Rainbow Moon Review (PS3)

For RPG lovers, 2012 has been a good year so far. We've had Final Fantasy XIII-2 delivering an experience that was much more enjoyable than the original in February. More importantly though, Mass Effect 3 closed an epic trilogy of games in explosive fashion. Of course for those fans of stat heavy time sinks, or tactical RPGs neither of these will do the job. That's where Rainbow Moon comes in, a PSN download title that delivers over 100 hours of gameplay all for just under a tenner.

Describing Rainbow Moon as a simple RPG does seem totally backwards once you've got your hands on the game, but this is the genre reduced to the core components. Rather than focus on an epic narrative, deep character development and impressive cutscenes, the developers have put everything into the core gameplay, tightening the battle system and exploration expertly. Battles take place on an isometric grid, and are turn based in a similar way to Final Fantasy Tactics and other Tactical RPGs.

The battles soon escalate so you are taking on at least 10 enemies at a time

At first there isn't much to this system, moving across the map space by space for small stand-offs with enemies, but as each side gets more and more actions available each turn the tactical element of Rainbow Moon kicks in. It's very easy to underestimate your foes, they use their own set of tactical decisions from the very start of the game. Once you meet an archer you can use long range attacks for instance, skill scrolls that unlock general and character specific abilities to expand your repertoire becoming more and more vital as you explore.

This is a recurring theme in Rainbow Moon where the game opens with you left to your own devices for the most part. The 'tutorial' section of Rainbow Moon technically lasts just one battle, but you are training for your adventure for the first 4 or 5 hours. This puts the length of the game into perspective, as things are somewhat of a slog for the first few hours. Battles that play out in a tactical manner are dependant on managing and keeping track of multiple units at once. With just one character in play at first it's more about having enough recovery items and being fully healed for each battle than anything else, you gain a number of extra combatants later on. Powering through this is well advised though, and it makes the later adventure that bit more satisfying.

Adventure is the key word here, like the original Legend of Zelda as Baldren you are dropped into a world with no clear goal or sense of direction. Discovery is genuinely thrilling and as new locations appear on the map it's too easy to get distracted and lose yourself for hours on end. Because of the simple nature of combat and exploration, and how quick it is to revive yourself following defeat, it's an impulsive experience where level grinding and pushing forward isn't a chore. Earning Rainbow Pearls after battles allows you to power your stats, tailoring characters strengths to the role you want them to play. This lets those in for the long haul experiment with combinations in the plethora of encounters and dungeons spread across the world of Rainbow Moon. It soon becomes a deeply immersive experience, where you'll spend hours outside of your game time planning what next to achieve in your epic adventure.

Each town has its own set of merchants where you can upgrade equipment and your characters abilities

In terms of presentation, the animated style and isometric perspective makes Rainbow Moon feel like a forgotten SNES game, albeit with a HD sheen spread across the experience. Environments are colourful, with character designs and battle animations vibrant enough to match the epic musical score set behind them. In fact the music is one of the most impressive aspects of the game, bringing some memorable melodies to the game despite feeling slightly out of place when coupled with such simple graphics. The best thing in Rainbow Moon though has to be the loading times. Menus open and close instantly while battles end quickly without you having to hang around while the world map reloads. It sounds like a weird thing to be impressed by, but when compared to just about every other RPG on the market you notice the difference.

Those gamers who use a thrilling narrative as their gateway into a long game like this and the solid gameplay and breadth of exploration here might not stop Rainbow Moon from becoming tedious. That said, through a combination of streamlining what is a genuinely complicated game and using a simple but effective presentation, the developers have one of the best downloadable games PS3 has ever seen. It may not have a sweeping narrative like Mass Effect, but for RPG lovers, Rainbow Moon is just as much, if not more of a time sink. A bargain that shouldn't be missed and one of the big surprises of 2012 so far.

Top Game Moment: Discovering a new dungeon is genuinely thrilling each and every time you do.

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