Time travel has long been a concept JRPGs have loved to play with. Titles like Chrono Trigger and Radiant Historia have oriented their stories around time-consuming misadventures, while games like Bravely Default and Grandia have found new and interesting ways to involve time manipulation in the flow of combat. Cris Tales – the latest release from Colombian developers Dream Uncorporated and SYCK – is the latest JRPG to put time travel at the center of its design, and while it stumbles at times in its execution, it remains a memorable and enjoyable entry into the game. genre.
Cris Tales follows the adventure of a young orphan named Crisbell, whose world is turned upside down when an adorable little frog in a top hat steals a rose from her. One thing leads to another, and Crisbell learns that she is a prophesied Time Mage, who has the power to perceive the past and the future in parallel with the present. Using her newfound powers, Crisbell thus sets out on a journey to save the world from the infamous Time Empress, aided by a group of strange acquaintances and other time mages. And a cute frog.
While the plot isn’t always satisfying, Cris Tales’s storytelling still manages to find some interesting ways to play around with the time jump mechanic. Often times, there are times in history when Crisbell has the opportunity to change the future for the better, but she can’t do it for everyone. For example, an early opportunity allows you to prevent rot from eventually destroying a few storefronts in your hometown, but you can only afford to prevent it for one store. Whichever you choose is ultimately unrelated to the main storyline, but the moral dilemma nonetheless creates an interesting space to pause and reflect. Your frog friend, Matias, reassures you that there are never “right” answers when making such decisions, but it’s hard not to think how much such a responsibility would weigh on a person with this gender. influence on the timeline.
When you’re in the field, the gameplay plays out as you’d expect in a typical JRPG. Roaming small dungeons will definitely get you some goodies, and there are usually a few puzzles that require you to harness your timeshift powers to clear the path. Maybe you need to plant a seed in the past so that you can grow a tree to get a special fruit. Maybe you need to push a safe under some acid, so that it can erode in the future and give you access to its contents. The applications of your temporal powers are rarely surprising, but there are enough unique instances of puzzles and obstacles that things rarely get stale in the roughly thirty hours it takes to lead Cris Tales through.
The combat has a typical turn-based structure, but time again plays a big factor here. Poison an enemy in the present, and you can either let them attack them every turn or push them into the future and take all damage at the same time. If you’re struggling to deal with the “adult” variant of an enemy, perhaps try pushing them back into the past and fighting their younger version instead. This temporal manipulation adds fascinating wrinkles to combat, and it’s fun to see how encounters gradually turn into complex puzzles as the story progresses and Crisbell adds new temporal powers to his arsenal.
On top of that, there’s a timing-based element of giving and taking damage that pulls the Paper Mario battle system a bit. Pressing a button at the right time can see you dealing more damage or negating an incoming strike, although the windows for this aspect of combat seem a bit staggered. Wind-up animations are often far too short or downright nonexistent, and while the screen temporarily darkens to alert you when your window pops up, it’s often an opportunity to flash and miss it. Things are made worse by the fact that some later boss encounters almost require you to be right with your timing, or party members can be wiped out in one or two hits. It does get a little easier to determine the timing as you play and to better understand the different animations, but this is a fragment of combat that makes it look like it could have used another development pass.
We think it’s also important to point out that Cris Tales can sometimes feel like it’s not meeting the player’s time commitment properly. Combat encounters are triggered randomly – and, frustratingly enough, quite often – which can lead to irritation when you’re just trying to walk through a given area for a side quest and have to stop every seven seconds for one. another meeting with local troublemakers. Things are made worse by the fact that there’s a semi-long loading screen before each encounter, and that extra five or six seconds before each fight really add up over time.
Cris Tales can also be particularly ruthless with its backing structure. You can only save on the world map or at certain save points in environments, and a group erase in combat means you lose all progress since the last time you saved. At one point, we lost just over half an hour of progress when a surprisingly difficult enemy encounter wiped out our team, requiring a complete reset of our journey through a dungeon. How much such issues will ultimately bother you is a matter of personal taste, but just keep in mind that some elements of Cris Tales seem needlessly archaic.
On the other hand, Cris Tales feels remarkably fresh in its overall presentation, which is nothing less astonishing. The art style resembles a cross between a Genndy Tartakovsky cartoon and a children’s book, characterized by crisp geometric shapes and hyper-stylized character designs. Combine that with some well-executed voiceovers and you’ve got a fascinating world that absolutely appeals to the player. It is quite clear that the developers devoted a lot of time and attention to the presentation. correct that’s good and it pays off, as it’s one of the most memorable art styles we’ve seen in a JRPG in quite some time.
Cris Tales delivers a satisfying take on classic JRPG tropes while sprinkling in some interesting new gameplay ideas and incredible art style. While some aspects of combat can be frustrating, and the pace can sometimes feel like it’s wasting your time, we would still recommend this one to anyone looking for a cool new RPG for their Switch. Cris Tales does just the right thing to stand out from the crowd and assert itself as a title to add to your library; JRPG aficionados should definitely give this one a try.