Much of my youth was spent playing JRPGs now considered classics.
Suikoden, Wild Arms, Legend of Legaia, Final Fantasy VII; those were my jam. And so it pleases me that the upcoming Cris Tales is a love letter to the genre, albeit with a time-bending twist.
The story of Cris Tales appears to be your typical JRPG yarn: a powerful, evil force known as the Time Empress is threatening the entire world, and it’s up to you as Crisbell to take actions and thwart her plans. Though of course, you’re not alone; throughout the adventure you’ll gain numerous allies each with their own skills and motivations. So far, so JRPG. But there are two things that make Cris Tales stand out from the crowd: its unique art style, and its inventive time manipulation mechanics.
“I think JRPG fans are going to have a great deal of fun with this one”
A recent preview event allowed me to get a closer look at Cris Tales. It took me through numerous dungeons, across an overworld, and into the town of Saint Clarity. Along the way, numerous enemies were fought, as well a few powerful bosses. It hinted at a game that’s colourful, tactical, original, and, more importantly, engrossing. I think JRPG fans are going to have a great deal of fun with this one.
As you can see from the images on this page, Cris Tales looks absolutely beautiful. It marries clean lines with bold, bright colours, making every scene pop out of the screen. It’s almost papercraft-like in appearance, with folds instigating inclines and crisp, sharp angles sending paths into and out of the screen. It’s a sumptuous feast for your eyes. You can’t get complacent though, at least not in dungeons, because random battles are rampant.
Combat in Cris Tales plays out like it does in JRPGs of days gone by. It’s turn-based, with characters taking action according to their speed. When it’s their turn, they can attack, defend, use skills; you know the score. But there’s also a real-time element, with well-timed button presses increasing damage dealt or reducing the power of incoming attacks. It has a couple of unique game mechanics up its sleeve as well.
For a start, enemies can appear both in front and behind you, forcing you to act decisively. Do you concentrate on taking out all foes on one side first with all your might, or do you fight on both fronts, splitting up the attention of your party? It’s a tough choice. And then there are your time control powers, which if used wisely can dramatically alter the outcome of battle.
“It’s a sumptuous feast for your eyes”
If you’re wondering how manipulating time can be so beneficial in a fight consider this: you’ve entered battle with a powerful wolf, whose weakness is poison. Like in other JRPGS you can inflict the wolf with poison, doing damage over time, but by inflicting poison and then sending the wolf into the future, you can do a whole load of poison damage all at once. Clever, huh?
Simply sending enemies into the past or future can have its benefits, too. A mighty warrior, for instance, might not be much of a fight if you take him to a time before his combat training. With this in mind, there are three versions of every enemy you encounter, each with their own parameters. Thankfully one of your companions, Wilhelm, is able to scan your adversaries so you’re fully aware of their strengths and weaknesses going ahead.
Your time control powers are perhaps at their most valuable during combat with bosses. Cris Tales‘ most mighty foes will require you to have full mastery of the time manipulation system to exploit their weaknesses and take them down. It won’t always be so easy to take advantage of your foes, though. Sometimes they’ll be able to escape your time-based snare making you work that bit harder to grasp victory.
Cris Tales isn’t all about combat, however, and the ability to manipulate time isn’t confined to it either. Entering the town of Saint Clarity, it became clear that Cris Tales is a game abundant with side missions. You don’t have to complete them, but your actions will have an affect on the world. Will you be able to deal with your conscience if your inaction leads to negative results?
“Cris Tales… has the potential to be something rather special”
In a genuinely nice touch, you can see the past present and future all on one screen, enabling you to easily glimpse at what has been and what possibly will be. A musician busking for money in the centre of town is perhaps the best example of this. Venture into his past and you can see that he’s been busking since he was a young lad. Years later in the present, he’s still at it but getting desperate. Without taking action, his future is bleak. He gives up music and becomes somewhat of a rogue. But you can change his future if you donate him a sum of money. You have the power.
Your time control powers are also helpful for getting past obstacles on your adventure. In the very same town, you’re required to enter the sewers, but the entrance is up way high. Spotting a mound of dirt underneath the entrance, you can send a little froggy friend of yours into the past to plant a seed. In an instant, a tall vine appears in the present, acting as a makeshift ladder to the sewer entrance and allowing you to continue.
Cris Tales appears to take the best bits of JRPGs during their golden years and weaves in forward-thinking time mechanics to make an experience that has the potential to be something rather special – especially when combined with such a sumptuous visual style. Fans of the genre will love old-school elements such as random battles and an overworld, but will also appreciate the extra depth afforded by the ability to control time. What’s more, your ability to see into the future outside of battle gives your actions weight. If you’re a fan of the genre, definitely keep Cris Tales on your radar.
Cris Tales launches 17th November on PS4, Xbox One, Switch and PC. It will also release on next generation consoles at a later date. A demo is available via Steam right now if you’d like to give it go for yourtself.