RPG Maker Fes (3DS) Review
Publisher: NIS America
Developer: Kadokawa Games
Do you like role playing games? Have you long dreamed of crafting your own but have no idea where to start? Are you a long way from getting the education you need to get into game development but have an undying urge to get your tale out to the masses? RPG Maker Fes may be the game for you, if you are willing to follow through with a few rules.
The RPG Maker series has been around for a while, and by and large receives positive acclaim from anyone familiar with it. RPG Maker Fes is a true portable outing on the 3DS, and lets people tell their tales from their portable gaming system. In terms of storyline and level creation, you have full control of what you are doing within the confines of the pre-crafted puzzle pieces. Think of it like a LEGO set. You can create whatever story you want in your head, but you have to deal with the pieces you have in front of you.
Right now, within most sub menus, there is an option to change categories. In prerelease mode, there's only one option: Fantasy. Your party can be crafted from whatever you desire. There are about eighty hero graphic sets, and another sixty enemy sets. You can even make your heroes out of enemy sprites. Each character has a few options, such as facial expressions or colors, but you can craft your team as you see fit. Enemies can be made out of the exact same templates and in any order you see fit. You want the world to be filled with level one, single hit defeat Leviathans and the final boss to be a level 99 Cockatrice? Sure thing. Enemies and heroes can be crafted down to the minutiae: starting HP, how fast heroes level, what the attack patterns and conditions are for them to do them, the works.
You design weapons and items as well. Again using the templates, you can pick a picture to represent the items and adjust their stats accordingly. You can make a Scepter of Doom, Sword of Chaos, or Little Bouncy Ball of Ouchiness. Whatever your heart desires within the template you are given.
Once you craft the individual bits, it's time to create the world. You create world maps, town maps, interior maps, and link them all together with teleporters and doors. You place down your "Encounter Chips" that use your created odds to determine whether or not someone runs into an enemy and what the odds are that each event happens. You can create if/then scenarios, where an NPC will not share something with you until X happens or you collect so many of MacGuffin A. Starting with those basic building blocks, your biggest limit is your own imagination.
That being said....Have you ever worked with LEGOs and thought "well, if I only had this one piece I didn't have" or "why can't this piece just hold on at a 90 degree angle?" then you might have some similar feelings when playing RPG Maker Fes. You have a lot of options, but that's just it. You have options. Recently I reviewed a game called Cladun Returns: This is Sengoku! One of the things I didn't touch on there much was the character creator. There were base bodies and heads, but you could then go in, pixel by pixel, and edit the characters, who would then show up in your game. Sure, you were dealing with 8-bit graphics, but you could add a scar to an eye, or change a hair style. In RPG Maker, I have yet to make a huge, arching storyline, but I can honestly say I felt limited. When my "Cool Dude" character idea had to be limited and I had to pick between the "burly suave looking guy" or the "well dressed old guy," neither of them fit who I was trying to imagine. As I said earlier, there's a category option that, in prerelease, only has "fantasy" on it, and the game rattles on about future DLC. You'll have to pay license fees to utilize other genres. You'll also have to pony up some cash if you want to be able to upload more than one game at a time, it seems. There's no word on costs for this as of yet. I'll try to come back to this article and drop a comment at the bottom regarding pricing and availability, but for the most part, you are stuck with Fantasy Settings if you simply buy the core product. The value of the rest will solely depend on what they decide to charge. Regardless of your creations, you are also stuck with the Absolute Basics as default. There's the generic status effects, traditional four party team, and regular attack patterns. Nothing here lets you create your own style of play; that kind of thing is best left to a computer, or perhaps one day, a console. The game does allow you to craft a story, but it's much like being put behind a stage with a box of puppets and told there are some rules you have to follow. There is word that there will be a crossover with Disgaea and Disgaea 5, allowing you to use assets from those games to create your own stories.
If you aren't much of a creator, but are excited about user-created content, you'll be pleased to know that there will be an entirely free RPG Maker Fes Player made available. Not only will you get to play other people's crafted worlds for free, but you can get an idea of what to expect when it comes to the assets involved. If you are an artist on the fence, start there and see what you are getting yourself into.
While you will be able to download other people's stories, there are no staff-created demo worlds. You start this cold turkey. Even if you follow my above tips, it does not tell you what to do and will let whatever happens happen. Much like if you leave a bolt out of an engine when rebuilding a car, it may run fine until that particular bolt was to do it's job, then it'll all fall apart and you won't know why. I made an absurdly simple story about two heroes who met a grumpy wizard who wouldn't teleport them home until they found his favorite ball, and until I dug through the menus and learned the ropes, that wizard stayed grumpy even if I held the ball right in front of his face. If you enjoy "real world" puzzles, this may be thrilling to you, but if you don't it can be a lesson in tedium, like going through a line of Christmas lights looking for the burnt out one.
RPG Maker Fes will allow you to put your heart out there and really share your story with the world. You can create a world using traditional templates and put it out there for others. With the right privacy settings, you can even upload nonpublished and share it with another user who can make edits and share it back. Enemies are traditional, heroes can be not exactly what you're looking for, and actions and animations can be bland, but as time goes on and more content is developed that could change. I just wish you could do some self-crafting of individual pieces and share them as well. But in the end, the prospect of this game is exciting, and it's up to the community to make it great. Get the right hobbyists on here and owners of the free download could end up with hundreds of hours of gameplay, so long as they don't mind the same cast/production company playing each individual storyline. Once I got the groove down (create enemies, create heroes, create action squares, create world, place, create events, link, create start and end), it was a lot of fun that I could see investing many, many hours into if I had a story begging to be told. My little "grumpy wizard" tale took about two hours to craft, and despite it's simplicity, I felt a sense of accomplishment making a title-to-credits cohesive adventure.
RPG Maker Fes is great for creators on the go or simply those who want a kickstart on their brainstorming. It provides some stock templates (with more on the way) that let you craft your ideal storyline. True creators will balk at not being able to craft every single minute detail, but they should find solace in one of the many full-blown creation kits on a PC. This game helps you learn basic coding skills, which will help you as you go forward with your creativity career. I can't wait to see the community a few weeks after release and download some user-created content, or see how the pricing structure works on the eShop. While it is fun to make your own stuff and share it with your small circle, the community (and how well it is policed) will make or break this game.
Many thanks to NIS America for providing a code for review of this creative title. If you are on the fence, come back here after the game is live for a comment (below) on pricing structures. If the game takes off, you may find me covering a few of the user-generated titles that are worth picking up.
-Easy, intuitive interface
-Free to play other's games
-Simple or complex, create as you want
-Disgaea and Disgaea 5 character templates available
-Lots of options but still limited to what the creators' templates have in them
-Does not hold your hand: if your game is broken, it's up to you to fix it
-Online community and DLC options will make or break the game