Hi Ho, Hi Ho, It’s Off To Grind I Go...
Written by Super User
Published Monday, 10 September 2012 20:00
Sooooomwheeeerrrrreeee over the rainbow, waaay up hiiigghh......whoops! Sorry, everytime I think of rainbows, Judy Garland’s venerable classic performance in The Wizard of Oz always comes to mind (along with Israel Kamakawiwo’ole’s version; the only rendition to ever go toe-to-toe with Garland’s). But I digress. Rainbow Moon has nothing to do with depression era stories and everything to do with good old fashioned tactical RPGs. Can it live up to its heritage?
If you are sitting there thinking “Rainbow what?”, I wouldn’t fault you. This one came out of nowhere, for the most part, arriving on PSN will little fanfare and none of the balloons and confetti that those with larger stacks of marketing cash. However, while it may not have been a huge attention-grabber when it made its digital debut, tactical RPG fans may not want to let it slip by. It has its flaws, but there is some true enjoyment to be found as well.
"If you are a fan of the classic experience grinding and snail’s pacing design principles of yesterday, Rainbow Moon has a lot to offer."
The tale doesn’t break any new ground, and as it goes on, you’ll find that the narrative never really elevates itself to be something more than the sum of its parts. Boy and rival battle. Rival launches boy into portal. Boy finds himself on a remote moon, and unfortunately a bunch nasty monsters came with him. So boy sets off to rid the celestial body of the baddies, helping the local populace in the process, and hopefully finding a way home.
The hero, Baldren, begins in information-gathering mode. Heading out to the first town he comes across, he discovers the monster menace was somehow tied to his arrival, so he sets out to make things right. Sadly, this is where the biggest issue for Rainbow Moon kicks in: Tedium. The journey will be full of various quests, both mainline and secondary, but neither of them ever amount to anything more than fetch quests. This a title that could easily carry you through 100 hours of gameplay, yet the narrative does little to hold one’s attention, and the questing is an arduous to-do list of “get this and bring it back to me” directives. So that just leaves the gameplay...
Here’s where we begin to see a glimmer in the sky...and more of the dark clouds hanging over the rest of the package. All the typical facets of SRPGs can be found here, with grid-based combat, character leveling, the acquisition of party members, and plenty of magic, abilities, and gear. It takes a little bit, but things begin to open up considerably once sub-turns come into play. In addition to their standard turns, many characters, both playable and enemy NPCs, will have the ability to perform multiple tasks in the process of a single turn. For example, you can stage an attack, then move to a new square, then attack again. It does a good job of expanding the strategy, and adding additional layers to the chess-like battles. Again, for the most part. There is a bit of a hiccup in terms of the effectiveness of the whole sub-turn mechanic. Multiple party members and low-end foes end up dragging out battles much longer than necessary. Fighting eight evil bees a dozen times back to back when you can slaughter each one with a single pull of your bow or swing of your sword harkens in the same tedium that the quests are plagued with.
So why am I fighting so many hordes of bugs and other non-lethal critters? Because there’s a balancing problem with Rainbow Moon. Most battles are either incredibly easy, to the point of boredom, or so tough that death is imminent. The answer for progression is the old tried and true grindage. I thought we had put that artificial busy-work mechanic to bed years ago. Sadly, it rears its ugly head here, and you will find yourself spending more time grinding levels than you will actually progressing the storyline.
There are six playable party members, but since you are limited to three, odds are you will never use most of them. New characters are painfully under-powered, arriving many levels under the current party. This just adds to the grind, as Pearls (the in-game skill currency) are gained only by characters who actually make the kill. Players will ultimately find themselves spending all their time trying to apply their strategies to build their party, instead of efficiently defeating their opponents. Standard level experience is distributed to all, but even that is slow going, and it’s the Pearls that you really want so you can better your character’s attack, defense, health, etc...
At least the visuals are pleasant to eye, so you have something to look at while you sit for hours on end beating down your foes. Vibrant and colorful, Rainbow Moon’s art style is reminiscent of the days of yore, with exaggerated bodies and heads, and well varied environments. The audiowork also reaches back to the old school, although nowhere near as memorable as games like the Final Fantasy franchise brought us back then.
Rainbow Moon isn’t all bad. If you are a fan of the classic experience grinding and snail’s pacing design principles of yesterday, Rainbow Moon has a lot to offer. And even for those of you who are just entering the genre, there’s plenty of hand-holding, which makes it very accessible, not unlike what Final Fantasy Mystic Quest gave budding SNES RPG players back in the day. But, that does not make Rainbow Moon a great game. Tedium permeates the entire experience, with loads of level grinding and fetch quests. The developer did try to add some variation, adding a food system, and torches for lighting, but then not long into the game, they make it moot by introducing magic that circumvents it. That’s pretty much the overall theme here. Lots of potential that gets negated by incredibly poor pacing, a flat narrative, and balance issues everywhere you look. Rainbow Moon is a tough recommendation to make, and if you do decide to pick it up, since it is inexpensive considering what you get, be ready for to spend a lot of time spinning your wheels.
Release date : 2012-07-10
Publisher : EastAsiaSoft
Developer : SideQuest Studios
Gameplay : Tactical role-playing game
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