It has been a year and a half since Rainbow Moon struck the PlayStation 3, and it still is one of the best SRPG titles on the PlayStation Network. With the sequel approaching sometime next year, EastAsiaSoft is looking to expand their user base to the hardcore Vita community, giving everyone a taste of fantasy world that’s crawling with dangerous foes. With a lengthy campaign, addicting gameplay and a cheap price tag, the studio behind the Söldner-X franchise seems to have a winner on their hands.
As the PS3 version was, Rainbow Moon is still an incredible value. We’ve come to expect playtimes of two to five hours with smaller downloadable titles, maybe a couple of more for completionists, but Rainbow Moon shoots for the stars, offering more than anyone would have expected. Players can sink upwards of fifty hours and still not see the finish line, and depending if they want to accomplish everything in the game, they’re looking at something that rivals most big retail RPGs. This is a long and fruitful experience that is just meaning with adventure and mystery.
Those familiar with games such as Disgaea or Final Fantasy Tactics will have a decent understanding of what the battle system is like. The big advantage this has over most Strategy-RPGs is that the world is open for exploration, and you can find yourself spending hours just traversing into more restricted locations. Progress is somewhat reminiscent of The Legend of Zelda in the sense that players are limited to certain parts of the world until they receive a unique item that will knock down a tree or break a stone. The game has a good pace that will never over frustrate players or throws them up against an enemy that requires hours of grinding. Even if that occurs, the only penalty when a battle is lost is that the main character will reappear right before the battle, but with one point of health. Towns and cities are plentiful and grow in size as the story makes its way forward, adding new unique NPCs and shops. It’s an open and luscious world that you can get lost in.
Initiating combat is something special that should be done more often in games. Instead of choosing between random battles and the enemy-on-screen approach, SideQuest developed a system that allows for the best of both worlds. While there are enemies running around the environment that can be challenged, a prompt will often appear, allowing the player to enter a battle with a random selection of monsters. It’s a nifty way to handle combat scenarios, allowing the player to carefully pick battles in the dangerous world.
Combat mode operates on a grid-based system where you will move square by square. Based on their level and class, characters can only perform a certain amount of actions before the turn comes to an end. It’s a good balance of determining how to position each character and when to attack. It’s about tactically using the action points in order to effectively deal out the most amount of damage while receiving the least amount of wounds. Some of the controls in combat can be a bit weird, leading to multiple occurrences where an action is selected, such as move or attack, but the game decides a direction on its own without a button being pressed. Other than that, though, the controls are easy to learn and combat will breeze through quicker than ever.
Unfortunately, while the combat is something to praise, the tale isn’t. The story is pretty non-existent, which is a real shame considering there are a couple interesting characters that could have been fleshed out far more. The few supporting cast members that are available through the adventure have a couple words to say when meeting them, but after that, you rarely hear a peep. They may as well have just been absorbed into the main character and spit out when a battle arises. The story is basically that protagonist is pushed into a device that transports him to this new and scary world filled with monsters. Now it’s up to him to reopen that teleporter and find his way home, but of course it’s never that simple, as he will have to help the many inhabitants of the world with their own problems to receive their aid. These involve simple fetch quests, which is generally hidden behind a difficult encounter, or defeating a group of enemies.
While the story is fairly disappointing, at least the narration and guidance of skills help the game feel fresh all the way through. SideQuest Studios has done a strong job in constantly introducing new abilities and events to do, making sure that the adventure is never goes flat. These include new members to the party, such as mages and archers, or adding new battle parameters, such as being bound to a specific spot or being poisoned. It never feels as if the game is holding anything back, rather that it will eventually be accessible.
While Rainbow Moon seems perfect for Sony’s handheld, it’s a bit discouraging to know that it lacks most of the Vita’s functions. It’s almost frame-by-frame the same game as the PS3 version, not taking advantage of the Vita’s impressive hardware. On-screen Prompts or maneuvering through the menus could have easily been implemented on the front touchscreen, with the possibility of using the back touchpad to direct the characters in battle. Instead, the only new addition is a seemingly easy to use cross-save functionality built right into the menu system (that was unfortunately unavailable pre-release). This is a direct port that doesn’t even try to utilize the capabilities of the Vita.
Rainbow Moon contains an astonishing amount of content for a $15 game, but it doesn’t do much outside of its PS3 counterpart. SideQuest Studios had ample opportunities to implement some of the Vita’s technological advanced capabilities into their game, but for whatever reason, they elicited to just give us a straight port. This makes the Vita version slightly less special, and even if there’s a cross-save functionality, touch screen controls would have made a huge difference. Regardless, if you’re a fan of old school RPGs and have a couple bucks (and hours) to spare, Rainbow Moon is still an investment that should be sought out.
Version Reviewed: PlayStation Vita