Penny Arcade’s On the Rain-Slick Precipice of Darkness 4 has a lot going for it. First and foremost, it, like Rain-Slick 3 before it, is not afraid to poke fun at tropes and then use them itself. It’s also very funny. The battles are an absolute blast to play, and the tale is long enough to feel substantial but short enough to not overstay its welcome. That’s something that more RPGs should do; 15 hours is often enough, and if your game will take 80 hours to complete, then I may just shy away from it; I could play four other games in that same span of time.
While Rain-Slick 4 is the fourth game in a series, none of the previous entries are required before jumping in. They’re all fun games in their own right, but don’t consider the first three necessary unless it’ll keep you from playing the fourth. It does a fine job of recapping the previous games and reintroducing the characters, so while you may be missing out on some of the nuance carried over from past games, you won’t be lost in terms of character motivations.
RPGs, for me, are more about the battle system than the story, and while Rain-Slick 4 is well-written, it is more important to me that the fights are fun to play. Zeboyd has combined Final Fantasy VI with Pokemon, and the results are amazing.
Instead of fighting as the main characters, each party member draws out a monster to do the fighting in their stead. Each trainer imparts specific skills for their monster to use, so it’s more complex than “Gabe controls the crow, so I’m basically just playing as the crow;” when another character is paired with the crow, its abilities are different. Pairing each trainer with the right monster can be just as important before the battle as choosing the right move is in the heat of the moment.
I wound up favoring monsters that use magic attacks over physical, since they afford the player the ability to take advantage of enemy elemental weaknesses. Rain-Slick 4 being purely turn-based is what really allowed that to happen. I usually favor physical attacks and tank characters figuring that eventually, with some grinding, I can get by with just mashing the attack button. Playing a turn-based game lets me take a step back and really consider my actions which makes the more complex magic users more appealing.
It’s nice, as well, that the magic system does not punish the player for leaning on it. Everybody starts at 0 MP at the beginning of each fight and earns 1 MP each turn. While this means that you can’t start with a complex attack and end the encounter before it begins, it also means that there is no penalty for using your magic. There is absolutely no MP management from battle to battle, and if you need to use a 4 MP attack to pull out the win, then that won’t come back to bite you in three fights when you’re out of MP and coming up on a boss encounter.
Rain-Slick 4 also looks and sounds great, particularly if the SNES holds a special, nostalgic place in your heart. The real star, though, is the music. I don’t buy a lot of game soundtracks, but if this one comes up, I want it for the recurring enemy team theme alone. It’s a great piece of music that gets stuck in your head, and you won’t be upset that it’s there. In terms of length, you can expect 12 to 15 hours of adventure, and that length feels just right. That’s plenty of time to play the fun battles and experience a very well put-together story full of witty and well-written characters. As a comedy fan with limited time, this is exactly what I want my RPGs to be.
Pros: Fun battle system, great music, genuinely funny characters
Cons: You’ll eventually have more monsters than trainers, and choosing which to use is hard