Developer: SideQuest Studios
Platform: PlayStation 3
I hate this game.
Well, that’s not strictly true… I hated Rainbow Moon for about the first seven hours of gameplay.
I want to start my review off by telling you that it took me six hours of grinding to reach Level 10. I was warned that there would be a hell of a lot of grinding involved in this game, but I simply wasn’t prepared for it. Rainbow Moon is a strategy-RPG, offering up to 40 hours of play-time for anyone masochistic enough to see it through to the end. The necessity for tactical battling is something which you’ll either take to very quickly or (like me) you’ll struggle to grasp for what seems like an age, until you force yourself to get good at it.
My first impressions of Rainbow Moon were very positive. It begins with an atmospheric little cutscene explaining the premise; you take the role of Baldren, who on the way to challenge his nemesis is warped through a portal and finds himself on Rainbow Moon. A previously peaceful world, Baldren is greeted mostly with animosity, as he has brought with him a horde of strange monsters. Baldren must find seven magical artifacts in order to forge a staff capable of sealing the gate from which the creatures are escaping, and in turn to send him back to his home.
Graphically, Rainbow Moon is gorgeous. It’s so colourful and intricately designed, particularly the world itself. The character designs I’m not so crazy about, especially the lack of creativity in terms of the townspeople. Repetition is something I’ll be complaining about a lot in this review, so might as well start early. I thought it was just plain laziness to use the exact same character models for the Healers, Shopkeepers and Savants in every area, and I especially detest their identical droning voices. The designs of the main characters are cute, but it annoyed me that they don’t match the sprites you see during the actual gameplay. Baldren is wearing really cool red armour on the menu screen, but bland brown stuff in the main game. I really hope that you can unlock the armour in the later stages of the game, because that would look so awesome.
Audio-wise, the music switches from cheery to eerie at the right moments, and has the annoying quality of sticking in your head for hours after putting the controller down. I really hate the battle music though, and I realise that it’s probably just because I heard it so much. Repetition is something I don’t deal with very well. I was so grateful that the music changed when I moved from Cassar Island, because I really thought I would be stuck with the same battle music for the entire game.
The first companion you aquire in the game is an archer named Trisha (odd name for a fantasy game… or is that just me?). I was very happy when she joined my team, mostly because it alleviated some of the boredom I was feeling, but she’s actually really useful in battle. She can keep her distance from enemies and attack with her bow, while Baldren is only capable of short-range melee attacks.
Encounters are either initiated through direct contact with enemy sprites guarding certain areas or just roaming around, or through a series of random challenges that you can either accept or ignore. I like this system a lot, as it tells you how many enemies you will face and also what level they are, so if you think it’s too much for you to take on you can simply walk away. Once you are in battle, the action switches to a grid-based arena. Everyone on the field has a set number of moves available per turn. Initially, you only get one but this increases as your characters level up. The available actions are attack, use skills (draining MP), use items, defend or just move a space on the board. At first this seems like a relatively simple concept, but as the number of enemies increase it’s vital to plan a few moves ahead to be victorious.
I started off thinking the battle system was incredibly tedious, as it involves a lot of shuffling from one square to the next, waiting for enemies to shuffle towards you so you can eventually engage them. The addition of new party members definitely helps with this, but it’s the development of tactics that makes the whole experience much more interesting. The amount of turns each character is allowed begins at one, but as they increase in level you receive sub-turns, which give them extra moves during their turn. This makes battles flow much easier, for instance allowing Baldren to move towards an enemy, attack and then switch to a defensive stance all in one turn. One aspect of sub-turns that I absolutely hate is that once you take a turn, if you want to do something different it is necessary to press the cancel button then select your next option. This may not sound like a big deal, but let me give you an example. I instruct Baldren to move forward a space, then I want to scroll down the menu to use a skill. If I don’t press circle to cancel the move command, then he will just move back to the space he was in previously, making my entire turn completely pointless. It’s annoying, but you do get used to it.
In order to keep the game accessible for newbies to the genre, it feeds you little bits of information throughout the early stages, such as battle tips, how to utilise new skills and battle tactics effectively and lots more. Rainbow Moon focuses heavily on character development, urging you to grind in order to defeat the earliest of bosses. Luckily, the game is quite generous when it comes to stat increases (strength, defence, speed, luck, HP and MP), using a currency of Rainbow Pearls to let the player buy whatever stat increases they want for each character. The amount of rainbow pearls earned by each character is determined by whoever delivers the final blow in battle, so it’s important to ensure all your party members receive a similar number. It’s a good thing they let you increase your stats between levelling up, because it takes so damn long to level up in the first place!
To sum up, Rainbow Moon is infuriating, charming, challenging and forgiving all at once. It’s not for the faint-hearted, but for anyone who loves a good old-fashioned RPG, and has a lot of spare time this summer, it’s $9.99 well spent.