past or the present to explore. Do keep in mind that Matias is very slow compared to Crisbel and her party. Also if Matias gets any items while time traveling, he brings them back with him. This ability to see all three time periods at once is really great and it’s fun to experiment to see how your interactions impact the timeline.
The music is fantastic. Pretty much the entirety of the soundtrack fits the world perfectly. The battle music is a cool mix of rock and strings whereas the forest has a cool whimsical sound to it. The impressive city of Saint Clarity has a royal sounding tune while the poor area of the Floodside District has an appropriately upbeat song that goes along with its citizens.
Overall Cris Tales does deliver on its premise of a game with some neat time mechanics in it. However, I would caution anyone going into this game that battles can get repetitive once you figure out some of the tricks of fighting. Add that with the annoying color swaps of enemies and long load times and you might find yourself running from some battles rather than fighting them.
Cris Tales Review
- Graphics - 9.5/109.5/10
- Sound - 9.5/109.5/10
- Gameplay - 8.5/108.5/10
- Lasting Appeal - 6.5/106.5/10
Final Thoughts: GREAT
Cris Tales is a fun game that has a great concept reminiscent of Chrono Trigger or Radiant Historia. Technical issues hold it back from truly spectacular status.
Chris is an avid fan of video games as well as board games. He has a special place in his heart for JRPGs and enjoys listening to quality game soundtracks!