Rainbow Skies - Switch Review

Rainbow Skies by developer SideQuest Studios and publisher EastAsiaSoftNintendo Switch review written by Richard with a copy provided by the publisher.
Estimated reading time: 9 minutes
Do you have a hankering for an old-school RPG? Do you miss tactical turn-based grid movement combat that doesn't take all three of your 3 brain cells? Well then, maybe Rainbow Skies is the right game for you!

Rainbow Skies is a sequel to Rainbow Moon, a title that released in 2012 that I sadly never got around to playing, although I did want to. As someone who hasn't played Rainbow Moon, no worries! You don't need any preexisting knowledge in order to enjoy, although it may help you familiarize yourself with the mechanics. Rainbow Skies, at its core, is a fairly traditional turn-based RPG, so let's hop on in and take a look at it!

Rainbow Skies stars a band of unlikely heroes who come together through a series of, well, gameplay convenient coincidences. Due to some accidents, a fall from a great height, and some magical practice, Damion and Layne, two people living in Arca in the skies, fall to the world of Lunah below them, accidentally getting magically bound to Ashly, a Mage. They then proceed to go on an adventure to try and separate themselves, more often than not by deciding that pissing off everyone and their grandma is the best course of action. No, really, within the first ten or so hours of the game, 90% of the problems faced could be not an issue so long as someone, mostly Damion, wasn't either an ass or an idiot.

Incidentally, this brings me to my first major gripe with Rainbow Skies. The story isn't...bad per se, and least the actual story, but the minor interactions can be...really rough. As I said, in the first roughly ten hours of me playing, most of the fights were started by Damion being an asshole idiot. While the sort of humour that they're going for can be appreciated at times, just be aware you will have to suffer through some parts you may feel is a little bit ridiculous for anyone with a functional brain. That being said, when the interactions aren't focused on the more annoying character traits of your party members, it can be quite interesting.

So, what is the world of Rainbow Skies like? Well, it's a sort of 3D isometric world where you can explore and get in turn-based battles for items, exp, and upgrade stones. Let's start off with how exploration works. Basically, you get to wander around a map, sometimes in dungeons and caves, and pick up treasure from chests and bags, find hidden items, talk to inhabitants to receive side-quests, and get in fights with monsters you see on-screen. Lucky for you, there's a convenient map that will fill in as you explore, even giving you a completion percentage and the number of hidden items in the area. Needless to say your main goal is to get unbound to your companions, but exploring is generally well worth it, if not for the completionists spirit, for the loot.

Every so often you may find yourself in a town where you can buy gear, heal at the nurse, purchase items or inventory expansions, or other various things you normally do in towns in RPGs. Don't worry, all this is laid out in the game pretty well. Now, some of you may have zeroed in on that inventory expansion, and I have to say that yes, you have limited inventory space. On the flip side, you can expand that well beyond what you may first feel is reasonable. It's also a good idea to talk to the inhabitants to accept sidequests, as these are a good way of collecting money and methods to improve your characters.

There is a neat little night and day mechanic as well, where night time, or inside dark caves, reduces your field of visibility unless you use something to light up your surroundings, such as a torch. Also, hidden items can only be found if the area is lit up, either by it being daytime when outside or using a torch. Now, as you are walking around you can get into battles, something I anticipate you doing a lot, which I'll go more in-depth into in a bit, but there are actually two ways to start a fight while in the field. The first is to interact with a monster you can see on the field, either by running into it or hitting the interact button on it. These are, for the most part, more "mandatory" fights in the game. The other method of getting into a fight is to choose to. Basically, as you walk around a little notification will pop up giving you some enemies and their levels. You can "interact" with this prompt in order to start a fight against those enemies. A nice way to get rid of annoying random battles, I have to say.

So, now that we've discussed exploring a bit, let's get into the fight sequences! Combat is on an isometric grid where the units move depending on their speed stat. Higher speed means more turns more often. When your turn rolls around, you can perform actions based on your action count. Each character has a set number of action points they can use on their turn, which will increase as they level up. Actions can be a common attack, a skill usage, an item, or movement. You can also defend which ends your turn on the action you used it, but reduces incoming damage by a lot. Skills may require more than one action point, or specific conditions and open grid tiles to use, in addition to the MP cost, so you need to pay attention to that.

Now, here are two more complaints I have with Rainbow Skies. First up, the way the isometric grid is set-up infuriates me to no end. It feels like I can't remember which direction moves were when using the D-Pad no matter what. A lot of the time I have to wait for the movement range to flash the directional inputs so I know what direction to press. Pro tip, stick is better than manual here. Secondly, the skill animations are frustrating when you are forced to watch the same skills for an extended period of time. Thankfully you can skip skill animations, but the default setting is "sometimes when the game feels like it if you hold the right trigger". You can change this to be "always skippable while holding right trigger", but good god man, that should be either the default or at least mentioned within the first few fights.

So, combat is actually fairly interesting, as there is a sort of rock-paper-scissors game going on between weapon types. You have adjusting for different enemy action values, knowing when to guard, and the fact that using skills will get them to level. There's also an increasing effectiveness or range, and different effects and areas of effect for skills, meaning there can be some planning elements to battles. What you aren't going to enjoy is how grind heavy this game can be.

So, basically everything you need to increase your characters' fighting strength requires some grinding. Skills need to be used to level up, which also unlocks more skills in the same tree if available. Beating enemies nets you exp which you need to level up. You also need the money drops to buy things and heal. Monster materials to infuse in gear will give stat increases, perform certain actions with gear in battle in order to unlock more material infusion slots on the equipped gear, and upgrade gems which you can spend to increase characters' stats, more upgrades become available on leveling. So yeah, all-in-all, there's a lot of grinding required in Rainbow Skies. Even within the first few hours.

Now, as you do all that grinding you may discover enemies start to give you less of a challenge. Well, hopefully at least. There is actually a Battle Ranking system where you can increase the difficulty in order to earn more from enemies. The increase in enemy strength is actually pretty noticeable early game, so be aware of that. As you increase your ranking, you need to fight a set number of battles on the new ranking in order to unlock the next step up. Increasing your rank, upon meeting the conditions, can be done at a trainer. But what do you do if a boss appears and absolutely wallops you? Well, no fear, as you can reduce the Battle Ranking from your main menu. While you need to both return to a trainer as well as fight the required battles again to increase it, the option is always there to lower it if things get too tough.

On the plus side, I suppose, if you are doing a lot of the grinding mentioned above, and have met the in-game prerequisites, you can start taming monsters! Once you hit a certain point in the story progression, monsters can drop eggs after you've beaten a certain number of them. You can then bring these eggs to a monster tamer's place in order to hatch them. Once hatched, tada! You can use them in your party to help beat up on your enemies.

One really cool aspect about Rainbow Skies is that everything is recorded and noted down in the book tab of your main menu. This includes item catalogues, exploration percentage, story completion, side quest completion, bestiary, and miscellaneous gameplay awards. It's both a completions nightmare and godsend, as there's SO MUCH to fill in, but it handily keeps track of everything.

In terms of visuals and sound design, Rainbow Skies takes a bit of a unique approach, feeling more like it's trying to emulate old-school RPGs to an extent. If you're into that sort of thing, it's pretty cool, but don't go expecting any super fancy realistic game engine graphics. On the other hand, they do actually have full animated cutscenes during some parts, which is really cool to see!

Overall, Rainbow Skies is a very interesting title that I wanted to enjoy more than I did. The game isn't bad, but it does feel bogged down by overused gags that are more annoying than funny. There are also a lot of grind heavy aspects, and some setting changes that really should be defaults or at the very least given a very early game tutorial, or else frustration will build for the player. Despite the shortcomings, I do have to admit that I really enjoyed Rainbow Skies, both the aesthetic and battle functionality. While Rainbow Skies is probably going to be very hit or miss for most people, I really do suggest taking a closer look into it to see if it appeals to you.

Score: 7 / 10



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