Game Review Hub: Rainbow Moon
Genre: Strategy RPG
Platform: PSN for PS3
Developer: SideQuest Studios
Estimated length: 60+ hours
Rating: 5 out of 5
Strategy RPGs are not exactly the most popular genre in video games today. Games like Final Fantasy Tactics and Ogre Tactics popularized the unique style of gameplay in the 90s, but in recent years their popularity is waning. Rainbow Moon is a game that seeks to change that by adding some new ideas to an otherwise stagnant type of game. While most strategy RPGs are mission based and linear, Rainbow Moon adopts the more open style of a traditional RPG, focusing on world exploration and quests. The combat system is traditional strategy RPG with a grid and turn based combat, however some interesting systems and a charming art style make this game something for fans of the genre to get excited about.
The story in Rainbow moon is pretty standard. There is a hero named Baldren, and a villain named Namoris. At the beginning of the game, Baldren gets sucked through a portal during a clash with Namoris, and finds himself on Rainbow moon. Now he has nothing but his cunning and charm to help find his way home. He starts off on his adventure, following a fairly linear path through quests and dungeons. Just like any other RPG, towns and non player characters populate the world and the character is free to spend time talking to the locals, shopping for gear, and exploring strange environments. About halfway through the game is where the game really opens up. The breadth of the world is revealed, and the player is given access to many new areas to explore. In addition, you are given a guest to acquire a list of items, but you are not given their specific locations. You must use clues found around the world to seek out these mysterious objects. This part of the game is much more fun because you are given the freedom to go anywhere and do anything, rather than following a very deliberate path.
Early in the game, battles consist of Baldren getting one action, either fighting, moving or using an item, and then all of the enemies doing the same. As the game progresses the combat gets much more involved. After gaining a few levels you will eventually be able to perform multiple actions per turn, as well as learning skills which usually consist of more powerful or ranged attacks. After the first few dungeons a new character joins your party, which opens up many more options in battles. Eventually you can have three characters in your party at a time, and by the end of the game my characters were performing up to 8 actions per turn, and had dozens of abilities to choose from. The combat was difficult at the beginning and got a bit easier as the game went on. Luckily the game is forgiving and does not punish you much for losing a fight. The ability to save anywhere you want also helps out and allows you to take chances on tougher enemies.
One of my favorite things about this game is the unique way in which battles appear to the player. While walking around anywhere outside of a town, large monsters can be seen roaming. Touching one of these creatures will launch a battle. In some cases such monsters will block a path or stand in the way of a treasure, making them mandatory fights. In addition to that, random battle prompts will appear every few seconds on the bottom of the screen. These prompts are completely optional and can be ignored. This system allows for a great balance in the gameplay. While you are not able to avoid fighting alltogether, the ability to avoid many battles is convienient when you are trekking across the world. On the other hand there are plenty of enemies available if you want to grind for items or experiance.
All good RPGs have ways to upgrade and customize the characters and Rainbow Moon is no exception. Each character has weapons, armor and accessories which may be purchased at stores, or found, and equipped. However the characters are limited to specific types of items; for example Baldren can only equip swords while the first secondary character can only use bows. Abilities can also be bought at stores and taught to characters, most of which are only available to certain characters. Eventually shops start carrying healing spells and buffs in addition to increasingly stronger attacks. Money management is very important because you will not be able to buy all of the armor, a new weapon and all of the abilities that you want.
Later in the game you unlock the ability to improve your weapons and armor by crafting items to them. These items are awarded after battles and found in treasure chests. Each weapon and armor has a certain number of items which can be crafted with it, each one adding some bonus to the parent item. Once you acquire a decent collection of miscellaneous items, you have the ability to use crafting to fill out some of your characters weak areas, or further exploit their strengths.
The leveling up system is slightly less awesome. Experience is gained in much the same way as every other game, by completing battles. Upon leveling up, a characters potential for certain stats is raised. These stats are the standard metrics, such as health, strength and defense. In order to actually raise these stats players must spend points which are also gained in battles. Each character recieves these points by delivering the finishing blow to monsters. I found this system to be problematic because some of my characters naturally killed more enemies than others making it hard to increase their stats. In addition to that, having a slowly raising cap on the stats meant that the ability to specialize the characters was limited. While that was not a great way to design the systems in the game, the robust crafting system was able to balance it out later in the game.
After the main story is over this game really falls apart. Now mind you the main game took me around 90 hours to finish, so I think I got my moneys worth. Once you finish the story the game tells you that you can keep adventuring and raises the level cap from 80 to 150. It also opens up new areas of dungeons with more powerful enemies and a few new quests. The problem with these quests is that they require you to fight enemies which are super powerful, and grinding on regular enemies is slow work. In addition to that the new enemies do not gradually get harder and more powerful, they jump from level 150, to 400 to 750. This coupled with the fact that the game gives you little guidance as to where to go, makes is difficult to progress smoothly past the endgame. I would only recommend doing so to the most hard core fan or someone who has a lot of time on their hands.
Looking for something similar?
Final Fantasy Tactics
With the exception of a few systems, I think that Rainbow Moon is a superior strategy RPG. The story is forgettable but the combat is satisfying and brings something unique to the genre. I also found the art style to be pleasing and the music was great in the way that RPG music usually is. I would recommend this game to anyone who likes RPGs or is interested in getting into them. Keep in mind that the game is very long. It took me about 90 hours to complete the story, though I spent lots of time exploring and doing side quests, and my final time count to unlock the platinum trophy was 118 hours. Please let me know what you think in the comments.