A common point of conversation these days is just how many hours of content must be included in a set priced package for it to be worthwhile.
With development costs on the rise for modern, high-fidelity games of all genres, it seems like a worthwhile topic to discuss so we can get the best bang for our buck.
However, what many fail to realize is that it’s not just in the hours of content that a game should be judged on its worth, but more so by how entertaining those hours spent playing the game are.
While there is a wealth of content in Rainbow Moon that would make even Disgaea blush in envy, the actual experience of playing feels like a never ending chore.
The curtain opens as the hero, “Baldren” finds himself tricked by his arch-nemesis and sent to the world of Rainbow Moon against his will, as he must brave the unfamiliar terrain and struggle to find his way home.
At that point, the typical tropes of RPGs appear, and the all-familiar runaround where one quest leads into another with NPCs pointing to each other for clues like a series of dominoes.
More members would also join Baldren in his adventure with compelling motivations like, “sure, why not” and “this feels like something I should do.”
Suffice to say, the story and characters in Rainbow Moon felt entirely superficial, with very little personality to spare thanks to a serious lack of interaction between the characters.
It felt as though this was a title built around the idea that the player would create their own party from ground up, and the idea was scratched to place set playable characters in their stead leaving only the nearly non-existent storyline and lack of interactive narrative.
Still, even if the plot and characters are nothing to write home about, as long as the game play is compelling, it could make for a worthwhile experience.
Alas, that is not the case.
Even with all the new bells and whistles, Rainbow Moon is an old school SRPG at heart.
The player encounters the enemy on the world map where it transitions into the battlefield. The amount of enemies the player will face can range from a handful to dozens, where half the battlefield is filled with enemies from the very beginning.
While it’s nice that the player is given notice of just how many enemies they will be facing in set encounters, it’s not shown what types of enemies they will be facing which can mean the difference between life and death.
The combat is broken up by Move, Attack, Defend, Item and Skill, which is standard for the genre. While the player is only given one or two “actions” per turn early on, this increases as they progress with the game to add greater layers of strategy.
Being placed in a grid-based arena, each move must be calculated with utmost care as Rainbow Moon is not a walk in the park. An enemy can land a “lucky” (or unlucky, depending on perspective) critical on a character to one-shot them out of the fight, which is equal parts frustrating as it is unnerving.
Given the sheer number of enemies that must be vanquished in each encounter, a fight with a new enemy will test not only the wits of the player but just how much grinding they’ve been doing as well.
Skills are gained like items as they are “used” to be learned by a character and they level up the more they’re used, and various equipment can be upgraded using various items found in chests and gathered from fallen foes.
In place of conventional leveling, players must find a level up merchant to spend the points they’ve earned in combat to increase their stats one at a time, and as I found myself backtracking to level up in the middle of dungeons to keep up to date on my stats, I pondered why I couldn’t just do this through the menu?
As there are also recovery merchants that take coins for the service of restoring health and magic. I found that I also had to backtrack to one in the dungeon that I’d already passed just to be fully prepared for a big fight, which felt like an absolute chore each time I needed to do it.
I also found myself frustrated in battle as the controls simply didn’t agree with me and often resulted in wasted turns.
To move, I had to select “move” then use the analog stick or d-pad to move to a direction. Then, if I wanted to attack an enemy, I’d have to cancel the “move”, then go into “attack”, then walk into them like I was just trying to go through them.
I often found myself fumbling the cancel and walking multiple times, which I couldn’t cancel as I couldn’t take back any actions or redo a previous turn in any way.
It would have been much simpler just to have move and attack as analog movement with the d-pad controlling the action menu but it’s needlessly complicated and unforgiving as it stands now.
Spanning over forty hours for the main campaign with optional side quests and dungeons to spare, Rainbow Moon has a heck of a lot of content for its asking price.
However, the combat lost its appeal within the first few hours with its repetitive nature, and without the support of a compelling story and interesting characters, I just couldn’t find the strength to see this journey to its end.
It’s like a badge of dishonor for me to write this review without seeing the main campaign to its completion, but the more I forced myself to play a title that just wasn’t for me, I felt a sense of spite hovering over me for the title which it didn’t deserve as it’s a fully functioning, albeit mediocre, piece of gaming.
Given that fact, I highly recommend those even slightly interested in Rainbow Moon try out the demo to see if it’s to their liking, as there’s a lot more where that came from – for better or for worse.
Fun Tidbit: The game offers a cross-save function for those with the PS3 version that wish to play it on the go on their Vita.
Review copy of game provided by publisher.