Cris Tales, made by the Columbia-based studio Dreams Uncorporated, is a self-proclaimed love letter to classic RPG and JRPG games. It’s linear, very narrative-focused, and has turn-based combat, so it checks all the boxes for that type of game. But, what sets Cris Tales apart from all the other “love letter” RPGs is its visual aesthetic and time-manipulation mechanics.
This game is beautiful, has a fantastic soundtrack, and plays around with time powers in a new and refreshing way. But, as with anything that messes around with time, Cris Tales has a lot of aspects that make no sense, so let's talk about the biggest offenders now.
8 Crisbell's Time Powers Overall
Let’s start things off with the biggest aspect of Cris Tales that makes no sense, Crisbell’s time powers. That may sound pretty damning, considering Crisbell is the protagonist of the game, but most of the time her abilities are still well-written enough that the inconsistencies are easily overlooked. But, when you look a little closer, as we have, they start to pile up, with examples like:
- Why do the Past and Future Crystals only affect certain enemies and only stop specific attacks?
- Why can Crisbell send Mathias into the future and past, but not herself or anyone else?
- Why are the past and future versions of both enemies and NPCs always standing in the exact same spot they were in the present?
7 Cribell's Snail-Like Running Speed
We’ll be honest, this entry is just an excuse to complain about Cribell’s default movement speed, which is a huge negative on the experience overall. How does she run so slow? If the game was a bit more claustrophobic in its design, with smaller rooms and lots of hallways, this aspect wouldn't be nearly as noticeable.
But, almost every screen of Cris Tales is huge and takes at least four or five minutes for Crisbell to run from one end to the other. And, throughout the course of the entire game, you never unlock a way to run any faster. What's even worse is the fact that one of Crisbell's earliest unlocked spells is one that literally buffs the speed of her target for a few turns, something that would easily make sense as a method of increasing Crisbell's run-speed.
6 Matias' Movement Speed & The Time Hop Mechanic's Design
Mathias is your mystical talking animal companion that is pretty much standard for any RPG, and his hopping animation when following after you is admittedly adorable. But, throughout the course of the game, you’re going to be using the Time Hop mechanic with Matias a lot, especially since it’s how you get to see the past and future version of each NPC.
And, to activate this mechanic, Matias needs to be right next to you. Yet, for some reason, Dreams Uncorporated decided that Matias should trail after Crisbell at an even slower speed, sometimes taking over ten seconds to catch up. Mathias being a physical NPC you can see outside of battles and cinematics which sounds like a good thing, but what it actually means is that you’ll constantly be standing around waiting for him to catch up to Crisbell so that you’re able to use Time Hop.
5 The Fact That Sophia In Charge Is Just As Bad As Enzo
We’ll be honest, there are quite a few NPCs in Cris Tales that aren’t given the time they need to fully flesh them out or explain their motivations, and Cristopher’s mom Sophia is one of them. Since she asked Crisbell to dig up what was really going on behind the scenes in her town, we can assume she’s at least a decent person.
Enzo, on the other hand, was plagued by greed and envy which caused him to treat other humans and Floodside recklessly, which is why St. Clarity's future looked so bleak originally. So why is it that when Sophia is made leader of St. Clarity, almost nothing changes for the town's future? Is Sophia secretly an awful person or something, because she sure doesn't seem like one.
4 That Entire Intro Sequence
It’s sort of a shame that the very first piece of combat and storytelling in Cris Tales is a bit disjointed and nonsensical. Basically, once you start a new game, you’re immediately dropped into combat as Crisbell, fighting off Goblins and the Volcano Sisters without having a clue as to why this is happening. Then, all of a sudden, Matias tells you to "use the crystals" and you're ripped out of combat and thrown into the admittedly breathtaking opening cinematic, before eventually doing this fight all over again not even half an hour later.
It’s clear that the developers were going for some sort of “drop the audience in the middle of the story, go back to the start, and eventually lead them back here” sort of thing, but it wasn't executed very well and is pretty confusing. Plus, Matias saying "use the crystals" implies that Crisbell is using literal crystals to activate her time powers, which isn't ever shown or hinted at in the rest of the game.
3 There's No Innate Fast Travel
Like we mentioned before, Cris Tales has a lot of backtracking. Thankfully, for the most part, the backtracking doesn’t feel awful, and usually, the situations in each town have changed enough for each return trip to feel unique. But, for a game so heavily dependant on backtracking, why is there no Fast Travel of any sort until about 85 percent of the way through the game? And, along that same train of thought, why are there even missable Side Quests in the first place?
Wouldn't it make more sense for Crisbell to use Fast Travel to return to an area where a Side Quest used to be, then use her time powers to re-unlock this quest from the past? Otherwise, all this current design serves to do is incentivize players to look up the alternate path each city could have gone down online instead of replaying the game again. Additionally, a lot of the systems in-game make it seem like Fast Travel might've originally been in the game in a previous version too. Maybe it was cut for the sake of time when they had to delay their game to 2021?
2 Can't Crisbell Just Keep Changing Things Until The Future Looks Better?
As previously mentioned, over the course of the game, Crisbell and you (the player) will have to make some big decisions at the end of each major arc. Each decision heavily reflects on how to future of each city the party visits, such as Nerim, St. Clarity, Neva Tulira, and even Cinder. But, most of the “big” decisions Crisbell makes also have the benefit of her being able to immediately see how this choice affects the future of the city.
But why is it that when Crisbell sees a bad future, she just resigns herself to making a bad choice and moving on? You’re a Time Mage! Go back and tell Sophia she can’t actually lead St. Clarity, as you’ve seen the future and with her in power, and things stay the same as they were with Enzo. Crisbell can literally keep trying things until they work, and she can even verify when things have been changed for the better, but for some reason the girl with timeline-altering superpowers seems incredibly uncreative with her abilities.
1 The Instances Where Crisbell's Party Goes On An Entire Adventure In An Impossibly Short Span Of Time
What we’re about to mention happens a few times during the narrative in Cris Tales, and when it does happen it absolutely destroys suspension of disbelief if you think about it deeply for even an instant.
Basically, there are a few points throughout the story where something cataclysmic is happening right now and Crisbell needs to stop it right now. But, somehow, Crisbell and her friends are able to use these long-winded roundabout methods to solve the cataclysmic problem, without them taking too long:
- It happens during Gladys’ funeral, where Rhallus announces that she’s taking over as the head of the family, so Crisbell’s party leaves to find evidence of Rhallus’ misdeeds, during which the memorial just appears to...wait for her to return?
- And it happens again in the last 30 percent of the game where the Empress is literally about to blow up the Rena Ruins around the world, destroying most everything on the planet, and is currently in the place where she can set off this self-destruct sequence. but apparently she just... waits there for Crisbell’s party to finish traveling the entire world, revisiting old ruins to foil her cataclysmic plans?
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