Rainbow Moon kind of came out of nowhere. A tactics style strategy RPG from the German developers of the space shooter Soldner X, Rainbow Moon didn’t have a particularly strong pedigree behind it or a lot of hype. A fan of tactics games since the days of X-Com and Tactics Ogre, I had to give Rainbow Moon a shot.
The initial thrust of Rainbow Moon is quite different from most SRPGs. A single character is under your control for the first few hours of the game, Baldren the knight. Baldren, or Nad as I name all my RPG protagonists, is a pretty generic all-arounder and as good a place to start the game as any. With only Attack and Move available at the start, even the earliest battles are a bit of a challenge, especially if you select the Adventuresome level of initial equipment.
The story is of the basic Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur’s Court ilk, but without any real hook. While the dialogue was occasionally cute, I was never drawn into or even interested in the plot. Everything basically boils down to fetch the dingus, get the key. No matter what you think of the overblown political intrigues of Final Fantasy Tactics, it was never so routine as this. I tried to find some reason to care, but without any sense of immediacy or danger, it was difficult to raise my blood.
There are two screens to navigate in Rainbow Moon: an overhead world map, reminiscent of Secret of Mana, and the isometric combat map that is de rigueur in SRPGs since Tactics Ogre. The overworld is lushly animated and looks quite nice. While there aren’t any real-time activities like jumping, there are plenty of hidden paths and well concealed treasure bags to seek out. There are both visible and invisible encounters in the overworld. Visible encounters take the form of monsters, usually moving in a set pattern that can be avoided. The level and number of enemies in the encounter are displayed prominently, which makes it easy to figure out if a fight is over your level. The invisible encounters pop up on the lower left-hand corner of the screen and are purely optional. Being able to choose when you enter combat is a welcome change from the random encounters that have been giving me PTSD since Final Fantasy.
The combat screen is pretty much what you would expect. Movement is seriously limited, especially early on, so there is a sort of tactical purity to Rainbow Moon that many modern SRPGs lack. This purity extends to the fact that battlefields are entirely flat, so elevation plays no part in combat. The majority of combat involved moving, attacking, and dropping some skills on your enemies’ heads, though Defend is essential in some of the tougher battles. Skills vary between very basic animations to full-screen explosions, not always correlating to the utility and damage inflicted. While even the 15 year old Final Fantasy Tactics is more intricate, Rainbow Moon‘s battles are still quite fun, though repetitive.
I was barely able to make it an hour in before I turned off the sound and started blasting Baroness. Maybe it is just the accumulation of 20 years of listening to RPG music, but I found little of value here. The good news is that the new Baroness record is amazing. In all seriousness, the music is passable, but it never approaches being memorable or even being worth a second thought. Since there is no voice acting of note, there really is no reason to leave the sound on.
Graphically, Rainbow Moon is interesting. The art style is a little odd, but pleasant. Everything has a sort of pseudo-manga look, but is decidedly Western looking. While I was never overwhelmed by the look of the characters, I found several of them, like Gorodo the Barbarian, to be distinct and memorable. The monster designs are quite nice, far outstripping the other designs. As I mentioned when discussing the combat, some of the Skills are real showstoppers, especially the first time you see them.
If there is one thing that seems to tie all SRPGs together, it is addictiveness. I hate to think how much better a human being I would be if I had spent the several hundred hours I used to beat Final Fantasy Tactics over and over to take some classes or something. SideQuest estimates that it will take something like 40 hours to beat the main quest in Rainbow Moon, with 100 hours being the estimate if you want to complete all of the sidequests. I think that number is a bit low, honestly. It wouldn’t be hard to throw 60 hours at your first trip through the game, particularly if you are a masochistic grinder, like I am. Unfortunately, the lack of a worthy storyline or characters that are even vaguely interesting makes it hard to justify putting any significant time into Rainbow Moon without being distracted. I cannot imagine being driven enough to complete this game.
Speaking of grinding, for some, the boss plateaus are going to be a deal breaker. Basically, as the game progresses, you will periodically run into bosses that are several levels higher than you are and they seldom come to play alone. This leads to a plateau, as you either throw yourself against the boss over and over, trying to get lucky or mercilessly grind your way to higher levels. For a certain breed of gamer, like me, a little grinding is seen as a good thing. It lets you build up your cash reserves and gain familiarity with the limits of your party. For others, this is an unforgiveable sin. A little grinding is good for the soul, I think, but to each their own.
Control and Gameplay: Good
Appeal Factor: Mediocre
FINAL SCORE: BELOW AVERAGE GAME
Short Attention Span Summary
I am not sure who the target audience for Rainbow Moon really is. For veteran SRPG players, Rainbow Moon is too simple to hold their attention. For SRPG newbs, there are better options on the PSN. It is impossible to recommend Rainbow Moon at $15 when Front Mission 3 is available from the same service for $6 and Final Fantasy Tactics is $10. If the story was interesting, if the combat was more sophisticated, then maybe. As it stands, Rainbow Moon is, at best, a mediocre time killer.
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