Among the storm of announcements at E3’s PC Gaming Show, Cris Tales stood out because it’s a JRPG that looked and sounded like an interactive cartoon, with a clever time-travel twist. Perhaps developers Dreams Uncorporated and SYCK are aiming more at the Sailor Moon and She-Ra crowd than I, but even I can appreciate that Sailor Uranus will forever be the best. After playing the debut demo — available until June 24th — I’m glad to say that my first impressions were correct. It feels like I’ve just played the pilot episode of a TV series, and you should do the same. Grab it here on Steam, and see the trailer and some thoughts below.
The Cris Tales demo opens in media res, and clearly defines this as a kid-friendly fantasy adventure. Fully voiced and nicely animated, there’s magical girls, a talking frog mascot character, and the introductory villains — The Volcano Sisters — have huge amounts of Sailor Moon monster-of-the-week energy. There’s also a little bit of Paper Mario influence to the simple combat, with well-timed extra taps of the action button adding extra hits to your attack, or blocking incoming blows. Still, it doesn’t get properly clever until they introduce the time-travel element.
Once you awaken protagonist Crisbell to her magical time powers, she constantly sees both the past (on the left side of the screen) and a possible future (on the right). While she can’t interact with these directly, she can send her magical frog friend hopping backwards or forwards in time to take items or interact with small objects.
In combat, you can push enemies into the future or past depending on where they stand, too. Send a goblin into the past and it becomes younger, barely able to hit you with its tiny sword. Send it to the future and it’s too old and frail to attack in melee and uses magic instead. I won’t spoil the surprise of how the demo’s boss fight pans out, but it feels like it’s a solution lifted straight out of a monster-of-the-week cartoon or anime. I am impressed, and hoping that the full game keeps to this TV-like format. Either way, it’s a lovely looking, polished RPG for all ages. Give it some time.
Cris Tales is due out in 2020. You can grab the demo — available only until June 24th — here on its Steam store page. It’s published by Modus Games.
See our E3 2019 tag for more news, previews, opinions, and increasingly surreal liveblogs.