The downfall of the JRPG during the eighth generation was due in part that it couldn’t get the right balance between modernizing the genre and maintaining the strong points of what made it great in the first place. In the ninth generation, with the resurgence of 16-bit side scrollers in the Indie genre, it’s only time for the turn-based RPG to make a resurgence too.
Enter Cris Tales, exuding a deep likeness to Child of Light, but also introducing some ingenious mechanics to breathe life to this dead genre. A demo is available for everyone to try out and if you’re looking for a fresh new RPG experience, this could be for you.
Stained Glass Fantasy
The artwork of Cris Tales is beautiful and eye-catching to say the least. It has this stained glass feel and reminds me of classic artwork from shoujo manga most indicatively Revolutionary Girl Utena. The soundtrack also compliments its faux-Victorian appeal, but modernizing it making it appear like contemporary American animation but with better visuals.
It tells a tale of Crisbell, who discovers that she’s fated to fight against tyranny with her newly discovered power to manipulate time. The demo opens strong by introducing you to a boss battle right away and from there, the tutorial aspect opens up teaching you the game’s simple combo system. It slowly gets more complex as the game progresses as you implement the time manipulation skills into the mix.
It’s About Time
Crisbell’s time manipulation skills extend not only in battle, but also in exploration mode through the Time Hop mechanic. The way time manipulation works is dependent on your positioning. The center aspect of your position represents the present, where Crisbell is located. Everything to the left of Crisbell could be manipulated towards the past and everything to the right foreshadows the future.
Say if you’re standing in a town and to your left is the armor shop and to the right is the item shop. You could see that the shopkeeper to the left is much younger than his present day middle-aged self while the item shop’s daughter has now inherited the shop in the future. It’s a neat trick and a way to progress certain story mechanics. Like for example there are time seeds that you can plant and then push forward in the future to receive its fruit.
When you get to the battle aspect of the game, time manipulation becomes a lot more complex and you can achieve some pretty sweet combos. You can cast poison on the enemy to the right and then fast forward to the future to speed up the damage. You can reverse damage of a party member to the left by sending them to the past where the damage has not occurred at all.
My favorite is when an enemy to the right wears armor, you can cast water on them and then the armor rusts in the future dropping their defense, therefore your attacks now become more effective. I can’t wait to see other ways we could use time manipulation to add to the battle.
Short But Sweet
I predict a 20-40 hour game if Child of Light is indicative of its progression. While the time manipulation effect and the unique art style right now is great novelty, I hope the later game does not stale when the novelty dies down. Another turn-based indie RPG YIIK: The Postmodern RPG really suffers from this aspect and I hope Cris Tales doesn’t follow suit.
The demo is about an hour at the most and the extra challenge would net another hour. I enjoyed the extra challenge portion as it really boasted the battle mechanics and what the time manipulation skill could offer. As a demo, I think it provided enough of a tease to pick up the main game, but hopefully the novelty of it doesn’t wear off as it is common for this genre in the Indie department.
Cris Tales has been delayed to sometime early 2021.