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CrisTales is a Time Traveling Sleeper Hit With a Ton of JRPG Goodness — E3 2019 Preview

It’s easy to lose track of things at E3, especially when covering lots of different games. But CrisTales by Dreams Uncorporated and SYCK is one that I will not be forgetting. Thanks to publisher Modus, we got to see some behind-closed-doors gameplay of its upcoming game. To sum it up, CrisTales is a turn-based JRPG which pays homage to older classics like Chrono Trigger, but with an interesting twist in the form of time traveling. It’s way more than that though, so let’s jump into what makes CrisTales so special.

From the same publisher that’s bringing us Trine 4, Modus could have a sleeper hit on its hands with CrisTales. Right off the bat, you’ll notice the beautiful hand-crafted art, with assets that painstakingly had to be drawn three times. The reason for that has to do with the game’s time travel mechanic, which we’ll come back to later on. Touting hand drawn art is something you might often hear about in various indie games, but seeing it in action like this is still wildly impressive.

Thematically, the game is inspired by Colombian culture, as the developers are natives of Colombia. Since most of the art is inspired by things found in the developer’s backyard, it has a level of authenticity that feels believable, despite the obvious caricatured style. Much of the lore is drawn from Colombian culture, as well, with various landmarks and identifiable places being referenced as inspiration.

E3 2019 CrisTales Preview – Past, Present, and Future

Cristales game

As mentioned before, the main feature of CrisTales involves time traveling, but it works differently than you might expect and that’s what makes it stand out so much. If you look at the image above, you’ll notice the screen is divided into three sections. The middle section is the present, with the left section being the past, and the right section being the future. This is not only an interesting mechanic that impacts the story, but is tied to the gameplay, as well. As you walk around, the world around you will change, depending on which section of the screen it falls into, and it works in real time. It’s a unique mechanic that absolutely helps this game stand out. In fact, I’ve never seen a game handle time travel in this way.

Since it works in real time, you’ll notice how time impacts the world around you right away. For example, the present version of a character might appear as an old man. The past version will then be depicted as a younger adult, while the future version might not have a character there at all, due to him passing away. The same works with nature, too. You might see a small plant on-screen in the present, with a small bud in the past, and a giant towering tree in the future. Everything in the world works like this and it’s up to you to use this to your advantage.

The way you’ll be using the time traveling mechanic is interesting and works in and out of combat, too. We got a look at both during our E3 demo. For instance, there was a quest that involved the aforementioned tree, in which the main character Crisbell and her frog Matias were tasked with finding a specific piece of fruit. However, the fruit in question was nowhere to be found. That is until looking at the tree from the future, which then sprouted the piece of fruit needed, and having Matias grab and bring it to the present. This mechanic will likely work in reverse, as well, wherein you’d have to grab something from the past and bring it to the present.

But, what really stood out was how time traveling worked during combat. The combat in its most basic form is turn-based and works like many JRPGs you know and love. You can inflict melee damage, magic attacks, ailments, and other methods of offense you might be used to. But time traveling is incorporated into the combat to give things a bit of a twist.

We got to see a boss battle that featured an enemy with a giant shield and a weakness to water. Initially, the shield would negate any and all attacks. But when you inflict water damage to the enemy’s shield from the future, the present version will then be impacted with a shield covered in rust, making it vulnerable for attacks. However, this comes at a trade off, as the enemies are stronger from the future. My mind started watering when thinking about all the various time travel mechanics that could be implemented. We didn’t get to see much more of the game, but from what I saw, I was thoroughly impressed and I cannot wait to play.

You can currently download a demo for CrisTales on Steam, with a PS4 version possibly planned for a later date. As it stands, CrisTales is set for a 2020 release window for PS4 and other platforms. It’ll be one to keep an eye out for, thanks to its unique time travel mechanics, the stunning art, and the homage it pays to classic JRPGs of the past.

For other fun indie games shown at E3, check out our preview coverage of Fall Guys, which plays like a mix of Mario Party and a Battle Royale.