Cris Tales PS4 Review
Cris Tales is a turn-based “love letter to classic JRPGs” serving up a new perspective on how you play in this beautifully hand-drawn world. In most JRPGs your characters make decisions and ultimately end up saving the world once or twice, however in Cris Tales you can actively see the differences you’re making in the future. It’s an interesting idea to be able to see what your decisions have caused: have you accidentally caused someone’s death, destroyed a whole city, or saved a young child?
You start off as an orphan picking roses… Until a frog in a top hat steals your rose and runs away… A strange opening but I’ve seen weirder JRPG openings. The young girl gets led around the entire town until she ends up at a cathedral; suddenly, she feels power coming from a… stained glass window? (Again, I’ve seen weirder). The frog explains that you’re a time mage and you should go see his friend who is also a time mage. You receive a sword and grow about 20 years in age to start; the opening happens too quickly and is extremely cliche. The characters are also cliche: The orphan girl who didn’t know she had powers, the edgy teen who thinks he can do everything by himself, and a wise teacher who is obviously more mysterious than he looks. One of my favourite things about the story is the character interactions. I feel like modern day RPGs don’t have enough small talk outside of often hour long cutscenes, however in Cris Tales you get skits while in dungeons, when you’re around town, or just before you rest; it makes you feel way more connected to your team when they are constantly chatting about what they’re going through.
I love the hand-drawn scenery in this game; the cathedrals you visit, the towns, and the dungeons all look stunning. The design of the main character and how she fits into the setting looks beautiful, unfortunately, though I do feel like the two side characters are extremely bland and rushed. Throughout the game you get new additions to your party, fortunately, they look better than the two you start with, but their stories are just as bland.
“Time magic” is the main focus of Cris Tales and it allows you to manipulate combat and peer into the past/future of towns. Time travel is obviously a tricky subject because it creates a lot of plot holes or moments that make the player think “why didn’t this character just do that”. For example, there was one quest where I went back in time to get some old blueprints for someone that lost their tools, but then I thought “instead of getting the blueprints, why didn’t I just get the tools?”. The way you interact with the past is by sending your frog companion back in time. I don’t know why your character can’t go into the past because they can do this in combat and it would’ve saved a lot of lives…
The game, to be expected, has your normal turn-based combat mixed with timing-based parry/critical triggers and random encounters. However, using time magic you can send enemies on your left back in time and enemies on your right forward in time. This extra element gives you a reason to explore more options in combat, for example, poisoning enemies and sending them into the future will deal the full poison damage, sending enemies into the past will make them less experienced in combat and many other ideas to explore. I’ve played many turn-based RPGs and Cris Tales is the closest one to feeling like a new experience in a while, unfortunately, the combat is way too easy to provide you the opportunity to explore these options. I thought bosses would force me to use some trial and error to find out what options I can use to make them weaker using your time magic. However, even though I did experiment, I was never forced to, you could’ve just used your regular moves to win combat.
Disappointingly, Cris Tales is riddled with technical issues; I played on the PS4 Slim and I hope on other platforms these issues don’t exist. These can be annoying and prevent enjoyment in a lot of games but I’ve never played a game where so many issues added up to create this much of a painful experience. The big one is load screens and load times; in the modern era, you shouldn’t be seeing a 30 second load screen every time you do anything. This was frustrating when exploring dungeons because it made me not want to explore and instead just go to the end; I don’t even think PS1 era RPGs had 30 second load times at the beginning and end of combat. My other big gripe with the game is the towns; whilst the art for the towns and the characters is lovely the cities feel so small and there are hardly any characters there (apart from guards that just grunt at you). In RPGs when you enter a huge city with castles and gargantuan statues you expect to see many people roaming around the town, each one telling you a bit about their shop, their life or the town’s history. These aren’t the most important characters but they immerse you into the game and if something bad were to happen, you’d feel much sadder because it feels real.
Cris Tales claims to be a “love letter to classic JRGs” and it has all the elements that make up a great JRPG by bringing back things we’ve missed about the older classics but it hasn’t quite executed them as well as I’d hoped. The combat was easily the best part of Cris Tales but this was unfortunately ruined by loading screens/times; I hope they can get this fixed ASAP so the game can receive more credit. This is one of the few, maybe only, games I’ve played where my experience was ruined by a mix of technical issues.