Thanks to NIS America for the review code
Title: RPG Maker FES
System: Nintendo 3DS
Release Date: 06/27/2017
In this handy application… The story can literally be anything you come up with on your own, or encounter from other players! This means there’s really no way to describe the story of this tool, since it can pretty much be anything, for better or for worse.
Unlike the story elements, the presentation is a bit more predefined, as while there are several options for customizing character, item and monster names there’s no real way to draw or design things from scratch; everything must use an existing icon/character template. A few color options for the monsters are available for you to tinker around with, along with a variety of NPC portraits, sprites and item pictures but the lack of being able to create your own designs from the ground up is a big shame.
The same goes for the music, which only gives you a limited selection of premade tracks to pick from and unfortunately, the majority of them are mediocre at best, with none of them being able to qualify as memorable tracks worthy of being in a RPG. Granted, this entire presentation section is only based off the default “Fantasy” theme provided to you from the start, but the problem is that the other themes aren’t available yet, as they seem like they’ll be DLC, which is upsetting to see considering how at least one other theme could have very easily been included in the game to begin with.
RPG Maker FES is an application that promises you the ability to make your own mini RPG adventures, while also giving you the ability to play creations that others made, and for the most part it fulfills those promises quite well, although there’s barely any in-game tutorials to help you out with the creation process. Still, reading the E-Manual gave me the tips I needed to draw a small little island, which I quickly edited into an infinite loop before creating some characters and items.
While there is the aforementioned problem of only being able to use pre-existing designs for the characters, monsters and items, thankfully the actual functionality of those three things can be changed in any way you like. For example, you can make a group of enemies that contain one rare enemy that gives you an insane amount of gold EXP, and place the spawn points accordingly. This means that you have full control over what you can do in your game, so go nuts if you want one tile to contain an insanely powerful monster, akin to Final Fantasy’s Northern Peninsula. The battle system for all games is done through a simplistic, turn based structure, reminding me a lot of the Sega Game Gear title Defenders of Oasis. It should be noted that no matter how hard you try, you can only make traditional JRPGs in RPG Maker FES, meaning it’s not possible to create an action or strategy RPG, which is a bit of a shame.
Another key aspect to making your RPGs function comes in the form of the Event system, which can trigger standard effects such as cutscenes, dialogue triggers or scripted battles. (an option for “Easy Events” is available so you can place the most common types of these rather quickly instead of having to make lots of conditions) These are really complicated to get the hang of, (and will no doubt require tons of testing to make sure they all function) but once added they have the potential to make a game an engaging, enjoyable experience, perhaps even more than actual eShop RPGs like Alphadia or Ash. Just be sure to place teleport tiles accordingly to create entrances and exits, as it can be easy to forget to place one, which can completely ruin a test run of a game.
Unfortunately, there is one major flaw with RPG Maker FES, now that we’re mentioning the test run system. For some baffling reason, you can choose to upload your projects without having to complete a test run, which means that there’s a very high chance that a game you encounter on the server could be incomplete or bugged (unless the rating system helps you out) One of the few games available pre-launch was something I downloaded in hopes of having a mini RPG to play and get the feel for the community features, (since the servers are live at the time of this review) but I quickly found out upon starting the game that while a ton of maps and events are created with the intent of this being a full adventure, the starting area lacked any teleport system to warp you out of it, essentially making that creation unplayable and preventing it from being beaten.
So, because every other game on the server at the time of this review was just a test of some sort, (including my own Battle Test map) I wasn’t really able to play a full RPG experience, which is a shame as I have a bad feeling that this means the online community at launch will be lacking in terms of good content to enjoy, and since that’s the biggest part of RPG Maker FES, it’s pretty disappointing. “But Connor, you could just download the Japanese games that were made months ago!” I hear you ask, but unfortunately the online servers seem to be region locked, as I couldn’t find any of the creations from the Japanese version of the game on the online servers, meaning that for NA/EU, we’re starting from scratch.
In conclusion, your mileage will definitely vary with RPG Maker FES. By the time you pick up a copy of this, there could be some of the best fan creations ever made available for use on the online servers, but if you pick it up at launch or if the application still suffers from the small community it currently has pre-launch, you’ll likely encounter little to no gameplay whatsoever, unless you don’t mind spending hours upon hours focusing on a single narrative and making sure that it’ll absolutely work without any game-ending bugs. Granted, that’s the main selling point of this application, but it requires a lot more patience than people expect.
The editor is certainly not kind to newcomers, and unlike SmileBASIC, another complicated editor game, there’s nothing preinstalled, so you have to rely on the online servers in order to get enjoyment out of this if you aren’t the creative type. Keep in mind that for some stupid reason, the online community is region-locked (at least away from the Japanese, unsure if NA/PAL servers can interact), so you’ll miss out on the cool games Japanese players made many months ago, which were downloaded over a million times.
However, here’s the biggest blow to RPG Maker FES, and what makes it hard to recommend for those who just want to enjoy the games that other players create… You can play the online creations for free using the RPG Maker Player app (which will launch a week after this review goes live, along with the game itself) Sure, you can’t edit the games in any possible way, but for those who are only interested in the more casual-friendly aspect of this game, you don’t even need to bother spending $40 on a copy of this game when you can just play them for free using the app!
Therefore, recommending this game, especially with how complicated and confusing it can be to newcomers (not to mention the silly reliance on DLC, free or paid to give you more themes/upload slots to work with) is something I honestly can’t do for this title. Unless you’re a MAJOR fan of working with the RPG Makers on other platforms and don’t mind something a bit more restrictive, (due to having to use the 3DS Touchscreen instead of a keyboard) you’re honestly just better off getting the free app and waiting for the good stuff to get made for you. Even if you do decide to go with the full package just to make your own adventures, you’ll have to wait for the DLC to release in order to use more than the boring default theme. (If the other themes even come west at all, as there hasn’t been any announcements at the time of this review)
I give RPG Maker FES A 4 out of 10, and can really only recommend it to those dying to edit and use their creative skills to show their skills off to the world, while also not minding having to buy DLC that may or may not come over from Japan to gain more options or upload slots. (The latter of which has been confirmed, thankfully)
Please note that the full retail launch may end up giving us tons of good content to play, which might end up making my review look completely silly in the end. Still, I reviewed based on what I had available to me pre-launch, and therefore these are my honest opinions and I’m sticking to them.
Post-release Edit: It’s now more than a week since RPG Maker FES launched to the public, and I did a check of the US server this past weekend to see what improved. Shockingly, there’s STILL none of the DLC available, not even the upload slots, despite this being a publicly released game by now. However, there does seem to be a lot more games available to play now, which at least makes my fear of a dead community moot, though it does seem like the region lock effects the PAL/NA releases as well, so you can only get games from the same version that you have. Either that, or the PAL community is completely dead and neglected to buy the game on launch over there, but I’m willing to bet the former is in place considering how the Japanese games weren’t available on the server pre-launch like they should have been if there was no region lock.
That being said, it still doesn’t excuse the lack of options or customization features compared to other RPG Maker games like MV, and the fact that the extra asset packs are locked behind DLC that still isn’t available yet is just a big bummer, and so I still stand by my review and recommend that those on the fence just play games other people make through the RPG Maker Player app instead. For creators, try SmileBasic or RPG Maker MV on Steam.