It's easy to be fooled by Rainbow Moon's light-hearted visuals; you'd be forgiven for thinking that the title bares more resemblance to some free-to-play mobile fancy, for example, than it does an 80 hour fantasy epic. However, underneath its fun-loving exterior, SideQuest Studios' popular adventure is just that and more. There's a huge amount of time to be spent conquering this giant, and although fans of the genre are more than likely to have a blast doing so, the release is certainly not without its faults.
Your adventure is a painstakingly slow moving one at first, as a rather generic plot concerning magic portals and unfamiliar lands bares familiar mechanics to master and monsters to slay. Combat starts off deprived of almost any strategy, with your character only being able to move, attack, or defend once per turn – and quickly becomes a slog because of this.
Roughly an hour or so into it, though, battling is made vastly more compelling as new methods of dispatching your enemies begin to present themselves. Killing things rapidly becomes more and more enjoyable, as the title sets about transforming its painfully simple encounters into satisfying blurs of looting and damage dealing.
The core premise behind each fight is a tried and tested one: your chosen formation faces off against a team of baddies on a grid-based arena, traversing it and hacking away at each other using their respective action points. Furthermore, allies can defend against incoming attacks and halve any damage that they take, as well as utilise an array of special attacks and items that could either make or break the right situation. It isn't a massively complex system, to be sure – but it is an engaging one, if not a little awkward due to the lack of a visible grid and some seriously stiff camera controls.
How well your band of intrepid heroes fare in these skirmishes, like many other RPGs, depends on the strength of their attributes and equipment. You can acquire the breadth of these bonuses from numerous services scattered throughout the world's settlements, with upgrades to your armoury being purchased from blacksmiths and the like. While your party members level up automatically after gaining a specific amount of experience points, those that deal finishing blows are rewarded with Rainbow Pearls that can then be taken to a savant and converted into manually applicable stat gains.
This process isn't a wholly enjoyable one, though, as setting your less competent companions up for a designated kill often proves to be a chore. This tedium is only made worse by the fact that out-of-party allies don't gain any experience, which means that you'll have to repeat this cycle for all of them, too – unless you'd prefer to limit yourself and only ever use a select few. Thankfully, there is the option to have your buddies 'absorb' certain items, allowing them to grow just a tad more speedily.
It's generally a good idea to have a diverse range of warriors to choose from, as Rainbow Moon delivers the odd spike in difficulty here and there, and even more so in its puzzle-ridden dungeons. Simply grinding in order to prepare for these obstacles isn't too arduous, and you'll likely not care about having to do so due to the intrigue of coming across new monsters and rewards. Moreover, reaching and exploring new locations can be equally enticing, though navigating them tends to be a pain since your overworld avatar clumsily slips and shimmies around objects like they're trying to find their way through a bustling crowd.
Similarly annoying is the title's hunger gauge – a mostly unnecessary mechanic that's more pesky than it is relevant to the overall product. Upon starving, your character will begin to take damage on a continual basis, and although this is only a rare occurrence, we can't help but feel like it doesn't actually add anything worthwhile to the experience.
German developer SideQuest Studios does do something right in keeping exploration fun, though: enemies are engaged on-map as opposed to randomly, which allows for them to be avoided at will – a particularly handy choice to have when you're backtracking through earlier areas that are full of weak creatures.
Now, while we're on the topic of battering baddies again, it's also worth mentioning that there isn't a whole lot of variety in how your opponents handle themselves during combat, so if you're expecting to be put on your toes very often, then chances are you're going to be disappointed. Not even the boss enemies provide much strategic diversity, with the majority of them act as mere sponges that exist solely to soak up damage. Watching the numbers fly off them is still fun, of course, as is seeing them defeated – but the game would have undoubtedly benefited from some more creativity in this regard.
It's a good thing, then, that your antagonists at least look interesting. At first glance, Rainbow Moon's storybook exterior may strike you as unremarkable, but there's some genuinely beautiful artwork waiting for you behind that initial scepticism. There are a few visual assets that could look better, obviously – some out-of-place fonts immediately spring to mind – but all in all, it's a pleasant sight to see. Likewise, the accompanying score and snippets of voice acting are every bit as charming, with their quirky tones complimenting your every action.
With all that aside, there really isn't much that's been added or changed with the title's re-release on the PlayStation 4, aside from some improved dialogue and load times. The ability to cross-save is present once again, which lets you transfer your save files between your home console and the PlayStation Vita – a feature that eagerly lends itself to the game's pick-up-and-play nature.
SideQuest Studios' re-release isn't all that different from its past iterations, but that isn't necessarily a bad thing. The world is still as expansive and pretty as ever, although a lot of its niggling flaws have found their way into this edition, too. However, this is still a solid adventure that promises oodles of gameplay and sports a satisfying battle system, so fantasy fans could do far worse than invest their hard-earned gold in Rainbow Moon.