Cris Tales Review
One of the biggest sub-genres that continues to be redefined is the JRPG. From Japanese outings like Final Fantasy VII Remake and Tales of Arise, to other Non-Japanese iterations like Undertale and Child of Light, seeing everything evolve is quite amazing, even up to this day.
SYCK’s Cris Tales pushes for a South American flavor and being a Columbian-based developer, much of the flavor does resonate with this RPG with its art style and distinctly magical realist branch of narrative that surrounds the game.
Cris Tales tells the story of Crisbell who, after a chance encounter with a talking frog Matias, is able to unlock her time mage powers that allow her to see the past and the future. As the evil Empress wages war on the sleepy town of Narim, Crisbell is joined by a revolutionary Cristopher and a mysterious sage Willhelm. As they escape and visit the rest of the known world to unlock Crisbell’s time powers, will they be able to change the world’s future for the better or lead it to its impending doom?
Slow to Impress
If there’s anything the Cris Tales demo showed, the biggest issue with it was how slow it started. While I did enjoy the “endless battles” part of the demo to showcase the battle system, the first two hours of the game prove to be a slog.
If you’ve played the demo, Cris Tales does take its time to get you into it, explaining the time magic system and sending you off to fetch quest for a good thirty minutes before the story gets going.
One thing for sure is that Cris Tales embodies its strong JRPG influence, most notably from Final Fantasy VIII where many of its game mechanics, themes, and conventions resonate in the storytelling and gameplay. Storytelling-wise, it’s the entire cyclical nature of time on how certain events have happened in the past and are now manifesting in the future. Game mechanic-wise, the “trigger” system really takes precedence over most of the game’s other mechanics.
I’ve played Cris Tales on the PS5 and the Xbox Series X to test the difference and the absence of the rumble feature on the PS5 greatly reduces the timing of the trigger system, which is the game’s way of keeping battles as engaging as possible by giving players an edge if they time attacks perfectly. I preferred playing it on the Series X because of the rumble feature allowing me to time the trigger function, which is greatly beneficial especially for late-game combat. While I feel that the PS5’s load times and visuals are much better, functionally, I’d default to the Xbox Series X for playability.
It’s been over a month since Cris Tales was released and quite a number of bugs have been reported (and fixed) but a few still remain. These aren’t critical bugs by any means, but the game is still plagued by minor hitches like input delays and damage counters not registering, among many more. They’re not deal-breakers, actually, some of them are even beneficial to your gameplay.
It’s About Time
The best part of Cris Tales is its combat system, especially at the start of the adventure. Once you begin the traversal of your first real dungeon, the Evergreen Forest, your time magic is now on full display. You can use Crystal Points to manipulate time either to use Willhelm’s Yuca magic to manipulate past and future to deal massive damage, poison multiple enemies, or to heal your party quickly.
As you progress, you unlock the Syncro Function, which is their way of using combination attacks akin to Chrono Trigger. However, it’s dependent on Crisbell who fortunately never leaves your party.
As you progress, there are some pretty cool bosses that you fight that allow you to take full advantage of your time magic and your party’s synergy. One example is a boss that doesn’t reveal its true weakness until you completely damage its many arms forcing it to repair damaged parts. Using your time magic can rust the machine over time, making quick work of the damaged parts and speeding up your victory.
Unfortunately during the mid-game to end-game boss battles, time magic almost becomes irrelevant as your party actually gets too strong for its own good and you can literally brute force your way through every battle. While it speeds up the actual story in the long run, I would’ve preferred a cool final battle that actually synergizes all your learned skills to prove your prowess as a time mage instead of you just turning every battle into a street fight.
Again, Cris Tales shows that it can be a “JRPG” to a fault, wearing its old-school inspirations on its sleeve like not leveling up inactive party members. Most of the new additions to your party won’t really get a chance to shine because of this unless you are patient enough to deal with them.
The Future is Simple
At the end of the day, Cris Tales isn’t a bad game by any stretch of the word, but it could’ve benefited with another couple of months of polish. However, one thing that I really commend with the game is just how simple the game is in the long run. There are no extra dungeons, no wasted characters, and no bloat. You get a no-frills RPG that you can complete in a weekend and it’s great for busy players. At 15-20 hours of game time, plus another 10 if you want to really squeeze it for all it’s worth, it certainly deserves a look.
Much of the charm is due to its unique stained glass aesthetic, the voice acting that brings to life many of its characters, and deeply rich Columbian magical realism narratives.
Cris Tales hearkens back to many JRPG tropes we’ve enjoyed through the years, with some easter eggs for us to have a small in-joke laugh. There was even a moment that pokes fun at that dreaded Bravely Default plot twist that I hated (if you know, you know) and it resolved almost immediately, which I appreciated.
A JRPG doesn’t need to be long-winded or overly complicated, in fact, many of the earlier iterations of the genre didn’t require more than 20 or so hours to beat, allowing us to find more worlds to explore and stories to experience. Cris Tales can hopefully open the door to more of these stories, and it’s definitely something to look forward to.
What we liked:
What we didn’t like:
Verdict: Buy It!
Cris Tales has its fair share of problems, but if you don’t mind a little bit of jank and a full dose of nostalgia, this non-Japanese developed JRPG is definitely for you. It’s a simple game that follows many of its tropes to the letter, sometimes to a fault, but it does just enough to become a charming ride without it overstaying its welcome.
It is definitely a JRPG for the old-school fans who enjoy the genre but don’t have 60-100 hours to place on a single game. You will get a succinct ride with the familiar tropes and story arcs along with a different type of flavor presented from a unique aesthetic and easy-to-learn mechanics.
Sometimes, all you really need is a good story, a workable battle system, and some charming extras to take for a ride on a weekend and be done before the next work week. It is quite apt that for a game about time, Cris Tales really respects yours, and I’m always down with that.
*Cris Tales has been reviewed on a PS5 and an Xbox Series X with a review code provided by the publishers.