Hot on the tail of Rainbow Moon, come Rainbow Skies, a Tactical RPG from eastasiasoft (makers of Lost Sea and Rainbow Moon, and the Soldner-X franchise as well as Rainbow Skies) and developer SIDEQUEST Studios (partners on the Rainbow series and Soldner franchise).
Rainbow Skies is a colorful game very much in the classical JRPG style/genre. Combat is turn-based across varied environments. From dungeons, towns, wilderness, and all points in between. The environments are suitably colorful and bright (or not. In the dungeon stages), and the NPCs have personalities all their own (more on that later). The opening town is a village in the air (SHIELD helicarrier style, but with trees) a really neat feature with plenty of foreshadowing about the world below, and its dangers.
Art style is very JRPG, and that’s not a bad thing. For the game it works, the varied levels and character models are clear and colorful. It’s difficult to lose any of the characters in the background. My one gripe would be how much Damion looks like Cloud Strife. He’s a spiky blonde haired hero with (normal sized) swords. Also, do not make fun of his hair, he’s very sensitive about it. Characters match their function, the nurse is a blonde with a high pitched voice, Rambert the engineer has metal arms.
The adventure starts with Damion (default name, you can change it) waking up, hungover, after a night of partying. Layne, his friend and examiner waked him and reminds him of his exam coming up in minutes. I was of 2 minds on this aspect, 1, I was surprised and impressed with how the game wasn’t aimed directly at children (the whole partying and drinking all night angle). 2. I wasn’t sure how I felt about the whole tired, “unlikely hero” trope. It’s been done so much before, something new would be nice. Damion can’t catch a break. Once he heads out, his uncle busts his chops about being a loser. This is another tired story angle that has been done to death in movies. “Authority figure is disappointed in the hero, so now he has to go prove himself”.
The tutorial is covered up as the “exam” this is where Layne walks you through your combat training (movement, attacks, gear/inventory), and character management. Speaking of inventory management, one thing I liked was that there is a “head start” option from the beginning, where you can get some inventory items from the beginning. Noobs will appreciate this, as it gives them a leg up on the game other than starting with empty pockets. Further tutorials are handled with a classroom aspect between Layne and Damion. This gives you another look into the characters and their development/interaction.
Speaking of characters, Damion is kind of a douche. He’s very full of himself, and he is unapologetic about it. He will eventually gain the skills to back it up, and this is a departure from old and tired hero characterizations. He never apologizes or loses his confidence, at least publicly. Layne is the “big brother” type, when he directs and guides Damion while still giving him grief. The way Damion interacts with the other NPCs has been set in the pre story (most of the other townsfolk know he’s a jerk). The usual side quest “fetch this and I’ll give you that,” stuff is present, one of the earliest was Damion’s friend who was so drunk, he hurt himself, and he asks Damion to get him some health potions. Once delivered, you get a bag to increase your inventory slots.
Control during combat is a mixed bag. The directional control is used to move (duh), but there’s no learning curve. If you press up, your character goes forward. The problem is, forward on screen may not be forward on your control pad. I lost several turns and opportunities to attack due to this. This also led me to die because of lost attacks where enemies killed me, this was a major frustration. During the tutorial exam, Damion is on his own, but once you move on to the story, Layne joins you and you have 2 characters to control/fight with. Attacks methods are varied between melee and ranged with magic interspersed throughout. The control of each character has the same basics; but attack styles vary by character.
In closing, if you are an RPG fan, you’ll get a lot out of this game. It’s what you’re comfortable with, multiple random encounters, items, turn based combat, “fetch this” sidequests, and multi person parties. If you don’t like RPGs, you will struggle with this game pretty quickly. Honestly, I tried to like this game. I do not like RPGs, at all. I abhor turn based combat; but I wanted to broaden my horizons and give the game and developers a fair shot. I can see potential and fans of this game style will likely love it. If you enjoy JRPGs, I highly recommend giving Rainbow Skies a shot.
Rainbow Skies is available for cross buy on PS4, PS3, and PS VITA for $29.99 (This review is of a free copy of the game pre-release. That did not affect the review; but did allow for an earlier playing to give a release day review.)