Roleplaying games have come very far from their tabletop ancestors. Trigger-happy gamers have lost interest in the more tactical approach to RPGs and we see more titles leaning towards action and faster paced gameplay. Precise item management and strategic planning are almost extinct, with only a few titles like Dungeon Defenders, Disgaea, and now the PSN exclusive Rainbow Moon preserving the tradition. Rainbow Moon is an encyclopedia of old school treasures. The game combines the best elements of classic strategy RPG titles into a vast, 100+ hour journey, and it’s only 15$. Don’t be fooled by the cutesy graphics and perplexing title, Rainbow Moon is a deep, grid based strategy game for skilled RPG buffs.
After a shadow-puppet style opening, you take role of Baldren, a warrior who gets tossed through a portal by his long-time nemesis. Waking up on the mysterious Rainbow Moon, Baldren unwillingly opens a dimensional gate, letting hordes of monsters overtake the peaceful planet. You meet quirky characters on your quest to save Rainbow Moon, some of which join your party, but it’s clear that the hackneyed narrative is an afterthought. This isn’t a bad thing though. Rainbow Moon shines on the battlefield. This is a glorious throwback to games like Final Fantasy Tactics and Ogre Tactics.
"Don’t be fooled by the cutesy graphics and perplexing title, Rainbow Moon is a deep, grid based strategy game for skilled RPG buffs."
Rainbow Moon does an exemplary job of teaching you how to play. Whether you’re a veteran strategist or never played a game of this type, battles gradually introduce new gameplay mechanics and ways to manage your supplies. Failing to optimize your armor and skill points is detrimental to success. Each minor skill boost and every item in your inventory is key to advancing. Yes, grinding is a must, but it never feels boring or cheap. As you traverse the colorful world, you’ll see enemies patrolling the environment, with some encounters initiated randomly. A fight occurs every couple of steps, but enemies get significantly tougher in each new area.
Dying in battle puts you back in the same spot on the map where you crossed the enemy, but with 1HP on your life bar. This allows you to either journey back to a healer, fight easier enemies to level up, or simply try again. The encounters are exhilarating. Like a game of chess, you move on a grid and your actions are turn based. The frequency and distance of your moves increases by leveling up your character. A higher level, however, doesn’t always result in a win. You need to upgrade your skill points and armor accordingly in order to gain advantage in battle. Each win rewards you with rainbow points, which can be spent to increase defense, attack power, luck, speed, and so forth. It’s imperative that you manage your inventory properly as you’ll run out of potions and food in no time. That’s right, your characters need to eat, otherwise their health degenerates when they’re hungry. The micromanaging might sound like a chore, but everything has a direct impact on your performance in battle. As a result, it never feels repetitive or pointless.
"The colorful world of Raibow Moon has a very distinct, charming art style. It’s reminiscent of Super Nintendo’s Dragon Warrior and Breath of Fire games, but with an HD facelift."
You begin the game with only one character, Baldren, but new warriors with varied skills and weapons join you later, adding another level of challenge to enemy encounters. Once you have three team members, things get much trickier. If a character uses a bow and arrow, for example, they need to be two squares away in order to strike the enemy. Others might need to be adjacent to the opponent, unless they are using a skill that has a specific hit formation. Additionally, there’s a weapon hierarchy that has a direct impact on your attack points. Using your sword on enemies with an axe results in less damage than when attacking someone with a bow and arrow. There’s more to the system, but you get the gist of it.
The colorful world of Raibow Moon has a very distinct, charming art style. It’s reminiscent of Super Nintendo’s Dragon Warrior and Breath of Fire games, but with an HD facelift. The environments are surprisingly diverse, with deep forests, vast deserts, sunny beaches, and even snow-covered mountains. The same can’t be said for enemy variety. Each area has its own enemy type, but it can take several hours of grinding before you meet new foes. Likewise, character animation could use work. The movement is choppy and attacks look like they consist of two frames of animation. Maybe it’s a stylistic choice, referencing the 16-bit era just like the graphics, but it looks clumsy. Even so, the visuals have personality and stay fresh throughout the entire adventure.
"This is one of the biggest surprises of the summer and, by far, one of the best games on the Playstation Network."
The townsfolk of Rainbow Moon don’t speak, aside from a few mumbling words that trigger text boxes, but the music is exceptionally captivating. I found myself humming the theme song long after finishing the game. Each area has its own well-placed soundtrack, with battle music undeniably characteristic of glorious SNES days.
Rainbow Moon is like a fifteen-dollar time machine. It takes you to an age when games required critical thinking and planning, a period in gaming when patience was obligatory. This is one of the biggest surprises of the summer and, by far, one of the best games on the Playstation Network. Whether you are a die-hard fan of strategy RPGs or a newcomer to the genre, Rainbow Moon is an instant classic that shouldn’t be missed by anyone who has the slightest interest in video games.
Review by: Tin Salamunic | Reviewed on: Playstation 3