As so many modern day games are becoming generic and unnecessarily dumbed down to appeal to a larger audience, it’s refreshing to see the occasional game that breaks free from the mold by presenting a much more hardcore and challenging offering than the norm. Something that I personally find amusing about this is that many of these games that break free from the generic drag of much of this generation seem to do so by evoking the past, especially the retro days of gaming. Today’s example: Rainbow Moon.
It has its flaws, but you’ll find few other games this generation that so profoundly uses past gaming ideas and mechanics as strongly as Rainbow Moon does. From the charming graphics, to the retro inspired menus, and the tactical turn-based combat system; it’s like playing something straight out of the 90’s, but with the exception that the developers have provided a few innovations that help to modernize the experience.
If you’ve ever played a game in the Final Fantasy Tactics or Ogre Battle series, you’ll have a good idea what to expect from the battle system. All combat takes place from an isometric perspective, and all movement on a grid. All actions take place in turns based on the speed of your characters versus that of the enemies. As you level up your party, you’ll also get additional “sub-turns” that allow your characters to take more actions at a time. These actions include moving, attacking, using skills, items, changing gear, or escaping. It’s all fairly simple to learn, and the pacing is pretty quick for a turn based game.
There are two ways in which you’ll engage in combat. The first is by simply walking into one of the many foes you’ll see moving around the environment. When you touch them, you’ll be transported into an isometric room to do combat with them. The other is by engaging in a randomized encounter. What makes random encounters different in Rainbow Moon is that you are not automatically thrown into them. Instead, you’ll get a prompt asking if you want to enter the battle. This is nice, because it allows you to continue moving through the game, if you choose, as opposed to being repeatedly thrown into random encounters like so many past RPG’s.
The only complaint that I had with the combat system is that it can sometimes be confusing as to which direction you need to press on the D-Pad (or the stick) to move your character in the desired direction. The isometric layout doesn’t map too well to the 4 directions you can move, meaning that you won’t always press the directional key you’d expect to move your character where you want him to go. It’s not game breaking, you’ll eventually get the hang of it, but it is an annoyance at the beginning.
When you’re not in combat, you’ll be spending your time moving around the isometric over world. The world is vast and packed with detail, and there are hidden goodies and enemies crammed into every inch of it. You’ll also encounter NPC’s, many of which will send you on a slew of different side quests offering various rewards. Though optional, the side quests are a great way to earn additional gear and experience for your party.
Other NPC’s will offer various services essential to your success, such as crafting and leveling up your stats. The latter is very important because of how Rainbow Moon’s leveling system works. When you gain a level, you are given only a small boost to your stats. To level your stats further, you need to spend a currency called Rainbow Pearls that you are rewarded with for killing monsters (only the party member that deals the final blow will receive pearls for the kill). As you level up, the max value of a given stat will increase allowing you to spend more Rainbow Pearls to level it further.
Building up a stock of Rainbow Pearls does require a high level of grinding, even on the recommended Normal difficulty. For those who want to skip as much grinding as possible, you have the option of purchasing large amounts of Pearls from the PSN store for fairly cheap. That said, if you don’t like “the grind” then you might actually want to skip this game altogether…
Yes, gameplay is the number one aspect of Rainbow Moon. There is a story here, but it is pushed to the backburner for much of the game. The drive to play rests solely on how much you enjoy the tactical combat system, and grinding through hordes of enemies for hours. This is a formula that will come as a dream come true for many fans of the tactical RPG genre. That said, if you care more about story and character interaction in your games Rainbow Moon might not be for you.
Either way, it’s hard to look past the value of this PSN game. Coming in at a wallet friendly $15 while offering well over 100 hours of content, it’s hard not to recommend this game to fans of the genre. If you are a fan of retro RPG’s, Rainbow Moon might just fill a void that has been empty for some time; and with its loads of content, it will fill keep you entertained for countless hours.
If you prefer your RPG’s to have less grinding, and more story and character interaction, then this might not be the game for you. If you’re ok with that, then this might just be the game you’ve been waiting for. Rainbow Moon is a lengthy RPG that packs loads of retro charm and content. It’s an absolute steal at the price, and should not be overlooked by fans of retro tactical RPG gameplay.
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