I am a big fan of eastasiasoft’s Soldner X shoot’em ups, so I was surprised but excited when they announced that they were working on a strategy based RPG for the Playstation 3. Eastasiasoft is a relatively new company that up to this point had never produced an RPG. To keep my fanboy anticipation in check I purposely avoided updates leading up to the game’s release, but all the while it’s been on my mind. Now that I’ve played Rainbow Moon I can say that even though it’s not really what I expected, I’m definitely not disappointed. It’s certainly quirkier than I would have thought, but it’s provided me with hours of fun light-hearted gameplay.
The very first thing that stands out for me about Rainbow Moon are the visuals. The graphics are detailed and colorful, but it’s really the design aesthetic that jumped out at me. The characters have a squat animated look that makes them feel like they’ve jumped straight out of an eighties Saturday morning cartoon. The backgrounds share that same bold colorful look, and are dense with the detail that you would expect from the makers of the Soldner X games. Unfortunately sometimes the backgrounds are a bit too dense, which makes paths and treasures a bit difficult to see. It’s a minor complaint that if anything just made me pay more attention to the games varied environs. I was surprised at how much I enjoyed the non-anime retro cartoon styled graphics, but they work very well in establishing the overall mood of the game.
The sound design of Rainbow Moon shines, but just like the graphics has its own eccentricities. The soundtrack is upbeat and each track matches to its corresponding area well. The oddity comes into play where the character voices are concerned. While the narrator that tells the story during the opening moments of the game is superbly voiced, the in-game character voices are just plain weird. Every character that you talk to in Rainbow Moon gives you a little “Hello” when you first approach them, and then ends each conversation with a “Goodbye!” It’s not an unusual concept for game characters to do this, but the characters in most games don’t usually sound so… well, strange. It could just be an accent, after all the game was produced primarily by German speakers, and at first I found it charming and fitting for the feel of the game, but eventually it started to get on my nerves. My irritation with the voices wasn’t enough to keep me from enjoying the wonderful music, but I wish they would have made a different choice with the voices.
One of the first questions I always ask anybody that recommends a new RPG to me is “how is the story?” Rainbow Moon is a bit light in the story department. The opening segment of the game informs us via a brief cut-scene that Baldren, our hero, was headed to an annual battle with his arch nemesis when said evil-doer ambushes him. Poor Baldren is caught off guard and flung through a dimensional gate that lands him in an unfamiliar land, the eponymous Rainbow Moon. Unfortunately for the peaceful residents of Rainbow Moon, Baldren has brought along some dimensional hitchhikers with him through the gate in the form of hordes of nasty monsters. Baldren just wants to get back home, but he can’t do it without at least some help from the people of Rainbow Moon who on the whole aren’t very happy about being overrun by monsters.
The story is pretty standard retro RPG fair. Baldren wants to get home, so he has to do all manner of errands for those who would help him accomplish this goal. If you’re looking for a deep and serious plot you won’t find that here, what you will find though is a bit of humor and more of that quirky style that is so apparent in the visuals.
Any SRPG gamer worth his salt will tell you that a strategy RPG lives or dies by its combat system, and by those standards I think Rainbow Moon is going to make it. Battles are initiated both by random encounters or by coming into contact with an enemy sprite on the world map. Interestingly enough players don’t have to fight random encounters if they don’t want to. A small pop-up balloon informs you that there is a potential encounter, and then you can decide if you want to fight or not. This is an especially handy feature if you’re just trying to make your way quickly through an area that you’ve already completed, but don’t necessarily want to get bogged down battling a bunch of weak monsters you’ve already fought a hundred times before.
Combat itself is a relatively simple affair. Your active party begins in a formation of your choice on an isometric battlefield. A character or monster’s speed stat determines its battle order, and of course there are a number of options including; Attack, Move, Skills, etc. There are a few small things that I had to get used to with the battle system, like the fact that turning your character to target an enemy with a skill or ranged weapon is mapped to the square button, but nothing major that I couldn’t get used to. Though there are some funny and exploitable issues with the enemy AI. Some monsters only seem to target certain characters regardless of their position or how many times they are attacked by other characters in your party. As I mentioned it is an exploitable flaw, but sometimes I wish the enemies were just a bit smarter. Hardcore Strategy RPG buffs might find the battle system a bit too simple, but overall I found it a refreshing break from some of the really serious SRPG’s that I’ve played.
Battling might be the meat of this game, but it’s not worth anything if it doesn’t get you loot and levels. Loot in Rainbow Moon comes in several forms from the various gear and crafting materials to Rainbow coins and the all important Rainbow Pearls. Any character that participates in a battle will gain experience points from that battle, but experience points aren’t the only way to improve your characters, that’s where Rainbow Pearls come into play. Only characters that kill enemies in combat will receive Rainbow Pearls when the battle ends, and this is important because that character will need Rainbow Pearls to raise their stats. So you really need to think about which characters you send into the fray. Rainbow Coins are the games currency which you’ll need to buy food and items, and there’s even a handy little crafting system that allows you to add materials to slots on your equipment to improve your character’s stats.
Rainbow Moon may not be everyone’s cup of tea, but if you’re looking for a simpler more light-hearted Strategy RPG that is loaded with tons of quirky personality then it’s really hard to go wrong with this one. Despite a few minor sticking points I was very pleased with how eastasiasoft’s first foray into this genre turned out.