domstercool's Rainbow Moon (PlayStation Network (PS3)) review

Not a good example of the genre.

I normally have an eye out for anything Strategy RPG-related coming to consoles or the PC, but Rainbow Moon completely missed my radar until about a week or so before it arrived on Sony’s PSN as a downloadable-only title. I had no idea the game was developed by SideQuest Studios, the people that brought us the beautiful-looking and exciting-to-play Soldner-X series. My feelings were mixed towards Rainbow Moon before I played it. On one hand I had a spider-sense that the game would be rather nice on the eyes since their past games have been good lookers. On the other hand, these guys haven’t made a Strategy RPG before, so I was worried about the gameplay. Would it turn out to be any good where it counts the most?

The story for Rainbow Moon is rather simple and isn’t one of the game’s strong points. Players take control of Baldren, the game’s main protagonist, who was pushed into a strange portal by his sneaky arch-rival and teleported to the unknown place called Rainbow Moon. Poor Baldren finds himself stranded in this strange land, and unfortunately for him and the inhabitants, he’s opened up a way for monsters to come through the portal and cause trouble. The main aim for Baldren is to seal the dimensional rift and get himself back to his original planet. There is nothing here that will stimulate you when it comes to the plot. That means no character development, quests are simple and straightforward, and compared to some of the RPG plots I’ve seen over the years, this leaves a lot to be desired. You won’t care for this flat and dull tale one bit.

What you are left with, then, is the very important gameplay. Rainbow Moon’s battle system is the genre-defined grid-based, turn-based (based on speed stats rather than order) combat that fans will no doubt be familiar with. I wish the game started off much better because when you jump into Rainbow Moon it takes ages to get going. I know Strategy RPGs sometimes have that slow start, but we’re talking hours before the game begins showing you all the additional in-depth mechanics that you’re screaming for when you taste the first few battles. Merge that with the lacking story and it becomes a problem that I feel will stop people from getting to know Rainbow Moon.

When battles are fully unravelled, then things become much more enjoyable. Having a full party, more skills and the different status elements change it from boring to enjoyable. Rather than having a streamlined experience where you move from mission to mission, Rainbow Moon’s battles are activated when you touch an enemy in the world. Additionally, there are also random optional battles that pop up when you’re exploring. These appear at the bottom of the screen and you can jump into the battle with a push of a button. Generally these fights are with different monsters than the ones you find out in the open, allowing you to grind for more experience than what you would normally get.

A party can consist of three members from a selection of six. Each member has their specific role and fighting style, such as close combat, ranger, magic, etc. Movement is done with the D-Pad/Analogue Stick, but rather than picking a grid to move, you physically control the character. Attacking with a close combat weapon is the same as moving – click ‘Attack’ and press the direction you want to swipe at. If a character uses ranged weapons then you need to move your reticule to where you want to shoot. Bizarrely, the target reticule for bows has a strange implementation. Instead of just having the single target, you have an additional marker that is two grids behind where the arrow lands. If this is out of the blue area of your character’s aim then you will not be able to shoot, but this does mean you can hit people outside the area as long as they are within the distance space of that extra marker. To me this seems to defeat the whole purpose of telling you where you can or can’t go as everything else that is to do with combat and moving is locked inside this blue area.

Playing a substantial amount of Rainbow Moon will lead you to the conclusion that the game has a heavy focus on grinding. New enemies that appear as you progress get tougher and seem hard to defeat when you first encounter them, even when using skills in a skillful manor. There are two types of leveling up in this game. The first is gaining the experience to move the characters to the next level, while the second is based around the Rainbow Pearls you earn from winning in combat. Rainbow Pearls allow you to upgrade more stats for team members, such as strength, health, magic and so forth. The level of your character limits how far these items can boost up the stats, so you can’t just pump them into every character and have a team of superheroes. The reason I mention this is because there is a lot of DLC on the PSN store that gives players the opportunity to buy more pearls, coins and equipment to help you progress past the grind in the game. You still have to grind to fully use them, just not as much. DLC is optional, so I don’t have a problem with it, but the game itself is in no doubt grindy and that will put people off.

If you aren’t fighting in Rainbow Moon then you are out exploring the world. It’s a beautiful space with sharp, colourful graphics that make the game look gorgeous on a HDTV. The environments are lush and shine above the rest of the game. I’m not fond of the character designs for the heroes, however. It’s something to do with the style that doesn’t look quite right.

There is plenty of game to get through here and I’m not even being generous saying that. The game even has a trophy for playing 100 hours and with the endless amount of side-quests and dungeons that are all over the place, then it is easy to see why the game would last that long. Quest variety is nothing exciting, with objectives like go and find someone, find an object, and kill an enemy. Everything that isn’t part of the major storyline feels like padding to extend the game well beyond the 40+ hours it takes to finish the story.

It’s a shame that Rainbow Moon isn’t more than what it is. The game is filled with problems that bring down the overall experience and enjoyment. I’m sure some gamers will enjoy the grind and character building, but with so many other great Strategy RPGs (especially on the PSN), I do wonder why gamers would want to take part in something with a story that is close to non-existent, has no character personality, and features pacing that starts ridiculously slow. Rainbow Moon isn’t a bad game, but its snail pace is hurtful, and getting past that barrier along with the repetitiveness and lack of creativity is just too much to make this game a good example for the genre.

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