Rainbow Skies Review

Owning a Playstation Vita today is a lot like collecting fine china. They’re beautiful, elegant marvels of design that, unfortunately, spend more time collecting dust in a cupboard than they do actually being used. Indie games and Japanese dungeon crawlers continued to give Vita owners a reason to whip out the portable for a while.

Unfortunately, for the past year or so even those sources of Vita titles have begun to run dry as developers clamor to create games for the Nintendo Switch, the new hybrid console that’s replaced the Vita in the hands and hearts of countless consumers. In the Vita’s darkest hour, however, a saviour has arrived. SideQuest Studios has blessed Sony enthusiasts with Rainbow Skies, a meaty RPG that supports full cross-play functionality between PS4, PS3 and the fancy crockery that is the Playstation Vita.

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Rainbow Skies is the long, long awaited followup to the 2012 strategy RPG Rainbow Moon, a PS3 and Vita joint that was later ported to PS4. Though Rainbow Skies was initially slated to come out in 2014, things clearly didn’t go as planned and now the game is releasing in the middle of 2018. Despite the unexpectedly long development time, Rainbow Skies is much more of an expansion of the ideas from Rainbow Moon than a drastic change or reinvention. Many of the core aspects between the two games are the same, from the impressive strategy RPG combat to the unimpressive visuals.

The first half hour or so that I spent looking at Rainbow Skies on my TV screen, I felt uneasy and uncomfortable. The environments of the game, especially your starting town, are oversaturated and overpopulated. Trees and lights and houses all blend together with the same bright, plasticky shades of colour, and characters that look and move like something out of a mobile app store MMO with six reviews. While the variety of locales and characters is massive, they all suffer from the same lack of polish and consistent design. Steampunk buildings, mushroom slime monsters and modern day hospital nurses all occupy the same real estate on your screen with seemingly no rhyme or reason. Classic SRPGs like Final Fantasy Tactics or Tactics Ogre are so successful in part because of the highly polished art and cohesive worlds that make them stand out from the pack. In that department, Rainbow Skies flounders and fails.

While the narrative of Rainbow Skies is a little more successful, it still fails to stack up in terms of writing quality and proper grammar. The premise of Rainbow Skies, and how it brings together these three characters from totally different walks of life, is actually genuinely interesting. Unfortunately, story scenes are constantly infused with comedy and jokes that never land, and consistently have the robotic tone and non-existent chemistry of a middle school play. For as much as I tried to get invested in the story of Rainbow Skies, I found myself dying to skip dialogue all the time.

Part of my fervour to skip through the story was the fact that the gameplay of Rainbow Skies is where the real meat of the game lies. The game sees you walking around open areas and encountering or avoiding enemies as they roam past you. Should you run into one, you’ll be transported into a battle arena where your party of up to six characters take turns with enemy monsters to move across the grid and position yourselves for optimal attacks.

Each character has their own strengths or weaknesses, with some favouring melee abilities while others utilize powerful ranged magic. There aren’t a lot of advanced battle mechanics to juggle in Rainbow Skies, however. Most of your strategizing comes down to character position and standard RPG buff management. Because of the combat being a touch simpler compared to most tactics games, I found it a lot easier to jump in and out of battles without a worry. One fun mechanic sees your abilities gaining exp and growing stronger the more you use them, which gave me a nice incentive to prioritize using certain attacks instead of relying on my standard abilities.

While I didn’t need to stress over micromanagement, I did need to worry about the levels of my enemies. When I entered a new area, the enemies seemed to almost always end up being a good few levels stronger than me. From nearly the beginning of the game, you’ll have to be engaging in a bit of grinding if you want to keep your characters well-trained and fully healed. Failing in battle simply drains your HP to 1 and respawns you where you died, but you’ll need to spend coin to use a healer or buy potions, and those coins are equally scarce unless you do your share of battle grinding.

While the systems within combat never get too robust, the mechanics and activities available outside of combat constantly expand as you progress through the game. There are skill shards for growing character stats, items to expand the range of your special abilities, fishing mini-games, roulettes for unique items, equipment upgrades, and even a shockingly deep monster raising system to use creatures as teammates. Rainbow Skies has a lot of quirky, small things like these that meld together into an insanely packed RPG package and it can easily run you a hundred hours if you end up getting hooked. Still, it was hard for me to ever get gripped in that kind of way by the game with how unpolished the visuals were.

What’s Good:

  • Simple, addictive combat
  • Engaging upgrade systems
  • Wide variety of activities

What’s Bad:

  • Abysmal writing.
  • Inconsistent, dated visuals.
  • Difficulty curve is a little skewed.
  • No autosaving.

It’s clear how much of a labour of love Rainbow Skies was. The game is packed to the brim with mechanics and ideas that call back to a dozen different classic RPGs and strategy games. For all the love that went into the game though, there’s a frustratingly low amount of polish and quality design, especially when it comes to the visuals and writing. Rainbow Skies is a love letter to classic RPGs hastily written in crayon on notebook paper.

Score: 5/10

Versions tested: PlayStation 4, PlayStation Vita

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I'm a writer, voice actor, and 3D artist living la vida loca in New York City. I'm into a pretty wide variety of games, and shows, and films, and music, and comics and anime. Anime and video games are my biggest vice, though, so feel free to talk to me about those. Bury me with my money.

9 Comments

  1. That’s a shame.

    On the other hand…

    Did you like it more or less than Rainbow Moon? I loved that and was definitely looking forward to the sort-of-sequel. For a long time, due to the delays. That one was over 100 hours (there was a trophy for playing that long), and I even managed to find an obscure bug they’d missed, due to it being quite hard to do. (A dying monster would do a final suicidal explosion that could kill you if you were amazingly unlucky. And then the game wouldn’t know who’d won the battle, since everyone was dead)

    I’m guessing it’s probably worth a go if you really like Rainbow Moon? It doesn’t look as bad as you seem to imply, and if “a little skewed” means the difficulty suddenly ramps up at random in new areas until you grind things for a bit, that’s fine with me. That’s how it should be. As is not having auto-saves in those sorts of games.

    • I think you’re right. I never played Rainbow Moon, but I think whatever enjoyment you got out of that game, you’re bound to like Rainbow Skies just as much.

      • That settles it then. Buying tomorrow.

        RPGs must be hard things to review. Especially more niche games that aren’t some tedious “action RPG” nonsense where you just bash buttons for hours and level up what bashing the buttons does.

        It’s clear the developers are fans of various games I also enjoy, the first game was lots of fun, and I shall apply my usual rule of “add 50% to the review score for any RPG if you were interested before reading reviews”.

        I did read somewhere else (sorry!) that there are difficulty levels you can change at any time that give you more challenge and more rewards. The only real problem with the first game was once you’d got past the grinding in new areas, things did get a bit easy (with some exceptions). So more challenge is good, and more rewards to get you strong enough for hopefully lots of optional stuff. (A bit like a Disgaea game, but sensible. Those can involve making stupid changes to get ridiculous rewards and break the game. Which is kind of the point there, I guess)

      • Haha, no need to apology for checking out a different review! I think it’s important to scope out reviews from multiple places when you’re trying to look into a game, especially if it’s one you’re really passionate about.

        I think you’re definitely gonna have a good time with the game if you were a fan of the first one, so definitely go grab it!

      • Oh, come on! My backlog!!!

        You’re not supposed to go from “5/10” to “go grab it!”

        Fine. I’ll buy it tomorrow. But if that means I neglect to play whatever I last bought in a sale, it’s your fault :P

  2. Same as Mr Yd…

    If this is much the same as Rainbow moon and the quality of the game mechanics etc is the same (couldn’t grasp if it was from the review), then its all good for me…

    Loved Rainbow moon, took a little time to get into, but once i did was hooked, even managed to get the Plat!

    • Yeah, if you’re a fan of Rainbow Moon, you’ll probably end up being a fan of Rainbow Skies! I just personally didn’t attach to it in the same way, but not everyone is going to feel the same way about the same game!

  3. I also enjoyed the first one. Despite the narrative (or lack of). I read another review for this that said the writing here is considerably better than the last but that wouldn’t be difficult as it really was truly naff. I’ll probably get it in a sale but it is a shame they didn’t get a more talented writer this time around as that would have made a huge difference.

  4. Well, after playing far too much of it yesterday, I’m definitely disagreeing with that score.

    The combat seems to be an improvement over Rainbow Moon. There are some good attack combos you can do with a sword attack that leaps forwards, attacks, and leaves you right next to the enemy ready for another strong skill. And I still like the idea that if killing 1 enemy leaves behind a loot bag, that blocks the path for other enemies until you decide to pick it up (instead of waiting for the end of the battle to collect all the loot)

    Difficulty is about what I expected. Some grinding required (which isn’t an issue with fun combat and many sidequests), and the option to make things harder for more rewards. The way that works is quite clever. No, you can’t make it harder to get overpowered and then drop it back down for a boss fight. Well, you can, but then you have to unlock the harder difficulties all over again.

    And the visuals are fine. Better than some horrible pixel-crap. Not the greatest, but it’s a small team making something a bit retro, so no problems there.

    The writing is kind of a bit rubbish, but does the job, and again it’s probably more “historically accurate” than “what a modern game should be”. At least there’s no terrible translation issues.

    If you liked the first game, or SRPGs in general, it’s absolutely worth buying. (Only £19.79 with a 2 week PS+ launch discount too)

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