Title: Cris Tales
Developer: Dreams Uncorporated, SYCK
Release Date: July 20, 2021
Reviewed On: Switch
Publisher: Modus Games
The RPG genre has evolved significantly over the years, opening the door to new experiences and adventures. While games tend to build on the backs of more modern entries, we seldom get random callbacks to the earlier releases. Developer Dreams Uncorported taps into this space while adding their own time-bending twist in Cris Tales. The approach is challenging, but the tools provided to deal with each obstacle act as a discovery no matter how familiar you are with the genre.
Cris Tales introduces us to the ophan Crisbell, who gets wrapped into a massive adventure after following a frog named Maties who stole a rose. Evidently, it is her fate to become a powerful time mage and help the people of the world by making changes in the present and past that affect the future. Her calling has her traveling to four regions to collect her powers, leading her to Crystallis.
She’s accompanied by a rag-tag group of characters, each with their own reasons for joining the group. They each have their own opinions on how to approach situations, which eventually leaves Crisbell to decide the correct path. Eventually, you’ll face off against the Time Empress, but a lot happens between all that.
Every choice made in the game affects the outcome of the future, and it’s not always bright. I played through the first kingdom twice and received two very different futures for the kingdom. It all depends on your dedication to exploration and addressing the needs of the citizens.
While these are side-missions that run alongside the main quest, they are needed if you want the best outcome for the people. Of course, it’s completely possible to pass it all up as well. You could easily just run by a man getting attacked by wolves, but be prepared to hear that he died later on.
The big gimmick here is the three different timelines shown on screen while you’re in town. The left screen shows the past, and the right screen shows the future. This allows you to easily see if you’re doing the right thing, but that’s not always easy to do.
What is right and wrong is ultimately up to the player, but you’ll have to live with consequences from both angles. Maties also has the ability to travel into each timeline to collect items, listen in on conversations, or uncover a secret. It plays out like a light puzzle as nothing is explicitly told to the player outside of a few hints.
It’s simply incredible how the developers created three different versions of the town that are shown at all times. I think the only drawback is that it’s sometimes tough to see everything. The designers often use this limited camera angle to hide treasure, but I think it makes navigating dungeons since you aren’t always sure where to go. Still, what you try to do is typically rewarded with a treasure chest or item, so time never feels wasted.
It’s important to note how the team gets the most out of every town. I spent 7 hours completing quests, leveling, grinding, and talking with NPCs in the first town and few dungeons alone. However, when I noticed how much time had passed, it honestly felt like I had only been playing for an hour. I became lost in the game’s fantasy setting and characters as I invested more time into the adventure. Nothing ever feels like it’s handed to the player and every completed mission feels earned. However, I wouldn’t say I liked how I had to wait for Maties to catch up to change to different times; he can be a bit slow.
The time system finds its way in the battle system where enemies will surround the party on the left or the right. Most grunt enemies have three different forms depending on their age which gives them access to different movesets. Cris Bell can make them younger if they’re on the left, and if they’re on the right, she can make them older. Sometimes there are drawbacks to this, such as making an enemy older only to find out that they just became stronger while others become weaker. It requires experimentation but also a good understanding of your moveset.
It’s imperative that you understand how to properly time follow-up attacks and defends that require you to press the action button right before an attack. This is great for adding status and crit to magic or avoiding an enemy attack. Bosses are where this is needed most because they don’t mess around. Even for a typical fight, the challenge is high, but the reward of experience and money is crucial to becoming stronger.
I had such a good time level grinding and learning new moves for my party and then working out a strategy to use them effectively in battle. One drawback of the Switch version is that load times before and after batters and between areas are lengthy, making it a lot longer than it should be.
The equipment takes a rather straightforward approach allowing players to upgrade their weapons with money and even equip special keychains for added effects. Wearable equipment can be purchased or found in the field and have various effects, some of which may even slow the character down in a fight. Crisbell’s time magic also evolves through dungeons that each have a unique gimmick, requiring her to interact with something to progress. She unlocks new abilities and even ways to quickly travel through the world as she visits more regions.
I loved how the game took the genre’s classic challenge and added so many unique systems. Unfortunately for some, there aren’t difficulty options or speed options. Further, there’s no Auto-Save, so I’ll admit I lost almost an hour after getting cocky and not saving. I couldn’t care less, though, since I was having a blast with the entire game loop. All dialogue is voiced and sounds wonderful, further enhanced by the awesome soundtrack and beautiful environments.
Cris Tales is a fantasy adventure akin to a fairy tale in both narrative and setting. It’s an amazing experience accompanied by memorable characters, an addictive battle system, and wonderful discoveries. Every moment of the gameplay pushes the RPG to new heights, which is only hindered by lengthy load times and lack of direction for some missions. However, if you’re looking for a callback to retro RPGs, this is one game you absolutely need to play.
This post may contain Amazon affiliate links. As an Amazon Associate Noisy Pixel earns from qualifying purchases.