[PlayStation 5] Cris Tales Review
Cris Tales from Dreams Uncorporated, SYCK, and Modus Games is an amazing RPG with a time-bending mechanic. Check our Cris Tales review!
Cris Tales is a gorgeous, indie love letter to classic JRPGs with a new perspective. Peer into the past, act in the present, and watch as your choices dynamically change the future — all on one screen as you play! Beautifully hand-drawn 2D animations bring to life a world where your choices will change both the present and the future across more than 20 hours of gameplay.
Cris Tales is a game that was announced at E3 2019 and was initially slated for release back in November 2020. It was then pushed back to July 2021, and luckily, the dev team used those additional months to polish the overall experience, and I have to say it was worth definitely worth the wait! Cris Tales follows the story of Crisbell, a girl from Narim who soon discovers she’s a Time Mage. She can see the past, the present, and the future… all at once! She’ll be drawn into an adventure in which she’ll make new friends and solve the issues of the few different locations she’ll visit as she’s on her way to find the truth.
As you begin your adventure with Cris Tales, you might be surprised to see that the game drives you into action right away as you’ll have your first battle right away, which serves as a tutorial. I liked how the turn-based battle system uses a gameplay mechanic similar to the one introduced in Super Mario RPG, where you can press the X button at the right time to do double damage to the enemy or to block an enemy attack. The game is also very generous with its timings, so even if you’re somewhat off, the double attack or deflect will connect at a lower efficacy.
Early in the game, we are introduced to a time manipulation mechanic Crisbell can use in battle: she can send the enemies either to the past or to the future. For instance, the first time this is introduced, you have to soak an invincible enemy hidden behind a metal shield by using water magic, then sending the enemy into the Future, which will make its shield rust. You can also give status effects to enemies like poison or burn and then send them into the future so they’ll get all the damage this ailment would have given them over several turns, all at once. I thought this was a very creative way to play with the time and opened clever reflection as to how the fight can be ended the most efficiently. The battles are turn-based, and the battles are encountered randomly as you explore each area, just like we used to get back in the day.
Like I mentioned earlier, Crisbell very soon obtains the power to see the past, present, and future all at once – and the screen is split in three, where the past is on the left, the present is in the center, and the future is at the right. She can only see those different possible periods, but her friend Matias – a frog – has the possibility to move to the actual past or future, interacting with the world and recovering items as needed. As you can already imagine, this game heavily uses time manipulation to get immediate benefits, and it was great.
As for the world itself, you’ll be moving from dungeon to city to dungeon by exploring a world map which I thought was confusing because it doesn’t tell you exactly where your next objective is, nor the name of the place you are entering. I liked how the main campaign path is linear, although you do have enough freedom to feel like we are in a non-linear game. There are a few side-quests per region that also change the location’s future, and some of them are highly missable if you’re not careful – I did have to roll back to a save game which was from one hour early to get the requirements of one of them for instance. Speaking of the side-quests, they require a lot of backtracking, which was sometimes annoying because of the random encounters and how slow Crisbell walks around each location.
I mentioned that the world map was confusing, but luckily there’s a built-in help system accessible at any time by pressing the Triangle button. I like the feature, as it does offer a general hint towards your next direction, but it’s not very specific. When I actually got lost, the hint that was given to me wasn’t really helpful. There is also no difficulty setting, but the good news is that the default difficulty is very manageable. If you’re having a hard time at a boss, go grind a bit to level up once or twice so that you can have a better chance of surviving the boss fight.
I began my campaign on the PlayStation 4, and I was disappointed by the loading times between each fight and when moving from location to location. Since the campaign lasts well over 40 hours or so, I decided to carry on playing the game on PlayStation 5, which greatly reduced the loading times but didn’t completely get rid of them. The PlayStation 5 version doesn’t use the DualSense vibration feature, which isn’t an issue but would have been a nice option.
As for the presentation, Cris Tales really shines. The art style is amazing, and the game is downright gorgeous. The animations and cut-scenes are also expertly done, and we can see that a lot of love went into the creation of this game. The voice acting is also great, helping each character stand out, and let me tell you, there is a lot of recorded dialogue in this one! This is a game that looks great on the screen, and you’ll be able to really appreciate all of the little details here and there that help Cris Tales stand out.
Finally, about the trophies, most of them are tied to story progression or for completing side-quests. A few of them are tied to the various decisions Crisbell will make to change the future of each location, and you’ll have to replay the game a few times to get all the options – or reload a save game before specific moments in the game to make the other choices. A few of the trophies are missable, so do keep that in mind and make sure you have some earlier saved games available in case you need to redo some segments. The good news is that Cris Tales does feature a Platinum trophy!
Cris Tales is an amazing RPG featuring a great battle system and an impressive art style. I liked playing through the game and didn’t want to let go of my controller at any time. It does, however, have some issues. The loading times on the PlayStation 4 felt a bit long, and I got lost a few times because the objective wasn’t clearly indicated, and the map system lacked clarity. Other than those minor issues, I had great expectations of this game, and Cris Tales delivered a great experience. It’s definitively one of my GOTY 2021 contenders so far!
This Cris Tales review is based on a PlayStation 5 copy provided by Modus Games.