RPG Maker Fes Review (3DS) – “Unlimited RPGs in the palm of your hand”

RPG Maker is a game creation tool that has been around for quite some time on the PC. Its ease-of-use and plethora of options have made it a popular application for RPG enthusiasts, and newcomers, to get their creativity flowing out there for others to experience. The latest release, RPG Maker Fes, is now opening the game creation series to the 3DS crowd. This release marks the very first time it is available to the handheld/console market. So, how did Kadokawa Games do handling the conversion to the 3DS?

Gameplay: 4/5

Game creation tools can be hit-or-miss when striking accessibility with the user. Some game creation tools may be a bit complex or convoluted, while others (like Super Mario Maker for example) are incredibly simple and intuitive to use. Thankfully, the team at Kadokawa Games have crafted the latter with a truly great interface that took very little time to grasp. When creating a game, there are a variety of elements you can choose to create: maps, events, items, etc.

When creating a map, you will choose the size of that specific map, as well as what type of design it is intended for. These vary from an overworld, town, dungeon, or house/castle interior. Each one provides specific assets that pertain to those styles. You can choose if you want to create each area from scratch, or tweak any of the sample layouts provided. Placing objects on the grid-style map is a breeze, whether using the D-Pad/Analog Nub and pressing the A button, or drawing on-screen with the stylus. You can open up a menu and see all the ground textures and objects you can choose to place on the map. You will also choose the song that plays for each map (and can change it at specific spots as well, but more on that later).

Now, placing objects on the map is nice and all, but it doesn’t mean a whole lot if you can’t tweak its interactions. This is where Event Settings come into play. Here is where some basic knowledge of logic is useful, but don’t worry, as there is no actual coding involved. In terms of basic knowledge, it’s a matter of understanding how to place events to trigger, when they should trigger, and the order of events that should kick off when the event starts. It’s honestly not difficult to grasp at all once you give it some time. However, the game does have plenty of preset events to utilize if you just want to get your creation going in a playable form as quick as possible. With events, you will be able to do numerous actions. These range from transitioning from a house to its interior, reading signs, opening treasure chests (as well as what you place in there), save points, and even dialogue scenes between characters. There’s plenty of options to utilize here without question. Again though, I cannot stress enough just how accessible this all is thanks to its simple interface.

The last component absolutely essential to your creation is the Database. Here you will be able to get all your assets together: characters, party, monsters, groups, encounter chips, skills, weapons, items, your game’s title and info. The level of customization in this area is very impressive. When creating a character, you can type in their name, add a nickname, their profession, a portrait of the character to display, and a description of them. Then you will be able to tweak all their attributes, what equipment they start off with, and their grow speed (i.e. how quickly they level up). Creating monsters is handled similarly, except you will be able to edit every stat they have: HP, MP, Attack, Defense, EXP, Gold, etc. Then you can place enemies on the map as either invisible encounter chips (like Final Fantasy) or create characters that are visible to encounter yourself. Unfortunately though, there is no pixel art editor, so you will not be able to draw/create your own characters from scratch. You will have to use preset characters and toggle their color variation.

Combat is the one area where customization is not as flexible to create. Combat is handled in first-person mode, so never seeing the characters battle is a bit of a bummer. There are plenty of combat animations to choose from that are assigned to each weapon. You can even choose how many times a move can attack in one sequence, whether it can hit one or more enemies, whether you can sell the weapon or not, and what the value of it goes for. This also pertains to other items like armor and accessories that can be equipped. You can also create Special Skills for characters to use, such as magic or deathblows. You can even choose from preset backgrounds to have when combat initiates. The customization aspects are still more than effective for combat sake, but just wish the combat wasn’t restricted to first-person perspective.

Creating a title and game info is a great touch to provide your creation. Here you can choose what audio to play at the main menu, the background image, and a border frame. You can even enter in credits to show everyone involved in your project. Additionally, you can enter in game info so that you can highlight what genre your game is (granted it’s always an RPG, but can vary based on the themes you set), as well as whether you’d like it as a public release, or one that’s locked/unlocked for editing by those who download it.

Testing your game is an essential component to ensuring everything works the way you intend it to. Doing so takes no time to kick off, and it always saves your changes before you start testing. During testing, you can actually hold a button to remove any collision detection so that you can quickly move around your maps. Literally every component works as if it’s the full build of your game, meaning you can even save the game at points and load it from there during testing.

One more element that needs to be mentioned is the free RPG Maker Player application that anyone can download from the eShop. This lets anyone download and play any uploaded projects that creators post through RPG Maker Fes for free. This is one of the best ideas to roll out here, as it lets people share their creations for friends or anyone on the server to download and enjoy, regardless if they don’t own the actual game itself.

Graphics: 4/5

RPG Maker Fes certainly pushes for that 16-bit art style that truly nails that retro feel. The pixel art is very well done, with great environment textures and simple, yet effective animations. The game’s combat is entirely in first-person perspective and feels like a missed opportunity to showcase some very cool looking combat animations for the characters. The game does run without any issues or hiccups at a locked 30 fps. Considering the grid-based movement, this is more than acceptable for this gameplay style. Overall, it’s a great looking game that captures the retro style.

Sound: 4/5

In terms of audio, RPG Maker Fes has plenty of arrangements to pick and choose from. Whether it be tracks tailored to exploring the vast lands, interior homes, dungeons, castles, or even ambience, there’s something here that will fit the needs of your creation. Audio effects are also very effective, whether in combat or placing certain audio cues to play during scenes or triggers. The selection is again, very well done. Much like the visuals and assets, this is all solely based on the “Fantasy” setting that’s the only choice initially. There is more content on the way that will expand on the overall options and combinations possible. Overall, RPG Maker Fes has a great audio package with tunes that you will find yourself having stuck in your head when not playing/creating the game.

Replay Value: 5/5

RPG Maker Fes is loaded with nearly endless possibilities. The amount of time you will stick with this to really get your creations going is staggering. If you’re the creative type, there’s no question you will lose countless hours perfecting your creation. When you’re not creating a game, you can easily access the network and download others’ creations uploaded on the servers. The fact that you have an endless stream (as long as the community sticks around) of RPG titles to play will no doubt keep you engaged. NIS America and Kadokawa Games will also be supporting even more assets and overall content to utilize, leading to even more diverse creations over time. Couple this with the fact that anyone who doesn’t even own this can download RPG Maker Player on the eShop for free and play anyone’s uploaded games, and you’ve got a very robust package.

Overall Score: 17/20 = 8.5 out of 10

RPG Maker Fes is a truly accessible game creation tool that fits the 3DS perfectly. If there’s ever been a perfect fit to have a game creation tool, the portable format is certainly the way to go. The amount of content available at launch here is already very impressive, and we can’t wait to see the content updates in the near future. Having the ability to create your own RPG with a very accessible interface is sublime, and despite some minor quirks, is a must-own for all creative enthusiasts. Even if you’ve never delved into creating your own content, the ease-of-access makes it very addictive to stick with from the get-go. Do not let this title pass you by. Now if we could also see a possible Switch version of this…

Pros:

+ Very accessible tools

+ Extensive content, with more to come

+ Downloadable RPG Maker Player so that anyone can play your games for free

+ Great retro vibe in terms of visuals

+ Incredibly engaging to stick with

Cons:

– First-person combat only

– No pixel art creation system

A special thank you to the publisher for providing us a review copy for RPG Maker Fes! Copy reviewed on Nintendo 3DS.

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