Published on August 3rd, 2021 | by Abdul Saad
Cris Tales PS5 Review
Summary: Cris Tales is unfortunately an unnecessarily conflicting game. It’s incredibly refined features such as the visuals and character depth heavily clash with its subpar gameplay. However, if you’re a hard core retro JRPG fan then you may enjoy the game.
Cris Tales is perhaps the most vibrant, colorful, and graphically impressive RPG this year. The characters are endearing and the plot is unique. However, It’s unfortunate that the gameplay fails to measure up to the rest of the game’s elements.
The game centers on Crisbell, a young orphan whose life is one day thrown for a loop when a talking frog in a top hat hops into her innocent and mundane life. After a short string of events, Cris learns that she’s a Time Mage; a magic user who’s able to perceive and seemingly bend time to her will. Cris isn’t just any Time Mage though, she’s the chosen one, a Time Mage that’s able to affect the present by manipulating the past and future. After learning this, she goes on an adventure with the aforementioned frog Matias, her miniature mentor Wilhelm, and her almost namesake Cristopher to prevent the mysterious downfall of her home town and orphanage.
Cris’ powers are displayed brilliantly through gameplay, whereby a fractured screen is always present when walking around the game’s world. On the left side of the screen is the past, where, if you look closely you’ll catch a glimpse of a character’s more youthful version, whereas, on the right side of the screen, you’ll be able to gaze into the same character’s future. This mechanic also surprisingly blends well with the game’s narrative. For example, you’ll eventually encounter an NPC in the game who’s trying to make ends meet through street music, but is constantly harassed by the local guards. Look to the right of the screen and you’ll notice that their future self has stooped to burglary as an alternate method of acquiring money. The mechanic also contributes to the narrative on a grander scale throughout the game’s playtime, but the fact that these little snippets of background storytelling exist is worth noting.
And speaking of the narrative, it’s needless to say that the game’s premise is quite intriguing. However, while the premise is interesting and is presented well, the overall plot still falls short of being unique as it mainly consists of the standard ‘chosen one and her band of bros saving cities and fighting bad guys’ shtick. Though I will give credit where it’s due, and that is with the game’s characters. Each character in Cris Tales surprisingly has a lot of depth and are greatly supported by the brilliant cast of voice actors who succeed at instilling life into their fictional counterparts.
Objectively the most noticeable part of the Cris Tales is its captivating and highly colorful visuals. Its whimsical aesthetic, vibrant and detailed backgrounds, and uniquely designed character models truly support its narrative tones, and it’s easily one of the prettiest games I’ve played in a very long time.
Not many games can seamlessly implement time travel elements into gameplay, yet Cris Tales does this surprisingly well with its combat. The game uses the tried and true turn-based system, and as such, players will have to thoroughly think out their strategies in order to defeat enemies as effectively as possible. As a Time Mage, Crisbell can fight her enemies in ways most cannot, such as sending an insectoid enemy to its past weaker larvae form, using a party member’s water elemental attack to rust armor by sending it into the future, or planting a deadly poisonous crop in the present that’ll explode and affect all surrounding enemies in the future. There are various ways to mix and match time powers and elemental attacks, and this offers the game a nice amount of combat depth. Unfortunately, this is where the last of my compliments lie, as the other gameplay elements in Cris Tales only succeed at causing frustration.
For one, combat and movement speed in Cris Tales is mind-numbingly slow. As such, it always felt like a complete slog moving around the game’s larger environments. This, unfortunately, is only made worse by the fact that the game also implements the archaic JRPG system of random encounters, most likely due to budget limitations as it seems most of the game’s attention was focused on the art direction. Not only is this dated mechanic highly limiting, but its use in Cris Tales is also very unforgiving, mainly because walking for around ten seconds always prompts an enemy encounter.
What makes this significantly worse is that the game also has no auto-save function, so if you’re low on health or mana, you’re essentially screwed. Another unforgiving part of the game is its boss fights. While intricately designed, many bosses in the game can take a long time to defeat and can be highly challenging if met unprepared. One mistake can cause the whole party to be wiped out, so excessive preparation and leveling up is advised before each encounter.
Performance-wise, the game runs significantly better compared to its PS4 and PC counterpart. While there is an unnecessary amount of loading between segments its easily excused thanks to the console’s overall shorter load times.
All in all, Cris Tales is unfortunately an unnecessarily conflicting game. It’s incredibly refined features such as the visuals and character depth heavily clash with its subpar gameplay. However, if you’re a hard core retro JRPG fan then you may enjoy the game.