Rainbow Moon Title

Rainbow Moon: Now Playing

One of the new additions to PlayStation Plus this month (finally an RPG) was Rainbow Moon. It’s a game that I’ve had my eye on since its launch back in July of 2012. Certain aspects of the game, like the incessant grindy-ness and lack of story, kept my cash begrudgingly pocketed in my wallet. Now more than two years later, PS+ has afforded me the opportunity to experience this little gem.

The Adventure Begins

As I booted up the game, I was mandated to pick a difficulty setting, which is a nice way of ensuring your get to play the game the way you want to. You can choose “Normal” which basically means that the enemies won’t deal any additional damage, and you will have an easier time…essentially progressing through the game quicker. The “Hard” option states that enemies are stronger, and you will need to use all your skills and abilities to the fullest extent, to progress. BUT, Rainbow Moon doesn’t stop there. Next, the “Play Style” option is given as “I want to play my character”….Careful and Secured, Well Supported, Forward Looking, or Adventuresome.

The range of these options, I believe, determine how the onset of your journey will be. Careful and Secured will afford you plenty of money, equipment, and life, basically ensuring a smooth and pain free start. Going down the line of choices will afford you less and less luxury items to get the game rolling. Choosing Adventuresome states that it will start you with nothing! Not a coin in your pocket, not a piece of gear in your bag, and not a single potion for life! But, there is a tease of something special in store for you down the road, should you choose this option. Well, being a seasoned veteran of Strategy RPG’s or “tactical” RPG’s if you will, I went with the hard setting AND the Adventuresome mode!

If At First You Don’t Succeed

It wasn’t a joke. The first 10 hours were ROUGH. I struggled with even the smallest of battles and found myself cursing the game and its makers. Battles were tedious and simple, leaving a bad taste in my mouth. Never a good thing when starting a new game. After logging 40 hours, I can confirm that things do open up and get better. I’ve amassed a team of 6 characters (only 3 of which can be used at a time). The main character is a sword wielding knight of sorts, decent at both attacking and defending. Next an archer girl joins the group. It was at this point that some of my frustration mellowed. Until then, it had been battles of 4-10 enemies against just me.

No matter how weak the enemies are at that early stage, the numbers just don’t work. Unless I backed myself into a corner (cutting off two sides of attack), it was extremely difficult to survive the battle. If you did happen to win, you’d need to take your meager winnings to replenish your health, since it doesn’t auto refresh after battle. For example, winning the battle would afford me 3-10 coins, but the healer NPC would charge me 2-5 coins to refill my health meter. So it was very slow going like that for the first 10 hours or so. Head into battle, win in the cheapest fashion possible, (the back into a corner technique) walk far across the map to the healer to refill life, rinse and repeat.

Rainbow Moon Allies
The odds are NOT ever in your favor.

Once the archer joined me, we were better able to deal with the sheer number of enemies in each fight. It was still that same cycle of; win battle, refill health, do it again, but at least this time it didn’t feel “cheap” as we were able to fight together to win. Several hours later I would come across a heavily armored ally, rounding out the team to a nicely balanced three members. Between the three of us, we were able to handle almost all fights without issue, even on Hard difficulty and Adventuresome mode. The only problem was, no matter how much I would grind though countless hours of repetitive fights to level up, I still was far out-matched at each new boss fight, no matter how much grinding I did. I definitely think there are some balancing issues that need tweaked here.

To make matters worse the story is almost non-existent. Somehow I’ve come through a mysterious portal and monsters have followed me through. That’s it. Monsters are everywhere, and they came through the portal…..Eventually there’s some monologue that explains things a tad bit more, but that’s the overarching gist of it. I’m sorry but, strategy rpg’s are well known for their stories. Otherwise, there’s just not much reason to keep pressing forward. Sure there are some new skills to unlock along the way, but grinding for the sake of grinding is just that….GRINDY.

Rainbow Moon Attributes
The attribute screen. The place to spend all those Rainbow Pearls.

Each monster killed grants Rainbow Pearls, the leveling currency of the game. With these pearls, you can choose which attributes you are going to advance; HP, MP, Speed, Defense, Attack, etc. As a prime example of just how grindy this game can be, these pearls are only granted to the party member who kills the monster. So if you have a slower party member who’s mainly a defender-like tank, he won’t see many pearls to advance his character. My archer gets worse and worse about this with each passing fight. She will damage the monster to “almost dead” and then on another party members turn, they will end it, and gain the precious Rainbow pearls for killing that monster.

It’s All About The Grind

This mini ultra-grindy meta game starts happening, where you intentionally have to make unnecessary moves, in order to let specific characters get the kill, and in turn the Rainbow Pearls. Further frustration comes when you have more than 3 party members. Since only three party members can actively participate in battle at a time, if you want to level any of the other characters, they face a LONG uphill battle to catch up. AND choosing to do so, means that your regular main party member(s) not participating in battle, start falling behind. For me, that’s a huge drawback to changing up the cast, even though I am intrigued by the benched party members. Adding more variety to the game with additional characters should feel like a perk, not a grinding penalty.

These issues seem small, but together start adding up quickly, forming a negative opinion of the game.  Thinking back to how fantastic srpg’s were of yesteryear, I decided to bust out my old copy of Final Fantasy Tactics!! Within minutes, not hours, of starting the game, I was deeply invested in the story and characters, as well as their world. I know it’s not fair to compare the two, what with Rainbow Moon being an indie game made by a team of 2-4 people, but still. Rainbow Moon has potential. With a better story and more tactical battles, I think it would have been a far better game than it ended up being.

Final Fantasy Tactics Example
The classic Final Fantasy Tactics showing what games of today are missing….STRONG NARRATIVE.

After having played Final Fantasy Tactics for a few days, I had drawn some new conclusions. FFT is deep and engaging, but very slow paced compared to Rainbow Moon. Rainbow Moon on the other hand is fast and frantic. If you want to get in there and kill stuff A LOT, with your skills and level up indefinitely, Rainbow Moon has FFT beat hands down. For me though, I need the story. I want to care about my main character. I want to fight that next fight, to attain those much needed skill points, so I can purchase that next new ability, so I can progress on and eventually win the game. Rainbow Moon is seriously lacking in that department.

Rainbow Moon Map

So as far as I’m concerned, my initial fears and reasons for not purchasing the game 2 years ago at launch were completely founded. Is Rainbow Moon a bad game, certainly not. Is it a fun game, most of the time, yes. I mean, after all, I did spend 40 hours or more playing through the dungeons. There’s an impressive amount of new enemies at consistent intervals (something I thought FFT lacked). Overall Rainbow Moon’s grind just hampers the true potential of the game for me. If you don’t mind the grind there’s a ton of content to play through. I’m still playing off and on, so I’ll keep you posted on further impressions.

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