Ryu’s Musings – RPG Maker FES (3DS)

rpg-maker-fes-2Language: English
Developer: Nippon Ichi Software
Publisher: NIS America
Format: 3DS
Type: Game Development Software
Demo Box: New 3DS XL
Synopsis: Ready to become a game developer? RPG Maker Fes makes it easy to develop any RPG you can imagine with no need for programming know-how! Simple, but powerful tools let you bring to life the amazing stories in your head! Customize the characters, stories, combat and more to become the next great developer! Then, share your creations and play others with the RPG Maker Player! What story will you share?

RPG Maker FES is a hard title to review, from a gaming perspective, as it’s not an actual game. Rather FES is a SDK designed to give you (most of) the tools you need to create your own JRPG styled games.

As such I’m not going to attempt to do a review of this one, rather just talk about my experiences with it, and finally talk about who I think this is aimed at.

Software kits like this have garnered a lot of negativity of late due to the prevalent asset flipping that goes on. However, that is not the fault of the SDK itself, which is nothing more than a tool. In fact RPG Maker was used to create one of my all time favourite games, Corpse Party. When you look at games like Corpse Party you get to see the best of what this SDK can do for you, if you’re prepared to invest the time and money.

That said if you’re expecting to pick up this version of RPG Maker and expect to turn out the next corpse party, it’s not gonna happen; sorry.

RPG Maker FES is a powerful piece of kit, but it’s also a closed and streamlined environment. So while you can create a lot of interesting games with the kit, your limited by the fact you can only use the elements that the game has included in it’s internal store. You can’t for example create your own sprites and import them (like you can with the PC version).

That however doesn’t mean that this is a bad piece of kit, quite the opposite; I honestly see this as being one of the best introduction kits you can get. Think Mario Maker on steroids!

However it’s got a pretty nasty flaw, it has no tutorial or even a basic guide. It literally throws you in the deep end and doesn’t  even offer you floaters! Even the tool tips are, at times, a bit of a mess, not really explaining things clearly.

Thankfully this isn’t the fully PC release, where this lack of tutorials and guides would be crippling. This 3DS version being streamlined as it is, is a lot more intuitive to use. So most people willing to invest the time into the kit will get used to it fairly quickly.

Unlike the PC version though, this 3DS version includes an ‘showcase’ for you to upload your creations to the ether and allow others to download and play your creations through a free app. Again reminiscent of Mario Maker, though to play the games you don’t have to own the game, just downloading the free app is enough.

You start off making you’re maps, which can take a lot of time if you’re both a perfectionist, and wanting to make a fairly expansive game. The map creation has an upper limit of 99 maps, so if you created all of them that’s a pretty big game you can make.

Next up you have you’re events. These are pulling together your maps with transitions, fights, music, dialogue etc etc. Some have said this is as close to programming as FES can get, but I don’t really agree with this. There is no programming involved here, rather it feels more like putting together a fairly complicated jigsaw puzzle.

There’s no programming, you just click into place the events you want and thats it. Though I do see where they want to draw the analogy, as you’re going to be spending time making sure theres no conflicts with the the way you place the events, how they’re strung together and operate together. However I do still feel this is more like putting together a jigsaw more than anything. So long as you place the elements in their right slot it’s all gonna work fine. Encounters are as you’d expect, battles, but not always the case. In fact I’ve seen some purely story mode titles that were pretty darn interesting. This of course means you can make a visual novel styled game as well as a battle styled game. The options this kit offers you are pretty well rounded and varied.

Unfortunately, this is where the limitations of the kit come to the fore. Anything you create is going to look the same as what anyone else’s creation. This is due to the limited options for characters and monsters. The only sprites and portraits you’re going to have access to are the ones provided, both for free and the promised future offerings (as paid for DLC of course).

This is probably down to nanny Nintendo being afraid that the content creators would upload would be offensive. Which is understandable, since this is on the 3DS a predominantly teens console (apparently)

As with all SDK like this it’s not going to be something you pick up and do in a few hours, it’s going to take a significant time investment to do anything major. Sure you can knock up a generic few rounds of battle game in a few hours, but anything more is going to take longer. Especially given the limitation of the console itself. The 3DS is not the best piece of hardware for game creation due its low res, and small screen. Not to mention trying to create a epic story by typing with a stylus!

Getting the most out of this SDK is going to take a lot of time and work on the part of the user. Learning the menus, what they actually mean (rather than what the teen you), sadly none of this is made easy. But the rewards can make the time spent worth while in this writers opinion!

One of the limitations are the offered content. At the time of writing there’s very little in the way of content for creators to use. However there have been insinuations of a lot of future content, including cross overs with other titles, as well as other settings (only fantasy is included at launch) such as SCi-FI.

So, to wrap this up, who is this for and is it worth getting?

While the developers seem to be targeting kids and teens with this this release, its actually good for anyone that feels like creating their own JRPG could be fun. If you look up some of the Japanese creator vids on youtube you’ll be blown away by what the kit can do.

I think as a way of testing the waters this is an amazing kit. It’s highly satisfying to see you’re game come to life after hours of work. For me I spent best part of 4 weeks creating a game, well over 100 hours, and when it was complete I got to sit back and feel a little bit of pride at my creation.

I went though times where I got really frustrated at the limitation of the kit that seemed to stop me from doing what I was wanting. However after spending some time on youtube I usually ended up finding a solution. I think as time goes by we’ll see more tutorials on youtube which will help people get started.

Ultimately though this kit will live or die on NIS America’s part. They need to produce a lot of DLC with variety art and settings so games don’t end up looking all the same.

Do I think this is worth buying? Oh HELL YES. If you have even a passing interest in making you’re own JRPG you’d be a fool to miss this! Also bear in mind you can download the free companion app on you’re 3DS and play the games that others have already made, just to get you’re creative juices flowing!


Author: Ryu Sheng