DEMO REVIEW: ‘Cris Tales,’ A Saturday Morning Cartoon, as an RPG (Xbox One)

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Cris Tales

Cris Tales is a turn-based RPG developed by Dreams Uncorporated and SYCK and published by Modus Games. Meet Cris, a young girl living in an orphanage in the quiet town of Narim until one day she meets a talking frog who shows her she has magical powers. Now, as a time mage, Cris must embark on a fantastic journey to gain mastery of her powers and defeat the Empress of Time. The Cris Tales Demo shows that the game has some real promise.

Cris Tales is one of the most eye-catching indie games I’ve seen in a while. The visuals bear an aesthetic I can only describe as Samurai Jack meet She-Ra. It feels weird to type that sentence, but I really don’t know how else to describe it. I suppose the most important thing is that I love the visuals. They are lighthearted and fun and, along with the general look of the Cris Tales Demo, the camera also plays an important role in its eye-catching presentation.

When the character is moving around their sleepy town, they move on a 3D plane with the camera fixed in place. The player can run left, right, toward, or away from the camera. When running toward the camera, the way surrounding objects pass by completely captivated me. It felt like everything was being swept past with a dramatic flair. It’s tough to describe but not easily forgotten. However, while the visuals are lovely, the story and characters are also gems.

As I mentioned earlier, players take the role of Cris, a kind-hearted girl living at the local orphanage. When a yellow frog wearing a top hat steals her rose from her, Cris immediately gives chase. She finally catches up to the frog at the local cathedral only to discover she has magical powers and that her former quarry can talk. Upon introducing himself a Matais, he informs Cris that she is a time mage, she can see past and possible futures. What’s more, she can move between them as well as send people back and forth between times.

Cris Tales

This time manipulation concept makes up the bulk of the gameplay present in the demo. Future visions reveal what will happen to her town. Cris can set out to fix things, but she can’t fix everything. This forces Cris to make choices about who to help. Whether or not these choices will have a narrative impact on the game isn’t shown in the demo, but I certainly hope it will. While Cris’ time travel abilities play a part in the moment to moment gameplay, they are also used to great effect during combat.

Combat in the Cris Tales Demo is classic turn-based RPG fare. There is an indicator at the top of the screen showing the order characters will act in. Orders like attack, skill, and defend are all available as well. The wrinkle comes with Cris’ time powers. For example, during a boss fight in the demo, one of Cris’ allies hit the boss, which was protected by a huge metal shield, with a water spell. Cris then warps the boss into the future and the shield has now rusted. While in the future, the boss can still be attacked by the party. Now, with a noticeably lower defense due to the damage on the shield, the party can win. Other uses for Cris’ time powers were also shown. With only a handful of encounters in the demo, I can only imagine what sort of clever ideas could be included in the full game.

Along with the story, there is also a mode called Colosseum. Here, the player takes their party into a fight against eight back-to-back encounters. No healing or restoration of skill points occurs between battles so the player has to be extra crafty to survive. This felt like a fun little side mode for this type of game.

When all is said and done, Cris Tales holds a ton of promise. With lovely visuals, characters who feel like they’re lifted right out of a Saturday morning cartoon, and an engaging combat system, Cris Tales feels like it is on track to be something truly special when the full game arrives.

Cris Tales is slated to arrive on November 17th for Xbox One, Play Station 4, Nintendo Switch, and PC.