My god, a parody that didn't frustrate me.

Okay, so, let's talk about what we have here. Rainbow Skies is a JRPG style, well, RPG from SideQuest Studios, who most notably (or at least relevantly to this discussion) made a previous stab at the genre with Rainbow Moon. And right out the gate, simply stating it's JRPG style tells you a lot about what to expect. Yeah, it's a largely linear story. Yeah, it's a turn-based battle system. Yeah, the only character ownership you'll be doing is if you name someone Butt.

Yet like any such situation, it's really the places where Rainbow Skies shifts away from that core set of assumptions, and plays with its own unique mechanics, that we start to see some really cool stuff. Now, first, I'm gonna level with you: I have never actually played Rainbow Moon, so chances are a lot of these cool tweaks to the genre are also there.

And we should probably talk scenario, before we get too lost in the mechanics. The game starts pretty simply; In the flying city of...Boreville, our first party member, Damion by default, has an exam to get all licensed to do the asskicking he is so good at. Except anticipation led to a night of carousing and partying, which means a terrible hangover. Which means, and I'm sorry to spoil the literal first five minutes of the game, things go sideways in the exam, and soon things are all going to hell in a handbasket.

Now, I do actually want to talk about this, because it sets up a fairly clever threading of the needle. See, my single biggest gripe with your typical parody-game, is that the world is so often full of idiots. Everyone is incompetent and most of them are evil, and the heroes in a lot of these parodies are only heroes by virtue of being too incompetent to fit any evil in.

Damion's not that. He's not mockedly dumb, he's just a meathead. A jock cliche. Almost all of his ignorance comes from being too impatientto have learned something before the exact moment it became a speedbump between him and a goal of his.

And you know what, I can work with that. That's refreshing. Not least because it means that Damion is, for real, in-text, competent at what he does instead of just stumbling into success by dumb luck. Which, trust me, I've played far too many parodies that lean hard into that angle.

So those mechanics I talked about. Right! Rainbow Skies's battle mechanics sit in this really interesting place I haven't seen much of before, kind of at the intersection of typical JRPG, typical strategy RPG, and typical roguelike controls. Every fight takes place on a small board viewed, like the rest of the game, isometrically. 

Here, your basic movement and melee attacks are all handled via direct button presses. This already helps things move awfully smooth and quick for a strategy game, and keeps things focused on quick individual actions. One thing that also makes things interesting is that the game uses a tick system; Every action moves one minute forward on the clock, and a character's speed determines how many ticks until they get their next turn, which can lead to fast characters getting a whole set of turns bunched up.

This clock, actually, feeds into just about the entire game, even outside of the battle engine. Everything moves the clock forward. Every step, adds time to the clock. Every goddamned conversation bubble. And it affects a lot of systems; hidden treasure is easier to find in the day. Certain enemies seem to only come out in the day or night. I'm sure there are quests that can only be done at certain times, I just haven't found them yet.

I'm not entirely sure how I feel about the amount of things that affect the clock. It's a mechanism that can do really interesting stuff within the combat engine, but it feels like in the world, it ends up making things a bit too fussy, and means you can burn through a lot of torches trying to do things at night, in a game that doesn't always have a lot of great means to skip to daytime.

But the thing I will say is, this all makes the game a lot more interesting. There's a lot of interesting little subsystems to play with, too, from character and equipment upgrades to the skill experience mechanics. There's even this entire floating-difficulty in the form of a battle rank system, where you can unlock higher and higher difficulties for greater reward, but bringing it down means dropping rank and having to re-earn the status.

So it's a lot of interesting, fun little things to play with, encased in a game that does a few odd things but is overall quite well executed. Is there anything I don't like? Well...Okay, straight up, the complete lack of an autosave, or even any kind of big shiny save and recovery point, is a bad thing. I'm doing full manual saves here like we're playing a PC game from the 90s. They seriously need to patch in some checkpoints with save prompts, at least.

And the graphics are...They're not bad, but when it pulls away from the more interesting cutscenes and just goes isometric, it loses a lot of charm. Not all of it, but it feels like if the game's movement and overworld graphics were a little more 3D, it'd hold a lot more appeal than what it has now, which looks a lot like Flash-style asset puppetry.

But, I mean, that's me kind of nitpicking. The real core of this game is just really solidly executed. It's not some crazy ambitious game aiming for the cinematic AAA experience, but hell, it doesn't need to be. It's just a solid, well-done indie game in the style of a certain era of JRPG, and at the end of the day that's more than enough for me.