The latest in the long-running RPG Maker franchise comes to us from NIS America, courtesy of developer Kadokawa Games. This latest entry is the first English-language console release since RPG Maker 3 hit the PlayStation 2 back in 2005. While console releases of RPG Maker titles are quite common in Japan, with two games having been released on Nintendo’s previous handheld (the original Nintendo DS), the majority of English versions have come to us via PC.
To me, RPG Maker Fes stands out not just because it’s the first console release here in quite some time, but also because it takes a fairly robust game creation engine and puts it in the palm of your hand…Literally. However, while this sounds like a pretty amazing feat in itself, what it really boils down to is how well everything is implemented in this new handheld format.
One of the first things you’ll notice when creating an adventure for the first time is that the game’s menus are fairly simplistic. The game does start you off with a test map so that you can mess around with a few things, but sadly there isn’t any sort of tutorial – you’re just thrust right into the fray. You’ll probably want to start things out pretty simply and create a very basic world map screen, which is pretty easy. Using the drawing tool and selecting a tile from the menu on the right will let you sculpt the land, place trees and towns, and other features to make things look natural and interesting.
At first, it took me several minutes to figure out where the tile menu was and how you could place the tiles on the screen. Once I figured it out, though, it was very easy to do and it didn’t take any time at all to get a basic map going. Of course, the map itself is purely aesthetic: what really matters is what happens on the map itself. You’ll soon want to figure out how to place a starting position for the game’s main character (or characters), put “warp” events on the map tiles that are supposed to lead you to a different screen (for example, stepping on a town icon should take you to the game map associated with that town), and also potentially setting up enemy encounters. All of these things are handled by events, and while simple enough to set up, it may take beginners a little while to get into since these things aren’t really laid out for you at the start of the game.
While being available on the Nintendo 3DS is certainly one of RPG Maker Fes‘s strong points, I also feel like it’s a bit of a weakness. One of the things holding this title back is the limited 320×240 resolution of the 3DS’s touchscreen. This resolution features a mere 76,800 pixels to work with, while a typical PC resolution of 1920×1080 features nearly 2.1 million pixels. What this translates to is a much more limited workspace for the 3DS entry, meaning that if you’re used to using programs like this on a traditional PC set-up, you’ll probably feel like everything here feels a bit “zoomed in.” For many things this likely won’t really be an issue, but I like to see quite a bit on the screen at one time while I’m doing things like sculpting the shape of a landmass, so having to constantly scroll the screen to get an idea of what everything looks like is a bit of a headache to me.
To be fair, there isn’t much that the developer could have done about this as it’s simply an inherent limitation of the platform itself, so it’s basically just something that the player should be aware of before they purchase the game.
RPG Maker Fes comes with a basic set of fantasy tiles, music, characters, and enemies that should be more than sufficient for making a traditional medieval fantasy RPG. The game also features online connectivity with the ability to purchase new resources in the form of DLC from an online store. You’ll also be able to upload and share your creations with the larger community as well as download and play other players’ creations. The game also supports SD cards for expanded storage so that you can make more, larger quests.
Despite some technical limitations, RPG Maker Fes is still pretty impressive and quite fun to tinker with. There are quite a few resources available to you right at the start and overall everything is there for you to make a pretty basic quest. Some of the menus at times feel a bit clunky, though, and there are some instances where the translation suffered from some grammatical errors, so I feel like a few areas need a bit more polish in future updates.
One thing I am not sure about as of the time of this review, though, is whether or not you’ll be able to import custom-made graphics, music, or other resources into the game via an SD card. The ability to import customized materials into PC titles like RPG Maker VX Ace or RPG Maker MV is certainly a major boon that makes them exceptionally-robust development tools. Hopefully there will be a way to submit user-created materials into the engine so that RPG Maker Fes will retain a similar level of customizability.
Overall, though, RPG Maker Fes is a solid attempt to bring the magic of game creation from the PC to the Nintendo 3DS. I for one will certainly be excited to see what sort of games players will create once the game goes live!
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