As the indie game development scene has shown over the years, some of those with an idea and the skills to back it have been able to develop some memorable games. The route one would take to develop their game would depend on a number of factors, including time, money, manpower and talent. While it would not be the software series I would use to develop a AAA-tier project, the long-running RPG Maker series has allowed anyone with a dream convert their musings into a viable role-playing game. With English releases limited to the PC and a couple of dedicated PlayStation 2 experiences in the earlier 2000s, each release has provided budding developers with the resources and easy-to-use tools to craft their own experiences with no coding knowledge required, although providing more in-depth options for those more experienced in coding.
While those of us in western markets have had a number of PC editions to work with in recent years such as RPG Maker VX Ace and RPG Maker MV, those in Japan have had a few more options over the years, with Nintendo’s portable consoles receiving their own installments. Although Degica have handled the PC versions outside of Japan, it was Nippon Ichi Software America who opted to make the jump into offering RPG Maker Fes on the Nintendo 3DS in English. On a console brimming with RPG experiences, does RPG Maker Fes thrive on the Nintendo 3DS? Keep reading to find out.
Ultimately, you will more than likely be able to craft a better RPG experience on the PC than the Nintendo 3DS, supported by script-support to alter the gaming experience, the ability to more easily create and utilize unique resources, and ability to (now) take advantage of many different platforms. That said, a lot of the core functionality you can spend hours happily obsessing over is present in this edition, and albeit some limitations, you have the freedom to create the game of your dreams.
RPG Maker Fes throws developers into the fold, with little more than some menu options and tool tips here and there. It is one of those titles which I feel the physical release should have come with one of those big, bulky, and ever-so missable bulky instruction manuals. Instead, upon starting a project you are given a menu screen offering four options “Map Settings:, “Event Settings”, “Database” and “Test Play”, and little else.
You are able to create up to 99 Maps in RPG Maker Fes, which are further broken up into any combination of world maps, cities, dungeons and building interiors. Regardless of what you choose, these can be either Small (32×32 squares), Medium (64×64 squares) and Large (128×128 squares) in size. From there, you are free to build the maps with pre-made assets categorised under a few categories; handle collision on your new map; or manage encounters. While paling in comparison to the tilesets offered by its PC counterparts, the limited categories do offer a decent amount of items to suit any map type. Unfortunately there are no pre-built test maps for those less attuned to map creation.
Creating and managing events can be done either in the map editor, or in the slightly more intuitive event editor. Out of the box, RPG Maker Fes allows you to create some of the more commonly used events easily, such as creating a save point, building NPCs to handle shops, or plopping down as many doors as you need in a village. For those who need something more unique, there is a greater number of “event content” options than I was expecting, from displaying messages to forming branches of story progression depending on one of several potential variables. It is relatively straight forward, but does require some long-term and logical thinking to ensure an event goes forward flawlessly and is seamless across the whole game.
The “Database” section of RPG Maker Fes is where a lot of the magic happens, and while an almost blank slate when you first load it up, does provide a decent amount of optional content to make your first game less overwhelming. Although you may not be able to give each of your playable characters as much finesse as the PC version, it is possible to work through each of the options to build a party of heroes, give them equipment/skills, and foes for them to battle.
Without the ability to include user-created systems into your project, users of RPG Maker Fes are locked into the out-of-the-box options built into the software. The battle and menu systems do the job adequately enough for a “standard RPG” and don’t force you into unnecessary quirks, but are not the most aesthetically pleasing. That said, this is coming from someone who has always preferred the community-offered custom battle and menu systems in his projects.
RPG Maker Fes provides many of the tools a budding developer would want when creating their RPG on the 3DS, and even provides an easy-to-access service to share custom games with theplayers world. But while the functionality is there, its ease-of-use and implementation isn’t great.
Unlike RPG Maker MV which provides a character sprite creation tool, those using RPG Maker Fes are limited to built-in assets and additional content offered as either FreeLC or (for more substantial items) paid DLC. There is no option for the artistically inclined to create custom content using the stylus, nor ability to load content using the SD card. While there may have been a concern about adult content being shared with others or a limitation with the “player app” in downloading such content, it did limit the ability to make each game distinct. They do attempt to limit sameness to some degree by giving alternate designs (hair design/colour, eye colour, skin colour etc) for character sprites, but the limited map assets in particular gave little wiggle room for creativity outside of layout.
My major frustration is that everything you need to build an RPG required constant slogs through menu options to access – in that switching between the three interlinked modes and its options could have, in my opinion, been quicker. Other matters such as scrolling through and swapping assets during map development felt far too time consuming, and being unable to zoom out for a picture of a wider area also made it challenging to put everything I had been working on into perspective.
Some of these limitations are obviously the RPG Maker Fes development team working with the constraints of the 3DS, but I feel that extra assets and a more intuitive means of navigating through menu options would be needed to convince me to build my own creation on the platform. That said, if you have the time to build a full RPG using RPG Maker Fes and want to do so for the platform, you may learn to overcome these limitations and produce something marvelous.
Final Words on RPG Maker Fes
RPG Maker Fes offers a lot of the core functionality from the long-running PC line of game development tools, giving users the opportunity to build some solid RPG projects on a platform well known for its RPG offerings. However, while offering the tools, it has in my opinion been hampered by the limited number of build-in assets and unintuitive menu system which makes the learning curve a lot steeper than one might expect.
A digital 3DS review code for RPG Maker FES was provided by Bandai Namco Entertainment Australia, the Australian / New Zealand distributor for this title.
No paid DLC was provided or purchased for this review, although some of the free downloadable content was acquired.