Laced beneath the magical story or interesting world design that is present in many JRPGs, one question often arises. What is the level grind like? With Rainbow Moon the answer is simple and takes the form of just one word, massive. This is Rainbow Moon’s biggest strength but also its biggest weakness and it serves to divide an usually unbreakable genre fan base.
JRPGs have grown over the recent past and are now making their home in other places, as well as in native Japan. The developer behind this PSN exclusive (SideQuest Studios) are based mainly in Germany, however to play it, you would be sure it had come straight out of Japan’s hardcore RPG market. As a fan of the genre I was interested to see what Rainbow Moon had to offer, and what I discovered was an experience that pleased (if not amazed) me but it’s certainly not going to be to everyone’s taste.
The story here is pretty standard JRPG fare. Our hero (Baldren) is travelling through the woods in search of his nemesis when fate intervenes and he is cast through a magical portal to the ‘Rainbow Moon’. Naturally this world is plagued by monsters and an ancient evil that Baldren (and the fellow heroes he meets along the way) must defeat. A formulaic but not all that badly spun tale, which will no doubt satisfy you throughout, but is sure not to be your main motivation to keep playing.
The visuals in Rainbow Moon are interestingly realised. Taking inspiration from both modern classics like Bastion but also reminiscent of the strategy RPGs of old, like Fire Emblem or Final Fantasy Tactics. Decently produced and heavily stylised, Rainbow Moon looks great but won’t blow you away with its visuals. Much like the story, these serve a purpose, but they are not the game’s most memorable features.
All of these elements are simply there to lead you into the game’s main offering, its incredibly deep combat and levelling system. As you move around Rainbow Moon’s isometric landscapes, there is plenty of opportunity for combat. Be it in the form of a seen enemy on the map or a player authorised random battle, there is no shortage of fights and encounters. The ability to choose when to fight is a welcome addition but an ultimately pointless one. If you wish to succeed in ridding the Rainbow Moon of evil (not to mention 100% completion) you will need to fight everything the game throws at you, and more.
This brings us to the real question that will divide so many when it comes to Rainbow Moon. It all boils down to why you play RPGs? If it’s to be told an epic story with unique characters then there are many better candidates for you to spend your hard earned money on. If however you are more interested in grinding levels, upgrading you character and defeating enemies, this game should definitely be at the top of your ‘to buy’ list. The system, like all great battle/level systems, seems simple at first, but you will soon come to realise it has vast depths. The sheer amount of content here is more akin to a full boxed release than a PSN title, and for this SideQuest Studios should be commended.
When in battle, the game works much the same as any ‘Tactics RPG’, with characters and enemies moving around a grid and using certain abilities to defeat one another. These battles start out basic but soon become extremely tactical and in some instances very challenging. Your characters will level up from these battles, but instead of boosting your stats it only increases their cap. Rainbow Orbs that are dropped by enemies are then spent to increase them to their potential limits. This allows you to level your characters however you want, but it also leads you to an eventual plateau until you level up again.
As well as this, enemies also drop Rainbow Coins, a much more traditional form of currency that can be used to buy new moves and equipment for your heroes. These two systems work amazingly well together and for some it will soon become addictive to push for those extra Rainbow Orbs. Unfortunately Rainbow Moon lacks the diversity to appeal to everyone. For many, the amount of hours needed for levelling will make the game seem laborious and dull if you are not looking for this kind of experience.
Despite its flaws, Rainbow Moon has a lot going for it. With an amazing levelling/combat system and solid visuals and story, there are many worse games in this genre. It is also worth mentioning the value for money here. If Rainbow Moon hooks you, it’s around 200 hours of game play for the 100% and all for only £9.99 (£7.99 for Playstation Plus members). However its lack of balance and time required for completion is sure to put off some players who will not find what they are looking for on this expedition.