Cris Tales is the textbook definition of something you didn’t know existed but now know you cannot live without. A time manipulation RPG influenced by Final Fantasy VI and Chrono Trigger, Cris Tales is a unique title that caught me by surprise during E3 2019. I was blown away by the game’s trailer earlier in the week. In addition, I realized with great enthusiasm that I had booked an appointment with publisher Modus Games to see the title in person.
Past me meets present me meets future me
Cris Tales is a hand-drawn, 2D RPG created with an emphasis on Columbian heritage. The main character, Crisbell, has the power to see the past, present, and future at the same time. Her actions in the past and present affect the future, with some decisions making a permanent change. Due to this control of time, some areas in the game will either open up or be locked off. Of course, Cris Tales has multiple endings, so subsequent playthroughs will be necessary to experience the adventure in its entirety.
The way time works in Cris Tales is an entirely original idea. While exploring an area, the screen is split into three. The past is on the left, present center, and future right. Your frog companion, Matias, is the only character that can hop across time and make changes.
For example, during my hands-on demo, an apothecary lost labels to her bottles of chemicals. One of them was hazardous, so Matias had to hop into the past to see which one was which. After retrieving the labels from some mischievous kids in the present, Crisbell was able to assist the woman and change the future.
Sadly, fixing the timeline meant I could only save one possible future: the apothecary shop or the home of a single mom with baby number two on the way. I chose to help the mother, which meant that she prospered while the apothecary suffered. These are the types of tough decisions the player has to make during their time with Cris Tales.
Battles throughout time
Another feature that was shown off during the preview is Cris Tales‘ combat system. Like the title’s exploration segments, fights in Cris Tales involve time manipulation, too. Conflicts are turn-based, with move orders displayed at the top of the screen. Similar to one of the game’s influences, Super Mario RPG, characters can perform timed button presses that will enhance their attacks or defense. Since party members cannot manipulate time by themselves, they can invoke time crystals to create astral projections. This will help them gain the edge in combat. For instance, you can use a fire spell to inflict burn damage on an adversary. Send said foe into the future, and they will take all the cumulative damage at once, obliterating the enemy. This is not only smart but extremely well designed.
Using time crystals isn’t always to the player’s benefit, however. During a boss battle against twin sisters, our presenter showed me that using water on their shield would rust it in the future. Sending the women across time would make them more experienced, though, unlocking their ability to use more powerful attacks. Players must always weigh the benefits and disadvantages before using astral projection. Thankfully, one can always use another crystal and undo a decision if things become too hairy.
Do not let this game fly under your radar
I wrapped up my time with Cris Tales by obtaining some miscellaneous information. During battles, players do not see health bars for monsters and must rely on visual cues to tell if they are doing damage. The final build will also implement team attacks à la Chrono Trigger. Cris Tales has been in development for less than a year, will last around 20 hours, and has a total of seven protagonists. Also, one of the playable party members can fling bad guys across time. Incredible.
I was floored by Cris Tales‘ demo and could not be more excited for it to launch. The title looks like a storybook come to life, and it is inspired by my favorite game of all time. Every single background and character has three different versions because of the time mechanic; the amount of detail required for such an undertaking must be applauded. If nothing else excites you, know that little frog Matias boxes along to your attacks during fights. How can you say no to that?!
Look for Cris Tales to release sometime in 2020 for Nintendo Switch. A 45-minute demo of the game is available on Steam if you are interested in trying it out. As always, let us know what you think about this game and our E3 coverage in the comments below.