Rainbow Moon ReviewGreg Knoll
If I'm being honest, Rainbow Moon left me slightly disappointed.
Mind you, the game was almost perfect.
No, what truly makes me sad is that more companies aren't putting this sort of effort into their product. Granted RM is that sort of guns-blazing, swing for the fences or strike out, all or nothing, this is our one chance to make it attempt.
However, it's a great one.
Moon comes from a rather small development company by the name of SideQuest Studios. Never heard of it? Neither had I. In fact, I really only stumbled on to the game through Amazon, after I was searching for a release date on Agarest 2-finding a very energetic and passionate forum post from what I believe to be one of the game's primary developers.
Regardless, the video intrigued me prompting me to watch the trailer for it. In those short two minutes I was able to enter a world of nostalgia, evidence that those who made the game could perhaps be as old-school as I. It reminded me of Landstalker and of Vermillion. Of Golden Sun and Shining Force.
For my younger readers, it simply means the character had a gigantic head and tiny body.
In truth, it was more than that though. I saw a single hero battling onscreen in 3/4s top-down view, chasing through forests, investigating strange towns and working his way seamlessly through a world map. Above all else, though, it led me to believe that the player was entirely in control-that he could choose where he wished to go and when. Discovery was entirely on his ability to discern the knowledge he was given by random town folk-not guided linearly by the game's soulless engine.
I hoped-and prayed-based solely on that, this game was the collaboration and essence of everything I once loved about RPGs, the things that are sadly missing now.
At the very least, it started out that way. I wasn't bogged down by some massive, twisting story that threw so many words at me it needed a glossary section in the sub-menu. Baldren (default name. Wicked cool you can name him yourself and solidifies my theory this was old school) is hunting and preparing for his annual battle with his arch-nemesis Namoris-set to defeat him as he always has. Namoris-the deceptive wizard-has a plan however, and lures Baldren into the forest, towards a strange, mythical gate. With no warning, the gate activates, thousands of creatures swarm our hero and Baldren is overwhelmed and cast in, to where no one knows.
For the moment, at least. Hours later Baldren finds himself on a strange isle known as Rainbow Moon, an utterly serene and peaceful land. Well, at least it was. Those creatures that attacked you were sucked into the portal and now litter the island and the portal that sent you no longer works. Baldren is stuck, and worse the locals are not eager to help him, blaming the arrival of the demons solely on him.
And so begins your quest, to purge the island of as many monsters as you can, earn the trust of Rainbow Moon's inhabitants and find someone-anyone-who can figure out how to help you get home.
I will be forthcoming and say that Rainbow Moon is somewhat of a slow starter. It takes a bit to set up the true premise but thankfully it doesn't follow the same fashion of older RPGs, requiring that you talk to nearly every town member in search of clues on where to head next. Key figures are clearly marked both on your map and an icon over their head. Your first few quests are simple tasks that consist mostly of talking to different people and gathering items. But as you progress, you find new allies to battle with, huge, intricate dungeons to explore and countless places to visit, eventually working your way to vengeance on Namoris.
Okay, so it's somewhat typical of RPGs. And based solely on that Rainbow Moon is a decent game. That is not, however, what sold me.
What kept me playing, what drove me through the sluggish start and some of the longer dungeons was the battle system and character building. Much like Arc The Lad or Shining Force battles are turn based on a grid system. However, the board is much smaller and each fight is relatively quick-the perfect mix of strategy and fast-pace. Baldren and his allies start with only one turn, which can be used to move a square, attack an enemy or use an item. To begin with, battles are slightly slower as you and the enemies switch back and forth as you move into range to actually do damage. However, as you battle and work your way through Rainbow Moon, you gain more turns allowing you to move further and do more. You'll find wicked skills that have a much greater range than your one square attack. Skills that allow you to plow through a line of enemies, hitting them all at once, or yank a single enemy three or four squares away to you, then slam him back. You'll meet archer and wizard allies who can pick enemies off from the other side of the board. Skills become more expansive, target more enemies making it possible for you to obliterate an entire army in a single round.
After every victory you earn coins, items and Rainbow Pearls. Characters evolve in the typical way by gaining experience and raising levels but most of their stats don't initially increase-aside from HP/MP. In order to raise your strength, speed, defense, you'll need to visit a Savant, from which you can spend the Rainbow Pearls you've earned. The wonderful thing is you choose how your characters grow, and what abilities you build first, putting the control in your hands. Each one does cap at a certain level so you can't instantly become a god if you have enough pearls, but the incentive is there to continue grinding and building every one up, but with how enthralling and unique the system is that's not an issue. I honestly think I poured three hours of battles into the game before I even thought about the story.
Some of the quests-especially those required to gain a new ally-can be somewhat long and arduous, and Rainbow Moon does sufer from some of the pitfalls of lower-budget games-lack of cutscenes and variety in character voices, but it ultimately doesn't hinder the game too much. When you consider there's over 50 hours of gameplay for a $14.99 price tag, and each one is filled with entertaining battles and wonderful things to discover I really can't complain. Rainbow Moon is extraordinary.
And I hope this is the beginning of something new. That Sony, Microsoft and Nintendo will see how integral indy developers are to the industry and push to bring them even more exposure and promotion. Rainbow Moon is definitely one worthy of it.
Disclosure: We are provided copies of games from the game companies for some games that we review.
May I have the strength to lead with compassion. May I have a resolve strong enough to inspire it in others. May my heart be true, my motives virtuous, my spirit valiant. And whether I fail or succeed, may I at least be brave in the attempt.
About the Author: Greg Knoll
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