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Rainbow Moon review

AT A GLANCE
  • Mix of random and forced encounters
  • Mix of strong and weak enemies
  • Fast paced battle system
  • Being punished for making mistakes
  • Slow pace of the game
  • Useless game mechanics

Although you'd be forgiven for thinking that PSN exclusive Rainbow Moon sounds like some Sailor Moon spin-off, it’s a tactical role-playing game. Rainbow Moon is a fairly typical take on the genre: You’ll be spending a lot of time moving your chess pieces around a grid, taking turns, trading MP for spells and thwacking bees --a lot of them-- with swords.

In the game, you step into the boots of hero Baldren. On his way to an annual duel with his arch-rival, Baldren is suddenly flung into a portal and transported to Rainbow Moon, a colorful celestial body. A horde of monsters has also gate-crashed his dimensional hopping, making his quest to return home all the more difficult. If you don’t like the sound of the story, don’t fret, because it doesn’t play a big role in driving the game forward.

One of the high points of Rainbow Moon is how the game handles enemy encounters. In the game world, you’ll see enemy avatars that spawn battles when you run into them. But there are also random encounters that may pop up. All you need to do is press X and start slaughtering some bees, imps and maybe a golem. But mostly, it feels like it's bees. It’s a great way to let players battle as much as they want without forcing combat too excessively.

In Rainbow Moon, each character/bee takes an individual turn, rather than on a per-party basis. Each character’s turn is also split up into sub-turns, which characters are free to do whatever they want with. They can move one square per sub-turn, attack, cast a spell or chug a potion.

It’s nice to be able to attack multiple times per turn, but the restriction of moving one square per sub-turn feels extremely inefficient and bogs down the action. All too often, you'll spend a turn lining up a spell, only to have the target bee move out of range on their move. When you do get into position you find yourself just casting the same move until you run out of sub-turns. It can get a bit repetitive to move one square and then cast the same spell three more times each turn.

Once you get into the rhythm of the game, enemy encounters can fly by much faster than other strategy RPGs. Making decisions doesn’t take a lot of button strokes to execute and there aren't many menus to navigate mid-battle. But with this speed comes a price and there is no way to take back decisions once you make them. It's extremely frustrating when you accidently press the wrong direction while moving or enter the “defend” command when you didn’t mean to.

Though many bemoan the SRPG as a genre for being too slow, the cost is too high to bear when trading precision for speed. When carefully laid strategies mean everything, it's a nasty compromise.

Unfortunately, the game is too fast in regard to combat and too slow in actual progression through the game. At times, it feels like trying to run through honey. It takes about 2 hours to get the first party companion, and it takes a few more hours after that to get out of the game’s first zone. And by then, you’ve killed more bees than colony collapse disorder. You swap out your character’s equipment every few hours, and new spells trickle in like glacial melt. And more than 20 hours into the game, you’ve just recruited your first magic-casting character and it’s still explaining important concepts.

Although Rainbow Moon promises six main characters,the game limits your active party to three at a time. Once you fill out your team for the first time, it's unlikely you'll throw additional characters into the mix. Additional team members are under-leveled when they join, and character progression is so slow and clunky that you probably won’t want to bother getting them up to speed.

The main road to character progression is by spending Pearls to advance character stats such as speed, defense and attack. Characters earn this currency by killing enemies, but they don’t share the credit for kills, thus each character hoards their own Pearls.

This system slows the game down even more and imbalances it so a strong character can hog all the Pearls. That means if you want your weaker characters to progress, you’ll have to idle your stronger characters during battle, leaving them with nothing to do but defend themselves. But for most battles there is a good mix of strong and weak enemies. So if you engage the opposing force well enough, each one will have a challenging and rewarding fight. But more often than not, there isn’t enough slaughter to go around.

The group does gain regular group experience that levels up surviving party members. But, as established regarding the game's slow execution, level progression won’t be breaking any speed records.

Rainbow Moon also has a habit of throwing in systems and then giving the player spells that makes those systems inconsequential. Each of your characters has a hunger bar, which it never really addresses, but then there’s a spell that gives you fruit to eat. You also can carry around torches for when it get dark, or you could just use the “Magic Light” spell you're offered an hour into the game. So ultimately, these systems translate into you schlepping more items around without making the game more fun.

Upon first glance, Rainbow Moon seems like a lot of game for a $15 downloadable title. And after sinking nearly 25 hours into it, it is a lot of game. Unfortunately, we can’t vouch for how fun all that game really is. SRPGs are an inherently slow genre, but this one's long for all the wrong reasons. Instead of deliberately paced combat, the level progression crawls. It's imbalanced. Its systems negate themselves. Ultimately, the game doesn’t do much to make itself standout with a vanilla fantasy environment, minimal story and flat characters with no real personality. The game starts out at a tortoise’s pace and never gains any speed. It’s a 20-hour game that’s stretched out twice as long as it should be. If you are really hungry for some strategy fantasy fun this summer, consider other superior battles of wit in the PlayStation Store.

More Info

Release date: Dec 04 2013 - PS Vita (US)
Available Platforms: PS Vita
Genre: Role Playing
ESRB Rating:
Everyone 10+: Alcohol Reference, Fantasy Violence, Mild Language

Topics

Moon rainbow

5 comments

  • RonnyLive19881 - August 10, 2012 6:38 a.m.

    I love the DS version! Really it is the only version I've played, I really need to download the others but keep forgetting they are there Lol Has the 4th one made it to Vita yet? I'd also like to play the first one with more voice work... screw Valkyria Chronicles I',m just going to download all the Disgaea's on the Vita!
  • RonnyLive19881 - August 9, 2012 11:48 a.m.

    This game looks absolutely beautiful! I love SRPGs but if it has no story and it is just one giant grind I don't think I could take it :(
  • gamesradarclint - August 9, 2012 1:40 p.m.

    The graphics are pretty nice but I wasn't a fan of the art style, it was a little to angular for me. I don't mind the grind, it's just the game doesn't give you a lot of spells for your time. I was casting the same spells for 10 hours at a time.
  • RonnyLive19881 - August 9, 2012 2:05 p.m.

    That would be another turn off to me, I think I'm just going to go out and buy all of the Valkyria Chronicles and give them another shot(tried playing the first one last year and never got into it, I think I may of traded it in for Skyward Sword. Didn't give it a proper try before shelving it Lol) to satisfy my SRPG needs this year... Pokemon Conquest was and still is great(still playing it with friends) BUT it was way to easy to calm these cravings Lol, I need something as deep as Disgaea or Jeanne D'Ark.
  • gamesradarclint - August 9, 2012 5:32 p.m.

    Yeah I had a good time with Pokemon Conquest but I didn't think it was deep enough. I might have to pick up Disgaea on the DS again and beat it for the third time :P. I think some of the guys behind Disgaea are coming out with a few RPG's soon. Unfortunately I don't think they are SRPG's.

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