Think of the RPGs of the 1980s. Now, think of the contemporary ones. They're almost part of two different genres, right? Gameplay has made huge steps forward, plots have become more complex, worlds are larger. In short, today's RPGs are intricate.
Yet, when we look back, we still feel a boundless love for those titles that gladdened our afternoons in the early nineties. Rainbow Moon, although dated 2012, is a game that if it had been released two decades ago, everyone would have immediately recognized it as a RPG. A good one, to be more precise.
This is a good premise, but if a game looks like a 20 year old title, it can often carry with it a few problems.
In this sense, Rainbow Moon is no exception. The story is uninteresting and shallow: our alter ego is sent to Rainbow Moon's world by a villain, passing through a mysterious portal which generates a lot of problems. The arrival of the hero, in fact, coincides with the appearance of monsters. We are therefore forced to work our way through every kind of monstrosity in order to return home.
Curiously, the inhabitants of the lands we visit are quite friendly (rather than blaming us for the arrival of the monsters, as the canons of the Japanese role-playing game would require) and willing to help.
The plot, as you can see, is weak and doesn't improve during the adventure. The main quest takes at least fifty / sixty hours of gameplay. With some reductive dialogue and uninspiring quests, the game would quickly become boring.
We have to use the conditional tense, though. Fortunately for us, the battle system is as solid as a rock and contributes to keeping the player entertained. This is a classic grid turn-based RPG, pretty much like Disgaea (but with a much more gentle learning curve). The information and combat tactics are explained step by step, and one never has the feeling of being overwhelmed by the amount of information supplied by the user interface.
The leveling system is interesting: In addition to the classic XP system the game provides some pearls after each battle, that can be spent to increase our character's statistics in special shops. The player, in this way, is compelled to engage in numerous encounters in order to level their characters appropriately.
Encounters activate by both stumbling upon monsters visible on the map and at random. In the latter case, however, the player can choose whether to accept or ignore the battle, thus avoiding the frustration of being constantly in battle during the phases of mere exploration.
There's also a good crafting system, convenient to combine weapons and armor with some of the objects we find along the way. Each piece of equipment includes at least two slots, and thus it's possible to build some powerful weapons from the very beginning.
Finally, it is worth pointing to the skills and spells system. Like Disgaea, each skill affects different distances and works on different paths on the grid. Strategies, therefore, can be studied as a function of some very powerful abilities.
After several hours of play, we start to fight with more allies. Here Rainbow Moon becomes extraordinarily deep. While Disgaea immediately puts us into battle with many allies and with a gigantic number of strategies, Rainbow Moon guides us gently through the various fighting techniques.
Overall, Rainbow Moon is an excellent game. It doesn't dare, doesn't go beyond the boundaries of the "already seen" and the "already played", but it does so extraordinarily well. The graphics, the character design, the story and the dialogue are the only weak points of a game that clearly sees the combat system as its centre.
With its relatively low price, Rainbow Moon is a must buy for fans of the RPG genre, especially for those who are nostalgic for the good old gameplay; simple yet deep.