RPG Maker Fes - 3DS Review


Game making software is already one of the toughest categories to try and review, and RPG Maker Fes might be one of the most difficult yet. Those who are familiar with the PC RPG Maker programs are bound to find this title somewhat limited in features, and those new to the genre may find the lack of guidance frustrating. Yet beneath those concerns and limitations is a surprisingly robust tool that can make perfectly fun games for your 3DS and those of others - which is actually pretty cool when you think about it.

In so many ways, I am the target audience for this game. I love telling a good story, I have familiarity with the RPG Maker series dating back nearly two decades and I enjoy playing the creations of others as well. The biggest issue however, is that I fall into a very narrow field where I believe my expectations were set accordingly and I already had a good conceptual idea of how this software works.

First, the most glaring negative: RPG Maker Fes has nadda for training and tutorials. Now, that being said, prior RPG Makers were pretty lacking on that front as well, but they generally had a project you could load up with some relatively robust help documentation within the software to help guide you through. Now granted, these are not enough in my opinion either, and thankfully the community around the software (found on several different sites I have frequented in the past) do a fantastic job of filling in the blanks and helping one another achieve greater mastery over the software.


Here in RPG Maker Fes? You basically get a single tiny map with a few things already placed on it. Thankfully the terminology is still pretty much the same, as are most of the concepts, so I was able to figure things out in my first ten or fifteen minutes just by playing with features and reading the brief one line description of menu items. To its credit, the user interface is very intuitive and I would wager than within a half hour, I had a pretty firm grasp over about ninety percent of what the software had to offer as I chugged out my first, very (very-very-very) basic game. Sure, it consisted of changing defaults to the various startup and game over screens, solving two rather simple puzzles and fighting one bad guy before you won - but again, I was able to do this in just about half of an hour.

I suspect that communities will build around RPG Maker Fes relatively quickly, as they have around previous RPG Maker software (as an aside? I think they need to dust off a tactics / RPG maker. There was a Japanese one I fiddled with a million years ago that never got a proper North American release that would probably be right at home on the 3DS. It tends to be more streamlined and if the Fire Emblem franchise has taught us anything, it's that the genre can flourish on handhelds). However, that leaves newcomers at something of a loss without proper tutorials or having to hop online to find points of reference. The idea is that you build and play on the go - not at a computer where you can research functions.

So the lack of proper onboarding is easily the biggest concern I have with RPG Maker Fes, and it is one that may alienate new users. The other problem is that from what I have seen online, the pendulum has swung too far in the other direction as well, as I note users online bemoaning how much more limited RPG Maker Fes than its predecessors. They're not wrong, technically. You have minimal modification (basically restricted to choosing the preferred pallet color for your character) of the existing assets. Want to use your own artwork or music? You can't. You are limited to what Kadokawa has provided out of the box. This is far more limiting than loyal users of the software are used to. They're used to importing their own assets, writing their own scripts, controlling a deep series of conditional branches and more. I agree, this is true and... it's really not a big deal. There is a sweet spot here that RPG Maker Fes is aiming for, and I don't think it is the die hard RPG Making community. Considering the hardware limitations they were facing, I actually disagree with users who say this is too limited - I think Kadokawa deserves credit for cramming an awful lot of options into a very small package.


So now that those two major caveats are out of the way, I'd like to talk about what RPG Maker Fes is and how well it works. I touched on the easy to use interface, and just like using a mouse to point and click on a PC is a natural way to interface with the software, so is using a stylus on the 3DS touch screen. Additionally, having two screens is just kind of nice, because you are interacting with one while able to gleen data from the other. It is a nice use of the hardware.

Basically you start with laying out your map, and these come in some different flavors from real world to village exterior to home interior. This is in many ways the toughest part for me personally, because I keep wanting to add more and more and it is easier to visualize it in my head than get it down on the screen. Then you start to give the map life with different NPC characters to interact with. Then you start to spread things out further - creating houses and maps with enemies and more. You start the balancing act of telling a tale and filling the world with challenges. It is daunting stuff to be sure, but the streamlined nature of RPG Maker Fes actually helps to keep you on track. Sure, the games will all look very similar because they are using the same tile sets (if this title sells well, I can envision DLC on this front) and characters, so it's up to each person to leverage those resources in a creative way and make it more about the story and the exploration than specifically the assets they are looking at.

To that end, I think RPG Maker Fes is perfect for the would-be game maker who enjoys the RPG genre. Overlooking the ridiculous lack of tutorials out of the gates, this is in many ways an RPG fan's delight. We play these games because we want to be immersed in these worlds, and what better way than enabling someone to create their own? The only drawback to the interface is typing. It is again a matter of hardware limitation. I am a very fast typist with a keyboard - with a stylus? Not so much. Thankfully the game offers predictive text, so that helps, but still I found myself being a bit less verbose than I would be on a PC counterpart. The only other design mechanism I have a bone to pick with is that you cannot zoom the map editor in and out. I would have liked just a slightly more zoomed out frame the majority of the time, but I suppose the size it is helps players draw out their maps more accurate. Still, it would be nice to 'step back' and see the big picture instead of having to pan every which way.


I think it will be interesting to see how many games are completed in RPG Maker Fes. I believe one of the greatest strengths of the RPG Maker series is also one of its more paralyzing weaknesses: too many options. Think about it: custom visuals, custom music, custom scripts... I have been down that rabbit hole before. It's an enjoyable rabbit hole and it makes my creation feel distinctly mine - but at the same time it can make it very hard to complete a game. Sometimes too many options can keep you focused on the bells and whistles and not the end state. For better or for worse, RPG Maker Fes makes it easier to focus on the endgame here, and I don't necessarily view that as a bad thing.

Like any 'Maker' game, you get out of the software what you put into it. RPG Maker Fes will provide owners with hours of game creation, assuming you can see past the non-existent early guidance and a couple of annoying aspects of an otherwise splendid UI. You can save and share your creations using the free app that anyone can acquire - which is awesome by the way. RPG Maker Fes lives in this sweet spot between complete novice and RPG Maker power user. If you align your expectations accordingly, there is a lot of fun to be had here.

Game Information

Platform:
Nintendo 3DS
Developer(s):
Kadokawa Games
Publisher(s):
NIS America
Genre(s):
Creation
RPG
Software
Mode(s):
Single Player
Other Platform(s):
None

Source:
Provided by Publisher




Article by Nick
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