Simplicity is the main driving force behind Rainbow Moon.
The game excels at crafting this exceedingly simple, yet deep gameplay experience that leaves you completely satisfied regardless of the amount of time you spend with it. On the surface level, it really doesn’t seem like much past a staple retro indie throwback, which admittedly does play largely into it’s appeal but developer, SideQuest Studios, has created something much grander and just downright fun that is will worth sinking your teeth into.
As mentioned above, Rainbow Moon is a heavily retro inspired strategic RPG, whose influence is carried on through the story, particularly in the motion of simplicity. The game opens with the Hero, Baldren, roaming a dangerous woodland as he travels to fight his long time arch enemy Namoris. Stumbling deep within the forest, he discovers a dimensional portal and is paralysed with its beauty, to the point of not noticing his enemy sneak up behind him. Taking advantage of his unawareness to his surroundings, Namoris uses magic to curse Baldren and push him through the portal, along with allowing monsters to find their way through. Waking up in the world of Rainbow moon, Baldren is lost and locked out of his own world and must roam the lands defeating monsters and finding a way to his home world.
By no means the most original or stimulating story, taking clues and cliches from dozens of RPG’s of yesterday, it often serves as a means to justify you moving to varied locations and to give you a sense of purpose amidst all the monsters skull bashing you do with reckless abandon. However, a deeply enriched story is not a core element of the games source of joy and in fact takes on a very retro sensibility in regards to its treatment. Even with the way in which story and information is delivered to you through speech bubbles from characters that make simple grunts and groans, it all again focuses on the idea of keeping it simple and rooted in the classic gaming tone.
Presentation is also wonderfully treated. Not dazzling per se, but aesthetically it feels exactly like a game of this nature should, taking on a look a 16-bit title with a 3d graphically overhaul. Played on an grid based isometric view, the game is an instant blessing on the d-pad, making traversing the landscapes and menus far more comfortable. Areas are varied and pleasing on the eyes as you move through lush green forests, to deep, dark and dank caves, to warm sunny beach side areas. Each world location has a just as delightful battle area based on your current surroundings, littering the environment with items to hide behind and give nice context to where you’re fighting. Enemy design is also treated with as much care, creating slew of interesting critters and baddies to chop down on your adventure. Many can be seen on the world map roaming around and while the sight of a disturbingly large wasp eventually loses its edge, the placement of both mini and regular bosses across specific locations, their level looming over their head never ceases to be menacing. It fills you with a sense of dread at the thought of their power, while simultaneously giving you a goal to strive towards, an actual sense of purpose to grow and level up your fighters to face the beast.
Sound design however is where Rainbow moon excels in presentation. The soundtrack here is infectiously good, with each track creating a gorgeous atmosphere to engross yourself with, painting a picture sonically of vivid lands, bursting with character and personality. Yet, it still remains upbeat and catchy all throughout the adventure, exceedingly important for this type of game where tracks will be repeated and returned to often. This is especially true with the battle theme, easily one of the best songs produced in the game, never ceasing to capture the spirit of an energetic scuffle between Hero and villain. Beyond music, the sounds elsewhere are crisp and powerful when launching and receiving attacks, giving your strikes a good impact, Monsters and creatures have interesting and characteristically appropriate, “noises,” as they buzz, hiss and growl in combat and the people of Rainbow moon are frankly the strangest and funniest part of the sounds with the questionably odd voice clips they’re given.
Gameplay is where Rainbows moon’s bread and butter truly lies though. To return yet again to the word, Simplicity is the key component to the enjoyment of this experience. Borrowing from tactical RPG’s and dungeon crawlers alike, a turn based grid system is in place here in travel and battle situations. While on paper it sounds unexciting, it is actually a surprisingly deep, combat rich game that goes far beyond a mash to win situation. Initially easy, the difficultly steeply increases and offers a rather sufficient challenge that requires you carefully consider your movements and actions as you encounter tougher and tougher enemies. What works on a giant bee, could kick you in the teeth against a Wannabe Hero, despite a small difference in power levels. This is a great trait implemented into battle as I constantly felt engaged, always pushing me to not be too careless in taking on battle after battle and actually made grinding entertaining and taking on a boss character was always exceptionally fun.
Outside of combat, the world is littered with treasure chests and a plethora of main and side quests to take part in. Rewards are always hit or miss, from simple consumable items to valuable pieces of customisable gear for you heroes. A constant source of accomplishment, it offers the right amount of feedback for quest completion and exploration to validate the player, while leaving them hungry for more. The same can be said about the leveling system. Each enemy you conquer will award you with money, experience and rainbow pearls. These pearls are essentially a form of skill point currency and is actually a rather ingenious method improving your character, alleviating the stagnation of grinding levels (of which the cap is 999) by giving you the power to improve specific stats quicker and as frequently as you have the required pearls. Once your team begins to build, this is system really flourishes into it’s own and becomes a driving force behind the joy you can find here.
Rainbow Moon is far better than it has the right to be. Functioning as a modern take of a classic series type, the re-release onto modern consoles is a welcome entry to the PSN store. Brimming with hours and hours of content, (one trophy asks that you reach level 500, another asks you play for 100 hours) there is so much on offer to gamers here. While it is not gonna do much to convert people who are not fans of this genre, those who enjoy a good RPG and dig a retro vibe are getting a massively complete package here that I cannot recommend enough. At the perfectly reasonable price of €15 for a cross-buy feature, I implore everyone jump into this world as soon as they can.