It’s no secret that the SmashPad staff has a penchant for RPGs, so when we were urged to try out CrisTales after its demo came out a few days ago, we thought it would at least be worth a try. Now that our time with it is up, we’re intrigued.
Developed by Columbia-based indie studio Dreams Uncorporated, CrisTales is a loveletter to JRPGs with a self-proclaimed “visually striking” art style. The game definitely does have a certain look to it, with a style that seemingly combines the look of something like Glu’s Diner Dash on mobile with a little bit of Disney’s Frozen. In fact the main character, Crisbell, has similar qualities to Flo from Diner Dash and Princess Anna from Frozen in the way they look.
Visuals aside, we thought that while this looked like a brilliant mobile RPG, it also played like one until we got deep into what’ll actually hook players to the game.
While the demo just throws you into the battle system, a turn-based romp with a timeline at the top of the screen very similar to Falcom’s Trails games we all know and love, it all seemed very vanilla. After an encounter with a boss we couldn’t beat, the demo pushed us further back into the game’s plot to introduce who Crisbell actually is–a curious young girl from an orphanage in a town that’s in the middle of a crisis about whether it should stick to farming, or sell the land for the sake of its developing economy.
When Crisbell is sent out by the orphanage’s mother superior to seek out a rose stolen by a frog, we find out that the frog is an intelligent guide named Matias who explains to Crisbell that she’s the chosen one, and her current bearing of certain crystals allows her to see the future.
At this point, the screen is separated into three shards with the left showing the past, the middle showing the present, and the right side showing the future.
From here, the world of CrisTales is no longer boring. It’s one that’s shrouded in mystery. The future sees the orphanage abandoned and the town square being darker and lonelier than it ever was, and after doing a sidequest to fix a torn apothecary shop–which was actually a choice between that or fixing a nearby family’s home by having the frog hop into the past and finding items to the use for the present to avoid a bad future, the farm all of a sudden catches fire, which gives us the opportunity to see how our newfound skill with seeing the future affects battle after getting hold of a mythical sword.
In battle, Crisbell can invoke the past and future to turn the tides. After using the abilities on enemies to see the effect it has on them in battle, we’re quickly transported back to the beginning of the demo, in that boss fight we’re forced to lose thanks to an impregnable shield. It turns out that using a partner character’s water ability on the shield, and combining it with Crisbell’s future invoking ability makes the shield rust and the boss vulnerable leading to an easy victory.
After some more words about Crisbell’s power, the demo ends. We’re intrigued about how the rest of this game is, but we won’t find out about how that happens until the game is released this November. This demo is available to download and try on the PS4, Switch, and Xbox One.