It’s taken six years for us to finally get our hands on the sequel to Rainbow Moon and thankfully the wait has been very much worth it. Rainbow Skies is bigger and better than its predecessor in pretty much every way.
There's a much stronger narrative this time round and you can tell that a lot more effort has been poured into making the story and characters engaging. You'll begin your adventure in the shoes of one very hungover protagonist called Damion who lives aboard a floating island called Arca. It's the day of his Monster Taming exam, but as you can probably tell from his self-inflicted illness, he doesn't take these kinds of things all that seriously.
After a disastrous exam his best friend Layne is on hand to try to help fix things up, but through a series of unfortunate events they both end up plummeting to the world below. It’d be a short game though if they just hurtled to their premature deaths, so thankfully, they end up crashing straight into the middle of amateur spellcaster Ashly's incantation. This leaves the three of them bound together in an unbreakable spell. Not exactly a pleasant way to spend the rest of your life, so the trio end up setting off to find a way to break the magic. Of course, things are never so simple, and they soon end up on a much grander adventure.
Rainbow Skies is a strategy RPG, but unlike most other titles in the genre, it's not just a just a series of separate maps with a little bit of storytelling in between each battle. Instead there's a whole vibrant and wondrous world for you to get lost in, and it's this exploration that really separates Rainbow Skies from the competition. The world is huge and you never know where a hidden treasure or a side quest will be, so you'll frequently feel tempted to stray away from the main story path.
Before we get too distracted with all the optional content, let's get stuck into discussing the battle system. Unlike other SRPGs, which can have a single skimish lasting a good 20-30 minutes, battles in Rainbow Skies are short and snappy, and most can be completed within a matter of a few minutes.
You'll enter battles in one of two ways: either by running into monsters that are roaming around the world (and are usually blocking your path), or through optional random battles that pop up as you walk around. Once you've entered into a fight you'll be whisked away to a separate battle screen.
Battles are turn based skirmishes which take place on an isometric grid. When it's your turn you'll be able to move from square to square to position yourself close enough to your enemies to wallop them with an attack. In the early stages of the game you won't be able to do much, but as you get stronger you'll get more sub-turns, which enable you to perform more actions within your turn. You can also gain access to new spells and abilities by buying books or progressing through the story. These skills can be used to hit multiple enemies at a distance or inflict nasty status effects on your foes.
Of course, your foes also have their own tricks up their sleeves, and can gang up on you pretty quickly if you're not careful. It’s really important that you play with strategy in mind or your party will quickly become overwhelmed. It’s incredibly fun to try and block enemies from getting too close to you, and experimenting with all the various skills feels really rewarding, especially when you manage to wipe out huge numbers of enemies within a few moves.
It feels like there are a load of different ways to play around with your team in order to turn them into the little super army of your dreams. Everything from gaining experience points in battle to messing around with the crafting system, as well as using skill stones to permanently upgrade your stats. Even your spells and equipment can level up through use. It's a really gratifying system, and because there are so many different ways to tweak your party, it means that you're constantly encouraged to try new things.
When you begin the game you can only take three characters into battle with you, but it's not long before you get given the option to raise your own monsters and have them bolster your ranks. While they start out fairly weak, the more effort you put into raising them the more useful they can be. Pumping in skill stones, teaching them spells, and equipping them with some decent weapons and armour will turn them into valuable assets in your combat menagerie. There are a tremendous number of different monsters that you can raise, so it’s definitely worthwhile to play around and find the perfect beasts to suit your play style.
One thing that makes the gane really accessible to fans of the genre and newcomers alike is its thoughtful battle rank system. If you're the type that likes to complete every side quest as soon as it comes along, then you're going to become over levelled eventually. But by playing at a higher battle rank, fights maintain a healthy dollop of challenge. The game encourages you to play at a harder level by increasing the amount of gold you can get, and also unlocking new bonus areas of the map to explore. Being able to change between ranks means that you have much more control over how much you want to grind. If things are too tough and you feel like your progress has hit a brick wall then you can drop your rank back down at any time.
There's also a hell of a lot of minigames and optional content for you to delve into. As well as side quests given by the many hapless inhabitants of the world, there's also fishing and optional dungeons to get your teeth into. Probably our favourite new minigame is tracking down and digging up buried treasure. You can purchase maps that will give you a couple of clues, and you’ll need to try and figure them out and go dig up your reward when you think you’ve got it sussed. There’s just something fun and exciting about setting out into the world of Rainbow Skies to dig up buried treasure.
With so much stuff to do it's really great that the game has an excellent tracking system. The menu tracks everything from how often you've fished and how many times you’ve upgraded your equipment, through to side quest completion and even how long you've explored with a light on. A very handy addition for all you Trophy hunters out there.
It’s also really easy to switch between playing on the PS4 and PS Vita, as the digital version of the game is cross-buy as well as cross-save. The vibrant visuals look just as gorgeous on the PS Vita as it does on your TV, and the fast-paced battles are perfect for gaming on-the-go.
Rainbow Skies is an epic adventure with a much improved narrative when compared to its predecessor. Its addictive gameplay makes it an absolute joy to explore every inch of the world, and with a huge amount of customisation options and an abundance of side quests, this superior sequel is sure to keep you enthralled for many, many hours.