Rainbow Moon originally released on Playstation 3 in 2012, and I immediately fell in love with its nostalgic gameplay and colorful aesthetic. It was one of the few strategy RPGs that made grinding both fun and an essential part of the game’s mechanics. Four years later, and Rainbow Moon still carries the same charm and unrelenting difficulty that made SideQuest Studios’ gem one of my favorite PSN releases of the last generation. On the other hand, Rainbow Moon on the Playstation 4 remains unchanged, so gamers who already own the original version won’t find any reasons to invest in this new re-release.
I think that’s the most important thing to keep in mind here, Rainbow Moon on PS4 isn’t an HD upgrade or remake, it’s a straightforward re-release of a four year game that’s only going to appeal to newcomers. Having said that, if you haven’t experienced Rainbow Moon before, this may very well be the best fifteen bucks you’ll spend all year. You can check out my original impressions of Rainbow Moon below. Aside from a few improved loading times and tweaked dialogue, Rainbow Moon is still the same game, and therefore, my general opinion remains the same. The slightly lower score is only due to a lack of improvements, but this doesn’t mean the game is any less excellent. Read on.
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.
"Rainbow Moon on PS4 isn’t an HD upgrade or remake, it’s a straightforward re-release of a four year game that’s only going to appeal to newcomers."
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.
"If you’re an old school RPG/strategy fan who likes a solid challenge, it doesn’t get much better on console than this."
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.
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.
In the end, Rainbow Moon on PS4 is still as fun and challenging as it was in 2012. As far as PSN releases go, it may not be as impressive as it once was, but it’s still one of the best deals you’ll get for the money. If you’re an old school RPG/strategy fan who likes a solid challenge, it doesn’t get much better on console than this.
Review by: Tin Salamunic | Reviewed on: Playstation 4