A working, but limited creator's toolbox.
For someone who has always dreamed of creating my own games but lacks the time and discipline to learn how to code, simple game creation software can be an incredible blessing. Removing the complicated tasks of the art and boiling the process down to a handful of inputs and text insertion can allow players of all experience levels to make their own adventures. RPG Maker Fes seeks to provide players with a set of robust tools to do exactly this, hoping to allow fans to create their own RPGs. Overall, it works, but only if you’re looking to create one specific type of RPG, and don’t mind the learning curve or being extremely limited by the amount of tools in your box.
One of the biggest issues is the complete lack of tutorial. As someone who is somewhat familiar with this type of software, I was personally able to figure things out on the fly, but this could be a hefty barrier of entry for many. Tasks such as creating characters and designing the maps can probably be figured out, but the more complicated aspects of RPG making (creating “events,” cut scenes, or quests) should have been given some kind of walkthrough to keep players from feeling alienated.
If you’re able to work out some of the more difficult aspects of the creation process, though, you can create a fairly simple, but fun little RPG. However, be prepared to invest a ton of time into the software if you want it to match your vision. You’ll have to finely tune your RPG’s classes, skills, items, and enemies to make sure that it’s well-balanced and fair. Doing so will require that you test your game over and over to make sure your events and numbers are working properly. RPG Maker Fes isn’t for those who lack patience, as it’s filled with monotonous menus for you to navigate through as you create your game through trial and error.
One of the more frustrating limitations of RPG Maker Fes are in the incredibly small amount of character and item sprites you’re given to work with. Looking to create an interplanetary, sci-fi RPG? Sorry, you won’t find the tools to do that here. In the standard game’s package, you’re only given the most basic character and enemy designs for a generic fantasy RPG. And there aren’t many of these, either, so you’re likely to commit what this reviewer considers one of the many sins of bad RPGS: palette swapping. For a full-priced game, the amount of content feels limited. NIS America has promised that DLC will be coming for the game that may include more diversity, but that feels like a rip-off due to how little the game actually ships with.
In the end, though, after dozens of hours, I was finally able to create my own little RPG starring a clown named Gregory on a quest to make the people of Upset Village happy. It’s technically far from finished, as there are many things I still need to do to balance the game (it’s far too easy in its current state), but I did have fun coming up with the characters and setting, even if I often felt extremely limited by my toolbox. One of the coolest things about the game (that wasn’t available during my reviewing playthrough) is that anyone with a 3DS will be able to download an app that will allow you to share your created games with them, even if they don’t have RPG Maker Fes themselves. In theory, creators can share their games with friends and family, sharing the fruits of their labor.
Ultimately, it’s hard for me to recommend RPG Maker Fes to anyone but the most hardcore of RPG fans that have always dreamed of creating their own game. You’ll certainly be limited by the tools (or lack thereof) available here, and the lack of a meaningful tutorial may hinder all but the most patient of designers. RPG Maker Fes feels like an incomplete product, like a beginner sewer’s kit that was shipped with only one color of thread and without instructions. You can definitely make an RPG if you’re patient enough, but it’s unlikely to come close to what you envisioned when you began, which is likely to leave you unsatisfied.