Creative processes in any sense has become much simpler. Take music production: Gone are the days of recording on tapes with limited tracking, now whole albums are produced in bedrooms and equipment to help achieve your dream is aplenty. Same with gaming. The limitations of DOS code and proprietary systems are now far smaller than before, and any old gentleman can grab a copy of Unity or Game Maker and get to work building a game in the comfort of their own home. Hell that was around 90% of Steam Greenlight.
But RPG Maker is something of a notorious series. Since 1992 the series has produced a vast number of games allowing you to build yourself an RPG on pretty much any system you can think of, and in fact several games have been built from it. And now it has finally come to 3DS in the form of RPG Maker FES, and I for one am curious if this PC-centric series hold up on the far less powerful 3DS.
Let us dive straight into the biggest problem with FES, it is trash at explaining things to you. Whether it assumes you have a knowledge of game development already or it’s missing some manual I’m unsure but be ready to be out of your depth for the first 10-15 hours of screwing around with the system and scrutinising the tool tips in the menus. Normally with creative games such as LittleBigPlanet there is a single player section to give you a taste of what you can build on the software and sadly there is none of that here. Thankfully this is somewhat addressed by the online archive which you can download RPG’s created with the game from to get a sense of what you can do with the game.
There is a sense of satisfaction to managing to sort an issue with something which has been grinding your gears for the past while, whether it be sprites not appearing or enemies being overpowered. But a lot of your time will be spent in frustration. Can I do this? Why does this not work? Why am I tormenting myself with this?
But get over that bugbear and you can sink a lot of time into this. While it seems to favour designers over programmers, the system grants a ridiculous amount of depth for the size of the console. Tweak characters, their moves and the animations with them. Tweak enemies and how powerful they are. Design cutscenes, which is probably the most difficult thing you can do as getting actions to work in order is clunky with the 3DS interface.
Most other issues with FES can be attributed mostly to it being on 3DS. The small screen size means you will spend a lot of time moving around to find the area you want to edit, and it does not help with a 3DSXL as the game simply scales up to size. Menus are clunky and you are rather limited on what sprites are available to you.
If you think you might be interested in the game, but are somewhat unsure, RPG Maker Player is available on the 3DS eShop. For the full price of nothing you can play the creations from FES that people have uploaded online. For some I have just given them hours of free RPG games, others will be inspired to pick this up to make their own games.
While RPG Maker is not a perfect fit for the 3DS, it is perfectly capable of building some wonderful games. I do stress that building your dream RPG will not be a smooth and simple experience, plenty of times I wanted to just give up on the clunky controls. But if you can get though that then this game can make even greater games, earning a 7 for bringing a bit more life into a console I had shelved.