Cris Tales on PC
Cris Tales is one of the most colorful and charming games to release in recent memory. It’s no surprise that in a short burst, such as a preview, Cris Tales is highly capable of impressing. Sitting down for the actual full experience, though, is a different story.
While Cris Tales never ceases to be cute and is a feast for the eyes, questionable decisions in the gameplay do rear their ugly head and detract from what could have been a very unique and fun-to-play RPG.
Editor’s note: It’s worth noting that the Xbox version of Cris Tales is suffering from a very frustrating bug that requires the player to constantly turn their controller on and off to solve. You can read more about this here. While it’s a known issue that the developers are working to resolve, we recommend avoiding the Xbox version of Cris Tales entirely until the bug is fixed. This review will instead cover the other functioning versions of Cris Tales.
Cris Tales follows the story of Crisabell, an orphaned girl with a cheerful demeanor despite living in a fragile world that is threatened not only by dangerous monsters but also greedy humans that are capable really screwing up the planet and creating a negative future.
Fortunately, Crisabel learns early on in the story that she is a fabled time mage, a person with the ability to see both into the past and future and, armed with this knowledge, can do things in the present to change the future for the better.
Much of the plot is centered around Crisabell using her powers, wit, and determination to gather allies, make friends, and do good deeds in order to create a brighter future for the people of this world.
It’s nothing ground-breaking, but it’s enjoyable enough and is carried by the game’s excellent art style and soundtrack; these two aspects, combined with the game’s likable characters, really go a long way to masking some of the issues Cris Tales has. Despite getting frustrated by certain parts of the gameplay, I did want to see how things turned out for Crisabel, her dapper talking frog companion, and all of her friends and party members.
While the plot, music, and art are definitely positives worth noting, what Cris Tales attempts to hang its hat on is Crisabel’s time powers. These powers not only play a key role in the story but in battle too.
Crisabell can team up with members of her party to use her time mage powers to gain an advantage in a fight. For example, a party member can poison an enemy, and then Crisabell can send that enemy into the future and cause the full effect of the poison to play out in an instant for a burst of damage.
Crisabell can also move enemies into past/future states of themselves and, in certain cases, make them more or less threatening. In theory, this is a very novel idea that should open up a lot of strategies, however, a few poor design choices throw cold water on it.
For starters, the strategic element of the time powers exists in an awkward spot. Bosses often require a very specific to survive that often do not leave much room for Crisabel to make effective use of her time powers instead of just going straight for the jugular. Or if the time powers are needed, it’s usually infused into the battle in a very rigid way. In other words, there’s not a ton of room for experimentation and creativity in practicality.
You can more easily set up cool time combos on the easier random battles… but you can also go on on the full offensive and more easily knock out your target right away instead. When you’re dealing with random battle after random battle, you generally want to get them over with rather than planning out multi-step/turn time-based strategies.
Frustratingly layered on top of that is a button timing mechanic that is more or less required throughout the entire game. Whenever you attack, you’ll want to press a button just as your attack lands to add an additional attack that will deal a lot of extra damage. On the flip side, you’ll want to do the same just before the enemies’ attack animation lands to parry/deflect their attack and dramatically reduce the damage you take.
While landing your own attacks isn’t too difficult, parrying/deflecting can be a real pain. Not all the animations are clear enough to discern, and getting the timing right can be tricky and will inevitably lead to frustration. The extra damage you take is very noticeable, and you’ll either need to figure it out or spend lots of time running back to town to heal up and start dungeons over. On bosses, it’s pretty much mandatory to survive, assuming you didn’t over-level yourself.
Further complicating things is that Cris Tales lacks an auto-save mechanic. You can only save at designated points and/or while in the overworld. If you forget to save at any point, or make your way deep into a dungeon area and catch an unlucky random battle and die, you can lose a lot of progress. The difficulty on some battles, even random ones, can spike at times and if you’re not good at parrying, it can snowball into an unexpected brutal loss.
Outside of battle, the time mechanic is never really used effectively either. While it’s cool to see how your actions impact the future and also to take a peek into what characters were like in the past, the payoff never feels worth it. For the most part, going back and forward in time outside of battle is mainly to find some hidden chests and solve rudimentary puzzles.
Cris Tales would have been better off leaning into Crisabell’s time powers more. It’s a really neat idea that should have been beaten over the player’s heads far more than it was. Instead, Cris Tales pulls its punches for some reason, and the whole mechanic ends up feeling half-baked.
If you strip that away from Cris Tales, what you have left is a charming and serviceable RPG that is also packed with quite a few flaws and questionable design choices. Cris Tales is definitely worth a playthrough if you’re looking for something light-hearted and a little bit old-school. Just keep your expectations low when it comes to time-based gameplay.
- Colorful art style that pops off the screen.
- Wonderful soundtrack.
- Charming characteres and plot.
- Time-based gameplay sorely underutilized.
- Random battles can be frequent and frustrating.
- Parrying and deflecting attacks all game long is a chore.
- No auto-save.