By: Brian Gunn
Rainbow Moon is sort of an inspiring indie story; a 2012 surprise hit RPG in a genre that many indie developers rarely touch. Originally for the PS3, and later ported to the PS Vita, developers Sidequest Studios have made the inevitable PS4 port.
Can it hold up four years later after the rise of trends like Kickstarter has pushed competition into a limelight the original release did not have?
Tactical RPGs are fairly simple to control, and Rainbow Moon is no exception. It is, however, different in that the game lets you dungeon crawl and explore towns with your character, something often relegated to menus in other entries in the genre.
It largely blends these things together well, though some menus feel a bit bloated and could use some trimming. Most maps are small, simple affairs with little variation in the environments that tend to sometimes complicate other titles, requiring little camera work or clever movement to plan out assaults.
A 2012 last-gen port is, to little surprise, not going to be a stunner visually. The PS4 version is more of an up-port rather than a remaster like the current trend, and so returning players will not notice a huge bump here. Though really, Rainbow Moon wasn’t much of a looker upon original release, either. Environments look a bit cheap and ugly, and while some character designs work well, their exaggerated and cartoonish looks often clash with the basic appearance of the levels.
Rainbow Moon has a pleasant and chipper soundtrack, often recalling simpler times in video games. The battle theme in particular is a catchy and ever present tune, to the point where it actually ends up getting a little annoying given how often you’re in general battles. Some variety in battle tracks would have been greatly appreciated.
Sound effects are meaty and work well during special moves. There’s not much voice acting outside of the typical battle grunts and vendor catch phrases, but what little is there works.
There really isn’t much of a story to Rainbow Moon. It is mostly just a framing device to get you out dungeon crawling and exploring, and in truth a few hours in I’d forgotten the main goal of the game beyond that. While a lot of tactical RPGs tend to have involved plots, the dungeon crawling side of the game wins out here.
Players start off with just their created character, the shirt on their backs and little else. Eventually you’ll grind and crawl your way to having a modest party, but it never really gets larger than three characters at a time — your actual roster will be a bit bigger than that and should be switched in as the needs of battle demand.
The battle system is fairly straightforward. You’ll get a predetermined amount of action points, varying by character and level, and every action consumes one, even if you’re just moving a single tile. Given this, there’s not a lot of mobility in the game, with strategies often favoring waiting for enemies to come to you. A touch I particularly enjoyed is that the age-old “defend” mechanic is fairly useful here, as enemies hit very hard, requiring far more liberal use of the command than most RPGs.
Rainbow Moon suffers from some pacing and economy issues. First off, the game is very long, so players looking to get the most out of their dollar content wise are in good hands. However, the first 10 or so hours of the game are a little on the dull side.
It takes a long time to even get your second and third party member. Furthermore, the game is very grind heavy, with nearly everything from individual skills to weapons having an upgrade system, and finding what you need at times is frustrating.
The inventory could use work. Not only is it a bit annoying to have to scroll through all of your weakest potions to get to the good stuff, the inventory system in general feels like something out of a free-to-play game. It is extremely limited in space, and ways to upgrade it are infrequent, and so it often feels like the game wants you to indulge in micro-transactions to get some breathing room.
Battles often rely on just throwing a ton of enemies at you in order to maintain a challenge, with not enough unique enemy styles present. There are too many palette-swapped enemies, and some variety in encounters would have been nice.
Rainbow Moon feels like a product of its time, when low-budget RPGs weren’t very common, or had moved to mobile platforms. While the game does have some charm, it doesn’t really compete on a quality level with many of the other games in the genre. I’d only really recommend it to PS4 owners hungry for RPGs, but even then, Disgaea 5 is the more attractive option.