Cris Tales is a turn-based RPG with time-shifting features that allow players to manipulate states of time in their favour. Providing the ability to peek into the past, present and future and see how enemies, towns and NPCs change accordingly. Cris Tales offers an attractive addition to the genre which we will expand upon below.
One story, but with modifiable details
The story starts with the invasion of Narim, the hometown of Crisbell the main protagonist. A Time Mage ignorant of her abilities who lives in the local orphanage. In an attempt to help her village she unlocks previously dormant powers that allow her to step through time. Which after using them to defend her home gives the local government cause to deem her guilty of being responsible for the invasion. An act that forces her to flee.
During the protagonist’s journey you will meet new companions, enter numerous dungeons and visit several cities. Uncovering the plot of a profound story with unapparent twists that reveal themselves over time. Causing Crisbell to learn more about her powers and personal story too.
Having the power to check the past, present and future of these cities and their inhabitants, provides the option to change their future. This can happen at several points throughout the story with differing results depending on the player’s decisions. Even so these changes will not have a massive impact on the main story, apart from a few exceptions.
Alongside Crisbell is Mathias. An ally who complements the protagonist’s ability to see into the past and future, when traveling from the present to these other times. Mathias’ power will be helpful in solving puzzles to obtain more information about the cities the party is presently in. It will also help complete some quests and discover hidden treasures.
Exploring the world of Cris Tales
Drawn by hand the world of Cris Tales is a very colourful one. Despite the countless vibrant colours, the touch of darkness lingers in several places of the gameworld. After starting at Narim the hometown of Crisbell, the world map soon becomes available. Displaying available places to explore and interact with. Chests containing rewards can be seen on this map. Dungeons have a unique design with different enemies, treasures and NPCs inhabiting them. Random enemy encounters are not shown on the world map. Only dungeons are.
When in cities the screen divides into three parts: past, present and future. Crisbell remains in the present, but Mathias can time hop with a talkative frog companion who helps accomplish secondary quests to retrieve treasures from the past or future.
Secondary quests can also be accepted in cities. Sometimes when these are accomplished they change the future of the place or of specific NPCs. There are inns and shops to visit too. Items and equipment can be purchased in shops, but no new weapons can be acquired. Instead only weapons already possessed through time synthesis can be improved in exchange for marbles, the in-game currency.
During gameplay you will have to make decisions at some critical points of the story. You will have to choose between several options. Depending on the selected one the future will change in one way or another. It seems a cool feature, but after some experimentation the actual impact at points was less than expected. However it remains an unusual feature compared to other games of the genre.
It’s Battle Time
Random encounters occur in dungeons where the protagonist fights several types of enemies in turn-based battles. Along with Crisbell who must partake in all encounters are two more companions. All have common commands: Defend, Pass (turn) and Items, along with Attacks and Skills which vary between individuals.
Each character has their own set of skills which they add to when they level up. There are a total of six playable characters but you will start with only three. Each has their own unique mechanics, allowing for different strategies to defeat enemies. For example Christopher is an elemental mage in the traditional sense, while K (JKR-721) is an android with exceptionally strong punches and a curious overheating mechanic.
One of the fascinating features is the protagonist’s skills. She can make enemies younger or older. With age comes the affliction of weaknesses and changes in stats. This feature is limited given the part of the timeline an enemy inhabits. Those on the left sector of the battle (in the past) can only be made younger. Inversely those on the right can be made older. Some enemies can move from one side to the other but these are uncommon. Some bosses are invulnerable to this feature. Until K joins Crisbell, the party cannot move them from one sector to the other.
Crisbell’s skills help create combos. For example poisoning enemies and send them to the future will hit it with all the poison damage in one hit. Another example is to soak enemies will a water spell. So when sent to the future their armour will instantly become rusty. There are a number of possible combos to use. Aside from these synchronicity attacks can be launched, where two members of your team combine their skills. Additional team attacks can be learnt through levelling.
While writing my review of Cris Tales, I had mixed feelings about the title. There are new mechanics not present in other titles in the genre. For example your decisions impact the story and the world, but the consequences feel unsubstantial. Though future results can be seen to some extent, NPCs keep the same dialogue independent of your selection. There are some exceptions of course.
The same limitation occurs with Crisbell’s crystal ability, her ability to send enemies to the past or the future, depending on their location. At least until she gains the skill to move them. The new mechanics are good, but the feeling that some of these could lead exploits was ever present.
The graphics are cute and very colourful. Maybe not for every gamer, but they fit with the story very well. The soundtrack is good with several tracks accompanying the player’s journey during gameplay. All character are voiced in English, but numerous languages can be chosen for subtitles.
Since my first taste of this game through a demo at a steam festival, the developers have improved the game a lot. It offers new mechanics, which give you a great set of strategies for combat and some variety in the story’s journey. Even if sometimes these can feel limited. However overall they are interesting, along with the characters. If you like turn-based games and cute designs, you may find Cris Tales appealing.