Over the many hours put into Rainbow Moon you could say it generated a love/hate relationship. For every moment where it oozed enjoyment it wasn’t long before a wall was hit and the long, hard grind began. Obviously grinding has always been a part of a turn based RPG, but never has it been so prevalent than in Rainbow Moon.
Right from the off you’re given two difficulty options (Normal and Hard). Normal difficulty is described as the default setting, one that you can go through the main story without extra levelling, whereas the hard difficulty is for those that “love grinding”. Naturally we chose normal and from there a further four difficulty options appeared. “Careful and secured” gives the player some equipment to start off with, “well supported” gives the player some Rainbow Coins (used as currency in Rainbow Moon), “Forward looking” giving the player a number of potions and torches, and finally “Adventuresome”, giving the player nothing at all. There has definitely been some effort put into trying to tailor it to each kind of player.
The problem with Rainbow Moon became obvious right at the start. Despite choosing normal difficulty the first few hours of Rainbow Moon require an incredible amount of grinding when compared to other tactical turn based RPG’s. It became a slog, particularly when levelling up is a painfully slow process. It’s a slow start, but once you pass the three hour mark and finally set sail from the starting island to the larger landmass to the west the game does start to show signs of life. Newer equipment is able to be bought, newer characters are added to your party and by this point you’ll have acquired enough experience to upgrade a few of your skills.
Unfortunately with this type of game you’d expect the story to give you enough of a hook to carry on playing till its conclusion. This is one of Rainbow Moon’s weakest areas as the story is almost non-existent. It starts off simple as the hero of the story Baldren is thrown through a teleport circle by his rival Namoris, landing in the world of Rainbow Moon that has now been infested with monsters. Naturally everyone blames Baldren for this. This is what seems like an okay basic setup, but it doesn’t really go anywhere from this point. Side missions aren’t much to shout about either, with NPC’s sounding like something you’d get in a Fable game and the missions themselves consisting largely of fetch quests. On the plus side, at least the battle system is interesting.
Taking place on a grid each character and enemy takes turns to move, recruiting new characters as the game progress, what at first starts off as hitting the attack button until someone falls down does quickly turn into something more tactical. But again, the difficulty is a little uneven. While at certain points in the game you can be ploughing through enemies, it won’t be long before the difficulty spikes and you’re forced to grind. One of the best aspects of Rainbow Moon is that random battles can be ignored if you so wish. While on the map there will be enemies that you see wandering around, at times it will pop up on the bottom of the screen that you can enter an encounter. Or you can just ignore it and carry on to the next location.
There’s no denying that Rainbow Moon is an exceptionally gorgeous game. Visuals are crisp and colourful, looking wonderful on the Vita’s display. Menus are also nicely done, offering the player enough information without overwhelming them. It’s just a shame that for every moment when we start to embrace Rainbow Moon it’s not long before we want to turn it off in a fit of rage. At least you can save at any point in the game, and healers are plentiful, making it far less frustrating than it would’ve been otherwise.
There’s a good game somewhere in the depths of Rainbow Moon, but some odd design decisions really hold back what could’ve been a nice tactical RPG for the Vita. If you’re the kind of person who loves to grind then maybe, just maybe, Rainbow Moon is worth taking a look at. For everyone else though, there are sure to be better alternatives.