Time is on my side — Behind closed doors with CrisTale at E3

“This is a completely innovative game. You’ve never seen anything like this,” CrisTales creator Carlos Roch said as he began his behind closed doors E3 presentation, “and correct me if you have!” I smiled indulgently; time-travel games aren’t anything new to me, how many ways can you really innovate the concept of time travel? But then the demo began, and the screen ‘fractured,’ creating a triangle in the middle, which revealed the past, present, and future of the game’s timeline all at once. Roch was right, I had never seen anything quite like this before.

CrisTales is stunningly beautiful, with gorgeous hand-animated 2D art over a 3D map. It’s bright, colorful, and inspired by Columbian culture. We wandered the town, watching characters move from childhood to adulthood to old age as we strolled past them, accompanied by Matias the time-hopping frog. One of the more sobering moments was when we moved past the carpenter, already old and gray in the present, and found only an empty space where he once stood in the future. The voice acting is truly delightful, and Chrisbell is voiced by Kira Buckland, who has voiced many video game characters, including 2B in Nier: Automata.

This love letter to classical JRPGs features quick turn-based combat which can be manipulated by time. Certain characters can combine their moves, allowing for powerful group attacks,
but the real highlight of combat is how time itself plays a role. You can force enemies into the future, which will make them more powerful but slower. By contrast, characters pushed into the past can attack more quickly, but they’re less powerful and easier to take down. These are cool mechanics, but the powers of Chrisbell, our leading time lady, do not end there.

Icons across the top of the screen show the battle timeline, letting the player know who’s moving when, but this feature is far more powerful than simple record keeping. Chrisbell will have the power to wind back the battle, allowing the player to correct mistakes or to prep their team for a powerful attack. You can also push enemies to different locations, but you’ll have to be smart about who you send where, as forcing a fire-based enemy into a volcano will actually buff them, making the battle that much more difficult.

Crisbell will have to make hard decisions as she tries to create the best future for her world; early on we saw a scenario where two houses are rotting and will collapse in the future, but Chrisbell is only able to create enough of a tonic to save one of those houses. The decision of which house to save, and choices like this, will have a direct impact on the story of your game.

CrisTales will have around 20 hours of gameplay, and Roch carefully avoided giving a straight answer when asked about how many playthroughs would be needed to see all the outcomes, saying “We’re expecting to do some interesting stuff with that.” It seems like there may be some more reveals in CrisTales future!

CrisTales is launching in 2020 to PC, Xbox One, PlayStation 4, and Switch. There is a free demo available right now on Steam, so if you want to experience CrisTales for yourself, there’s no time like the present. Be sure to check out our E3 coverage for more amazing indie games, interviews, and videos from the convention floor.

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