Developer: Sidequest Studios
Publisher: East Asia Soft
Release Date: 12/03/2013
I’ve had the PS3 version of Rainbow Moon sitting on my PS3 hard drive untouched since I purchased it back in July of 2012. I just had too many things to review and so it went on the backlog shelf. I’m a big SRPG fan though and with a price tag of fifteen dollars, purchasing it was a no-brainer. Rainbow Moon also turned out to be the swan song for Chuck Platt as it was the last game he ever reviewed before leaving us to concentrate on family and guitars. Unfortunately, Chuck really did not enjoy his time with Rainbow Moon, as you can see from his review of it. That review is also why I put the game off for so long. However, EastAsia Soft has ported the game to the Vita for a whole new audience and when they offered us a review copy, I decided to take it – partly because it was an excuse to finally play it and partly because if the game really takes 100 hours to do everything in it (There’s a trophy for logging 100 hours in the game. Insane.), I’d probably be the only one on staff to be able to get through it and review it before launch. So now that I’ve spent WAY TOO LONG on Rainbow Moon I have to say – Chuck Platt was right. This is one of the dullest most uninteresting SRPGs I’ve ever played and I’ve sat through everything from Hoshigami to the Luminous Arc series. It’s an extremely generic, highly linear affair and there are so many better options for the same price point on PSN that I am at a loss to see how anyone has enjoyed their time with this. The game is not horrible mind you – just simply lackluster in all respects. Let’s take a look at why.
The story of Rainbow Moon is that there really isn’t one. The game starts out with a great little animated cut scene describing the potential duel between two characters and how one is tricked into entering a portal to another world and how they must not find their way back. The narration voice was great, the story was intriguing and the visual presentation was impressive. Unfortunately, that setup cut scene is the high point of the game. From there, the game is one long fetch quest interspersed with some badly scripted text that feels like a modern day version of NES games written in Engrish. There is no character development. Allies just join you because you gave them bear or found them “Mojos.” And nothing is ever straightforward. You want to get back to your world? Well go talk to Character A, help him with Task B and then learn they can’t actually help you but you SHOULD DEFINITELY now go find Character C and help them with Task D. Repeat until dozens of hours of your life are gone. Generally SRPGs have the best stories in gaming as they have long, intricate story scenes, but not Rainbow Moon. It is literally just walking from one area to another, killing anything that gets in your way and doing fetch quests. At no point does the game feel like it is building to a climax with its narrative because there is no narrative. It is literally a game of NOTHING but fetch quests. Even worse, the game is exceptionally linear. The world is designed so you can’t pass through certain areas without doing the core story first. God forbid we offer exploration at all. Even the optional side quests that you can find and do in the game are designed so that you’ll encounter and complete them along your forced journey of doing the main storyline. It’s really quite sad as well as dull and boring. So you have a RPG that is more linear than some I’ve played back in the 8 and 16 bit era, along with a poorly scripted story and a complete lack of characterization. Considering most people play RPGs for the tales they tell…this is not a good start.
Visually, Rainbow Moon is okay. It’s not going to blow you away and there isn’t a lot of detail to the character designs (lots of reused models), but the world is bright and colorful, and unlike most SRPGS, protagonist models slightly change based on what you equip them with. Because this is a SRPG, there isn’t a lot of animation or high def cut scenes, but what’s here is definitely serviceable. The game is a bit lacking visually compared to other SRPGs for the Vita, like Disgaea 3, but that’s a full budget release while Rainbow Moon is a budget PSN title, so it’s both understandable and acceptable. Basically SRPG fans will be fine with the graphics of Rainbow Moon but I can’t see anyone being impressed by them.
The audio aspects of Rainbow Moon can be described in a similar fashion – what’s here is okay but nothing worthy of praise or declamation. There is no voice acting save for the narration, but again, this is a budget game so if you’re looking for some, you’re barking up the wrong tree. I honestly think voice acting would make the scripting in this game even worse though as having it read out loud would highlight just how poorly everything reads. The music in the game is fine. It’s a collection of generic high fantasy sounding tracks. They work as background noise but at no point will you be clamoring for a digital copy of the soundtrack of anything like that. In fact, most of the time, I just muted my Vita and played the game silently – allowing my mind to go Zen so that I could wade through the repetitiveness of the game. Another example of the game’s mediocrity. There’s nothing truly bad about the audio, but nothing praiseworthy either.
So let’s talk gameplay. Your protagonists (one at first, but you’ll have four by the ten hour mark) run around this world, killing monsters and doing fetch quests, slowly making your way to the end goal of getting home. There are two kinds of battles – those your trigger by touching enemies in the overworld and random battles. What’s nice is that random battles are entirely optional and you can ignore them if you choose (You get a trophy for doing fifty of them though). Both styles of battle lead to the same actual combat situation. Combat is a mix of the usual SRPG style grid based combat mixed together with some roguelike elements. Characters go in order of their Speed attribute, but if a character’s Speed it noticeably higher than another’s the character with the higher Speed might have two or even three turns before the opponent. On a character’s turn you get a set number of actions. Depending on the character and their level, the action might consist of a single turn, or several. Your options include moving a single square per action, attacking, using an item, using a skill or spell, or defending. Defending uses all your turns and escaping a battle uses no turns and is always 100% successful. So if a character has three actions per turn they could move, attack and defend, move three squares, attack three times or any other combination. The problem is that you have to choose your action from a scrolling menu and to get out of that action, you have to back out and choose again. Unfortunately sometimes the game doesn’t recognize that you tried to back out so if you went to move and then attack, you may end up moving twice instead. You really have to watch this as there is no rhyme or reason as to the game recognizing your command. This issue occurs rarely, but if it happens in a boss fight, you will probably take some damage.
Unlike most SRPGs, elevation does not come into play and the A.I of your opponents is terrible. Enemies often can’t figure out how to get around each other and sometimes they will waste there turn moving back and forth between the same two squares because there is an enemy in front of them. The game is exceptionally easy to plow through and the only time you will ever have trouble is if you get into an area where enemies are of a much higher level than your PCs and then you can just go back to a different area and grind to get to the appropriate level. The game actively encourages you to grind for hours on end, which is a big turn off to me (and a lot of RPG gamers to be honest). Again, if the combat was remotely interesting or the battles had a larger purpose, I wouldn’t be so disappointed, but this is the only SRPG I have ever encountered, where the majority of battles have nothing to do with the story and are just there for grinding purposes because the dev team couldn’t figure out how to slowly scale encounters. The end result is an extremely repetitive process that becomes even more dull thanks to a lack of any AI in your enemies. It’s just shooting fish in a barrel for 40-100 hours or whenever you get sick of the game – whichever comes first.
I should also point out that battle maps are randomly generated per battle ala a roguelike dungeon. As well, you have to manage the hunger of your characters in a manner similar to a roguelike. Unfortunately, Rainbow Moon is not a very good SRPG or roguelike and if anything the game takes the least interesting parts of each and combines them together, leaving the reasons why people like both sub genres of RPGs out altogether. The game is a bit of a sad mess, to be honest.
Due to the linear nature of the game, there’s no real replay value. The game wants you to put 100 hours into it if you want to earn the platinum, but there is maybe forty to sixty hours of actual content here. That means half your time with the game is just wandering around if you’re trying to platinum it. Worse, you can’t just leave your system on, as the in-game clock pauses if you don’t do something every thirty seconds. This means the game is pretty horrible for trophy hunters, SRPG fans and gamers in general. I can’t fathom who the audience for Rainbow Moon is, but apparently there are so fans of this thing out there. Starting a new game is pointless because you probably haven’t done everything in your first game and if you do start one, it’s the exact same experience as the previous game. I suppose you can allot your customization points in a slightly different manner, but even then the game gives each character a strict specific guideline for how they can be used towards each statistic, so you’re not really customizing anyone. The whole thing is an exceptionally long one and done affair as most gamers won’t bother to finish because it’s as tedious as it is padded out.
I’m still boggled at how this got any good reviews when it came out for the PS3 in the middle of 2012. Now it’s not a terrible game, just a poorly designed and exceptionally dull one than pales when compared to other SRPGs that you can get for roughly the same cost. There is little to no story, the battles are exceedingly boring, the A.I. is non-existent and the game is padded out so far that if you removed it all, the core storyline might be twenty hours long. The graphics and music are serviceable but far from impressive and the only things I can say that are truly positive about the game are that it is cheap and that random battles are completely optional. Otherwise, you can do so much better than slogging through Rainbow Moon. There are better RPGs for your Vita and better SRPGs for that matter. I guess if you’re desperate for a SRPG for your Vita, the sheer time you can put into Rainbow Moon means you’ll get your fifteen dollars out of it, but there are so many better and more enjoyable ways to spend your time, I just can’t recommend this to anyone. Rainbow Moon is far from a terrible game, but it is a subpar one in nearly all respects. It’s basically an example of how to do an extremely generic RPG in the dullest, least interesting way possible while still functioning fine in terms of mechanics.
Short Attention Span Summary
Rainbow Moon is a fine game technically and mechanically, but everything else about the game quickly falls apart. The story is threadbare and almost nonexistent. The battles are extremely repetitive and the A.I. is so bad, enemies can’t figure out how to get around one another. The game is so tightly linear that all you can do is go through the motions and the game is padded out to where you earn a trophy for logging 100 hours of time on the game when you’ll have done everything there is to do in the game long before that. Rainbow Moon is a perfect example of how to create an extremely dull and boring RPG and there are far better options for your Vita, even with the budget price of $15. It’s a shame too as I really wanted to like this but all I can think about is the sheer tedium and ennui the game left me with.