I think Rainbow Moon might be one of my favorite PSN games. I tend to say that a lot of games are my “favorite” while discussing this type of thing with others, but I can’t help but say it a lot more when talking about this one.
No, it doesn’t do anything particularly special to innovate old RPG standards, and it certainly isn’t perfect. But what Rainbow Moon does do as a new, decidedly “old school” RPG, it does exceedingly well. The story might be shallow, but it’s entertaining; the combat will feel familiar, but it’s addictive and beautifully executed; the graphics and art might not be cutting-edge, but they’re definitely gorgeous and original; and so on and so forth.
Of course, with a campaign that lasts well over 40 hours and sidequests that easily double that, one might be worried about how the game holds up after so much time spent with it. Even the most appealing game can get repetitive; there’s not much value in a game that’s dozens of hours, but gets boring after your second time playing. Do Rainbow Moon’s various mechanics hold up? Will you end up yearning for a more “deep” or complex experience? Is it worth dropping $15 on in the end?
If you’re on the fence as to why Rainbow Moon is worth owning, allow me to convince you!
As with most games, the first thing you’ll be introduced to is the story. The game starts promptly in media res, presented as a cutesy cartoon; it unveils the tale of Baldren, and how unfortunate he is. You see, he bravely tracked down his arch enemy into what turned out to be a trap, and found himself falling through a dimensional rift to Rainbow Moon, a rather mystical place. This dimensional rift also happened to be full of what seems like an endless amount of beasts and monsters, and they’re now swarming the once peaceful lands of Rainbow Moon. Obviously, the story doesn’t delve into such profound territory as the likes of Chrono Trigger or Final Fantasy VI, but it’s definitely charmingly entertaining. I never found myself skipping over dialog or anything like that, and you’ll be hard pressed not to crack a smile at times.
The gameplay begins immediately after this cut scene. You’ll find yourself at the edge of that unfortunate dimensional rift with a narrow path in front for you to follow, and from there, the game is wide open for you to explore. And you’ll want to explore it: the world looks absolutely stunning. You won’t get top-of-the-line effects and unrivaled graphics as you would a triple-A, multi-million dollar title, of course, but you don’t need them; there’s enough personality and simplistic beauty to the environments that I often found myself wandering around, just to look at the little touches the artists placed here and there. The last RPG’s graphics I remember being so enrapturing was Super Mario RPG; funnily enough, this game’s art style seems to vaguely echo that seminal classic, with the benefit of luscious high definition.
After mentioning Super Mario RPG, it’s an adequate time to talk about the battle system. Perhaps the most important part of a game in this genre, I’m happy to say that Rainbow Moon’s combat is greatly satisfying. Imagine if the aforementioned SMRPG, Final Fantasy VI, and the Disgaea series were forced into a room and conceived a singular battle system, and you’re on the right track. Things will start off slow, and for the first half hour or so, it’ll be incredibly basic: move, attack this, repeat. After a bit of time is spent on the game, you’ll start to see it unravel into a more intricate package; after a few hours, it’ll all click together and you’ll probably find yourself addicted. It’s not the most complex battle system I can think of, but damned if it isn’t fun.
It is puzzling, however, how long it takes to get into the brilliant stages of combat. As I mentioned, it’s not particularly challenging to understand, and you may find yourself sitting acrimonious boredom while waiting for everything to pick up. This drudging stage goes by quickly enough, especially considering the length of the game, but veterans of the genre are stuck playing through what amounts to nothing more than an unskippable tutorial. That said, I hardly see it as anything more than a mere annoyance, and one that shouldn’t be hard to stomach once the fruits of your efforts are rewarded.
Another complaint I have has to do with the controls during combat. While clarity befalls the menus and general battle structure, I found myself befuddled for some time simply moving my adventurers during battle. As combat is set on a grid, you’ll be attacking and moving in diagonals; it might be just me, but I found myself moving in the wrong direction several times, which could be dangerous in a fight with multiple damage-dealing foes. I became acclimated to this bothersome quirk after a few battles, and it’s something of a negligible issue once you’ve become accustomed to them, but I felt it worth mentioning as I still recall that first awkward moment when I stupidly moved incorrectly and wasted a turn.
One of my favorite aspects of the combat, though, really has nothing important to do with fighting itself. For one, I cannot stand when a game’s enemy variations consist of four or five classes, with twelve characters and some pallet swaps totalling the enemy’s designs. Rainbow Moon’s artists clearly said to hell with that, as you’ll find no shortage of various enemies, classes, and even techniques that your enemy can pull off, even if they are sometimes irksome. Combining species? Awesome. Splitting in half? Kind of awesome, at least for the first time.
Another satisfying aspect of combat? The pace at which you level up is not only evident statistically, you’ll feel it as you play. While you won’t come close to dealing billions in damage as you would in Disgaea, nothing is more satisfying than spending a bit of time grinding and then mercilessly vanquishing foes in a single blow. The fact that the game paces itself so well that you’re able to do this, with a bit of work, earlier on in the game is a wonderful thing.
The publisher sent a note with our review code suggesting we play on the normal difficulty as to avoid grinding. This proved to be good advice; even on normal, I found myself grinding for long periods of time. No, it wasn’t all out of necessity; often, I would do it to get that satisfactory feeling of dominating my enemies. Still, I did find myself having to grind on occassion to pass a particularly tough foe. I mention this, of course, because while some people love a good grind, it may wear on others’ patience– especially newcomers to the genre. My advice? Use your Rainbow Pearls wisely and upgrade your weapons when possible.
If you’re wondering what the hell “Rainbow Pearls” are right now, I’ll explain. There’s a huge bevy of ways to upgrade/create things, from your stats to weapons and more. Of the two currencies in the game, Rainbow Pearls serve as the character’s stats build-up. After defeating enemies, you’ll gain these pearls to use towards your strength, defense, luck, agility, etc. These stats are capped by your current level, but you should have an agreeable amount of them building up as you play– if you don’t avoid battles. The unique part of Rainbow Pearls is that you need to bring them to a specific character to use. These redeemers aren’t particularly hard to find wherever you may be, but you can’t simply use them as soon as they’re acquired.
Rainbow Coins are the other type of currency, and they work as their name implies: you’ll purchase items, weapons, armor, skills, and more. These coins are found just about everywhere, from battle to lost treasure in the game world. In addition to straightforward currency, you’ll be able to upgrade any weapons and armor in a neat fashion through the use of special characters, where you can apply items gained from fighting and adventuring to add unique stats to your items. This is fool-proof, easy, and can be rather beneficial, though I don’t see it being crucial to most people’s success.
One particular thing I found slightly grating in the stats was the inclusion of a “food meter.” It’s annoying and seemingly useless, as it doesn’t do anything but distract you from the game at hand. Luckily, I can’t think of a single moment in which there wasn’t a dozen bottles of water or some apples lying around to eat, but it still seems uneccessary to me.
If you’re still worried about the difficulty of the game, even on easy, Rainbow Moon’s devs put in a nice little feature for you: the ability to save anywhere. Functioning much like an emulator’s save functions, you can save right before penetrating a dungeon or before a challenging boss, and if you lose, you’ll get the choice of starting right where you left off. Sure, you’ll lose the XP from the fight and any accrued items, but it’s a lot better than drudging all the way back through an hour of gameplay.
I’d like to put a note here about the soundtrack, as well. The game’s tracks never seem to get dull, and a few of them are done in a way that’ll feel like some sort of faux-nostalgia is pulling at your brain. The victory theme will slowly grow on you like a musical parasite, too– take my word for it.
Rainbow Moon’s value is really multileveled. First and foremost, it’s an incredibly solid, fun RPG that’ll be overtly engrossing and does a fantastic job at tugging your retro-loving heartstrings. Monetarily, I can’t think of a better value; while most games that cost $15 on the PSN are over in a few hours, you can spend hundreds on this title, and it remains pleasant throughout. I could see Rainbow Moon sitting on a store shelf for $40, and I would purchase it without thinking twice.
The game also has worth that’s perhaps lesser realized: the ability to draw in strangers of the genre. While RPGs tend to intimidate a lot of people, it’s usually because they were made for those fans who’ve played them for years; they’re expected to “get it” and they’re essentially catered to them. In a way, Rainbow Moon is made for those dedicated fans, too, and I’m appreciative of that. But, it presents itself in a way that should be instantly accessible to outsiders, and I don’t see many being disappointed with their experience. I’d like to think of Rainbow Moon as this generation’s “gateway drug” to the genre.
Blatantly speaking, Rainbow Moon is not only one of the best values on the Playstation Network, it’s probably one of the best games on there, too. It’s fun, it’s inexpensive, and it’s admirably profound. I’m speaking assertively, but you will want to get this game. If you’re a huge RPG fan, this game is for you. If you’re looking for a role-playing experience on the PSN that isn’t from a generation or two of consoles ago, this is it. If you want bang for your buck, I can’t think of a better purchase. Part ways with your $15, traveller, and dive into what just might become your favorite downloadable game, too.
Final Grade: A
- PSN’s Rainbow Moon Reveals New Details, Out Soon