Stephanie Sybydlo
E3 2019: Exploring the Past, Present, and Future Simultaneously in Cris Tales
Also: Don't miss the demo version!
06.21.19 - 11:58 AM

One goal that a lot of developers seem to share is capturing what made classic RPGs great and creating homages that feel similar. This has been attempted in a variety of ways and with varying degrees of success. As a concept on its own, "love letter to favorite RPGs" is rarely successful; taking discrete elements and blending them with new stories and gameplay concepts generally goes a lot better. Cris Tales is one such nostalgic missive (inspired by Super Mario RPG and Chrono Trigger, according to the developers) that starts with some of these elements and ends as a totally unique game highly worth placing in a category of its own.

Developers Dreams Uncorporated and SYCK have an ambitious overarching agenda around which to frame those classic RPG elements. According to their presentation, their ultimate goal with Cris Tales is to create a game that is recognizable as a Colombian fantasy story. Leading lady Crisbell's design, the architecture, and even the natural settings are all inspired by the developers' homeland. One nice touch is that Matias, Crisbell's Time Mage mentor, is a species of poisonous frog that is native to Colombia. None of this compares to how they made Crisbell's influence over time work responsively within the game, though. Her simultaneous view of past, present, and future is something straight from beloved Colombian author Gabriel García Márquez, particularly the tail end of One Hundred Years of Solitude.

Cris Tales Town Screenshot

Although it may be confusing to describe, hear us out. Crisbell is a young Time Mage who can peer into both the past and future — this is done by literally dividing the screen into thirds so you can directly see the past, present, and future unfold in real time as you move around the field. Places and people in your field of view are affected dynamically: children in the past are seen as adults in the present and seniors in the future. (Sometimes they're just gone in the future, which is sad.) In addition, you can see the inexorable march of development: the past shows more foliage, while the future shows more industry and metal. In the demo at E3 2019, these abilities allowed Crisbell to see that two important village buildings would be destroyed by Ash Blight in the future. She was able to puzzle solve and produce enough serum to treat and save one of the two. Unfortunately, the choice of which one fell on her as well, and this served to show that Time Mages must make tough choices and bear the consequences.

Cris Tales is not just a graphic adventure, however. There is an Empress with plans for world domination to defeat, so expect some combat and traditional RPG gameplay. In fact, the game boasts a scaled-up world map with chibi versions of the characters and turn-based battles at the more dangerous locations. The battle system calls back to Super Mario RPG with its real-time button presses that allow you to more effectively block enemy attacks, and it also has combination attacks reminiscent of Chrono Trigger's Dual Techs. While Chrono Trigger spanned many different eras, Cris Tales takes its time-traveling conceit into combat, as you can also attack enemies and shoot them into the future to help bring them down. The demo included a boss fight against two metal-clad sisters who spewed fire but were weak to water spells (of course). Since the sisters were difficult to hit through conventional means, Crisbell could send them into the future, where their water-damaged shield would turn to rust and make them vulnerable to critical attacks.

Cris Tales Battle Screenshot

Such a clever use of the game's time-traveling mechanics suggests battles will be a joy for players to experience. On a more basic level, it sounds like the past will make enemies weaker and faster, while conversely, the future will make them stronger and slower. By launch, there will be a variety of party members to work with whose abilities will all interact slightly differently with Crisbell's. And let's not forget to mention how crisp battles look! Even the menu is snazzy and resembles something you might find in Persona 5. With such lively graphics and layered settings (shown in each of the time layouts simultaneously and with beautiful shading), we are eager to experience everything this title wishes to offer visually, as well as mechanically.

Cris Tales might be one of the most unique titles we've seen at E3 and possibly one of the most novel ideas we've seen actualized in games. And as an extra surprise, there is a playable demo available on Steam so people can enjoy the game firsthand. This is especially good news since the game sports some star power between Norihiko Hibino (Metal Gear Solid series) contributing to music and Emil Pagliarulo (Fallout 3) contributing writing — it's best to just experience everything as a whole.

The entire project is anticipated to be completed in 2020.

Written by Stephanie Sybydlo and Hilary Andreff

Update 7/1/19: Originally, the demo version was going to be made available only until June 24th, but we got word that the demo is now available permanently.