“Time is like a river that splits into creeks or pools into lakes or careens down waterfalls. I have the map, and I steer the ship.”Garnet, Steven Universe
Cris Tales takes the concept of future vision and turns it on its head. Rather than seeing only the possibility of things to come, you can break the barrier and change how the future is written. Whether that’s shunting an enemy back to those awkward teen years or hurling them forward into the arms of oblivion, Cris Tales adds a new and innovative spin on what it means to be a real time mage.
Cris Tales is the story of young Crisbell, an orphaned girl in the land of Crystallis and her neighboring kingdoms. Until one day she encounters an orange frog with a top hat and gains the ability to see the past and future of those around her. Eventually dragged into the grand scheme of the Time Empress who seeks to cause a cataclysmic event. As she travels you become entangled in the affairs of the other kingdoms and it’s up to the player to decide the best course of action. Along the way, you team up with a host of allies with unique abilities that all work with Crisbell’s time manipulation. Inspired by RPG classics like Chrono Trigger and Final Fantasy Vi, it also draws from more modern games like Persona 5 to create a deep and fantastic story.
Cris Tales works similar to previous turn action games with the players alternating performing attacks with their team of heroes and defending against the attacks from the various monsters. Where Cris Tales breaks from the norm is through time manipulation. Putting a burn effect on an enemy will eventually bring them down…however what if the enemy took all of their turns at once? With Cris’s ability to move enemies into the future and , that slow burn becomes an instant burst as the target takes all of the damage at once. In addition certain enemies also change depending on what point of time they’re in; a small child pushed into the future might become a potent warrior or that potent warrior turned into a weak geriatric. And the reverse for all of these are true. The only downside for the system is lack of flexibility in how you can change time, with your enemies to the left always going to the past and the enemies to the right always going to the future. But that just requires a little bit more careful planning than your standard turn based game to make sure you’re pulling off the right tricks. While it may seem like just a gimmick to break the genre, it’s incredibly well done and the combinations of abilities you can pull off can be the difference between victory and defeat, and lets you build your own strategy to combat a myriad of foes.
The game also incorporates quick time actions while attacking and defending. If you time it just right, you can double your damage while an equally important click will reduce your damage. The window to do either is very forgiving so you’ll get something but timing it right, will yield great results. This mechanic actually is what lets you hit well above your weight to take on challenges.
The game is masterfully drawn in a 2D hand-drawn style. While that seems like a simple description, that mostly because Cel-shaded modernized Ukiyo-e is a bit of a mouthful. On its surface, it is incredibly simple and cute, with the characters and scenery pleasant to the eye. It’s once you begin to take in the full picture—both in the past and in the future as well—that the art imitates the complex name and becomes appreciated for the art that it is. To change from simpler times to the present to whatever lies in the future is an impressive piece of art and storytelling that the game employs very well. Even the cover art for the box is really impressive, with the main character split between the three different places in time.
I don’t think anyone has the time manipulation like this. You’re not just fast forwarding a creature and they just are a few seconds ahead, you’re shunting them years, sometimes decades into the future or past. That strong fighter you’re having trouble with? Bet he’s a lot easier to deal with as a pimply teenager. Or throw him so far into the future he takes damage from the limits of his own mortality. I love this game, and while I was only able to play a short amount thus far, this game gets to go on the road with me so I can play it when I can give it all the time and appreciation it deserves. It even has an orange frog with a top hat, what more could you ask! But if all of that hasn’t got you chomping at the bit to pick up this game on all the major consoles as well as on PC then I guess I don’t know what will. The game is out July 20th, which if you’re a time mage means you can probably get it right now if you wanted to.