Developed by SideQuest Studios Published by Eastasiasoft Reviewed on PlayStation 4 (also available on PlayStation 3 and PlayStation Vita)
Rainbow Skies is a tactical role-playing game and sequel to SideQuest Studio’s Rainbow Moon. In Rainbow Skies, you enter the game as Damian. Damian, a resident of Arca, has overslept for his Monster Tamer test. Of course, being a hot headed protagonists, you soon find yourself tangled in trouble and literally falling off of Arca into unknown adventures.
Playing the first game is not required as Rainbow Skies is not a direct sequel. The two do share some similarities such as orthogonal style movement and a grid system for battles. Another familiarity are the graphics. Rainbow Skies shares a similar three-dimensional cartoon that feels more polished. While the style is not realistic, the images fit the quirky humor of the game. The art is overall reminiscent of handheld or phone game styles and should look good regardless of which of what system you play on. This is important, as with the first game, you can cross-save between the PlayStation 3, PlayStation 4, and PlayStation Vita versions.
Rainbow Skies does a great job of introducing the player to game mechanics and story, without overwhelming the player with information. The story and tutorials are somewhat intertwined as progression allows seasoned and new players alike to obtain required information without being alienating. A good example is the opening scenes with Damian. Storywise, Rainbow Skies unabashedly uses clichés and familiar tropes; you meet Damian hungover and afflicted with drunken amnesia at game’s start. While not unique, it passes needed game play information to the player while progressing the narrative.
The trope also allows for Damian to reply to accusations with, “Of course I did! No challenge is too great and no glass too big, that’s my motto,” setting up the foundations for his personality without taking itself too seriously. It is the personality and pride of characters that end up prompting some of the story battles.
There are many instances where Rainbow Skies humorously acknowledges the flatness of the story. The starting town name is “Boreville” after all. It shows most of the story through character dialogues and pop up tutorials. Tutorials appear as needed with the main party members. They stand out in front of a large chalkboard while wearing graduation caps. The characters tease one another while teaching each other, and thus the player, about an objective or skill. Tutorials cover everything from movement, handling magic, and skills to monster hatching. They can be skipped but are available in the main menu for review. Story alone may not be a driving factor to play, but it serves its purpose with amusing sass.
Game play is expected for a strategy RPG, but with some interesting twists. Battling is important but instant gratification is set aside in favor of strategy. This applies most notably in party recruitment. Aside from the initial team, players will need to recruit monsters to join them in battle. Monsters are recruited by battling. After a certain number of battles, you receive an egg that hatches a specific monster type and then hatch incubated eggs after another set of battles. Each egg will have different stats and each monster different has skills that can be learned.
Rainbow Skies treats difficulty rather flexibly. At the game’s start, there are some difficulty options. Mostly, the player decides if they want a bit of starting equipment or to work from zero, acquiring more as they play. The choice here does not affect the game’s overall difficulty, just a potential starting advantage before diving into grinding battles. Players can alter difficulty in game be talking to the correct NPC if the have met the required number of battles. Lowering the difficulty has no penalty but raising it requires players to defeat a set number of battles each time. Despite the focus on battles, random encounters can be skipped as enemies are a mix of random unseen encounters and visible monsters wandering the land.
Since battles are the keystone of play, skills and spells are naturally leveled by use in battles. The more you use one, the more it levels. Leveling can increase the range of spells, strength of damage, and unlock interesting new move cut scenes. Books are the way to learn spells and skills are available in town shops. Because not everyone can use every option it is important to keep a variety available. It can be pretty fun playing with battle formations and searching for new ones in game. Formation and party is easily managed in the games menu.
Playing to characters strengths is also important. Upgrade Stones, most often dropped in battles, allow you to add permanent stat upgrades to your characters. Continuing with Damian as the example, his attack and defense are strong, but his movement is slow; he cannot attack or be controlled as often. Players can choose to upgrade his speed or take advantage of his tank like abilities with battle formation. Upgrading equipment while playing of course will also be a boon to your characters stats.
Rainbow Skies limits the inventory space of the player. By limiting inventory, Rainbow Skies adds another layer to be mindful of during play. Bags are used for inventory management and work great for in-game item organization. For example, potions all are in the potion bag, food in the food bag, etc. This means less scrolling for the right item. Each bag has its own quantity limit and is only expandable through shop purchases and exploration finds. Mismanagement can lead the player heading back to safe areas more often.
Eanan Patterson is responsible for Rainbow Moons’ theme music. The theme pairs elegantly with the rolling clouds and soft colors of the title screen. The game play music is listenable as well. It is noticeable but chill and not distracting from game play.
There are few negative things to note, essentially minor inconveniences. Movement can be annoying if the player, like myself, keeps trying to move diagonally using the joystick. If the player is easily bored grinding or trying new strategies, the game can be tedious. Using the D-pad and playing on easy pretty much negates both however.
Overall, Rainbow Skies is fun for those who like either RPGs or strategy planning. It also serves as a good gateway to the genre. Even though the game can be a time sink due to optional quests and grinding, the player can save almost anywhere, anytime. Saving makes it very time management friendly. Cross save and taking it on the go with Vita is a plus. The easy pick up and put down nature makes the game casual but also completionist friendly for all the trophy hunters out there, too.