Welcome to our very first Request Review! The first time we got an email with a review request was about two weeks ago.
This review is dedicated to Bradon Fredrickson.
Taking a look at the PlayStation Vita’s library, there are a lot of things the system has, but also a lot of things the system does not have. If you talk to the communities, one of the biggest genres that people want more of on the system are Role-Playing Games. The system has gotten quite a few new games of the genre recently, but there is a big lack of RPGs on the system, especially of the Tactical variety.
Tactical, or Strategy RPGs (SRPG) are especially limited on the system. The genre consists of games like Final Fantasy Tactics, Tactics Ogre, Fire Emblem, Disgaea, and others. The Vita currently has a couple games of the genre, notably Disgaea 3: Absence of Detention, but is mostly barren of others.
Indie Developer Side Quest Studios has endeavored to change that. One of the more recent large Indie titles that released on both the PlayStation 3 and the PlayStation Vita is from them, and is titled Rainbow Moon. This game is their attempt at making a huge RPG for the PlayStation ecosystem and bring in SRPG fans everywhere. Did they succeed, or is it a poor Indie experiment? Let’s find out. Here is our official review of the Indie Game, Rainbow Moon.
The storyline of Rainbow Moon follows a warrior named Baldren. As the game begins, Baldren is on his way for a periodic clash with his rival, another warrior named Namoris. Confident, he is on his way to the fight when something strange happens. A mysterious portal opens near him and he investigates it. As a seeming stream of bad luck hits him, Namoris is nearby and shoves him into the portal and he seems lost from the world.
When Baldren comes to, he finds himself on a planet known as Rainbow Moon, taken there by the portal, along with hordes of monsters. With the locals blaming Baldren for the monsters attacking them, Baldren must travel through the world of Rainbow Moon, prove his innocence, and find a way back home.
The plot and story of Rainbow Moon aren’t the best in the genre, but they work for what they are. Story progression is very different in Rainbow Moon than most Japanese RPGs. Instead of including cinematic, emotional cutscenes, the game’s story progresses similarly to that of a Western RPG. When you travel, you talk to NPCs and they give you quests, based on story events. There are no cinematic scenes. Just small conversations, mostly referring to what you need to do next.
While none of the NPC conversations are particularly exciting and enthralling, the characters you collect in your party are a little more interesting. There is some comedy thrown into the mix every once in awhile with NPCs, and that, along with the mystery of the items you collect as you progress really helped drive me through the game.
Rainbow Moon is a Strategy RPG, but it’s not like most Strategy RPGs. If you’re familiar with the genre, then you know some things about the main formula. This is especially the case with games like Disgaea or Final Fantasy Tactics. Most of the gameplay just takes places on stages where battles take place. In Disgaea, in particular, you can roam around your home base, but everything else is stage after stage. There is no huge world map to explore, on your own.
Rainbow Moon changes things with this. While you’re in the game, you do have a huge World Map to explore. You begin at the Portal, and you can roam around through fields, dungeons, towns, and more. This is like a standard RPG, but not something the SRPG genre is used to. You can roam around areas, talk to NPCs, buy from shops, open Bags and Chests for items, and find random battles to get into.
NPCs, fighting, and exploring take the biggest tasks. To progress the game, you need to find specific NPCs (which are marked on your map) and you slowly unravel the story as you discover new areas and start collecting artifacts to get yourself home. It is a process of doing quests given by the NPCs and getting to new areas by fighting enemies that block your path, getting items, getting items back to NPCs and progressing forward. This is a process that generally repeats itself for the entire game, with exploration taking a big part.
The exploration takes two forms. There is walking and there are rafts. Walking will take you across land and rafts take you across water. To use a raft, you need to rent on from a shop in a town and then they will give you a raft to use. You can then jump in the raft and sail as far as you can. They don’t go into deep water, but will travel on shallow water. When you get to a shore, you can exit the raft and explore the island or continent that you have found.
Other than the Raft Shops, there are other things to do inside towns. There are shops for weapons, armor, scrolls, healers, items, taverns, and Crafting. Weapons and Armor can be equipped to each of your characters, so long as they’ve used scrolls to enable them all. Weapons and Armor come as Weapons, Head Armor, Body Armor, Rings, and Amulets. Rings and Amulets can only be equipped if a character has used a scroll for a Ring Slot or Amulet Slot, which unlocks it to be used.
Another part of equipment is Crafting. Once you have found the first Crafting Shop, you can upgrade your weapons and armor with materials you find from monsters you fight. Each piece of equipment has a specific number of material slots, which is how many times you’re allowed to upgrade. Each material upgrades equipment in different ways. Some increase strength, some increase HP, and some increase many stats. As you scroll through your list, you will need to decide which stat increases you want before crafting, as it cannot be undone.
Scroll shops are there for buying scrolls to use to gain skills. There are Active and Passive skills, and each character has to learn the skills on their own. You can’t learn one skill on one person and expect everyone to know it. Active Skills are Attack skills, which give your characters skills to use in battle, which are all unique for each character. Passive Skills range from giving a character resistance to status ailments to being able to activate them on the map to give you items or bring a light for you in dark areas.
Healers and Taverns are there to, well, heal you. Healers are everywhere around the World and you pay them to restore your Health (HP), Magic Points used for skills (MP), revive fallen allies, and remove long-term status ailments like Poison or Daze. Taverns and Camps serve the same purpose. Although, these can only be used once per day (time passes in the game going from day to day), they completely heal you.
Speaking of time, time passes each day. Every time you take a step in the game, time passes, which is shown at the top-right corner of the gameplay screen, both in and out of battle. Various days will go by, and these days should be used to your advantage. For example, when there is a Holy Day, your skills will do more damage in battle, and on a Beast Day, monsters will do more damage to you. So, when you are about to go into big fights, do note what day it is and use it to your advantage.
Days going by also affects other things. As you progress through the game, you will find enemies blocking paths that you will have to fight, which take place in another screen. There are also random fights that pop up as you walk around. These pop up as prompts on the bottom of the screen, detailing which enemies are in it and how many enemies there are. You can press the X button to enter this battle, or just keep moving and ignore it. When it is night-time, these battles are normally much larger, with larger amounts of enemies.
Battle is the biggest thing that SRPG fans will be familiar with. When you go into a battle, whether it be a normal encounter, random encounter, or a Boss fight, you are taken to a grid plane similar to the environment you are exploring and your party and the enemy part will be placed and take turns moving and fighting one another.
Each character has a specific amount of turns they can use for each round, and each time you move a single tile, attack, use an item, change equipment, and more uses a single turn. You start out with a small amount of turns, but as you play the game and level up from experience gained from winning, you gain more turns to use per round. This is also bound to each character. Some characters gain turns before others.
Each skill has its own level and its own range. You should pay careful attention to what kind of range each one has, so you know where to go to initiate an attack. Once you use a turn, you cannot un-use it. If you accidentally move in the wrong direction, it’s done and you cannot go back. Some skills will target directly in front of you, and some to the side, and some can target several tiles ahead of you. You should experiment with them as some of the ranges can move, especially for long-range skills. They have levels in the aspect that they gain experience every time they’re used and can level up and do more damage.
Unlike most SRPGs, you only get a party of three members in each battle. Another thing to get used to is that you will generally be outnumbered in pretty much every battle. This could mean it is three of you versus ten enemies, or it could mean three of you versus twenty-eight enemies. Battles can look really intimidating, sometimes, but the idea is to be patient and find a strategy to win. Patience is key, not only in battle, but in the entire game.
When you win a battle, you earn experience and getting enough experience lets you level up. You also get items, money, and Magic Orbs at the end of a battle. Magic Orbs are useful because they’re used to boost your stats. Each time you level up, you get Stat Boost slots and, as an Upgrade Shop, you can use Magic Orbs you’ve obtained to increase your stats. Each level increases how much you can increase those stats, so getting lots of Magic Orbs is important, as if leveling up, as the difficulty of this game spikes very often.
With all the difficulty spikes in the game, you have to grind, a lot. This means fighting battle after battle after battle to level up and become strong enough to handle the next major battle or Boss Fight. This could mean fighting for twenty minute, or it could mean fighting for two or three hours. This will get old fast, so the game has given you some options to help you along, in the form of the game’s Store.
The Store is on the Main menu and takes you straight to the PlayStation Store, where you can buy additions to help you. No, I’m not talking about using in-game money. I’m talking about using real money, as if it were Downloaded Content. What you can buy are various packs that include money, magic orbs, accessories for characters, and more. While these mostly aren’t expensive, it is a bit of a shortcut, and even then, it doesn’t take away from the difficulty of the game. It just takes away some of the grinding you may have to do.
Finally, saving the game is one of the nicest parts of the mechanics. If you’re not in the middle of a battle, you can save your game anywhere. The game even encourages you to save the game right before a Boss Fight, in case it doesn’t go so well for you. It also supports Cross-Save, so you can upload your save data to Rainbow Moon’s server. This is a handy feature, as this can be loaded on either the PlayStation 3 and PlayStation Vita versions of the game.
As far as length is concerned, the main quests, without doing the boatload of side-quests available, will take you at least somewhere between 30 and 50 hours, depending on is you use the Store or not. After that, post-game content opens up. If you want to do everything there is to do, you will be spending up to a hundred hours or more. There is a lot to do in the game and, if you get into the battle system, you will be busy for a long time.
Controls for this game aren’t too complex. First of all, the touchscreen and Rear Touch Panel will not be used. All of the controls of Rainbow Moon are handled with the buttons on the system, and even then, not all of the buttons will be used.
Movement is done with both the D-Pad and Left Analog Stick. The Start Button pauses the game, which also brings an interesting point. If you are playing the game and set the Vita down for something or just don’t do anything for so long, the game will automatically pause the game for you. The X button is used for Confirming options in the menus as well as interacting and talking with NPCs. The Circle button takes you back, the Triangle button opens up the Menu, and the Square button pulls up the World Map.
All in all, the controls aren’t too hard to get down. If you’ve played JRPGs before, you’ll be able to catch onto it pretty quickly. The lack of touch controls is nice, so you don’t have to worry about your finger grazing over the touch screen and doing something you don’t want it to do.
How does the game look? Well, there are a lot of games that are on both the PlayStation 3 and the PlayStation Vita. The last one of these games that we reviewed was flOw, which looks mostly the same, but a little smoother and more fluid on the PS3. There were some jagged edges on the models in that game that were not present in the PS3 version of the game.
Rainbow Moon is mostly the same, but it’s harder to tell. If you look really close, you can see some imperfections in the character models. However, with how the game is angled, above everything, the camera is far enough away from the models that you can’t really see those imperfections, if you’re not looking for them. They did that very smart to make the game look a lot more fluid and crisp.
In general, the game is very colorful and offers a wide variety of beautiful terrains, from deserts to fields to mountains to snowfields. Everything is very detailed and every skill animation looks flashy and beautiful. It’s not the most visually impressive game on the system, but it looks very nice and smooth.
The music of the game is also done quite well. It sounds almost as if there were a symphony right there in the studios where they did their recordings. A lot of the tracks of the game I found stuck in my head day end and day out after I played the game. It had a very good impact on me and was very unique. It is fast-paced and exciting, but it has a uniqueness about how the tempo flows with it. They did it well and made it memorable.
All in all, Rainbow Moon is a fun, grindy quest-based SRPG for the PS3 and the PS Vita. While you must be very patient with the game and the difficulty spikes are rather large, the game provides a great challenge and SRPG fans looking for something to test their strategic minds will find a lot of content in this title to last them weeks and more.
The PlayStation Vita Review Network Rates Rainbow Moon an 8/10.