Diablo Meets Disgaea Under The Rainbow Moon
It’s an understandable mistake to assume that Rainbow Moon is a game starring pretty ponies rather than hordes of bloodthirsty monsters. Despite the fruity-sounding title, the game is actually a dungeon crawler that blends the exploration and randomized dungeon elements of games like Diablo with a turn-based strategic battle system. It’s an interesting premise that holds up fairly well but is dragged down a bit by some questionable design decisions and a poor localization.
Rainbow Moon is fairly light on story. The player starts out as a warrior who has been pushed through a mysterious portal by a rival. Landing on a candy-colored fantasy world called Rainbow Moon, the player character discovers that he’s been accompanied by a gigantic horde of demons. He just wants to go home, but the locals understandably blame him for the catastrophe that has befallen their world, insisting on his help with their troubles before they’ll assist him on his own quest.
It’s all just a perfunctory setup to send the player out exploring the world and dredging through dungeons, which is just as well. The quests given by the inhabitants of Rainbow Moon are made particularly ridiculous due to poorly localized text. Some of the dialogue is, I believe, supposed to be humorous, but it ends up being funny for the wrong reasons, as it appears to have been penned by a non-native English speaker who has watched plenty of American TV but doesn’t quite have a handle on everyday conversation. The awkward phrasing found in the game doesn’t usually get in the way of comprehension, but it mars the experience and destroys most of the writers’ actual attempts at humor.
Once the requisite quests have been picked up, it’s off to explore the world, venture through a nice mix of randomized and hand-designed dungeons, fight monsters, fight more monsters, and fight even more monsters. Rainbow Moon is all about combat, and fortunately the combat system is fairly interesting. Old-school RPG gamers may see shades of the old Dungeons & Dragons Gold Box games, in which battle took place on a grid and often involved positioning characters properly in order to do as much damage and take as little damage as possible. The setup is similar here, but with a flexible turn order that depends on the speed of the characters and monsters.
The player will pick up more characters as the adventure progresses, with up to three characters in the battle party at once. Each character is locked to a single weapon type, so battle strategy involves positioning party members in order to hit monsters that are weak to particular weapons while avoiding being hit by dangerous monsters. It’s a bit like a deadly game of Hokey Pokey, with the characters and monsters dancing around each other in order to gain the advantage in battle. Learning the movement and attack abilities of the monsters is vital, although the game inexplicably doesn’t allow its battle grid to be displayed, leading to occasional accidents if the player miscounts the number of squares that an enemy unit is about to move.
In fact, the devil is in the details of Rainbow Moon’s control system and interface, with a preponderance of small issues keeping the game from being all it can be. The movement controls are awkward, requiring the player to use the four D-pad directional keys to move around the grid, which is slanted diagonally on the screen. Although the game displays the correct button to press in order to get to a particular square, it’s easy to instinctively go the wrong direction, especially at first. It’s also easy to move accidentally, since the D-pad is also used to select battle menu options, leading to the player moving instead of attacking if s/he forgets to cancel out of movement before using the menu.
Attack commands are inconsistent, as well. Regular melee attacks are executed by pressing a directional button on the D-pad, similar to movement commands. Special attacks and regular ranged attacks, however, are executed by positioning the cursor over the desired square and pressing X. Some special attacks allow the cursor to be moved, while others do not, and the game doesn’t explain this feature very well. These different ways of entering commands mess with the flow of battle, making it feel choppier than it needs to be. Battles are still fun, but a stronger interface and control scheme would have made them quicker and easier to manage.
Outside of battle, Rainbow Moon has a difficult time deciding exactly what kind of game it wants to be. While the simple storyline and turn-based battles are a great nod to RPGs of yore, other old school features the game employs should have stayed put in the ’90s. Each character has a stamina bar that must be replenished by eating and drinking, but shopkeepers are plentiful and the stamina bar can also be replenished by spending a night in the inn. Since Rainbow Moon doesn’t play like a resource-management or survival RPG such as Legend of Grimrock, the stamina bar feels like a meaningless extra chore, pointless grocery shopping that should have been dropped from the game. Borrowing from the tactical RPG genre, the game requires characters to land the killing blow on opponents in order to receive character advancement points. Again, this feature feels out of place in terms of how Rainbow Moon actually plays. It leads to nothing but pointless grinding on easy monsters should a party member fall behind in terms of statistic growth. Other old school features like needing torches in dungeons and dealing with limited inventory space work a bit better, but still feel a somewhat superfluous to the experience.
At least the scenery that one passes through while trekking to and from shopkeepers is pleasant. Rainbow Moon’s HD graphics are sharp, diverse, and very bright. Anybody who thought Diablo III’s color scheme was too cheerful is likely to have a coronary upon viewing the Crayola-bright palette in this game. Personally, I’ll take Rainbow Moon’s cheerful and somewhat cluttered world over the dark and samey feeling of environments in many of these types of games, but it’s probably a matter of personal taste. Also a matter of personal taste are the character portraits, which look a bit off somehow. They’re not a huge part of the game, though, since they’re only shown in the menus. In-game character and monster models look quite nice.
The sound design is similarly decent if not spectacular. The music tracks are catchy enough, and the sound effects are crisp. The voice work is rather obnoxiously over-acted, but is only found in the occasional narration and the greeting sounds of NPCs. Basically, the sound in Rainbow Moon isn’t going to win any awards, but it also won’t drive most people away.
I enjoyed Rainbow Moon despite its design flaws. The game has a certain charm to it, and the battle system is pretty fun, though the sheer number of battles needed to progress is a bit overwhelming. I’d like to see what SideQuest Studios can do with more experience under its belt, stronger control implementation, and a more competent English localization. For now, though, Rainbow Moon is a solidly middling game that makes a good choice for somebody looking for a cheap summer time-waster.
RATING OUT OF 5 RATING DESCRIPTION 3.5 Graphics
Rainbow Moon’s graphics are sharp and reasonably diverse, though the style won’t appeal to everyone. 2.4 Control
A weak point for the game, the controls suffer from inconsistency and awkward implementation. 3.5 Music / Sound FX / Voice Acting
The music tracks are fairly catchy, sound effects are solid, and the voice acting is poor but fairly sparse. 3.7 Play Value
PThere’s a lot to experience for a $15 downloadable game, as long as you enjoy the battle system. 3.4 Overall Rating – Fair
Not an average. See Rating legend below for a final score breakdown.
|Review Rating Legend|
|0.1 – 1.9 = Avoid||2.5 – 2.9 = Average||3.5 – 3.9 = Good||4.5 – 4.9 = Must Buy|
|2.0 – 2.4 = Poor||3.0 – 3.4 = Fair||4.0 – 4.4 = Great||5.0 = The Best|