No one will win any prizes for guessing the heritage of Rainbow Moon. The game seeps retro Japanese Roleplaying Game (JRPG) style, from the visual perspective and colourful surroundings, the jazzy music, that loops after just a few bars, to the ever building dependency on balancing stats, party members, their equipment and grinding on to victory.
Revolving around the hero Baldren: Thrown through a portal gate to Rainbow Moon by his enemy, you take his mantel in trying to escape and also rid the moon of the monsters, who seem to have been released by your arrival. You explore the moon, solve problems and do an awful lot of fighting.
Indeed, fighting is the central nexus of the game. Be it simple early fights (simply Baldren against the enemies) to the more complex battles later, where you control multiple party members with differing abilities, against a mass of differing denizens. What developers SideQuest have got right is the gentle way the complexities of fighting are unlocked throughout the game, ensuring that just as you start to get bored another new trick is added to the engagement. Some of these involve changing equipment mid battle, special attacks, spells, status effects and more.
If a battle is too hard you can run away, although you receive no credit for this method. Run away a lot and best head back to easier hunting grounds, as the set encounters which are visible in the playing area do not show the infinite number of random encounters you can choose to engage in as you explore. This choice makes development easy at an early stage and those who are experienced in JRPG’s, enjoy grinding and a challenge should set the difficulty to hard and their starting equipment to nothing.
As always battles release equipment to be used, materials that can be combined with weapons to make them better (under the watchful gaze of a blacksmith) or things to be sold. There are also coins to spend and healers and scroll merchants to deal with as well. It’s all nice and simple, easily understood and most importantly clear, especially for those new to the genre. The game is also a healthy size for the price and with many trophies to unlock the completist should be in hogs heaven.
For all the good things that Rainbow Moon has to offer though there are some problems. The plot is paper thin. Not that this isn’t a blessing, with a few of the more recent JRPG fare being complex to the point of absurdity, but one of the tropes of the genre was the strong storylines, making up for the simpler graphics of the day.
The lack of some obvious choices, such as, “pick up all” after a fight, annoys, especially as things that can’t fit in your menu need to be discarded, with no choice of swapping them out for things you carry. Each discard takes a double press to confirm and then say you are sure and this really spoils the flow of the game. If it’s not going to fit in your menu, why even bother to offer it? The music quickly grates too. It can be turned off but then you notice the battle sounds are quite commonplace as well. With games like Bastion leading the way with variety it would have been nice to have some more here.
It is tough, and counter-intuitive, to rank new characters up to the level of your current ones. Grind too much and the new character can be so slow and level poor that he doesn’t get a hit in by the time the others have mopped up the enemy. Meanwhile deliberately holding them back to let the character catch up – as kills alone allow you the pearls to increase the stats of the characters – is a dirge. Add to this the unbalanced nature of the characters: if you rank them along particular paths (and you find ones like Trishamwith her ranged attacks) you can become ultra dominant during battle, ranking up massively because of all her kills.
Finally there is a requirement to feed your characters. This is as pointless as it is annoying and the mechanic uses the same, highly limited menu, as the scrolls and some buffs. If there seemed any good reason to have this in here it passed me by.
Rainbow Moon is very playable, often dragging you in for the hundredth, “one more fight”, before logging off. Boss fights often provide a much needed challenge and many other elements are balanced; although some will find the grind, lack of plot and slow development of fights laborious.
If you like retro JRPG you should find some solace in Rainbow Moon’s shores and if you want to know what the fuss is about, and don’t mind grinding, then there are worse places to start.
7 Moons-a-rising out of 10