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Developer: Rainbite Limited Publisher: EastAsiaSoft Platform: PS4 and PS Vita Release Date: May 10, 2018 ESRB: E for Everyone Note: This review is based on the PS Vita version of the game There is a fine line between taking inspiration from iconic games and simply being derivative of them, with the latter being far more difficult to escape from. That does not stop many from attempting the inspiration balancing act, such as Rainbite Limited's newest adventure game Reverie. By basking within a familiar framework of two beloved Nintendo series (such as Earthbound's style and The Legend of Zelda's gameplay structure), one can only hope it stands out enough on its own without using 2D nostalgia as a crutch. Despite a bizarrely eerie intro involving treacherous brothers throwing one of their own overboard and then being cursed for an eternity as wrathful spirits, Reverie is nearly devoid of storytelling otherwise. The player is more or less told to spend their vacation on Toromi Island, which apparently means going on a The Legend of Zelda-styled adventure and putting vengeful spirits to rest, I guess. The character's impetus to go from one place to another is not exactly the most cohesive in Reverie. If there is one facet in Reverie that does flow together rather well at times, it's the 2D Earthbound-inspired presentation. There are a lot of neat little flourishes, such as the rustling of foliage, denizens that fidget around as well as turn to face you, and characters leaving imprints in the sand. It creates a homely feel to the starting town of Harikoa in particular, especially when using spare change to play a surprisingly solid shoot 'em up mini-game, or when encountering a nest of kiwi birds in its faux New Zealand. Honestly, if more of Reverie reflected this sort of localized quirk it would likely have been a better game, so it's a real shame that it accounts for so little of the overall experience. The fact of the matter is that Reverie eventually boils down into a wholly forgettable and derivative Zelda-like adventure. Most of your time will be spent in dungeons, which are -- ironically -- the least appealing part of the game, both from an aesthetic and gameplay perspective. If you have played just about any Zelda game, you already know the routine of gathering small/boss room keys in various rooms; which wouldn't be such a bad thing if the dungeons themselves weren't so bland and lifeless. Unfortunately, the frequent combat encounters -- easily the weakest aspect of the gameplay -- only adds insult to injury. Most of the key skills that are usually acquired through dungeons are just renamed Zelda abilities as well, further compounding its derivative nature. For example, instead of using a bow you will instead use a dart gun to hit targets on the wall, just like in a million Zelda games. Instead of Zora-themed swimming gear, you use a snorkel; and so on and so forth. Despite their predictable usage, most key items are thankfully quite responsive in their puzzle and combat implementation, like the cricket bat feeling nearly one to one with 2D Link's sword swing in its immediate timing. Well, pretty much everything except for the final key item ability, at least. What happens to be the most creative ability in the entire game turns out to have poorly implemented physics. This is especially a shame since it also adds much-needed level design variety to the last main dungeon. Basically, the last story item is positional-based and if it drifts a tiny bit off it can leave several puzzle rooms in an unwinnable state. I found myself resetting it by killing the main character and... returning to the start of the dungeon. I originally thought it was poor execution on my end until I saw a couple walkthroughs online that had the same exact issue regarding necessary teleporting in what is otherwise a fairly easy game overall. And with nearly a quarter of my entire playtime spent in that dungeon around that mechanic made it have a significantly longer and more negative impact than it really should have. There are kernels of a much better game in Reverie that the pleasant visuals occasionally remind the player of that are, unfortunately, lost in such a shallow overall Zelda-like adventure. Sure, there are side activities outside of the main campaign's dungeon slog like collecting feather based unlockables but only a small handful of them are rewarding enough to even bother with like a couple off-the-beaten-path mini-games. But even then there is so little driving force to completion beyond the game just being short overall where even the dungeon unlocked after beating the main game is nothing but monster rooms for a game that already has so few enemy variety. There are plenty of games out there that take inspiration from older ones but very few of them that go beyond poorly shadowing significantly better games. Unfortunately, Reverie serves as yet another example as this longstanding trend torn between its clear influences of Earthbound and, even more so, The Legend of Zelda, without a firm grasp on their actual strengths beyond a clean well-realized aesthetic. Reverie does little to offend but even less to really stimulate the player's memory of it because of its lackluster series of dungeons despite hints of a sweeter kiwi spirit. Pros + Clean 2D aesthetic with a welcome New Zealand vibe in spite of its very clear visual inspiration + Bite-sized adventure that is not too demanding of the player Cons - Most of the time is spent in dungeons which are rarely all that clever in their design - Barely anything resembling storytelling or characters makes it quite forgettable overall alongside its derivative gameplay - While the game generally controls well the last usable key item, which is vital in the final dungeon, has very unreliable physics Overall Score: 5.5 (out of 10) Average Reverie may be pleasant to look in terms of aesthetic at but as an actual game it has so little to offer than being a totally forgettable, yet generally inoffensive, Zelda-like that simply exists Disclosure: This game was reviewed using downloadable PS4/PS Vita code provided by the publisher.
Developer: SideQuest Studios Publisher: EastAsiaSoft Platform: PSN Release Date: Out Now ESRB: E10+ It's a rare occurrence to find brand new full length strategy RPGs exclusively on PSN these days, but that's exactly the case with EastAsiaSoft's Rainbow Moon. Developed by Sidequest Studios, the game was designed around the old-school concept of RPGs that really require you to level grind a lot and such to progress through the game. Don't be fooled by some of the older conventions it exhibits though; you'll find Rainbow Moon to be a surprisingly solid title in the strategy RPG genre. The game begins with its hero, Baldren, being tricked into entering a portal by his arch-nemesis and finding himself marooned on a distant and foreign world known as Rainbow Moon. To complicate matters, not only does Baldren's arrival in this strange land seemingly bring about a plague of monsters, but it turns out that no one knows how to leave this world either. Thus Baldren's quest to discover the secrets behind Rainbow Moon and how to escape and get back to his own world begins. Unfortunately, if you want a deep complex plot filled with twists and turns, you're not going to find it here. Beyond the intro, there isn't too much to the story that will keep you enthralled in the tale. There are no cutscenes that occur at any point or anything of the like. Rather, the story is told through conversations with other characters, for the most part. This isn't necessarily a bad thing, but it does mean that the story is not necessarily the main focus here as with most RPGs. Though it does start to pick up a bit later on in the game when you have invested some time into the world itself, there aren't any elaborate backstories of sorts that keep you wanting to know more about the characters, and for the most part, there really isn't too much depth to them at all. Luckily, Rainbow Moon delivers some interesting and compelling gameplay that will be your main reason to continue playing. Not unlike Final Fantasy Tactics or Disgaea, Rainbow Moon is a mixture of traditional RPG and SRPG at its heart. You'll explore the overworld in order to complete sidequests, fight enemies and level up, and find loot for your character. Loot in partcular becomes one of the main draws for quests as you're constantly looking for better weapons, armor, skills, and whatnot to combat the increasing levels of different enemies in each area. Unfortunately, most of the side quests and even the main quest boil down to being fetch quests where someone will require you to go get a certain number of items or kill a certain enemy. Again, the loot ends up being the impetus for completing these quests. There's also a day/night cycle in effect as you walk through the world, and each step you take translates into minutes gone by in the world. When it gets to be late, the screen becomes increasingly darker around the edges of the screen and slowly circles in on your character until the darkness encapsulates everything but Baldren and a small diameter around him. The only way to proceed in these conditions is to use a torch to brighten things up a bit, sleep next to a campfire and wait for dawn, or sleep at a tavern until daylight comes around. It's an interesting dynamic that plays into some specific events, but it can be a bit irritating to have to deal with if you're stuck in an isolated area with no torches handy. Another dynamic created to infuse a bit of realism into the game is the use of a food meter which gauges how hungry each character is. If you don't feed them with the different food you find/buy throughout the game, the meter will eventually dwindle, and if it reaches zero, that specific character will start losing HP until they eat again. Like the day/night cycle, it's interesting at first, but can also get in the way of the game if you're running low on food in your supplies. However, one aspect of the game that I really enjoyed is the stat-upgrading system. After each battle, you'll accumulate Rainbow Pearls (which are acquired when one of your party members defeats an enemy), and you'll use these to upgrade your characters HP, MP, and other stats like strength, defense, speed, and luck. You can also use random loot and rare items acquired from enemies in battle to increase the stat bonuses of your weapons and armor, making them even more powerful and giving you a lot of options when it comes to customization. Throughout the game, you'll be needing to make use of both of the above aspects in order to progress through each subsequent area and to make sure you're not underpowered when fighting enemies in new areas. When it comes to enemy battles, Rainbow Moon does something very interesting that I've yet to see featured in other RPGs. The majority of battles are initiated through running into enemies on the overworld, but in a twist, random enemy notifications will pop up every now and then and allow you to either engage in battle or choose to ignore them until it goes away. The random enemy encounter notification will show you the main type of enemy you'll be fighting as well as its level; this is especially useful for those who are simply looking to grind so they can improve their level and/or stats. In this sense, SideQuest Studios has seemingly one-upped Square Enix with this useful innovation. Of course, the game still makes you fight battles when the story calls for it, but choosing whether to fight random battles or not is somewhat of a paradigm shift for how RPGs initiate battles and it makes me wonder why no one had thought of it before. As is the norm for strategy and tactical RPGs, each battle unfolds on a grid-like system where you and your characters take turns fighting the enemy forces. Each character will take one turn to either move, attack, perform a special attack, defend, or use an item, and as you progress through the game, the number of moves a character can make in each turn will increase. However, unlike some newer SRPGs (like Final Fantsy Tactics A2), all characters (even your own) are impassable on the grid, meaning that you'll need to defeat an enemy in order to pass by, go around it, or even go around your own party members if you want to pass by. This is even the case with loot that is left behind with the enemy, though it actually helps enrich the strategy a bit since enemies cannot pass through loot (though your party members can pick it up by moving over it). It's in this sense that Rainbow Moon feels a bit more like strategy RPGs of old, but that's not entirely a bad thing; just a bit different for what most are used to. You'll find that this particular aspect is actually a vital thing to take advantage of; especially during boss battles, which are the most heated and intense sections of the game thanks to having to strategize between defending against an overwhelming number of enemies and a significantly stronger boss enemy on the field as well. It's in these battles that the game is undoubtedly at its best because of the immense challenge of having to fend off waves off enemies while protecting your characters, almost like a chess game of sorts. Most of the main quests will eventually send you into dungeons to accomplish a specific task, and while the fact that they employ a map that gradually reveals itself as you move through the dungeon is cool, they mostly consist of fighting enemies placed at predetermined points and flipping switches to open passages to proceed. There are optional corridors and such to find and discover, as well as plenty of optional loot to find, however, so that helps keep them from feeling too boring, but many dungeons essentially feel the same, only bigger and more maze-like. However, the content in Rainbow Moon cannot be understated - this is an extremely large game and world, and it'll take you a good 40+ hours alone to complete the main quest. Even ignoring that, Sidequest Studios built in so many side quests, optional areas, extra items, and higher level enemies to battle that you could potentially spend a hundred, if not hundreds of hours playing this game. To drive this point home, one of the trophies is to accumulate 100 hours of play time, and another gold trophy is acquired by getting one of your characters to level 500. Yes, there are enemies that go up to level 999, and your characters can as well. Again, lots of content to be had here. Perhaps probably one of my favorite aspects of the game though, is its music, which gives off a very New Age vibe. Many of the battle themes are extremely catchy; one even sounds very reminiscent of the theme from the 80's show, MacGuyver, and the theme for boss battles is suitably epic sounding. EastAsiaSoft has even released the soundtrack for purchase separately or as part of a bundle (with the latter being the better value), so I definitely encourage RPG music fans to check it out. Ultimately, Rainbow Moon is an interesting game and can be very fun if you're part of the right audience, but it won't be for everyone. There's lots of level grinding to be done, and battles and dungeons can feel a bit tedious if you're playing for a while, which is why I recommend playing in hour bursts. However, there's a lot of rewarding content for players who love deep strategies and character building as well, and the addition of an explorable world adds a unique feel to a genre that usually focuses only on the battles. If you're into long, stat-building Strategy RPGs, Rainbow Moon is definitely something you should check out; if you're unsure about it, you can always try out the demo first. It's far from perfect, but at only $15, it's one of the most expansive and best values you can buy on the Playstation Store. Pros: + Huge explorable world + Deep strategic battle system + Stat-upgrading system and upgradable weapons/armor is pretty fun + Music is pretty catchy Cons: - Story is a bit mediocre/lifeless - Lots of grinding - Dungeons can feel a bit tedious at times Overall Score: 7.5 (out of 10) Good It's not for everyone, but Rainbow Moon boasts a lot of content and some great strategy gameplay. Just be prepared to grind quite a bit.