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Obviously, I didn’t find enjoyment immediately, that would be too simple, after all, Rainbow Moon is very much a cutesy JRPG and starts out exactly how I imagined (and feared) it would. The isometric world your character, Baldren, arrives in is populated by a few characters that serve as little more than vendors to dish out directions and equipment and the whole thing is wrapped up in a sort of half story that doesn’t really do much to engage, but equally, isn’t all that important. This is all about gameplay. Grindy, stat-building, turn-based gameplay. As Baldren traverses the main world map, you happen across enemies which trigger ‘encounters’. These encounters whisk you off to another screen which acts as a battleground in which you take on various foes. This starts off all very simply, with you and your enemy each taking turns to move one square at a time around a grid-layout, exchanging blows until you hopefully emerge victorious. This simple mechanic serves as a very basic foundation which is built upon to a great extent as you and Baldren progress through the game. The early hours seem a little repetitive and tedious but there is something in that basic structure that maintains a desire to see progression, and, if there is one thing that Eastern games tend to do very well, it’s grinding.
Through a process of taking on increasing numbers of easily defeated enemies and occasionally tougher adversaries, Baldren earns Rainbow Pearls which enables you to level up his stats (and other party members as your team expands later in the game) such as strength, speed and defense. This sees you quickly progress from 1v1 and 1v2 fights against enemies, to you single-handedly taking on double figures. Progression through the story brings new skills, attack patterns and all those shiny, pyrotechnic flourishes that compel the player to keep on grinding through battles to see what the next unlock will be and how effective you can become in battle. This is where the meat of the game is found.
As mentioned earlier, you will add others to your party throughout the story, giving you more turns to consider and tactics to bring into play during battle. These characters again are mostly forgettable and tend to serve as vessels for different weapon types and skills rather than enhancing the story in any way. In terms of tactics, the battles appear initially to have a lot of depth but the system really comes down to positioning and managing attacks and defense. This was great for me as someone who wanted to get stuck into a genre I wouldn’t usually play, but it may prove shallow long term for those who are looking for more depth to their strategy.
Overall, Rainbow Moon proved an incredibly pleasant surprise. I would never have made a purchase myself, but it has opened my eyes to a style of game I would have found off-putting previously. I felt that the story was rather lacking, so if that is important to you in your JRPGs you may feel short-changed, however I found it a relief. The initially cutesy graphics prove functional and endearing with time and the mechanics are solid and most importantly fun, even with the grind. Audio effects are straightforward but the music quickly grates with no option to reduce the music volume, only to mute it, which is a minor gripe.
My only real concern is quite a bit bigger. On browsing the PSN, I found that the developer is selling, for cash, a high number of micro-transactions involving unlocking Rainbow Pearls and coins in their thousands which could lessen the grind but ultimately destroy the core of what makes the game enjoyable. Whilst this is understandable in a free-to-play title, the concept of essentially buying cheat codes for a single player experience feels a little bizarre and distasteful.
In summary, Rainbow Moon is a solid title, with good core mechanics and addictive gameplay. If someone who started out as dismissive about the genre as myself can have a good time then that must be a sign of quality within the overall package, as such, I can only imagine it will tick a lot of boxes for true fans of these games. But do be aware that the story here is not a magnum opus, more of a means-to-an-end.
Graphics Audio Gameplay Creativity Execution Offset 8 How do these ratings work? Click here for descriptions!
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