Anticipation is something that is very familiar amongst gamers. Whether it be waiting for the next big release or a sequel to a much loved game to see what has been added, improved upon or how the story continues. Since its first release back in 2012 on the PS Vita and Playstation 3, with a subsequent re-release in 2016 on the Playstsation 4, fans of the role-playing game Rainbow Moon have waited with abated breath for its sequel. Well, the anticipation is now over, as Rainbow Skies gets its formal release across all of the Playstation platforms.
Developed by SideQuest Studios and published through eastasiasoft, this tactical role-player is the successor to the highly acclaimed Rainbow Moon; but only in a spiritual sense. This isn’t a continuation of the story or events from the previous game, but offers a whole new story, journey and characters with which to fight and explore. If you’ve played the original title, you’ll instantly feel at home here, as this game contains many familiarities, yet offers a much more refined experience than previous.
The game follows the exploits of Damian, although all of the playable characters can be personalised with a name of your own choice, as he prepares for his final examination to be a monster tamer; a profession that is deemed to be important in his home town. However, after a disastrous affair, his day gets worse as he and his friend, Layne, get caught up in a series of mishaps that has a lasting consequence. After meeting the acquaintance of Ashly, a young girl learning the art of magic, the three of them embark on a journey that sees them caught between a conflict of two rival superpowers.
It’s not much, but I can’t give any more away with regards to the story as spoilers would be unavoidable. However, one of the main focal points of the themes in Rainbow Skies, revolves around the development of these three characters and the relationships between them. Conversational interaction, between characters, remains the same as the first title, with speech bubbles defining what is said. There is a strong level of humour throughout too, not just in banter between the characters, but also gameplay elements that have been injected by the developers for the players amusement.
Although both titles play similarly, everything here seems bigger, brighter and bolder from the first outing; although I would argue that its, maybe, lost a little of its sharpness, but that’s just a personal view. The world is colourful, vibrant and highly detailed, making exploration a large part of the gameplay as you discover exciting, new locations and discover what secrets may lie in store for you. Dungeon exploration returns, with many quests and side quests requiring you to explore their depths, as well as deal with the monsters that lie within or traverse the land around you.
Combat too, largely remains the same with its turn-based mechanic across a limited grid. However, the whole experience has been largely refined to produce a smoother execution in its tactical elements. Gone is the cumbersome menu that needed to be navigated first in order to move, defend or attack. It now plays a more, secondary role, yet still retains the importance of its functions; allowing much more freedom in how you approach each battle and tactical decisions.
How you fare in these combat elements of the gameplay, still largely depends on how you equip and outfit your party. There are various formations that can be utilized, weapons that can be upgraded, spells that can be learnt or buffed and various forms of armour that protect. However, with the battle ranking system, you can scale the difficulty of any enemy encounters. Saying that though, there are still difficulty spikes that require a need to grind. Unfortunately though, the rather unnecessary hunger bar mechanic still remains, retaining the need to feed yourself as fighting on an empty stomach can severely hamper your ability to combat effectively.
Rainbow Skies can be best described as a bit of a slow burner, meaning that it takes a little while for the game to begin to develop. It eases you in very gently, providing a wealth of tutorials as you play through the story, each of which can be revisited at any time through its extensive menu options. It’s here that you’ll find your main hub of information, covering quests, side quests, party statuses and upgrades. It’s all extremely easy to navigate, although I did find it a bit too easy to miss some of the side quests that were on offer. However, should you find yourself stuck on what you need to do next, then you’ll find the answer here. Navigation is utilised in the same way, with maps of varying degrees that highlight local locations and world map views.
Despite its slow start, Rainbow Skies soon develops into an engaging title. There is so much to see and do, that it’s simply irresistible to put down once you have started. If you’re a fan of the first title, then there is much to love with this sequel, with its similarities, yet more refined gameplay. If this is your first foray into the Rainbow world, then its gently easing mechanics will provide you with everything you need to know. The changes from this title, compared to the first in the series, are subtle, yet welcome. The cross-save feature remains intact, which when coupled with its complete cross-buy element, presents a game that can be easily played on the big screen and continued on the Vita’s smaller offering. Having played both the Playstation 4 and Vita versions of this game, I can tell you that there are no discerning differences between the two, which is an amazing feat, with both versions looking identical in their presentations. If you’re a fan of the tactical, role-playing genre, then Rainbow Skies will deliver a satisfying experience. It’s enjoyment comes from exploring its rich world and dark dungeons, as well as its character relations that are largely humorous in their delivery. It’s not a massive change from the first game, but it’s still one that delivers an unforgettable journey, only this time its a much more pleasant experience.
REVIEW CODE: A complimentary Playstation 4 code was provided to Bonus Stage for this review. Please send all review code enquiries to firstname.lastname@example.org.