I played Rainbow Moon so much five years ago that I ended up getting the platinum trophy. I have been waiting all this time, following along with developer SideQuest Studios while they worked diligently on the sequel and was so happy to finally get my hands on Rainbow Skies. While not a direct sequel, Rainbow Skies uses the same overhead angled view and turn based combat system. This time we also get much more of a story to follow along with and much more polished graphics, as to be expected after such a long time.
It unfortunately didn’t take long though for me to become disenchanted with Rainbow Skies. While I can appreciate the effort, and maybe I am setting the bar too high after enjoying Rainbow Moon so much, but Rainbow Skies just seems to have added things it did not need and never improves on any of the issues the first game did have. I even gave the developers some time to work out issues with patches, thus why my review is later than I normally like. I had hoped that with player input many of the errors in dialog would be corrected and other improvements would be made. Maybe they still will, but at the time of my writing this, sadly Rainbow Skies is a major disappointment.
Rainbow Skies starts after a rather cheesy intro scene of your first character, Damion, a dual-sworded Cloud Strife rip off, drinking himself silly. He wakes up with a hangover on the day of his training exam of course. His friend and voice of reason, an archer named Layne, introduces us to combat and other game functions via these odd little tutorial skits. I much rather would have liked to seen examples in game, or even a video or something, anything would have been better than the craptacular dialog you are forced to read if you want to learn the game. After Damion screws up and brings down the power to the flying town they inhabit (how it keeps flying afterwards is a mystery), Damion and Layne end up falling out of a huge hole and the game ends… no really… the dailog says “The End.” While the attempt at humor was cute, grade schoolers are not playing a retro JRPG/strategy game, so know your market game devs.
Players then jump to a completely different character, a magic user named Ashly who lives in a little village. You get to know her and how to use her spells as she trains and eventually crosses paths with the other two characters who miraculously survive the fall due to a failed spell on her part. The horribly written story and unnecessary dialog continue from there, and eventually I got so sick of it I found myself skipping most of it, thankfully that is an option or I doubt I would of made is as far as I did in Rainbow Skies.
Combat in Rainbow Skies is enjoyable but it has some serious flaws. I love turn based combat. Games like Final Fantasy Tactics, Shining Force, and Rainbow Moon entertain me for hours as I perfect my tactics and grind character levels. Over the years I have grown impatient though and I like to be able to control the speed or turn off useless combat animations for games that are repetitive. I don’t mind the repetitive factor, anyone who enjoyings leveling in an RPG of any kind can’t be. Sadly the only option to control the annoying repetitive spell animations in Rainbow Skies is to hold down R2 when selecting the ability. Why? Why can’t I just turn them off completely?!
Beyond the slow speeds and irritating spell animations, Rainbow Skies does use the great combat system from Rainbow Moon. Characters and enemies are all on a square grid and each turn players can move, defend, use an item, or use an ability. Abilities can be close combat requiring you to get up close, or ranged, though many require a certain enemy layout to be truly useful. Using these abilities grants them experience and as they increase in level, so to does the damage output. The trick with games of this nature is to use your enemies planned movements and your own to strategically place your characters in a strong position, keeping your squishy ones in back and tanks up front if possible. If the combat wasn’t so damn slow, I could spend hours just doing this. Couple this slow pace with the annoying repetitive sounds your characters make (thankfully they could be turned off at least) and it can get old very fast. Players also have the option of instigating combat when prompted, and I found I had little choice but to do a bit of grinding if I didn’t want to get my ass handed to me while progressing. Toss in the fact you must remember to manually save your game each time and it’s a recipe for a thrown controller or PS Vita. Kudos to SideQuest Studios though for releasing on PS Vita with cross save though, I can be irritated on the go!
Rainbow Skies looks pretty good, not as good as I had hoped it would be, but it is definitely an improvement over the 2012 Rainbow Moon. Everything is colorful and very busy throughout the overhead world your characters explore, almost too busy. The only feature in Rainbow Skies I can honestly speak highly of is the music. It is fantastic. The melodies are catchy and fit the fantasy world perfectly. Unfortunately the rest of the audio is atrocious. Levels are all over the place, one voice sounded like it would pop my speakers, and all of the NPC have the same catch phrase you get to hear over and over. There is a ton of content in Rainbow Skies, but even that just seems pointless and like too much time was spent with the various systems. You have to manage ability levels like I mentioned, there are upgrades to equipment via the blacksmith with enemy dropped items, and instead of levels increasing your stats players have to collect stones and use them one at a time to upgrade things like defense, speed, and attack. There is a crazy complicated monster raising system, a food system, a horribly designed quest UI, and item management is a headache in itself due to limited bag space. It made Rainbow Skies feel like a chore more than a game.
I wish I had more good things to say about Rainbow Skies, I really do. If I could just avoid the over complicated systems, the horrible dialog and story, and just play the combat on mute with the ability to speed it up I would be happy. As it is, I feel like there is just too much crap getting in the way of a solid tactical turn based combat game. It would be one thing if Rainbow Skies was rushed, but it wasn’t, it has been literally five years! I hope this isn’t the end of this series. I pray we get another attempt in the next couple of years and this time the developers keep it simple and fun. Sadly this attempt at a sequel just falls flat and Rainbow Skies has been the biggest disappointment in gaming for me this year.
Rainbow Skies is available now with crossplay for PlayStation 4, PS Vita, and PlayStation 3. This review is based on a copy provided by the publisher.