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Cris Tales Review – It’s A Kinda Time Magic

Cris Tales arrived at a strange time in my life. Not only was I sick in bed with covid but I also found myself restarting one of the greatest RPGs of this decade, Dragon Quest XI: Echoes of an Elusive Age, for the second time. So the bar was set pretty high when it came to RPGs. Thankfully, Cris Tales is not a bad game. Sure, it suffers from some rather nasty balance issues and RPG mechanics that made me scratch my head but story and art managed to carry it through these dark moments. So much so that I put Dragon Quest aside to finish this.

The game tackles one of the toughest themes to grace video games – time travel. While time travel sounds great on paper, it could often lead to confusing plotlines that feel half-assed and confusing. Cris Tales does a decent job delivering this “time” theme throughout the game even if some of its mechanics are poorly executed.

The game follows the story of Crisbell who one day gains the ability of a Time Mage. In the game, these mages obtain the power to perceive the past and future while living in the present. So in short, they can see how things were, how things are and how things can turn out all depending on the actions going on at that given time.

It is smart and most of the game’s visuals are delivered in this gorgeous anime art style that had me gazing across the screen at the three triangles that divide the time periods up. The left of the screen is the past, the middle the present and the right the future. I could not stop walking up and down while comparing, say a tree to what it looked like years ago to now and in the future. Everything around you changes as the game moves and it is brilliant to see in motion.

Cris Tales Review

After a short tutorial and introduction to the game, Crisbell learns that she has to now save the world from the Time Empress. She also has to get her fellow Time Mages back together to help her. Before we get into the combat, which is a big element of Cris Tales, the story is just as important. While the main plot often falls short of going anywhere grand, the side stories, characters and how they are all tied together using this time mechanic makes this game so magical.

This especially comes to light when Crisbell gets the opportunity to help someone by letting her top hat-wearing frog, Matias, jump to the past to alter the events to affect the future. However, the moral dilemma often comes into play here especially when you see the events fix one thing but ultimately destroy something else. Often, this “something else’ could be a life, someone’s success or an item. Cris Tales leans on the idea that while you have the ability to change the past, not everything you do is “right”.

Cris Tales Review

So with that in mind, Cris Tales then sets off on its adventure and plays out like most JRPGs. I explored the world, collected items, completed dungeons and met new people along the way. All of this saw the time mechanic carefully intertwined into the entire experience. Be it working on the past to clear an obstacle to get past something in the future or fiddling with an item to get a different result in the past. These instances do get very much “samey” after a while but they still manage to carry the game through the most drawn-out instances.

Combat in Cris Tales takes on a turn-based approach and it too relies on the time mechanic. It works well. Attacks rely on a sort of “Mario RPG” timing mechanic that saw me having to tap the X button at the right time to deal more damage or press it when an enemy attack to parry and defend. However, the timing always felt off. There’s no real indicator to help with this in order to perfect the button pressing. So it takes a few attempts to master each enemy’s attack timing before moving on and finding another enemy to do it all over again. I won’t say I loved this mechanic and it was more a chore to always have to worry about the button pressing than anything else. Especially given that it simply felt off.

Cris Tales Review

The time mechanic also comes into play in combat when I cast spells that dealt damage to enemies. The results were all dependant on “when” I cast them. I could poison someone in the present and trickle health away or do it in the past and move to the future to have them almost die from all the poison build-up over time. Sometimes enemies would even change appearance depending on the time when I fought them. I could fight older or younger versions of them. For example, an insect would have a larval appearance in the past making it weaker and easier to fight.

Crisbell also fights alongside Wilhelm for most of the game. He has an attack set that focuses on nature and planting seeds. Using these seeds and the time mechanic created interesting ways to approach combat. He can use the poison as I mentioned before but also allow seeds to grow over time and deal heavy damage in the future. It is a unique combat approach for sure and one that I had never experienced.

Cris Tales Review

Unfortunately, Cris Tales does suffer from some unpolished balancing issues that often hold the combat system back from growing into anything worthwhile. Often combat was too easy and just attacking a bunch of enemies normally would be faster and easier. This often locked out the time features making them a chore to use. Why spend time focusing on the past and future when it would be faster to attack and move on? We all know how tedious RPGs can get when it comes to turn-based combat. This forced me to kind of focus on attacks that would kill enemies faster rather than investing in the interesting aspect of the combat. It is a shame.

The whole time mechanic in Cris Tales works great in the real world and in the game’s story but not so much in combat. It is a massive miss given how much potential there was here to make this feel so unique. Thankfully, there is a lot of joy to be had in the story with the time features by helping people out, altering the world and using the mechanics to get past an obstacle. I just forgot about the combat shortfalls and focused on the world and story.

Cris Tales Review

Cris Tales is also a stunning game to see move across the screen. The art style brings the world to life and the anime cutscenes filled my room with bright colours and flashy movements. Clearly, a lot of effort was put into making this game stand out from other traditional RPGs and it paid off. Sure, it is not the most polished RPG around and some mechanics often feel forgettable but I was constantly comparing it to Dragon Quest XI which I was playing alongside Cris Tales at the same time.

Cris Tales Review

Cris Tales is a decent RPG that manages to bring some new refreshing ideas to the table. I wish the combat was a little bit more fleshed out but the story and how the element of time is woven into everything I did, made it worthwhile. It does often fall short when it comes to the main plot and the combat can get tedious but this is a truly unique RPG wrapped up in a gorgeous coat of paint.

Cris Tales Review

This Cris Tales review was based on a review code sent to us by Modus

Available On: PS4, PS5, Xbox, Switch, PC | Reviewed On: PS5 | Release Date: 20 June 2021 | Price: R719

Marco is the owner and founder of GLITCHED. South Africa’s largest gaming and pop culture website. GLITCHED quickly established itself with tech and gaming enthusiasts with on-point opinions, quick coverage of breaking events and unbiased reviews across its website, social platforms, and YouTube channel.

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