Witnessing a rainbow is always an awe-inspiring experience, seeing how it’s a collage of the most brilliant and beautiful colours across the spectrum. Setting foot into the world of Rainbow Moon is just as impressive an experience, not just because of the vibrant colour palette SideQuest Studios used to bring the world to life, but because it’s a fantastic blend of the RPG spectrum as well.
As you embark upon your quest, the opening cinematic introduces you to the hero Baldren. Just as with almost all RPG's, things go bad very quickly, as you witness him cursed by his arch-nemesis and whisked away through a warp portal. Not only does his nemesis send him into another dimension, but the curse sends legions of monsters along with him to plague the once peaceful world of Rainbow Moon. Being the brave hero he his, Baldren decides to rid the world of these evil deities and hopefully find a way to get back home in the process.
From the moment you take control of Baldren you’ll be eased into this new world and the gameplay style that’s featured here. While the game is classified as a strategy role playing game (SRPG), the opening hours are more typical of a classic turn-based RPG instead. Battles are fast paced and short-lived confrontations designed specifically for a home console, and are initiated by either simply walking into enemies on the overworld, or by partaking in the optional random encounters that frequently pop up throughout your travels. You’ll freely peruse the beautiful isometric starting island at your leisure, converse with its denizens, fight enemies at will and even gain a few helping hands (party members) along the way. The majority of Rainbow Moon’s populace will not only speak their minds, but ask for your help in dealing with the pestering monsters that are creating chaos in their lives. Through these non-playable character interactions the game’s storyline begins to unfold, bringing an action RPG/dungeon crawler feel to the title along with it — not to mention the 20 dungeons to crawl through as well.
SideQuest Studios’ hit Söldner-X series showcased that the studio could develop a superb new-age horizontal shooter that stays true to its hardcore roots, but also remains accessible to gamers of most all skill levels. While it’s surprising that the studio decided to transition over to a SRPG, even more so is the fact that this same level of accessibility made the transition with them. Balancing the difficulty levels in a SRPG is a notoriously arduous task, but amazingly, SideQuest Studios nails it at the first attempt.
Whether you decide to start off on the Normal or Hard difficulty modes, you’ll be eased into the strategy elements of the game’s grid based combat system. Earning experience through battles not only helps to boost your maximum health and mana levels, but also grants sub-turns and skill points as well. Sub-turns give the characters an additional action per turn and skills slots are used to equip character specific abilities, which can be purchased from various vendors around the moon with the world’s currency of choice: Rainbow Coins. Seeing how you’re gently welcomed into the combat system, even those who tremble at the thought of the genre will find themselves safely pulling enemies to them for an easy kill and eventually be strategically coordinating three heroes around the battlegrounds with ease like a pro. While genre veterans might sigh at the thought of this, you’ll be pleased to know that the Hard difficulty offers a stiff, grinding heavy challenge that’s balanced to a near perfection, just as well.
It's a big challenge too, with an epic 40-hour quest that can offer upwards of 100-hours of content for those wanting to see it all. When probing a bit deeper, you’ll find that item management plays a key role here. Whichever character lands the final blow on an enemy is the only one who acquires the vital Rainbow Pearls that are used to boost the character’s base statistics. Of course, the standard item and weapon shops are scattered about the moon’s villages and towns, but unlike most titles of this genre, coins are quite limited and you’re not able to purchase every weapon/armour set when they first become available. Being a smart shopper and a frequent seller (protip: materials are acquired en masse for a reason – to sell) really brings a higher level of satisfaction to gaining that shiny new piece of armour or weapon. If that’s not enough, you can then take it to a smithy to further strengthen it, tapping into the game’s deep crafting system. If there’s a complaint to be made here though, it’s that the heroes' appetites are quite large and they need to be fed regularly, or they’ll start to take damage from hunger. Even though food items are constantly acquired and starvation is never an issue, it feels like more of a chore than an actual gameplay mechanic. Even so, the frequent visits to the shops and seeing how every single boost to a character makes a difference in battle are all part of the game’s charmingly addictive and rewarding nature,
Visually, Rainbow Moon blooms off the screen with vibrant, colourful HD visuals that are constantly changing as you explore the vast overworld. From the snow-covered mountains to the desert plains, the drastic changes in the 15 different terrains, not only looks fantastic, but is refreshing in a game this extensive. It’s also worth noting that like other great old-school RPG’s (e.g. Dragon Quest), the large cast of enemies are artistically designed in a memorable fashion that keeps them entertaining to battle against. Each of them even holds their own personality, or "character bias", on the battlefield. For example: a brave, brawnier enemy might rush forward and fight to its death, while a frail, cowardly opponent might try to flee from the battlefield when knocking on death’s door. Also, each terrain, town and dungeon all features its own fantastic set of fantasy musical scores to accompany the visual changes, altogether ensuring there’s never a dull moment while exploring the massive world of Rainbow Moon.
If there’s one thing we could add to Rainbow Moon though, it’d be the addition of a visual grid overlay on the battlefield, as well as the ability to rotate it during battle. Neither are necessities, seeing how the character’s actions are clearly marked when selecting them, but a few times we had some difficulty setting up for a ranged attack. It’s a very minor issue and as you can clearly see, it’s one that we could only find by nit-picking — a testament to how well-rounded Rainbow Moon is in all aspects.
SideQuest Studios borrows elements across the entire RPG spectrum and sends players on a massive journey on the beautiful world of Rainbow Moon. With more features than we can fit in a review and an epic quest that can last up to 100 hours, Rainbow Moon is completely worthy of a boxed retail release. Instead, Rainbow Moon launched itself on PSN in the hopes to break our social lives, rather than our wallets. RPG fans, this one is not to be missed.