Finding our hero stranded in a mystical land known as Rainbow Moon, Baldren must find a way back to his own world while also defeating the monsters ruining the once peaceful moon. While feeling light in the story department – that is literally the entire story – it does make up for it with old-school, hardcore gameplay for only $15. Looking at the developer SideQuest Studios’ name, an RPG game seems to fit quite well, but when you look at the their previous titles like Soldner X and X-2, an old-school strategy RPG is as far in the opposite direction as possible.
The opening hour of the game will turn many people off. Its straight forward combat becomes tiresome, and only with the help of plenty of grinding, leveling up opens new gameplay elements that slowly become available through that excessive grinding. Limiting movement and attacking to a single square for the first 3 levels, I almost gave up on the game. I compare it to reading the first chapter of a book and not wanting to continue, but by the end of the book you are glad you have. Rainbow Moon works exactly like this and once you get over that hump you can experience an old-school RPG with charm.
It may feel like a slow-paced combat system during that first hour, but it begins to take on a second wind as you are given more options for sub-turns including using special skills that require MP and even new characters that tag along with you for your adventure cleansing the Moon. Battles can begin with either coming in contact with wandering enemies or selecting to enter a random battle. It’s a mix of 16-bit classic Chrono Trigger and Final Fantasy.
One thing I never worried about was not having enough quests to complete since the townsfolk hand out a countless number of side-quests that usual revolve around collecting a set number of rare drop items and returning them for experience and loot. Don’t expect to find these with ease – drop rates are at an unbelievably low amount; without grinding for them you will likely move on to a new area before finishing the quests.
Each fight yields a set amount of Rainbow Coins and Rainbow Pearls, which act as the currency of the world and are traded for increasing stats respectively. In true grind fashion, these do not flow easily and you will be forced to grind for countless hours to buy that much needed torch to help you in in the 20 dark dungeons or an additional increase to your health besides leveling up. Materials aren’t hard to come by, so if crafting doesn’t interest you, they are also ideal to sell to the merchant in order to earn extra coins.
Speaking of crafting, the implemented system is quite deep and allows materials to be combined with your existing equipment to improve the stats on each piece. The equipment can be upgraded as many times as needed, granted you have the needed materials. A rather interesting, but seemingly pointless mechanic requires your heroes to be constantly well nourished. Food items such as water must be used in order to keep your hunger meter in check. Don’t think about going into battle on an empty stomach since doing so will provide constant damage to your heroes. An apple a day keeps the monsters at bay?
The challenging gameplay requires constant backtracking to the vendors throughout the adventure. While adding +1 to a stat may not seem like much, in Rainbow Moon and those familiar to old-school titles it could mean the difference between surviving and dying.
Completing the store will take 30-40 hours, but to complete every side-quest and seeing everything the game offers can take well over 100 hours. For those trophy hunters out there, and you know who you are, there is actually a trophy for playing over 100 hours. The trophy would be hard to “cheese” too. Rainbow Moon will pause the game if you are idle for too long and the trophy only counts actual playing time, it doesn’t count time on pause.
There aren’t many things that I can label as being “wrong” with the game, but there are a couple of things that feel more like I’m nitpicking instead. It isn’t possible to rotate the grid during battles, which is disappointing when coming right from playing the latestDisgaea series. It boils down to either liking the old-school style of the game or not. The colorful HD visuals pop off the screen with a great diversity in the locations, showcasing many different environment types helping provide a great feel akin to a old-school style game. While it is not as deep as other SRPG games such as Final Fantasy Tactics, Rainbow Moon is perfect for those looking for an old-school feel on a budget.
Note: The Rainbow Moon review was written based on the PS3 version of the game.