After slaughtering your way through God of War with its sombre storytelling, and killing innocent old ladies and sucking their blood dry in the dark RPG Vampyr, it’s lovely to turn to something a little more sunshine-and-flowers. Rainbow Skies is a cute and colourful turn-based RPG from Eastasiasoft and it’s just gorgeous.
One thing Rainbow Skies doesn’t do is take itself too seriously. From beginning to end it’s fun fun fun all the way. Dialogue is wonderfully silly and it sets the tone of the entire game. The main characters are all a little quirky in their own ways and the predicament they find themselves in seems like it could only happen to them. Your party and the secondary characters and NPCs have a surprising amount to say, sometimes a little too much, so it’s fantastic that the game includes an option to skip the dialogue entirely. If you’ve had enough of your quest giver’s ramblings you can hit skip and effectively slap duct tape over their blubbering lips. While you’ll miss the finer details of what they have to say, your quests will still auto-update and tell you exactly what’s happened and what you need to do. Don’t expect a story of any particular depth here. Rainbow Skies has some wonderfully charming characters and the story and dialogue is packed tighter than a wrestler’s undies with humour, but there’s nothing dark and stirring here. Honestly it makes a nice a change. Not every game needs to pack an emotional punch. Instead Rainbow Skies spanks you silly with playful slapstick and daft jokes.
Bearing in mind the joyful storyline and funny, quirky characters you’d be forgiven for thinking the combat was going to be a full on walk in the park complete with sunhats and ice-cream cones. Nope. Expect a challenge and expect to be able to increase that challenge depending on your own personal tastes. The game explains at its beginning that you can play the main questline all the way through and not bother with the side quests. The theory goes that you can play through without grinding if that’s your style. Alternatively you can play the side quests and go off on as many mini adventures as you like. They can be tough but they’ll bump you up nicely. Does this then leave you over levelled for the main quest? No! Thanks to a simple but clever battle rank system you can visit particular shopkeepers and have your rank raised or lowered as you like, upping or lowering both the difficulty and the rewards received. A higher battle rank means combat is harder and a lot more profitable both with XP and items won.
Even at the lowest rank and playing just the main story, battles can be tense affairs and some need several attempts to conquer. You can’t just move into position, attack and expect to survive. Tactics and understanding the battle system is absolutely necessary. Certain enemies are resistant or vulnerable to particular attacks. Using the wrong character on the wrong enemy can be the entire battle’s downfall. No matter what your rank and level, the enemies can take huge chunks out of you. As you level up and are able to perform more than one action per turn, you may want to consider Defending. Looking at the turn order at the top of the screen and working out if you can dish out 3 devastating attacks without some sort of retreat is essential. You’ll also have better luck if you can work together. You need to take into account formation, skills, turn order, enemy placement and enemy attack areas. Your cute and colourful battle arena graphics are rather deceiving considering everything you have to think about. Rushing in, blindly throwing spells and haphazardly wafting your sword will often be punished with a complete party wipe-out.
You’ll need to keep stocked up with potions for the harder fights. Your potion bag will only hold so many, though, and you can buy further space in your bag as the game progress. A hard fight could very well empty your bag completely, especially if you get poisoned. If a character becomes poisoned he or she will lose a huge chunk of HP every turn for a limited number of turns. It can be devastating and a little too much of a harsh punishment for something that can be so hard to avoid.
If you’re a battle hound and like to embrace every random encounter an RPG can throw at you, rejoice! If you dislike the interruption random encounters can bring to your adventuring, rejoice! Encounters will pop up at the bottom of your screen and if you want to fight you click a button and if you don’t, just pretend you didn’t see it and carry on questing. It’s an awesome and simple system I wish more RPGs of this nature would employ. It’s all very well if you’re trying to level up but these games often have a point where all you want to do is get on and save the world without some dinky mushroom man challenging you to a round of fling the fungi.
The menus can be a bit overwhelming at the beginning of the game and the layout could do with a little tweaking. While the game does a great job of explaining and sometimes over explaining some mechanics there are other aspects it either doesn’t cover or it covers too late. The food bar functionality isn’t hugely clear and isn’t ‘officially’ explained until around eight hours into the game. There are little tutorial notes added as you go along but I would have preferred a menu and upgrade system that was a little more intuitive. No complaints about the Quest tab, however. Quests are clearly set out and a click of the square button within a quest listing will bring up an appropriate map with a location indicator.
Graphically Rainbow Skies is a delight. It’s bright, cheerful and cartoony and there are some gorgeous details in the lush grasses, swaying branches and burning campfires. Short cut scenes punctuate the narrative and they look just awesome. The maps aren’t big and it doesn’t take long to travel from one area to another but your short journeys are certainly good looking ones. It’s a tiny bit cramped on the Vita’s little screen but it’s a beautiful example of what a fabulous machine our treasured Vita still is and what delights it can run given the chance.
Rainbow Skies is a crocodile disguised as a fluffy puppy. It looks so cute and so sweet but oh boy it’s got a bite. Combat is tactical and challenging and not to be underestimated. Quirky storyline, peculiar characters, upwards of thirty hours of gameplay, and cross save, Rainbow Skies is a solid fantasy RPG with oodles of charm.
S J Hollis Rating – 8/10
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