Publisher: Modus| Developers: Dreams Uncorprated and Syck| Release Date: July 20, 2021, | Genre: RPG| Reviewed On PS5
A review copy was provided by Modus Games
Cristales is a love letter to Super Nintendo RPGs such as Final Fantasy VI or Chrono Trigger and more modern JRPGs like The Persona subseries. It’s also surprising to have it being done by an indie studio from Colombia, Dreams Uncorp-rated, and assisted by Syck.
The main character of the game is named Crisbell and she grows up as an orphan at the town of Narim which is heavily inspired by The Las Lajas Cathedral in Ipiales, Narino, Columbia) who is taken ward by Mother Superior (Think of as the world’s Head Nun). One fateful day the town is attacked by The Time Empress and her minions, The Volcano Sisters. After obtaining the sword with the advice of a gentlemen frog named Matias and discovering her latent time power she as well as joining party members she prevents a tragic future that will befall the Crystallis Kingdom.
The main conceit of the game is that is a JRPG with the twist of manipulating time itself.
Here, it works very well and is fast-paced for a turn-based system. The battle screen is divided into three screens representing the past, present, and future. The past and future planes do have either adverse or beneficial effects on the enemies. An example is a royal soldier sent to the past will become a lower rank soldier which in turn is a weaker enemy.
The combat is the meat of the game and gives some boss battles that will test the use of time. It does feel a bit on the easy side though except for a few endgame bosses.
The field and town systems are what you expect for a JRPG made in the 90’s and early 2000’s with the flavor text where mainly the story and lore is told. You do have some light puzzles and exploration for treasure, but with one twist that does tie with the theme of time.
As CrisTales progresses it makes one thing clear, your actions to the story do have legitimate consequences which do culminate at the end. This makes the game have a bit of replayability and makes you wonder what choices are morally good or bad. There’s no morality system which I think is fine and allows for some player interpretation. You get a brisk 30ish hours of gameplay if you do all the sidequests, and that’s a bit refreshing and a nice throwback to Square RPGs of yesteryear.
One of the gripes of the game is (as stated before) is the difficulty. Most of the Bosses are a walk in the park and don’t induce that dread when your party gets wiped. Going on that, it does stick to the old JRPG trope of once your dead you go back to the last time you manually saved. There’s no way to continue at the beginning of the battle which is a minor quality of life issue. Now, the graphics/presentation is mostly good.
Graphics and Presentation
The graphics are pretty stunning to look at and have a style inspired by Samurai Jack’s Genndy Tartavosky. Each area is like walking into a paper mache set. Each environment does give a stylistic vibe as opposed to the hyperrealism of the cutting edge.
Music is also pretty solid by Tyson Werlini and Metal Gear Solid Alumni Norihiko Hibino with musical cues that feel like a tribute to Yasunori Matsuda. It’s reminiscent of his more ambient themes. It also does add a bit of Latino flair which fits the developer’s origins.
‘The track The Timeless Battle’ is similar to RPGs battle themes such as Game Art’s Grandia. Unfortunately, that can’t be said with the sound design because most of the time it’s the Background Music with not much ambiance. This is understandable for an indie studio where Dreams have to pick and choose to focus on.
What helps Cris ales is the phenomenal voice acting. Kira Buckland (JoJo’s Bizzare Adventure) plays the lead Crisbell while supported by actors such as Damian Mills (Evangelion 3.0+1.0: Thrice Upon a Time), Sean Chiplock (Persona 5 and Final Fantasy VII: Remake), and Zeno Robinson (Ben 10: The Ultimate Alien). The acting lifts the story-heavy story with solid performances. Now, onto the other key to an RPG, the story.
The story is set in the Kingdom of Crystallis which is under siege by The Emperess of Time. It’s up to Crisbell and her party which consists of Christopher, Zas, Kari Hudo, and JKR-721 to travel to various towns as they prevent imminent disasters whether it be political or natural.
As stated before, the choice you make does affect the endings which tie well with the theme of time manipulation. The playable characters are what you expect from RPGs of that era, and do have their backstories that are unique to each other.
The story does have some interesting curveballs in terms of twists that you should experience.
Overall, CrisTales is greater than the sum of its parts with its interesting time mechanics during battle and on the field and executes it pretty well with an entertaining story. It’s marred by some understandable lack of polish with an incredible art style. Since the PS’s lineup won’t see an Eastern Styled RPG until Square-Enix’s Forespoken this is one to pick up in the meantime.
Frederick Guese is a video creator and editor at PlayStation Haven. A QA industry vet and has worked at Respawn Entertainment, 2K Games, and Activision-Blizzard. Frederick is working on being a narrative designer, writer, editor, and video producer. You can visit his Twitter, Youtube channel, and Instagram. He’s a big fan of Hideo Kojima games and JRPGs.