Cris Tales

When I first saw Cris Tales all the way back at E3 2019, I was instantly won over by its unrestrained animated series charm. The hands-off demo showed off some cool turn-based combat that reminded me of Paper Mario. Suffice it so say that I was sold on the game.

Here we are, just over two years later, and the game is out for all to play. And it delivers! For the most part, that is. It’s not without some struggles, but even then, Cris Tales is a heartfelt RPG that’s absolutely worthwhile for any fans of the genre.

Like many RPGs, Cris Tales tells the story of an unassuming character whose fate is rooted in something much bigger than she realizes. You play as Crisbell, a young girl who discovers she has the ability to manipulate time. After meeting a talking frog named Matias, you learn that there are dark forces led by the vile Time Empress to cause harm over all the land. The story and characters give off an animated film vibe, and everything sort of builds this world where time is literally of the essence — no pun intended, I swear.

Cris Tales

Cris Tales takes while to really get going. Unfortunately, the narrative at the start of the game seems almost too deliberately paced. That means it’ll take a couple hours before things really start moving along. That would be fine if the story and characters were a bit more interesting right from the get-go. Instead, things feel a little mundane early on. Thankfully, it picks up eventually, and it’s all very much worth it from a gameplay standpoint. So if you’re on the fence during those first few hours, I’d definitely recommend you stick with it.

You’ll meet a lot of characters who are facing different problems. Maybe they’re struggling to make ends meet, or perhaps they’re dealing with some sort of challenge that affects their very livelihood. Cris Tales makes it very apparent that you can’t save everyone, so you’ll be faced with making tough choices along the way. Who do you help? Do you follow your gut feeling? Should you make your decisions based solely on your emotions and how you feel about certain NPCs?

The game is a little cutthroat when it comes to these moments, but that gives it an air of realism. Just like you can’t help every single person in the real world, Cris Tales doesn’t allow you to solve every NPC’s problems. You might help one character save his or her business, but at the cost of a family’s living situation. Beyond that, the four kingdoms you visit all have multiple outcomes based on the choices you make while in those kingdoms. Your decisions matter, and those decisions will have consequences that directly affect the NPCs and their world.

Cris Tales

The turn-based battle system in Cris Tales is a pretty fun. You’ll face all kinds of enemies as you journey across the four kingdoms, and you’re treated to combat that’s easy to understand but still poses a challenge on account of the tough baddies you’ll fight in your travels. With your party of characters, you’ll be able to deal out physical, elemental, and magic damage. Some enemies are more vulnerable to different elemental types of damage, and learning what works best in battle with some experimentation keeps things interesting.

You’re rewarded for timing your button presses accordingly. Hit the A button right as you deal a strike with your sword, for example, and you’ll dish out increased damage. Similarly, pressing the A button as an enemy’s strike lands will reduce the amount of damage you receive. It’s a simple but tried and tested formula that works. The only issue is that the way the characters all move is a little exaggerated, so successfully timing a button press for increased damage or defense can sometimes be a bit confusing. It’s a little thing, but it’s a nuisance all the same.

Cris Tales

When it comes to combat, Cris Tales thrives not only due to its fun turn-based system, but also because of its unique time-bending mechanics. Crisbell is able to manipulate time to give her an edge against the dark forces you’ll face. You have the ability to warp enemies to the past, where they’ll often be younger versions of themselves, or to the future, where they’ll be older and typically weaker.

Aside from enemies’ ages, the environment around them is also affected when you mess with time. So if you go back in time, plant a poisonous seed, and then go forward in time, the seed will sprout into a poisonous plant that slowly chips away at enemies’ health. Likewise, if you toss a poison item at an enemy and then fast-forward that enemy to a future state, the damage will be done and the enemy will likely already be dead or heavily damaged. It’s a novel system that gives you more options while in combat, and it’s plenty fun.

Cris Tales

As entertaining as the fun-though-not-entirely-perfect combat may be, where Cris Tales shines brightest is in its visual direction. The game looks absolutely stunning. It reminded me of a cross between the Paper Mario series and a popup storybook — a highly detailed, beautifully illustrated storybook. The game features a paper-cutout art style, but it goes beyond even that as the various castles, cathedrals, and towers you visit have a handmade diorama look to them. Cris Tales is a gorgeous game to behold, with foregrounds and backgrounds that truly pop out in quasi-3D fashion.

The whole game is voice acted, too. Lines are delivered fairly well and are on par with an English language anime — which is to say some of the voice acting can be a little over-the-top and cheesy, but it still works. The music is catchy and has a grand sound to it fitting of this fantasy adventure, as well.

Though the audiovisual presentation is about as solid as it could be, it’s worth mentioning that from a technical standpoint, the game isn’t completely flawless. Specifically, loading times on the Nintendo Switch version of the game are a bit long when you’re moving from one area to the next. It won’t ruin your immersion entirely, but it is noticeable, especially because it sort of happens throughout the whole game.

Cris Tales

This is a pretty big game, with a story that’ll take you roughly 30 hours to play through. Not to mention, the alternate scenarios and options you’re given might encourage you to play through it more than once to witness the different fates of the many townspeople you’ll meet.

There’s a lot to enjoy about Cris Tales. I didn’t love all of it like I did Death’s Door, for example, but I definitely appreciate the majority of what it sets out to do. It takes a few hours to get interesting, and the combat isn’t flawless, but once you get into the thick of it, you’re treated to a nice old-school RPG that’s just a sheer joy to look at thanks to its remarkable art style. If you dig timeless games like Paper Mario, Chrono Trigger, and old school Final Fantasy, Cris Tales is a worth checking out.

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