Having spent a good deal of time in various RPG Maker versions over the years, I can usually pick out titles made in the software quite quickly. Machina of the Planet Tree -Planet Ruler- feels better tested and provides more original code than most productions however, which is a welcome plus. As with most games like this, the visuals and music can be a mixed bag, as the soundtrack is not overly memorable, but it is never terrible either. The graphics themselves range from nice to very, very good. Some of the animations in particular show off that aforementioned polish and look quite nice, and the battle shouts during combat were a welcome touch.
The story is fairly typical fair that starts to settle in after about twenty minutes or so. The game itself is rather linear - you will not find an abundance of side quests to spend your time on, but the primary objective is well conceived. Level design is quite good, which helps immensely. Many RPG Maker efforts struggle from poor map design, but that is not an issue with Machina of the Planet Tree -Planet Ruler-. Another nice note that makes it feel as though Machina of the Planet Tree -Planet Ruler- was heavily play tested is the combat balance. I lost a few times here and there, but it can be tricky to balance the leveling curve of characters against the difficulty of enemies - especially for boss battles. However, there were no unreasonable difficulty spikes to speak of, but enough challenge to make sure I had to progress my characters.
Combat is an action-heavy affair. It feels shallow to start, which has its ups and downs. On the one hand, it runs the risk of feeling repetitive at times, but the low barrier to entry makes the title more accessible to players as they learn their way around. There is also a deceptive bit of depth to the combat that does not really shine through initially, but it gets better with time until it plateaus near the end. By the end of this title (which runs less than a dozen hours), the combat has really shown you everything there is to see.
While all of the appropriate nuts and bolts are in place, the question then becomes: is this worth my time to play? The story never really sucked me in as much as I would have liked, but thankfully the characters made up the difference. For starters, I actually found something I liked about everyone in the party, which is something of a rarity for me. There are almost always one or two characters in every RPG game that I am either indifferent towards, or outright dislike, but the writing of the characters is charming enough that all of them have something I liked about them.
It is also worth noting that the banter between the characters is often quite amusing. The dialog is well-written and the personalities of the characters gets ample opportunity to shine through. One of the best ways to make an RPG memorable in my mind is either through the plot or through the characters. The latter outperformed the former in my experience.
Because this is a fairly linear game with minimal side questing, there is not a lot of replay value to be had here. You can search for the game's ultimate weapons to stretch the playtime a bit, but they are not needed to complete the game. It is also worth noting that the controller support is not the best (it never seems to be in these RPG maker games), but they can be a tad bit touchy during combat. All in all however, Machina of the Planet Tree -Planet Ruler- is a solid entry into the JRPG genre and should appeal to most players who consider themselves fans of it.
Article by Nick