Who wants to get thrown through a portal and into a world of clashing steel, arrows thumping against leather and the distant rattle of undead skeletons? Rainbow Moon is a pristine medieval RPG originally released for the PS3 and Vita. Now it’s finally come to PS4 complete with Cross Save, and it’s gorgeous. The title certainly does this game justice, with colours brighter than any rainbow leading you to believe you’re about to play something cutsie. Fine, Rainbow Moon actually is mewing kittens, pinch-the-baby’s-cheeks, coochie coo cute, but those lovely and vivid cartoon-style graphics hide what is actually a proper grown-up, big boy, old-school RPG. Shove a dagger through the heart of the next fifty hours.
The first thing we need to talk about is the battle system. It’s the core of any RPG and probably the most important factor when considering a purchase. Generally when I read a review I get as far as ‘Baldrick’s Black Beaver IV is a turn-based—’ SOLD. Don’t need to read any further. Turn-based combat is the ultimate in strategic fighting. There’s a place for hack ‘n slash but it isn’t in a game like this. So, Rainbow Moon has a turn-based combat system. That’s all some of you need to know. Go off and buy a great RPG and have a tremendous time. For anyone who would like to know a little more, read on.
Battles earn you XP which in turn will raise your level and make you stronger etc etc. But to make things a little more interesting, a little more strategic and a lot more time consuming, any character who defeats an opponent in battle receives Rainbow Pearls. These pearls can be taken to the Savant where you can swap them for increased strength, defence, speed, luck, HP and MP. There’s a limit to how much you can raise these stats per level and if you want to spend more Pearls, you’ll have to wait until you have enough XP to hit the next level. It means that if you want to level up a character it’s not enough just to bring them along in your party; they actually have to do their bit in battle and finish off a few enemies. It adds an additional consideration when you’re planning out your attack.
Reaching certain levels will also give that character additional turns, which is very handy in a game where defence is of utmost importance. Movement costs a turn, using an item another, attack yet another and so on. Hitting a high enough level for at least three consecutive turns is like making it to the loo after a dodgy sausage roll. Oh the relief. Move, strike, defend. Lovely. Adding to your battle combat strategy is the ability to set any character as leader. As the game progresses you will also come across battle formation plans that can be set up in the Group tab in the main menu and will allow you to begin a fight with your characters in a particular spread and order.
Some battles are necessary to progress the story and access all areas of each map. After you’ve checked it’s a realistic fight, just walk into the pacing enemy to begin the skirmish. You will also encounter random battles as you roam about. The option to take part will flash up in the bottom left of the screen with details of level and how many enemies of each type. Press X to engage or just walk away. If you’re not a fan of forced encounters, this is ideal.
Aside from delicious turn-based combat, the best parts of an RPG are the upgrade and crafting systems. As well as earning XP and Rainbow Pearls, weapons and objects will also raise your stats. Win stuff in battle, pilfer it from bags and chests or buy it the old-fashioned way with Rainbow Coins also won in battle or pilfered from bags and chests. Weapons can be taken to a crafter and if you’ve also managed to buy or nick some materials, he will fit them into your upgrade slots. It’s not the most sophisticated system in the world, but it does feel very old-school and comfortable.
Other objects can be consumed directly by a chosen character to give permanent stat increases. This is a great way to give weaker characters a fighting chance, particularly if you’re struggling to win them any Rainbow Pearls. Also if you can start pumping any extra upgrades into a weaker character early on they can become formidable in battle later. For example, my archer, who I re-named after myself, was excellent at standing back and picking off the nuisances in the larger fights, leaving my ‘tanks’ to handle the fewer but more dangerous high level opponents. This way, everyone got some Rainbow Pearls. No boohoos here.
Skills are always an important part of any fight. You can buy new skills that can be assigned to appropriate characters and, joy and celebration, these can also be levelled up. Simply keep using them. You’ll use a lot of mana but visiting a healer will sort that out pronto of you’ve got a few Rainbow Coins going spare. He’ll also sort out your HP if you’re trying to save your potions for a sticky situation, and will revive your fallen teammates and cure any ailments. Being poisoned in battle is not only crippling, with huge amounts of damage dealt at the end of every turn, but you will also be damaged at frequent intervals afterwards. If you haven’t got an antidote, you’ll need to haul arse to the healer. Campfires will also heal your HP but you can only use these once a day, and they won’t touch your mana.
One more consideration as you explore and indulge in frequent fisticuffs is how hungry you are, and I don’t mean making sure your chocolate digestives supply is topped up before you pick up your controller. Each character needs to eat and drink if they’re to keep going. If you let them starve, they’ll start to take damage, so keep an eye on your food bars and if you haven’t got room in your inventory for a bun or a carrot found in an abandoned chest or during a fight, just eat it. It’s another stat to watch out for. It doesn’t cause much in the way of problems if you keep an eye on it, but I’m really not sure of the point. It doesn’t seem to add value to the gameplay. It’s just a little pesky.
Most RPGs require a grind and Rainbow Moon is no different. At the beginning of the game you’re asked to choose between Normal and Hard mode, and you’re lead to believe that Normal is an easy option. It isn’t, as such. It’s just plain Normal. You’ll have some grind and you’ll frequently meet enemies above your level. Go for Hard, though, if you’re looking for a proper challenge and a much longer grind. The option you choose really will depend on your playstyle. It’s a personal thing. Boss battles on Normal are challenging enough but not overly hard if you’ve spend a reasonable time engaging with the enemy beforehand and building adequate character stats, but if you like your RPGs hardcore, you’ve certainly got that option.
Rainbow Moon is a gorgeous old-school SRPG with turn-based combat and enough stats to satisfy a physicist. Battles are tactical and satisfying, and every environment is beautifully rendered. Cute graphics disguise a solid and serious RPG that will take upwards of fifty hours to complete. Put down Final Fantasy for a little while and paint the whole world with a Rainbow.
S J Hollis Rating – 9/10