Video game fans who skipped E3’s PC Gaming Show last week may have missed out on one of the event’s most promising new IPs. Cris Tales takes a page from Chrono Trigger by giving players the ability to effortlessly jump between the past, present, and future. Time can be manipulated during combat and exploration, allowing users to experiment with the far-reaching effects of their choices through the press of a button. The footage I saw behind closed doors gave me confidence that Crisbell’s journey will be one of 2020’s most popular indie RPGs, if not the year’s breakout hit.
The demonstration’s opening moments immediately highlighted the game’s beautiful hand-drawn aesthetic. Costumes, locations, architecture, and even Crisbell’s frog sidekick are all directly inspired by developer Dreams Uncorporated’s Colombian heritage. Of course, one doesn’t need to an expert in South American culture to appreciate the title’s presentation. For instance, anime fans may find that it evokes the style of shows like Monogatari or Katanagatari.
The audio was just as noteworthy, as each character in the demo was fully voice acted and the English actress for Nier: Automata‘s 2B, Kira Buckland, brought Crisbell to life. That’s not to mention the title’s exciting battle theme, the likes of which felt like it belonged in Final Fantasy 6.
I was given a glimpse into the past, present, and future at all times thanks to an onscreen divide. The world around Crisbell seemed as though it aged as she moved across a level, and it was interesting to witness NPCs grow older right before my eyes. The first mission had me choose to save a local home or the town’s apothecary from rot. While this may seem inconsequential at a glance, Cris Tales‘ developer stated that choosing one over the other has a lasting effect on the overarching narrative.
The next segment gave me a glimpse at the game’s turn-based combat. Crisbell and her time mage companions were tasked with taking down the Volcano sisters, but couldn’t inflict damage due to the twins’ impenetrable shields. By sending the duo back in time and casting a water spell, I discovered that their defenses rusted in the future. Defeating the pair wasn’t easy, however, as they became stronger thanks to more experience.
Putting the novelty of this time-based strategy aside, I noted that Cris Tales employed another mechanic reminiscent of Valkyrie Profile. During combat, Crisbell and her team were able deflect or retaliate after properly reading an enemy’s advances. While this is something many modern RPGs have incorporated, its presence in Cris Tales felt welcome. It aided in providing a sense of tension as the presenter considered how he should manipulate time to his advantage.
As the demonstration reached its conclusion, Cris Tales‘ developer mentioned each character can be outfitted with unique spells and weapons. It was a hint that it had just touched the surface as far as customization is concerned, and that the full 20-hour game will be rife with options to tinker around with.
In my eyes, Cris Tales‘ creativity, density, and beautiful design help it stand out among the sea of new IPs announced during this year’s E3. While there’s no way of knowing the full extent of one’s choices until the entire game launches in 2020, it seems Dreams Uncorporated will offer plenty of thought-provoking gameplay to keep players invested. RPG fans looking to try out the title themselves can find an abridged version of the demo I experienced on Steam. They may come away just as impressed.