Rainbow Moon – Review
I walked past a group of imps and they didn’t flock to attack me.
This was my first moment of surprise in Rainbow Moon, and it is an important and poignant distinction for this tactical role-playing game: interactions are not enforced. While this may not seem significant to some, I am considering it in the context that I am used to other similar RPGs that draw me into a battle as soon as I pass wind in the general direction of a Pidgey, so I am going to sing its praises unashamedly:
What a delightful surprise that an alert at the bottom of the screen advised me that maybe there were some baddies in the region (but it’s completely OK if I wanted to have a look around the area first before I go and fisticuff random tiny bees).
It felt like a sweet moment of deviation from the grind, where we were told that we could take our own path. However, that dream came crashing down before I could even reach level 5.
As beautiful as the PS4 revamp is, this is still a game that is focused on the grind, and the grind is a painful saunter through the early levels of combat. These first engagements only let you commit to one action per turn – attack, defend, or move – and early enemies are tortuously butchered as their hit points drop one by one. It is perhaps a bit too long in these early stages (took me an hour – maybe less time, if you fight all of the things, ) before your initial hero is able to kill enemies with variable tactics and increased power. The saving grace is that dispatching foes becomes a bit more enjoyable when there are more options at your disposal. As you level up, your number of actions per turn increase either by choice or by virtue of your level, and your tactical mind starts to tinker with multiple options and special attacks. This is where the turn-based strategy aspects are more pronounced, but for a while you are forced to wrestle with how to murder a larger group of foes in minimal turns before they start filleting your body. As an aside, yes it is frustrating watching a mob of 6-8 foes each take their individual movement turn – I couldn’t find a logical way to fast track this but watching every one of them move one imaginary square on the grid.
When the opportunity arises for multiple characters to engage in combat, Rainbow Moon has some interesting mechanics that may help or hinder you in the future. Unlike some recent RPGs, your out-of-party characters do not gain XP when they are not selected to be in your party. Yes, this allows you to focus on your favourite characters to build a well-balanced team for most encounters, but there are times where you are going to need more diversity in your roster so you may be forced to go and seek out some monsters and minions to pummel in order to bring equilibrium. It is an annoyance, but again a minimal one. Rainbow Pearls are also a curious way to dish out some extra rewards, with these being credited to characters in the party who deal the final lethal damage to foes. The pearls can be utilised for stat improvements in speed, strength, defense, hit points, magic points, and luck (Fire Emblem: Awakening fans will appreciate this). I maximised distribution of pearls in strength and speed to start with, in hope that I would hit hard and hit first.
With pearls being available in the PSN Store for purchase, this is actually an incentive model that I can endorse – providing avenues to bulk up characters early to make your way through the game quickly. It is certainly better than seasonal or special content that can feel arbitrary in the long term, and as a single-player game, these are transactions that hurt no one and barely bruise your hip pocket. With money being hard to accrue in Rainbow Moon, the option to also purchase coin in the PSN Store is definitely a quick option to launch into the game, although it may feel a bit counter to the developer’s desires to ensure players don’t buy everything right away and embrace the difficulty of the grind.
Oh and your characters get hungry.
(I am only mentioning this here because I fed my crew some apples and some water and apparently that was a good thing.)
Stepping out of combat, the setting is beautiful despite the controls awkwardly navigating through the terrain (yes I did get stuck behind a few trees) and the camera angle limiting view of some of the baddies. Similarly, the story provides a minimal frame for the content and I kind of forgot that there was this annual fight between a character and the antagonist because I was too busy looting the bodies of tiny bees for their wings because entomology apparently continues to haunt me. Despite all of this, the dungeons are pretty and vibrant in the PS4 remake – there are certain games that are more beautiful on the console that will make you gasp, but Rainbow Moon’s visuals will make you “d’awww!” contently, and potentially make PS3 and PS Vita owners squee with delight. The animation of the text for combats and victories reflect a lighter, silly tone, and to people who are used to their RPGs having a more serious ambience, this is going to feel a bit awkward and be it felt awkward because I am used to my RPGs having a more serious flavour to them. The soundtrack endeavours to emulate old-school JRPGs with a mixture of orchestral, synth, and rock elements that can call to mind some of the triumphant elements of Final Fantasy V with some of the contemporary rock in soundtracks such as Star Ocean. In reflection, the visuals and the soundtrack/dialogue adequately complimented SideQuest Studios’ pursuit to create a quirky and charming RPG that felt relaxing rather than strenuous.
There are some limited incentives for people who have previous iterations of the title on other consoles, with the most appealing being Cross-Save support between systems. Functional improvements to load times are also a selling point, although I was not in a position to compare so I can only comment that for a new-generation console things loaded quickly.
Overall, this is a solid RPG experience for a western RPG with some curious elements borrowed from JRPG heritage. It is not going to beat out Baldur’s Gate or Bravely Default for ingenuity, and you will not be writing praises for the narrative. You are going to wonder when your characters became Tamagotchi, and you will probably get annoyed if the character you need has been sitting on the sidelines with her trainee wheels for three-quarters of your game. But for its curious mechanics and atmospheric charm, it isn’t a bad way to spend some time in front of the PS4 and thumb your nose at the enemies that you don’t have to fight. Neernie neernie neer.
When Sarah was young, her brother complained that she “got through that final level of Super Mario World on a fluke.” Refining this skill, Sarah has continued to be successful purely by accident. Follow her on Twitter at @essieteric.