Do you ever have one of those nights? The kind of night where you enjoy yourself a little too much and spend the next day nursing the hangover from hell? This is how our story in Rainbow Skies begins, the latest RPG from SideQuest Studios. No ancient prophecies, no dragons, and no tragic origin story – just a headache and an inability to hold one’s sword straight.
This theme of responsibility follows your character throughout Rainbow Skies, but so does the whimsy. Your hometown floats on the clouds, you’ll fight monsters and you’ll have a lovely haircut doing it – so far, so RPG. But banter between characters is smart, the fourth wall is broken on a regular basis and the game plays with numerous RPG tropes inconsistently funny and surprising ways.
The narrative setup is simple – your protagonist is due to complete his final exam to become a “monster tamer”, something he’s worked towards for years. Through pure happenstance, however, you’re thrown into the middle of a battle between two superpowers along with your ragtag party of two other characters. It’s those characters (and their interaction with your own) that breathe so much life into Rainbow Skies’ otherwise predictable story.
Taking place from an isometric view, Rainbow Skies is beautiful – colours are vibrant, and there’s a deceptive amount of detail to be found with its cutesy visuals, beautiful music and wonderfully retro sound effects. Just don’t let that fool you – the battle system may appear barebones at first, but you’ll find yourself limping away from a surprising amount of battles.
The difficulty curve is deceptively steep, but never feels anything less than accessible. Battles are challenging, built on a grid and turn-based system. You’ll fight multitudes of enemies in a single battle, often mixing different types and their associated strengths and weaknesses. Enemies are aggressive and will flank around the arena to box you in, but will often drop helpful items from within the battle, allowing you to fight on. The order of turns is constantly switching, providing tense finishes and opportunities to turn the tide of battle in your favour. You’re also free to breed monsters to fight alongside you – each with individual traits and abilities, and levelling unlocks a huge array of skills for your party.
When not slaying monsters, you’re able to engage in all manner of side activities from fishing, gambling or hunting for long-lost treasure, and even after the main story is over, more options for exploration and levelling open up. There is an insane amount of content here, and all of it feels rewarding. Rainbow Skies is also playable on both PlayStation 3 and Vita, with cross-buy and cross-save functionality between three platforms – so you’ll have even more ways to explore across the 30-hour runtime.
Rainbow Skies is a smart, funny and fresh take on a genre that often takes itself too seriously – its story has moments of seriousness, yes, but the overall levity helps differentiate it from the forebears it clearly takes inspiration from. In doing so, Rainbow Skies now ranks amongst them as a phenomenal tactical JRPG.
*Code kindly provided by the publisher for review*