When I was in high school, I used to sit and listen to the radio often. During that time period, circa 2004, an all male group called Pretty Ricky released a popular single called “Grind with me”. As it turns out, that title fits Rainbow Moon perfectly; you’ll be affectionately grinding out levels for quite some time.
The story begins with the main character, Baldren, mysteriously appearing through a portal on the appropriately-named Rainbow Moon. He doesn’t know how he got there, but is instantly blamed for bringing monsters to the previously peaceful land. Being a hero and all, he sets out to figure out how to get himself – and the monsters – back to their undisclosed home.
If you’re having a bit of an issue getting your head around the story, that’s because it barely exists. Rainbow Moon harkens back to a time where you’re basically given just enough of a reason as to why you’re doing something. Most of it is nonsensical, but trust me when I say that’s not why you want to play this game. But before we continue, please note:
This is not Final Fantasy Tactics or Disgaea.
Rainbow Moon does not have their depth, but there is enough to keep most people satisfied. Battles play out on a grid-based field and are entirely turn based. You’ll either use the D-Pad or left analog stick to move and choose who you’re attacking. It generally speeds up the battles, but be careful; if you mess up, you can’t take that move back. Naturally, as you get stronger, you’ll have more turns to use to vanquish your enemies. You’ll get a variety of spells and abilities, and new equipment (which are actually individually modeled) as the standards. At the end of battles, you’ll get “Rainbow Pearls.” These Pearls are awarded to the character landing the finishing blow and are used to upgrade individual stats, allowing the player to adapt their own play style.
But character stats are not the only thing that can be customized – raw materials can be used to upgrade your weapons and armor by a Smith to give you even more options. And while we’re on the topic of “options”, Rainbow Moon includes a feature that other RPGs should copy: “random encounters” appear as a pop-up on the side of the screen, telling you exactly what monsters you would fight and how many there are if you choose to accept the battle. That’s right, random encounters are entirely optional, though there are enemies that actually appear on the map you may have to fight.
Oh, and did I mention there’s a world map? Because there is. The world map is huge, complete with optional areas and post-game play. This game is a long one, and when they said it takes about 40 hours to complete, they weren’t kidding. You’ll come across multiple towns and encampments where you can heal, shop and sleep and there are plenty of side quests to distract you.
And with such a big world, you’ll be pleased to know that it looks great. The colors are vibrant and the overall design is beautiful and fits the game well. The character designs are a bit bland and many of the enemies are just palette swaps of previous ones, but that’s what an old school styled game is about, right? Another system you’ll keep tabs on is the time and day. There are four days in Rainbow Moon’s week, lasting 18 hours and 32 minutes of simulated time. I say simulated because these are not actual minutes – the clock progresses a minute for each step you take. Shops are closed during certain times of day and enemies attack more often (through “random encounters” described above) and it greater numbers at night. We’re told early on that each day of the week has a special effect, but we have to discover it on our journey.
While you’re enjoying the gameplay and ogling the vivid locales, the soundtrack will completely immerse you. I’ve never been one to really praise the music in games, but from the main menu screen, I knew I was really going to enjoy the tunes of Rainbow Moon. Each area has its own theme and it transitions seamlessly as you walk around. My only complaint for the music is that the battle themes can get a bit stale since you’ll hear them so much. Also, outside of a brief cameo by the narrator, there is no voice acting. Rather, there are little sound bytes characters make when you speak to them; the Healer, in particular was my favorite.
Not everything is roses, though. You’ll learn very early on that your inventory is very limited so you’ll be juggling items left and right to make room for new stuff. Among the items you’ll be juggling are foods. Yeah, Rainbow Moon has a hunger system. Your hunger meter slowly decreases and when it hits zero, your characters are hungry and begin losing HP. It’s a pretty pointless system that has no real upside – I can’t tell you why it exists. Also, why is every dungeon so damn dark? To make you carry torches, that’s why! Just another thing for you to manage in your inventory. On one last note, the general volume in this game is very loud. My normal gaming volume on my TV is set to 35; in contrast, I play Rainbow Moon on 8 and there are no volume settings in-game.
Despite these small issues, I really had fun with Rainbow Moon and I’m glad to have played it. It’s not often a game goes back to the genre’s roots and gives you a nostalgic feel without the tinted goggles of time, and it deserves to be appreciated. With the Platinum Trophy and low cost of admission, Rainbow Moon is an enjoyable SRPG that should be taken more seriously than its name.
Available on PS3
Dev: SideQuest Studios
Full disclosure: A code was provided by eastasiasoft for review. At the time of writing, I had played just under 39 hours and nearly completed the main storyline.