Saturday, December 18, 2010

Rainbow Islands

Taito / NEC Avenue

I wasn't expecting all that much from Rainbow Islands when I purchased it. I do enjoy Parasol Stars, its acclaimed descendant, but not nearly as much as everyone else seems to, and the consensus has always been that RI is similar in some respects to PS but not quite as good. As it turned out, consensus had misled me. I ended up loving the game.

Its many levels scroll vertically and demand that you make your way to their peaks in relatively short spans. The race-to-the-top gameplay style appeals to me much more than Parasol Stars' bumble-around-in-a-box formula. At first, the boards called to mind Kid Icarus' similarly structured vertical stages, but with much more color, much faster action, and far less suckiness. And I immediately dug the general play system, the most appealing aspect of which is that you can accomplish so many different things with your rainbow weaponry, from killing enemies to nabbing items and building bridges.

The bosses are a charismatic lot, and the level themes, especially the ones related to other games (elements of Darius, Bubble Bobble, and Arkanoid are incorporated in particular realms), add a great deal of personality to proceedings that are entertaining to begin with. To top it all off, there's a sweet vocal number to be heard at the conclusion (if you prove yourself worthy of experiencing the best ending).

The one thing that bugged me about RI at first was how bloody difficult it can be to acquire the elusive hyper items, which endow the protagonist with some extremely useful abilities. You have to collect different-colored diamonds in the ROYGBIV order in each world, and as you can do only so much in attempting to determine the colors that appear, the process can prove extremely wearisome. But when I finally managed to get my hands on a few of these trinkets and realized how incredibly helpful they are, I understood why the game makes us go through such taxing trials to obtain them.

Rainbow Islands isn't the easiest game to come by, and $90 seems to be a common price for it these days. I was fortunately able to acquire it from a friend for much less than that a few years ago. Knowing now how enjoyable it is, I wouldn't hesitate to plunk down a substantial amount of cash for it if I had to, but I'd probably wait until I was presented with a price significantly lower than the going rate.

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