After 6 years SideQuest Studios have finally given us the sequel to Rainbow Moon with Rainbow Skies. I think the biggest question I had going into this review was: Bigger and better platform, will we get a bigger and better game?
To answer that question simply… Yes, in almost every department.
Personally I didn’t spend much time with Rainbow Moon. If I’m completely honest I lost interest in it pretty early on. I will hold my hands up here and say at the time I wasn’t really enjoying RPG games very much so it could have been wrong place at the wrong time more than a bad reflection on the game… But I digress.
Rainbow Skies is a much more rounded game with a strong narrative that keeps you playing. I have already found myself looking at the clock to see huge chunks of time disappear.
The story begins with one of our main protagonists having the hangover from hell, Damion (Note: The character names can be changed). He lives aboard a Flying City known as Arca. On the day of his Monster Taming Exam things go from bad to worse. As a typical adolescent he doesn’t take his exams very seriously (hence the hangover), as much as his best friend (Layne) tries to help him through the events that unfold. Neither of them were prepared to plummet to the world below and to their certain demise…
That can’t be the end of the story can it? Surely that would make for a very short game… Well you’re right, but I’ll let you enjoy the rest of the story for yourselves and move onto the more serious aspects of the review.
Rainbow Skies is very much a classic style strategy RPG in every fibre of its being. Not to say that’s a bad thing, I actually think it’s one of the best things about it. There are too many games currently that try to cover so many genres, it’s refreshing to play a game that just wants to be an RPG.
The world itself is huge and completely open so no doubt there will be times (frequently) where you are distracted away from the main path to explore and that’s one of the more fun things about Rainbow Skies. Everything is story driven but at your pace, so there aren’t any penalties for exploring.
As there are so many different aspects of Rainbow Skies to cover, I think it’s best to break them down into smaller sub-sections, starting with probably the most important… Combat mechanics
Battles are entered in one of two ways; either by running into the various Monsters roaming through the world minding their own business (yea right!), or through the optional random ‘Ambush’ encounters that pop up at the bottom left of the screen. Both of which will transport you to the battle screen.
Battles are turn based and take place on an isometric grid (pretty standard for SRPG’s) but unlike most games of this genre they are not 20-30 minute epic wars, they are short, snappy little skirmishes which enable you to get back to exploring and the story.
When it’s your turn your able to move from square to square to put yourself in the best position to conquer your foes with a multitude of attacks (dependant on which character you are controlling at the time). At the start of the game there are limits on the attacks you can perform but as the game progresses and you become more skilled the battles become a lot more open and varied as you have a lot more choice.
On a slightly negative note here, I did find at times the controls weren’t exactly the most responsive. There were times that I simply wanted to move to the next square but no matter how many times I moved the analogue stick there was just no reaction. Just to clarify here that it wasn’t my Analogue stick as outside of Battle mode the movement was perfect.
These skills can be learned by progressing through the story, but also by purchasing books from specific city / market merchants.
Do not think for a second that you can just power through all enemies with your new skills though as the monsters also have their own unique skills and abilities which will become apparent as you progress.
After spending over 20 hours playing around with battle formations and skills, it’s safe to say there are a ton of options here and the game definitely encourages experimentation within combat.
Battle Rank System
Rainbow Skies has a very unique feature with its battle rank system which I think makes the game very accessible for both seasoned RPG veterans and newcomers alike. If you’re a perfectionist and like to complete every little side quest as it pops up so you don’t have a page full of tasks to do then the truth is you will very quickly become over powered and the battles will lose their challenge.
This is where the battle rank system shines as the game encourages you to increase the difficulty and rewards you with keys to unlock new areas of the map to explore and take on new challenges.
Note: These areas do not impact on the main story so if you enjoy that OP feeling you can choose to leave the difficulty on the lowest setting. You just won’t reap the benefits of the rare rewards.
Don’t panic though, if the challenge becomes too much for you there is always the option to lower the difficulty back down to somewhere more comfortable for you with no real penalty to the characters.
This keeps the game enjoyable, no matter what you’re looking for. I’m sure we can all agree at times the constant grinding to get to a level to take on the next boss can be tedious.
As I mentioned above, there is a plethora of optional content for you to work you’re way through from mini games to side quests as well as in classic RPG Style a Dungeon or two.
Some of the mini games can be rather addictive, so just be careful that you don’t lose your way and forget that these characters have a mission and it isn’t to spend all day fishing or treasure hunting.
Speaking of the Treasure hunting, this is probably my favourite mini game as it’s all about paying attention to the world around you. Maps can be purchased from the city shops and they will give you a couple of clues as to where the treasure is hidden. Then it’s up to you to remember or find the location and dig for those goodies… Just don’t expect it to be quite as simple as it sounds.
With Rainbow Skies being a cross platform title with cross-save, it’s really easy to start playing on the PS4 then grab the PS Vita and continue on the go. I wish more games took advantage of this option. I hate just getting into a good game then finding I need to step away.
Rainbow Skies is a mixed bag visually. I say that with a little bit of unease because I personally really like its look. Vibrant colours and the animation style made me want to explore this world even more. In truth, through my entire play through I don’t think I noticed a single issue with frame skips etc.
There are some cut scenes at key moments, but they are few and far between. The majority of the game story is told in text form, this I think helps keep the immersion within the game as you’re not pulled back and forth between visual styles.
So why do I say it’s a mixed bag? Well because although I personally really like them the truth is they are dated and very much at home in the previous gen (and I know a lot of people will not be happy with this). Perhaps this is due to the cross platform idea they implemented to ensure it runs on the PS3, PS Vita and PS4.
This is the section of the review I was least looking forward to writing. Rainbow Skies audio is very bland.
The ‘in game’ sounds feel as though they are on a shoestring budget and the same sound effect has been regurgitated over and over for the characters rather than having a number of randomly generated sounds (this probably would have been less noticeable in a shorter game, but sadly not in an RPG).
While I did enjoy that Final Fantasy-esque style of the main menu music, after 20-30 hours of hearing the same part over and over even that becomes tedious.
As I mentioned earlier there are a few cut scenes, but not many. This is probably a good thing as the voice acting is almost as bad as the Character audio. I don’t want to be too harsh with this as given the amount of cut scenes that include voice acting it’s a minor problem (but it is a problem).
As it to be expected from most RPG games, you can put hours and hours into this game, if you’re a completionist then that could possibly put you into the hundreds of hours with the difficulty mechanic and grinding.
In terms of any potential replay ability, I personally would say it’s a game I would like to have available to replay when the mood takes me. However, it isn’t going to be one of those games you will finish and then play again a week or so later (that is to be expected with any RPG though).
There are plenty of trophies here for those hunter among the readers and looking through the list of them I would say they will take a fair amount of time and perhaps multiple play-throughs to complete.
Rainbow Skies is a worthy successor to Rainbow Moon (which in itself I thought was underrated). For me it has a solid story and plenty to keep you occupied.
Thankfully the bulk of the story is in text form. I think for the rest of my time in Lunah I’ll be listening to my own playlist of music rather than the supplied audio.
Is it groundbreaking? No, but it’s definitely a fun title that I would recommend to anyone, especially people looking to branch out and try more classic RPG style games without too much effort.
Putting my impartial Judicative hat on, Rainbow Skies fully deserves the Thumb Culture Silver Award
Disclaimer: We received a game code to carry out this review