Rainbow Moon is a hybrid. This PSN downloadable title successfully combines explorative dungeon crawling like Diablo with strategy RPG elements similar to Fire Emblem. Despite the combination’s cohesion, SideQuest Studios’ opus fails to delve into either genre completely; its limited narrative and unchanging core battle mechanic, although accessible, hold backs this game’s potential.
The realm created by SideQuest Studios is the western adaptation of chibi-style popularized by anime/manga. The world utilizes miniaturized models accented by a spectrum of bright colors. The characters, uninteresting as they are, look cute and have physical stylization that leaves their narrative component wanting. The abundance of environment variety illustrates the detail as the differences are clear from the snowfields to the beaches to the castle towns. Further, the soundtrack in Rainbow Moon acts sublimely to be an addition rather than an intrusion. Its subtlety reinforces the visual elements by setting the mode with simple rhythmic alterations depending on the environment and phase of the game. The art design adds that individual touch that the narrative needed and the depth that the battle mechanic lacks.
Rainbow Moon’s plot is as insignificant as the art design is elegant. Baldren, the protagonist, seeks to head home after being sent by his nemesis to the moon. At no point did I care whether Baldren was going to get home or who his companions were or why I was moving through town. The infrequent plot points crippled the pacing and, coupled with NPCs that were nothing more than standard fantasy troupes, failed to engage me in the world. For several hours of the game, I felt as if I were running errands for townsfolk for no other reason than because I was available, deceived by the promise that eventually I would be given information on how to return home. That eventuality took far too long to manifest. Even though my quests seemed aimless, the world itself was a joy to traverse.
SideQuest Studios is inconsistent in its approach to gameplay in Rainbow Moon— the components either feel underdeveloped or just right. I never felt the strategy RPG elements were fully fleshed-out. The game does a great job in teaching the player how to play several aspects of the game by introducing tutorials when necessary. Once all the lessons are taught, the battle system stagnates. I learned more skills, formations, and added different party members but the variation was moderate at best. Also, the enemies did not change as much as they got re-skinned. So as the game wore on, I felt like I replaying the save scenarios ad nauseam, save the boss battles. Initially the combat intrigued but eventually it became tedious. What kept me coming back was the interplay between the looting, leveling, and crafting system.
Rainbow Moon’s dungeon-crawling characteristics felt appropriate and worked wonderfully together. The loot I collected after a battle was used to upgrade equipment or sold. Enemies appeared on the screen but could also be encountered by random. I chose which random enemies I fought making loot acquisition and backtracking easier. In addition to utilizing crafting to buff stats, a character’s attributes can be increased by using the Rainbow pearls collected for downing enemies. The game gave me double the incentive to dungeon crawl and look for loot because even if I did not come up with the items I wanted at least I could still improve my character. This also helps with the difficulty, as I found myself adequately leveled for each dungeon because of the grinding I did.
Rainbow Moon’s genre amalgam is fun and expansive. Looting and grinding in a rich environment with rare equipment and side quests is fantastic. Baldren, in tandem with a static combat system, puts a damper on the experience, but given its $15 price tag, it is a phenomenal value.
Review based on Playstation 3 release.