Cris Tales had me excited from the trailer alone, and after delving deeper into the game via its PC demo, my anticipation for the full release has skyrocketed.
The demo begins where it ends, quite fittingly for this game, teaching you the basics of fighting before whisking you back in time to what is most likely the beginning of the story.
Before protagonist Crisbell becomes the Time Mage she was destined to be, she spends her days pruning roses for her Mother Superior. A frog steals one and after a short chase around town she finds herself at the nearby cathedral, which hosts a stained glass spread featuring figures that share an uncanny resemblance to Cris.
Here she unlocks the power to view the past, present and future simultaneously using a special set of crystals. Sadly, the future doesn’t look bright, but Matias (the aforementioned frog who, naturally, can talk) comforts Cris with the knowledge that she can change that future.
This ability is demonstrated through a straightforward fetch-quest in order to prevent the houses of two members of Crisbell’s hometown from being rotted away by the dreaded Ash Blight. A seed planted can be instantly harvested for its fruit, and an apothecary’s potion conundrum can be resolved by sending your amphibian ally into the future or past respectively.
Cris Tales‘ time travel mechanic is incredibly promising, and seeing the town’s residents become older or younger as you run past them gives an idea of what kind of puzzles could be present in the full game.
Once Crisbell is able to procure the concoction required to fight the Ash Blight, a dilemma occurs which highlights the costs of being able to change the future.
There is only enough to save one of two houses: do you choose that of the Apothecary’s, without whom you wouldn’t have been able to stop the rot in the first place, or the mother and her newborn?
Stakes are high for Crisbell, and regardless of her choice, she feels guilty for being unable to stop somebody’s home from withering away. Greater issues are at hand for the time however, as the local farm is set alight by a group of goblins.
The newly realized Time Mage is sent to suit up, with a great big sword and a sweet new hairstyle, before taking on the monsters herself. Battles play out in turn-based affair with a fresh sprinkling of player interaction. Pressing the A button as soon as a physical attack makes contact allows for an immediate followup attack.
Likewise, doing the same when an enemy attacks will reduce the damage taken considerably.
Crisbell and her impromptu companion Cristopher (who’s appearance will surely be less sudden in the full game) can use melee attacks and spells in the latter’s case to take on the goblins, as well as guarding or healing. Despite their array of offensive abilities, nothing they do can leave even a scratch on Galley and Volcano, two well-armored twins.
This is where time travel comes into play once more. Crisbell can use the crystals to send her enemies into the future: this can weaken and wear down their equipment, at the cost of mana. By combining status ailment-inflicting attacks with some time manipulation, an impenetrable shield can become a rusty shell in seconds.
The demo ends with Cris leaving the home she had spent her whole life in, on a journey to stop the evil plot of the predictably-named Empress of Time. Where the story goes from there is up to speculation until next year, but personally, I don’t trust the Mother Superior to be on the heroes’ side for one second, especially not with a name like that.
Screenshots do little by themselves to convey the absolute joy of seeing Cris Tales’s outstanding visuals in action. Whether in gameplay or cutscenes, the hand-drawn world of Crystallis is beautiful to look at and explore.
Impressively, every single NPC line in the demo has voice acting, with a very diverse range of voices from young to old. Further adding to the game’s character are little things like the soundtrack’s pitch being raised or lowered by a semitone when you hop to the past or future, respectively
There’s a huge amount to look forward to here. If the whole package comes together as well as this preview, it should prove an excellent successor to the JRPG’s of old.
Currently, Modus games are taking general reception and feedback from the demo on their official Discord.