- Developer: Dreams Uncorporated, SYCK, Poppy Works
- Publisher: Modus Games
- Release Date: 20/07/2021
- Price: £34.99 / $39.99
- Review code provided by Modus Games
Introducing: Cris Tales Nintendo Switch Review
It can be tough jumping into a game with really high expectations. For the majority of games I review, I try to go in with little to no knowledge of the game. That’s not always possible and I found when starting my review of Cris Tales that I hadn’t tempered my expectations. My first few hours with the game were not favorable. But there’s a reason we don’t review games based on the first few hours. Once I got past that introductory level, my experience changed exponentially. Where at first I found frustration, I peeled back a magical journey that I’ll think back on over the years to come.
The Most Excellent Adventure
Cris Tales shines in several areas but more so with its story. The laudable Crisbell is a young time mage with the purest intentions. She learns of a plot to bring the world to ruin by the evil Time Empress. As Crisbell’s just a fledgling with her power, she seeks to recruit allies and strengthen her power to match her resolve. All the while journeying from one kingdom to another to help those in need and create a better tomorrow.
One thing that stood out to me was the deep personalities… of the characters. And I’m not just talking about the main cast. Every NPC and towns person has a rich background that makes the world feel truly alive. You care about many of the residents which helps drive the best outcome of your choices. Choice plays a pivotal role in Cris Tales. As a Time Mage, you can glimpse the past, present and future all at once. Making seemingly insignificant changes can echo across generations to alter the world like you wouldn’t expect. At one point, saving just a single character in a very common side quest, I was able to preserve half a city. And the writing was spot on. It wasn’t just the act of saving a life. You give this character a newfound desire which makes all the difference.
Cris Tales has such a memorable plot that, like the game, it will echo throughout generations. But it isn’t just the storytelling that gives a lasting impression. It’s the combination of the narrative, characters and world. And perhaps most importantly, the role you take in shaping the story. The plot is multifaceted and can change in a number of ways. Feeling your impact shape the world is a critical differentiator from traditional linear RPGs.
Back to the Future
Cris Tales is a turn-based RPG with a huge emphasis on story and characters. Though the focus may be on the narrative, that didn’t stop the team from getting creative with the core mechanics of the gameplay. While the combat and town roaming looks to the future, some elements are stuck in the past.
As you explore the world and each town, Crisbell can simultaneously see the world through three lenses. The left side of the screen shows the town in its past state while the center screen is the present. And the right side shows a bleak future. The cool thing is you can see how the people change over time and interact with them accordingly. Since Crisbell is unable to time travel herself, she sends Matias the frog time hopping to eavesdrop or procure items long lost.
The Original Time Bandits
The combat system works much the same way. When a battle starts, everyone is in the present. Enemies flank the team on either side which opens up a new way to fight. Crisbell can send enemies to the left back into the past. Enemies on the right are thrown into the future. Or at least future and past versions of themselves. A lot of strategy opens up because you can poison an enemy in the present and then send them into the future where that poison has marinated for an instant kill. But be careful because sending enemies into the past will clear status ailments. Set them on fire and blast them to the past? Oops, they’re no longer harmed.
I certainly commend the creativity of adding time travel elements during combat. There’s a lot of unique approaches you can take for every fight. But the overall pacing was a bit off. Cris Tales lacks some tweaks that have become staples in modern RPGs. Save points are limited which is counter to on-the-go gaming the Switch is perfect for. There’s also not an option to speed up combat. During fighting sequences, your team rotates in and out with one person acting at a time. Some battles felt sluggish. Especially when cycling to the next character. Now, I’m nitpicking a bit there but it just adds to my impression that the pacing was off for the whole game. You can’t sprint while exploring and when you control Matias (the time hopping frog), that issue is more pronounced. After playing hundreds of RPGs, these simple things really stood out.
There’s no doubt that Cris Tales is a gorgeous game. The artwork looks like beautiful hand painted murals. Every scene invokes the loving imagery of a whimsical fairytale. Even the way Crisbell moves and walks is balletic. It’s just a shame you can’t capture screenshots or videos. The music also adds a profound touch which layers in with the rest of the world created. It’s beautiful and charming and never overplays. Likewise, the voice actors bring life to the characters and provide an exceptional performance. Cris Tales’ story may outshine a lot of the production but that doesn’t mean the art and music aren’t brilliant in their own respect.
Cris Tales is a wonderful experience that can be hampered by sluggish movement and slow pacing. I didn’t find it to be the best game to play while on-the-go. That said, it has some incredibly magical moments. The story is riveting and the team implemented some courageously creative ideas into the combat and exploration. I was impressed at the level of detail taken to ensure a cohesive narrative considering the branching story arcs. Although I wouldn’t say Cris Tales is perfect, it will fondly be remembered for breaking the mold and injecting some fresh ideas into traditional RPGs.
- Time Altering Combat System
- Creative Exploration Through Time
- Compelling Story and Characters
- Gorgeous Graphics
- Poor Pacing
- Misses Modern QoL Enhancements