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Let’s face it: time journey is ridiculous and doesn’t make a lick of sense. However it’s exactly as a result of it is unnecessary that it’s an ideal match for an over-the-top fantasy JRPG, and Cris Tales blends that nonsense smoothie to unbelievable impact. Manipulating the previous, current, and future to unravel puzzles, defeat enemies, and alter destinies is totally superior when it really works. Sadly, on the subject of Cris Tales’ repetitive turn-based fight, I felt extra like I used to be trapped within the continuum’s most boring time loop. Even so, the timeless story, quirky characters, and easy appeal of Cris Tales nonetheless managed to make this exaggerated anime journey a largely enjoyable trip.
Cris Tales’ otherworldly fantasy setting might have been taken straight out of a kids’s story guide – it’s stuffed with speaking frogs, bizarre robotic thingies, and time mages that make informal use of their superior energy, which nobody appears in any respect involved or impressed by. All the things in regards to the world is delightfully unusual, from the truth that folks use marbles as forex, to the unusual “Mom Superior” witches that exist in each city to assist elevate the kids or one thing. You’ll journey by means of monster-infested salt mines, go to a metropolis situated inside an energetic volcano, and sail round in a ship that’s made out of a large metallic lady’s shoe. It’s one of many weirdest settings of all time and but the whole lot simply had me nodding alongside like, “Properly, yeah, after all I have to retrofit my shoe-boat with metallic plating so it might probably surf by means of lava. Who hasn’t had to do this?”
It helps that the cartoonish, anime artwork model is brimming with life and persona, which makes touring this fantasy world an entire delight. You’ll be able to spend loads of time simply soaking within the superior aesthetic of Cris Tales’ world, whether or not that’s by means of the distinctive townsfolk you meet, the colourful environments round them, or the weird enemies you combat, like a large, creepy multi-armed robotic or a sentient blob of water. That stated, there are some efficiency points like framerate stuttering throughout fight and cutscenes that may get in the best way of its attractiveness, however nothing unhealthy sufficient to noticeably hinder my enjoyment.
The principle character, Crisbell, is your typical bright-eyed, harmless, and unflappably optimistic protagonist who goes round doing good deeds with no second thought as to why she needs to be the one to unravel everybody’s issues. Alongside the best way she meets an immortal baby time mage, an anime robotic, and a few woman in a hoodie who assaults by pulling random weapons out of a bottomless bag like a murderous Mary Poppins. The solid is universally superior. That goes for the primary characters that you simply spend most of your time with all the best way all the way down to the tiniest supporting roles who’re additionally given their time to shine. I actually revered simply how a lot Cris Tales makes use of all of its characters and by no means forgets about them, proper up till the story’s ultimate moments (although I’m terrible at remembering names and located myself shouting “WHO?” when my occasion introduced up a personality I hadn’t seen in 20 hours).
The story itself isn’t essentially the most authentic or stunning on the planet – my housemates and I all independently predicted the ending after taking part in solely an hour of its 40+ hour marketing campaign – however it’s competently informed and well-written for essentially the most half. Saving the world and combating within the identify of friendship and household is a cliche, however one which Cris Tales wears proudly. The story is helped alongside by voice performances which might be largely enough and sometimes distinctive, in addition to some genuinely rewarding participant choices that allow you to have an actual and lasting affect on the world and its characters. That stated, this story does lose loads of steam towards the tip by padding itself out with return visits to beforehand explored areas that drag on too lengthy, particularly contemplating the ultimate payoff isn’t significantly impressed.
If Cris Tales has one stand out characteristic although, it’s the extremely effectively achieved and distinctive use of time journey and time manipulation that sits on the middle of the whole lot you do. Since you play as a time mage, Cris Tales entails loads of time-based shenanigans, each as a plot gadget and as a gameplay hook. In reality, in lots of areas the display itself is break up into three sections to concurrently present the previous, current, and way forward for that location, every of which will be visited and interacted with to finish puzzles and achieve a larger understanding of the world and its characters. At one level, I discovered a struggling artist within the current and noticed that sooner or later he’d turned to a lifetime of crime. After finishing a quest for him to assist his pursuit of the humanities, I modified his future and will now see he’d find yourself as a profitable musician within the years forward.
Seeing your actions have a direct affect on the longer term is massively rewarding and may have an infinite impact on the world. In a single metropolis, I seen that an space had the grim destiny of finally changing into submerged underwater. However over the course of a completely elective sidequest I saved somebody’s life who vowed to repair the town’s flooding issues, which modified that consequence and opened up new methods for me to work together with the placement. Seeing that direct trigger and impact so rapidly makes Cris Tales’ aspect quests stand out out of your typical RPG, and moments like this may be a few of its greatest after they come collectively effectively.
Cris Tales calls itself a “love letter to basic JRPGs,” and it performs like one by means of and thru, in methods each good and unhealthy. It’s received the bigger than life occasion of characters and a narrative that grows from humble beginnings to an epic battle on a cosmic scale, however it’s additionally received a number of the uglier conventional JRPG mechanics I might have achieved with out, like static save factors and no autosaves. Look, I get it. Custom is custom, and even blockbuster JRPGs like Persona 5 have largely caught to their weapons on this one, however that doesn’t make it any much less irritating. Why can’t I simply save with out having to run midway throughout city? Does anybody truly take pleasure in having to repeat a complete part of a dungeon as a result of the boss kills you far-off from a save level? Or worse but, as a result of the sport crashed and there was no autosave to return to your rescue?
For a recreation about time journey, Cris Tales positive likes to waste loads of yours, and there’s no higher instance of that than your frog good friend, Matias. He fills the JRPG function of the animal mascot/sensible information, and he’s essential to finish most time-manipulation puzzles. Frustratingly, Matias hops alongside behind you on the slowest tempo potential, and trying to time journey earlier than he’s caught up with you leads to an obnoxious pop-up window reminding you that you need to wait on your frog to be close by. In the event you’re operating throughout an space, it might probably take 10-15 complete seconds for this inexperienced lump to meet up with you, which I found is precisely sufficient time to curse his identify and want an premature finish to his complete bloodline. This concern got here up far more typically than you would possibly count on and continued to trouble me the entire means by means of.
Time and Time Once more
However whereas the time journey mechanics are in any other case a pleasure when exploring the world, how they’ve been applied into Cris Tales’ bland, repetitive turn-based fight is way much less thrilling. As a longtime RPG nerd, I often love turn-based fight and random encounters, however this fight system is generally tedious and oftentimes simply downright sloppy.
Early on within the journey you’re launched to some actually distinctive ideas that make intelligent use of Crisbell’s skill to govern time. For instance, in an early boss encounter it’s a must to assault a closely armored character with water assaults within the current, then ship them into the longer term the place their armor has rusted away as a result of extended water harm, which provides you a gap to assault. In one other encounter, you ship an enemy into the previous, then hit them with a poison assault earlier than bringing them again into the current, which applies the damage-over-time impact unexpectedly with devastating outcomes.
The Finest Fashionable RPGs
You would possibly assume these early examples could be only a small sampling of all of the fascinating methods one would possibly manipulate time to their benefit, however in actuality that is about so far as these mechanics ever go. After the primary handful of instructional encounters, you’ll have skilled almost all of the methods within the guide and their use thereafter turns into a matter of repeating them to painfully monotonous impact with only a few twists and turns alongside the best way. It’s such an enormous missed alternative in comparison with how effectively time journey is used outdoors of fight.
Even when you do benefit from the few overused time manipulation methods that fight affords, making the most of them is never the easiest way to get by means of encounters anyway. Positive, I might apply burn to an enemy, then throw them into the longer term the place they’re torched to a crisp, however why would I do this once I might simply one-shot them with an elemental assault as an alternative? It often takes a number of steps to utilize time journey in fight as you mix completely different results like this, however the payoffs don’t truly reward the additional effort when you might have simply been attacking as an alternative. In consequence, I solely ended up utilizing it in uncommon circumstances the place it made sense or a specific combat demanded it.
Fight encounters don’t simply repeat the identical time journey methods both, in addition they reuse the identical few enemy sorts. Easy enemies like wolves and slimes are simply given a contemporary coat of paint or an elemental remix in every space and thrown in your path time and time once more. Mix that with reused time manipulation gimmicks and frequent random encounters and also you’ve received a recipe for one of many extra mindlessly grindy JRPGs I’ve performed in a protracted whereas.
Sadly, the bosses are additionally repetitive and drawn out, doubtlessly much more so. The place early on within the journey you’re handled to some fascinating boss fights that function rewarding finales for every dungeon, the again half of the journey recycles these encounters a number of occasions with larger well being bars and harm numbers. A few of these fights can drag on for 20 minutes of attacking and therapeutic whereas slowly chipping away at a well being bar in a mind-numbingly boring and low-stakes battle of attrition.
This pile of missteps is an unlucky miss as a result of the world outdoors of Cris Tales’ battles is genuinely beautiful, however you spend a lot of your time in fight that its shortcomings are felt consistently. By the point I reached the tip credit after nearly 50 hours, I used to be glad to be achieved with its bland battle system, which is a disgrace once I was nonetheless having fun with the story itself.