With downloadable games becoming more and more prevalent, it’s difficult not to question each game’s value. Sure the game you buy may be absolutely mind-blowing but if you spent $10 or $15 on an extremely short game then you might still feel a bit cheated. The release of Rainbow Moon exclusively on the PSN has bypassed this worry completely with a $15 asking price and dozens, if not hundreds, of hours of gameplay. With that kind of value, the only question becomes whether or not it’s actually worth playing.
The basis of Rainbow Moon’s admittedly thin plot centers around Baldren, a swordsman who continually meets his rival in battle. During his travels to this appointed face-off, Baldren is pushed into a mysterious portal by this rival, and he is transported to the moon. Unlike most moons though, the Rainbow Moon is basically a miniature planet complete with towns, townspeople, dungeons, and seas. Baldren’s arrival also sparks the invasion of monsters all across the moon so he must find a way to get rid of the monsters, defeat his rival, and escape Rainbow Moon.
While this set-up could make for an interesting narrative, it’s pretty much thrown away from the very beginning. Baldren is a protagonist of the silent variety and none of the characters you meet make much of an impression. Others join Baldren as the story progresses, but they seem to lose their voice as soon as they join his party. With no strong characters to follow, the story devolves into a series of fetch quests that gradually move Baldren from place to place. It gets the job done, but it likely won’t motivate you to see what comes next.
Even though the plot may falter, gameplay is what matters most, and Rainbow Moon, at the least, starts off great. You traverse the world in typical RPG fashion, having to keep an eye on their party’s hunger, item management, and crafting choices. Monsters appear both randomly (which the game lets you ignore by declining the battle) as well as roaming the map, and cal also be avoided, though it’s trickier. However, battles play out like a turn-based strategy RPG, not terribly unlike other games of its kind. The biggest change deals with turn management. Rather than each character getting to move once per round, the speed stat determines how often each character moves. If you’re fast enough, you can take several turns in a row, making it one of the most important stats. Unfortunately, the strategy element of the battles is severely underplayed. Other than rock-paper-scissors element to weapons, hallmarks of the genre are left to the wayside. Back attacks aren’t possible and the maps rarely add new elements that force players to change their strategies. Enemies are also rather dumb as they can be baited into traps and easily killed with little forethought.
Winning these battles provides players with the typical loot and money, but Rainbow Moon also adds an element called Rainbow Pearls. These can be spent at a savant in order to increase the various stats. This is almost required as the basic level stats are too low to adequately face enemies in battle. And while experience is shared amongst the party, only the one who killed the enemy is reward with Pearls. It does a good job of forcing players to use each party member effectively. But these brings me to the main problem of Rainbow Moon: it’s dull. Battles start off fun and interesting in the way that skills and abilities are learned, but the sheer amount of grinding necessary to make any progress turns your mind to mush. Enemies may be dumb, but they also pack a wallop that almost requires players to grind for Pearls. And this is where the strategy-RPG element almost falters as these kinds of battles are rarely quick. There is plenty here for gamers who enjoy this kind of grinding and slow character progression, but most will be turned off by it.
It’s a shame too since the game does look quite good. Rainbow Moon utilizes a cartoonish style that helps the environments stand out. Character designs are a bit basic and movement is extremely stiff, but these are only minor gripes. The look reminded me of a more basic Torchlight though there’s a lot more variety to be found here. The soundtrack is also quite pleasing with a nice mix of battle and dungeon songs as well as some quieter pieces. The music never got old no matter how much grinding I was forced to do, which is quite the accomplishment.
In the end, Rainbow Moon offers a tremendous amount of value to those who are interested. The game may be grind-heavy and the plot nonexistent, but the gamers who aren’t bothered by that will find a game with plenty of customization options. There are secrets to find and tons of side missions to complete. It really is a full package, if you can manage to get past the monotony of it all. There’s plenty of potential here, but only for those that can stand to make the effort.
Developer: SideQuest Studios
Release: July 10, 2012
Available On: PlayStation Network (PS3)
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