Review: Rainbow Moon
While I’ve dabbled in Final Fantasy Tactics in the past the majority of my experience with SRPG’s revolves around the endless hours I’ve spent with Disgaea. I can’t say exactly what I expected of the quality of Rainbow Moon but I distinctly remember seeing some rather large numbers in early screenshots and letting my mind think particularly of the absurd levels reached in Disgaea. It’s been clear for a while that Rainbow Moon would aim to capture an old school RPG feel while also being a real grind-fest. There’s nothing wrong with that. In fact I really do enjoy games that can get grindy as long as they’re smart about the pacing within the game. Unfortunately Rainbow Moon is extremely slow paced throughout the entirety of its sixty-plus hour campaign which, among many other things, leads to what has to be one of the most boring adventures I’ve been on in quite some time.
Rainbow Moon kicks things off with a brief intro in which Baldren, the game’s silent protagonist, enters a forest to engage in a duel with his arch nemesis Namoris. Naturally Namoris catches Baldren off guard and knocks him into a portal that’s connected to a world known as Rainbow Moon. Upon waking up Baldren is unsure of what happened to him, where he is and why hundreds of monsters followed him out of the portal. This is honestly the only bit of story that I encountered in the first twenty hours of the game. To say that the story in Rainbow Moon is nonexistent would be a bit of an understatement. Sure it’s there but throughout the sixty hours I spent with the game it just felt like no one was really even trying. It doesn’t take long to realize that you are in Rainbow Moon to fulfill fetch quest, after fetch quest, after fetch quest and when the story has almost wrapped up you’ll be tasked with one more giant…fetch quest.
I’ve heard other games referred to as giant fetch quests before but Rainbow Moon takes the cake. It’s almost absurd in a way. One moment in particular stands out above the rest. At around ten hours into the game I was able to rent a raft and cross over to a new continent. There I met a character that, because I had seen screenshots of the game, I knew would eventually join me. Unfortunately this particular guy had lost his weapon and due to this fact had become the biggest wimp on all of Rainbow Moon. After tracking down his weapon and returning it to him I was alerted that I hadn’t found the full weapon and now needed to go fetch more items to complete the entire weapon allowing him to fight once more. After a few more hours I finished off a boss fight and obtained the final item I needed. After doing all of this for him, after spending six hours within the game wandering around to find his weapon instead of receiving thanks this particular character turns around and says, “Well I have to fight you now.” This becomes a pretty big theme for the first twenty or so hours of the game. People do not like or trust you and because of this you must fetch items for them and do boring favors just to earn their trust. There’s no story progression, even characters who join your party suddenly become silent once they’ve become part of the team and on top of all of this you’ll spend these first twenty hours without any clue as to what is supposed to be happening.
At the point in which some sort of story peaks its head into the game you just realize that it does nothing but give reason to send you on what amounts to two giant fetch quests before allowing you to leave Rainbow Moon. Before I get into the mechanics behind the combat in the game and the plethora of other things that’s going on within Rainbow Moon I want to make clear that the lack of a story is not what makes Rainbow Moon a bad game. Does it have a role to play? Sure. That said it could have still been fine without a story if the other facets of the game were still great. Unfortunately they are not and so the monotony of doing fetch quest after fetch quest for sixty hours makes getting through Rainbow Moon feel like the worst kind of chore.
From the outset Rainbow Moon starts out as a very basic SRPG. For the first few hours you’ll spend combat doing very basic moves. In fact it will be some time until you can actually move and attack in the same turn. Combat is based around a turn based combat system that builds off a specific amount of sub-turns that each player and monster has. You’ll begin the game with one sub-turn meaning that each move you’ll be able to preform a single action. As you level up you’ll earn more sub-turns allowing you to do more things per turn. Battles take place on a grid, the map is always a flat surface and usually has just a couple obstacles that don’t really provide any sort of cover for you.
Rainbow Moon’s battle system isn’t bad. I wouldn’t say that it’s great but it’s serviceable and does provide at least a few cool ideas. That said there are things about it that absolutely drive me insane. It might sound picky but Rainbow Moon doesn’t ask you to confirm any of the actions that you make in battle. I’d be the first to say, “Well I’m sure you’ll get used to it,” but that’s just not the case here. I consistently throughout the entire game found myself yelling ‘NO!’ at the television because once again I accidentally selected Defend instead of Skill. I know that this sounds like I’m nitpicking at things but I honestly wouldn’t bring it up if it didn’t become such a big deal throughout my time with the game. I lost numerous battles from things like this happening. The absence of any sort of “Confirm” action seemed bizarre to me from the outset and it didn’t take long for me to find myself wishing endlessly for it to be there. The battle arena also has no grid overlay that you might have come to expect from SRPG’s. This is less of a big deal to me but rather it would have been nice simply to improve the user interface. This mainly becomes noticeable when you’re moving a ranged attack character and trying to line up shots. Nothing major but certainly noticeable on a few occasions.
Eventually battles in the game can grow to be rather complicated. Although I’d argue for the wrong reasons. What you’ll find is, aside from worrying about status ailments, Rainbow Moon has a knack for sending you into battle with a map filled with upwards of thirty of more enemies. As far as normal difficulty goes the enemy AI within the game is dumb. They’ll either run towards one particular party member and attack or they’ll just walk around the map without really trying. There’s even ways to use the lack of intelligent AI to your advantage against some of the tougher bosses in the game. For instance while in a battle enemies, once defeated, will sometimes drop a bag of items. This bag will remain on the field until you walk over it. Because enemies can’t walk through bags you can leave these laying on the field and the enemy AI won’t know what to do with itself. For a handful of bosses I left these bags on the field and they couldn’t reach me. So I stood back and used ranged attacks for a few turns until I eventually won. While this can feel like cheating at times I honestly wonder if it’s not what they expected you to do. One boss in particular I’m confident I would not have managed to beat without using this strategy. This is due to the fact that this boss had so many sub-turns and such a high attack it’d be difficult to survive without exploiting dropped treasures on the map.
On top of this much of the challenge in Rainbow Moon comes in two forms. You either have an enemy that feels over powered just for the sake of being over powered or you have battles of 25 plus enemies that are only difficult due to the sheer amount of enemies attacking you. The result is that most of the time you’ll end up bringing in massive amounts of healing items to use throughout the battle. Which won’t be the only thing you’ll need to be sure to keep in stock.
As you traverse Rainbow Moon there are two things you’ll need to keep checking periodically. First is your hunger level. Each character’s hunger level will decrease over time and once it reaches 0% they’ll start to lose health. There’s no reason this should even be in the game. I understand that there’s an old school feel that’s trying to be captured here with this game but adding a hunger level does absolutely nothing for Rainbow Moon. In fact it makes traversing the world even more of an annoyance. You’re constantly trying to refill your stock of food and when you run out its time to walk back into town to buy more. It’s not even like you lose much health when your hunger reaches zero. The point is its presence adds just one more annoyance to the game and it adds nothing good by being there. (I eventually found a passive skill that I could equip that negated hunger from the game. Unfortunately this happened literally right before the final boss encounter.)
In that same vein you’ll also want to be careful about keeping a good stock of torches on you. Whenever night falls on Rainbow Moon or when you’re in a dungeon you’ll suddenly find that you can barely see anything. Lighting torches will help this but only for a very small amount of time. So, just like with food, you’ll find yourself constantly buying more torches and keeping track of how many you have just so that you can see. This isn’t nearly as bad as hunger but it still serves to be quite annoying in the opening hours of the game. It doesn’t take long until you find a skill in the game that casts light. This skill can be upgraded pretty quickly and you won’t have to worry about torches from there. Just know that for the first ten or so hours of the game you’ll be relying very heavily on torches.
Traversal around Rainbow Moon takes place in an open world in which you can explore, discover villages, side quests, dungeons and monsters roaming around the world. You’ll travel through forests, mountains, snowy regions, volcanoes and deserts. Due to the map being setup in a maze-like fashion it can be a little annoying to navigate. In quite a few occasions I found certain pathways nearly impossible to see due to the camera angle given and maze-like pathways blocking my view. And while the world itself isn’t exactly huge the slow speed in which you walk across the map makes going back and forth between dungeons and villages really boring. There are warp points located throughout the world that are unlocked about half way through the game but I would have preferred to see all of them located inside the village instead of a few warp points that are placed almost as far away from the village as possible.
Encounters on the map, as far as I’m concerned, are one of a couple of things that Rainbow Moon does really well. As you walk across the map you’ll find numerous enemies walking around the map as well. Some in predetermined routes while others are blocking specific passages. Walking up to one of these enemies will give you the level that they are at as well as how many enemies are in the battle. There are also random battles that will periodically show up on the side of the screen detailing the enemies in the battle. You can then choose if you want to fight that battle or ignore it. I thought these were nice touches and also a good way to handle random encounters. In fact a lot of the presentation within Rainbow Moon is pretty good. The menus especially are well organized and easy to navigate. Graphically I think the world of Rainbow Moon looks nice. That being said I think the character and enemy designs are rather ugly (it also doesn’t help that the majority of enemy designs are just color re-skins) but if nothing else the world you’re exploring is varied and looks good. In addition to that Rainbow Moon does actually have a really nice soundtrack with some great battle music. It’s honestly one of the few parts I really enjoyed about the game.
Rainbow Moon has a level cap of 999. Skills that you learn can also be leveled up as you use them and also contain a similar level cap. There were quite a few moments where I saw a monster on screen that was a rather absurdly high level. Most dungeons even have areas that you can’t access until you’ve finished the game. One of the biggest issues I have with Rainbow Moon is the incredibly slow pace that it works with. Leveling up characters takes a very long time. When you finish a battle you’ll get experience and you’ll get rainbow pearls. The catch is that only players who land the finishing blow on an enemy will get rainbow pearls. When you level up you can go to a Savant who will take your rainbow pearls and upgrade stats like Strength, Defense, Speed, Luck, Health and Magic. This quickly becomes a pretty big problem for characters who don’t join your party until well into the game. What happens is this. You can play normally and have new characters to your party, simply due to them being much weaker than you, barely earning any rainbow pearls or you can try to grind out rainbow pearls with these characters. This is certainly possible but it’s really dull and takes more time that it’s worth. It got to the point where, because you can only use three characters at once, I hardly touched the fourth, fifth and sixth character to join my party simply because it’d be too much of a hassle to get them to my level. On top of this the pearls needed for health and mp increases will likely mean that you’ll either have really low health throughout the majority of the game (which really sucks in boss fights where the boss gets five to six sub-turns) or you’ll spend endless hours grinding for rainbow pearls if you really want more health.
What ends up happening due to just how slow leveling up takes is you’ll find that you hardly ever feel like you’re really making any sort of progression. You’ll also go through numerous dungeons handling the enemies without much of a sweat only to come up to a boss that completely dominates you because he’s got five sub-turns and can hit for three hundred-plus damage each sub-turn. Also by the way you only have around five hundred hit points so good luck. Without the DLC, which I’ll get into shortly, you will need to grind. That said I feel like Rainbow Moon wants to be this huge grindfest without actually understanding what makes grinding enjoyable. Instead of having fun grinding out levels and really feeling like I’m making my characters stronger. It takes way too long to achieve that feeling in the game and what I was left with on numerous occasions was just feeling really bored. After the main quest leveling is supposedly much faster but it seems sort of pointless to me. If it takes you sixty hours to get to the point in which your game is finally paced fast enough to make it enjoyable why even bother? All slowing things down does for the main quest is make playing the game really dull.
This of course can be fixed if you just hand over some extra cash and buy some DLC which Rainbow Moon has a LOT of. I had access to a lot of the larger bundles of money and rainbow pearls for my save file. One thing this included was a couple rings that, when equipped, allowed me to level up faster. Conveniently enough this made the pacing of leveling feel MUCH better. I also acquired a large amount of rainbow pearls that allowed me to max out stats with each level achieved and made bosses with a handful of sub-turns feel much more fair. I’d like to say that the DLC isn’t required to play through this game, and I’m sure some people can probably get through it without any DLC, but I personally can’t imagine completing this game without the DLC. Without it I’d likely still be somewhere on Rainbow Moon stuck grinding out levels bored out of my mind. So I suppose that’s the problem. Sure the DLC is optional but I feel as if certain aspects of the game were reduced just to make the DLC possible in that respect.
Unlike the rainbow pearls that can be acquired in the game the two rings that boost experience from the DLC to my knowledge can’t be found in the game. At least throughout the main quest I couldn’t find any sort of mention of them. There are other rings and accessories to be found but none with that sort of affect. On that subject I found the character customization to be lackluster at best. You’re not really given much of an option as to what you should be equipping. Each new vendor will have a new weapon that happens to be a little stronger than the last one you bought and the same applies to armor. You’re not really finding new equipment throughout the world to equip and customize to your liking. You can attach specific items to each weapon and armor to increase its stats however which is nice.
If you complete all of the side quests in Rainbow Moon you’ll be well over one hundred hours spent. (The game even lets you upload all of your data to their website to show off your stats to others. Although it would have been nice to be able to view uploaded data in-game rather than going to their website.) At fifteen dollars I’m sure a lot of people will want to jump in and say how great of a deal that is. I understand the logic behind that but after spending sixty six hours that I won’t be getting back that’s a statement I simply can not agree with. It’s the reason why earlier in the year I firmly held a stance that something like Journey, while only being two hours long, was absolutely worth the fifteen dollar price point because the content itself was just that good. I’m sure it’s tempting to buy Rainbow Moon for such a low cost when other SRPG’s tend to be on the higher end of the pricing scale. That being said Rainbow Moon’s content is not good enough to back up the investment. There are much better SRPG’s out there that, even if they cost more, will give you far more enjoyment and most likely the same amount of playtime.
It’s easy to see what Rainbow Moon is going for. In a lot of ways I feel like a sequel could hit the mark if they went about fixing a lot of what’s wrong with this first entry. That said it just feels grindy for the sake of being grindy. It does numerous things that prove to be major annoyances throughout the course of the game and the game’s fetch quest mentality wears thin after just a few hours of play. Despite seeming cheap for the amount of content you’ll get I simply can not recommend Rainbow Moon. There are far better SRPG’s out there and if that means you’ll have to pay a little more than fifteen dollars than I think it’s worth it because at least then you’ll be having fun.
A copy of this game was provided by the publisher for review purposes. For more info on our review policy click here. This review is for the PlayStation 3 version of the game.
What I Like:
- The handling of random encounters
- World looks nice
What I Dislike:
- Very slow paced leveling
- Fetch Quest: The Game
- Over a hundred hours of content that fails to be anything more than boring
- Doesn't feel like effort was put into making a story.
- No "Confirm" action in battle
- Enemy AI is really dumb
- Rainbow Pearls only going to one character per enemy
- Really slow movement speed on the world map