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    Cris Tales Review – When RPG of Old meets New

     

    Developed By: Dreams Uncorporated and SYCK

    Published By: Modus Games

    Platforms: Nintendo Switch / PS4 / PS5 / Xbox One / Xbox Series X|S / PC

    Reviewed On: PC / PS5

     

    Said to be a love letter to retro JRPGs with new concepts, I was excited when I first saw it on a concept trailer as well as playing the demo a few months back which was a short bliss showcasing how beautiful this stained glass world is and how the game creatively blends in both elements of time-traveling and RPG together all in one screen literally. Accompanied by the ensembles of instrumental music caught myself humming to its mild catchy tunes in the town paired with some decent yet slightly muffled (only in the demo) voice-acting NPC’s. To me, the game sets its bar some pretty high notes of what it could or potentially become. But playing it fully makes me wish I hadn’t because beyond the stained glass surface lies many flaws in terms of its very foundations that really sore my whole overall experience.

     

    Storytelling

    The game starts you off as an adorable female lead known as Crisbell or should I call it a ‘flower girl turned sword-wielding Time Mage chosen by a talking frog – tasked on going around the world of Crystallis and its four Kingdoms to stop a Time Empress on her path of world destruction. Well to sum it up in simple JRPG terms, you are simply tasked to pick a flower but now you fight GOD. That being said, the story is pretty ok written and voiced by decent voice actors that bring some level of emotional weight to the game. However later on, as you resolve the NPC’s issue via main or sidequest, the game seems to hit and miss in the same department because it depends heavily on the visual cue of what the NPC future gonna be with no new written lines, cinematic or voice acting to make me feel more invested in their situation. A casual example is if I solve a present timeline NPC issue, I expected more as I am able to hop into the future but am greeted with a mime version of that same NPC instead simply because it’s not scripted that way. The same goes with travelling back to the past version of the town and finding myself surrounded by the muted NPC’s. Therefore, I am demotivated to replay that sidequest once more with different choices in mind.

    This leaves the whole storyline of the game linear in nature, centered on the main character, with fewer or no character developments for both party members and NPCs. Even though there is some backstory for each of the party members, it doesn’t match the depth of the plot as much as the main character, which I feel lacks in some way. Likewise, cinematics and cutscenes that only explore the present timeline are rather barebones in comparison with gameplay. On the niche side of this game, there are some misspellings and a lack of details about the items, equipment, and quests, leaving me in a bind.

     

    Gameplay and Level Designs

    Speaking of past and future, the game onscreen is basically split into 3 screens with a triangle in between representing the present version of the world. Interesting concept as it may be but in practicality, this limits my field of view as the split-screen is not adjustable in-game, therefore, this forces me to squint my eyes often and running from one end corner of the screen to the other side just to view the whole scenery. explore and discover loots. I had hoped I could turn it off by gaining new powers or adjusting rotations via analog buttons, however that isn’t possible, but don’t get me started on the fact that there are certain places without a split screen, which makes it possible. Moreover, the game doesn’t have a sprint button which makes this whole progress pretty longwinded and tedious to me.

    During combat, Crisbell is able to cast and alter the time on the left side and right side of the screen similar to how the split-screen works in-game exploration. The left side represents the past, while the right represents the future. This is by far the main course of the game as Crisbell is able to alter enemies’ statuses turning them into their younger selves, reverting back stats to the past (Left), or turning enemies into old farts making them either more powerful or frail. Using time magic, Crisbell is able to speed up poison damage or plant explosives that explode immediately. Yet it is a shame that the main meat of the game does not have more branching effects than I thought it should. Adding on, it would enhance the flavor of this game even more if there was a compendium records of spells + time magic formulas, and types and effects of monsters be it updated automatically as you experiment via combat or mentioned by NPC’s dialogue.

    Furthermore, I find that the balancing of the game is a little off-putting, as I have trouble at an early stage with monsters dealing 60-70 damage while the next stage is as easy as pie with monsters dealing 10-20 damage only. The same is true of bosses, which become less challenging, more predictable, and thus less fascinating in later stages, limiting my need to even use time magic. The game doesn’t offer a great deal of variety in terms of monsters and bosses, but each member of the party offers enough variety in design, skills, and spells to make it worthwhile investing in. However, the game offers no shareable experience between members of the party who aren’t in combat, which puts me off as the grind becomes even more increasingly difficult as certain party members will leave the party temporarily for story purposes.

    UI menu design has a broken glass aesthetic that is interestingly pleasing, almost reminds me of the Persona series UI menu design. However, the game has a tendency to throw me off when it comes to intuitive gameplay, which is evident in the following:

    • Irritating UI Design tends to make wrong selections on casting wrong healing spells to allies as well as fleeing combat.
    • During dialogue selections, there are times that a short delay for the button to make a selection or skipping dialogue seems not to respond as much.
    • A bug relating to Cristopher’s skill selection shows an empty box selection sometimes.
    • Missing hit damage and heal numbers sometimes, which may be caused by a bug.
    • A past turn-based order of enemies token does not reflect the current damage inflicted. It is only reflected in later tokens.
    • Wilhelm spells such as Explosion and Wild Vines damage is affected by the physical attack attribute of the character rather than the magic attacks.
    • Flee options works 100% of the time for me which shouldn’t be the case for a classic JRPG.

    Speaking of designs in general, its pretty top-notch graphics in the game consist mainly of cartoony hand-drawn characters while the background level design uses light blue, green, and turquoise colours heavily in a way that brings out the characters on the screen. Alongside a series of sleekly designed towns, environments, castles, and architectures based out of Gothic designs of high and mighty with pointed ends. Heck, your mom may even think that this art is based on a colourful glorified church wallpaper if you left your computer or console alone in idle. Praise the Lord!.

    Nonetheless, sometimes the level design especially the water effects is not rendered correctly, resulting in a poor visual display such as the images below:

    Dungeon exploration consists of going from point A to point B, ending in a boss fight with simple puzzle-solving examples, such as turning objects backwards to restore or forward to decay. In actuality, all the game levels are small in scale, but they feel vast due to the fact that the main character has no sprinting ability and fast travel making it an exhausting hassle to travel back and forth. We could see this being a classic JRPG but remember that we do have a time mage, she should be able to either speed up exploration, combat, travel time or warp through different places in an instant. One of my criticism that there is no random combat triggered when exploring the world map, which contradicts the whole classic JRPG experience being promoted by the developers.

     

    Music and sounds

    The music in this game blends with the town setting you are in and are a bit catchy especially the combat themes despite repeated hearings, it never gets old. Be that as it may, the sound department is seriously lacking in impactful cast spell sounds, healing effects, some attacks, death sounds, downed party sounds, and status ailments. Hearing this makes it appear that the music carries the whole tune of the game, when in fact it makes me feel like I’m watching a bunch of mimes fighting each other. The game also suffers from a major lack of environmental sounds in my opinion, such as the sound of town, forests, and dungeon.

    Simply put, the game is not immersive or impactful enough to make the game sound more engaging, so it sounds more like ‘meh’ throughout gameplay. Furthermore, all combat is initiated with a sudden flash of the screen with no initial sound effects and animations, making the whole process feel like a web-based game. The same applies to certain transitions to cutscenes and cinematic sequences, making them look awkward, disconnect, and jarring.

    Source: Klagmar

    What Was Good

    • Top-notch designs and hand-drawn characters and the environments.
    • Story-telling and Soundtracks are pretty good.
    • Interesting exploration and combat split-screen concepts, the first of its kind.

    What Can Be Better

    • Need more sound effects, stingers in spells, healing, damage and triggering combat.
    • No character animations as the combat starts.
    • Items and potions are extremely expensive even in the early levels when loot is scarce. Making this game somewhat difficult for newcomers.
    • Lack of polishing renders water, architecture and certain environments poorly.
    • Fixing the town with a better future felt pointless as the NPC’s are mostly muted in the future timeline, turning them into mimes.
    • The past and future versions of the NPC’s should have dialogues too.
    • Adjustable split screen to get the full view of things, manually turning off via options or rotatable via analogue stick.
    • This game needs the sharing Exp between party members who are not in combat.
    • Bosses get less challenging and interesting over time.
    • Same monster design in different colours.
    • Cinematic and cutscene with some utilization of time travel elements too.
    • A variety of subclasses with time travel elements is needed, as well as equipment and weapons to purchase and make. The game feels too linear in that regard. For example, going back into the past and tell party member Christopher to change subclass as well as buying items, weapons and equipment from the past or the future depending on players choices in the narratives can change your playstyle for the better or entirely.

     

    Minor bugs and glitches

    • Some dialogue selections pop back out as you make the selection in a split second.
    • The sound of certain attacks feel muffled most of the time or out of place. The same goes with levelling up and learning a new skill.
    • Certain cutscenes directly transition to gameplay or the next scene without any gradual transition.
    • Irritating UI Design tends to make wrong selections on casting wrong healing spells to allies as well as fleeing combat.
    • During dialogue selections, there are times that a short delay for the button to make a selection or skipping dialogue seems not to respond as much.
    • A bug relating to Cristopher’s skill selection shows an empty box selection sometimes.
    • Missing hit damage and heal numbers sometimes, which may be caused by a bug.
    • A past turn-based order of enemies token does not reflect the current damage inflicted. It is only reflected in later tokens.
    • Wilhelm spells such as Explosion and Wild Vines damage is affected by the physical attack attribute of the character rather than the magic attacks.
    • Flee options works 100% of the time for me which shouldn’t be the case for a classic JRPG.
    • One monster deals 60-70 damage while another deals only 10-20 damage, which is off-putting.

     

    When The Old Rejects The New

    This game has a lot of new things to offer, while still remaining in its classic JRPG roots. In the end, the game tends to cling to the old elements making it outdated rather than exploring and diving more into the new concepts and gameplay ideas. The grind becomes really tedious, unrewarding and painful as I am forced to retrain my party members all the time, while not being able to make full use of Crisbell’s abilities to either speed up the clock, make more exp or fast travel.

    The game’s many unpolished areas make the experience lackluster, no matter how much I wanted to enjoy it. It felt like the developers understand what JRPG’s gamers wanted but at the same time forgot how to make it fun or even a fulfilling experience. You might argue that it is a classic JRPG grind, that it is a lack of time (intentional), or that it has engine limitations, but all these are just excuses to keep it from being among the greatest JRPGs ever. Having said that, I hope to see more improvements in this concept or future games since the developers almost got it right midway but the hammer stopped just at that point.

    Final Score – 5.5/10

    PUN TART
    He is actually very shy, introvert but no choice, have to go out to buy games. He likes food and food likes him. He somehow manage to find a job with the right time accommodate to gaming. He has a very short attention span, therefore has to finish a game fast or else a simple pun can distract him for the entire day. Yes a Pun, he loves puns as much as he loves games; easily distracted, whichever comes next.

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