While playing through Cris Tales, I’ve been struck by what I think is quite a shocking revelation. The side quests are the best part of the game. Okay, so the story is great, as is the standard moment-to-moment gameplay, but it’s the side quests that have the best payoffs and tell the most interesting stories. I didn’t expect this from a JRPG, mainly because my experience tells me that side quests are dull in these games, adding nothing to the world and usually resulting in rubbish rewards. Part of that is still true, but the stories in these side quests are easily the best in the game.
Part of what makes these side quests so good is how they’re used. The main character, Crisbell, has the ability to see through time into the future and past. All side quests require you to make use of this, sending another character into one of these time states to access or grab something. However, the world changes through these time states. The city might be fine in the present, but in the past, it was better, and in the future, it’s completely flooded. You have to navigate each of these to get what you need to complete the side quest. There’s even one side quest that requires you to walk up to the dead body of a boss after killing it, something you wouldn’t know you could do otherwise.
The payoff with these side quests is that you can see the impact of your actions almost immediately. Most quests like this in any other game would ask you to revisit the same NPC later in the game to witness the impact you’ve had. In Cris Tales though, you can see into the future and know exactly the impact you’ve had. It’s a brilliant and extremely satisfying shift away from standard JRPG tropes that, if I’m honest, have become quite boring. This side to Cris Tales keeps it interesting for a very long time, even when you’re exhausted by all the random encounters. Complete each and every side quest you find, and you’ll have a richer experience for it.