Review: RPG Maker Fes (3DS)

Developed by: Kadokawa Games
Published by: NIS America

As a wee little lad, I always wanted to make my own video game. Specifically, a RPG. Role playing games always did have an imaginative side to them, which was perfect for my own fantasy stories to come to life. But sadly, I know next to nothing about programming and can barely tell you what the heck makes a 4K HD television special. Well luckily for me, other game developers have me covered! RPG Maker titles have been quite popular ever since the early 2000’s and gave people like me opportunities to create their very own RPG game. While I have tinkered with RPG Maker VX on PC before, I never really did anything great with it. But with the announcement of RPG Maker Fes for the 3DS, my curiosity got the better of me and I decided to reach out and try the game out for myself. And here are my findings.

So as soon as you start the game up, you are greeted with several different options from the start, most of which allow you to create new game data, load old game, play games you’ve downloaded or to explore more options for games and tools on the internet. You are given 16 slots of game data to toy around with. Unfortunately, this is also mixed with the games you download online, so that’s a bit of a bummer. The 16 slots are acceptable for some, but I feel that there needed to be some dividing between the games you make and the games you download. It would make things a lot more organized at the very least.

Once you start a new file, you are given five different options to mess around with. One of these options is to start creating the maps of the game. This involves over world maps, towns, dungeons and interiors such as houses. There’s quite a lot you can do with what you’re given and even if you’re feeling kind of lazy on certain interiors, the game has some already set up for you so all you have to do is find the decorations you like and you can just place them in there. There are also a lot of sample interiors that can be made into houses, inns or shops if you don’t feel like putting in the effort of making them yourself. I did not explore much of what you could do with dungeons and made a simple maze like area, but there are events you can use to implement your own puzzles into your dungeons to make your dungeons all the more challenging. There are quite a lot of design options that you can choose from with the tiles you have access to as well. There are tiles for deserts, grass, plains, stone, ice and even tiles that give the illusion of being up high in the sky. The variety is really good and the navigation is very simple. The map editor and assets are probably the best the game has to offer.

Next up, we have the Event Editor which, as you can imagine, can create several events in the course of the game. This ranges from simple NPCs that you can chat with to gain simple info on the lore of your game, or to fully fledged playable party members that can join you on your quest or even set up encounter data with monsters. When making events for your game, you will be given two major options: You can create your own events from scratch, or you can choose Easy Create, which gives you a list of typical events you may have wanted to implement in your game and does it for you. That includes shops, treasure chests, and even connecting two maps together. The Easy Create option definitely makes things a lot easier when making content, but one thing that was practically impossible for me to figure out was how to end certain events. In the demo I made, I had an NPC who could join your party as well as boss at the end of the game, and whenever you spoke to either of these NPCs and went through the dialogue, the event never ended, and you could pretty much repeat the same thing that was spoken previously. So in other words, once the NPC joined my party, he was still there in the overworld and I can talk to him again and recruit him and the same basics apply to the boss. I have played demos from other creators that have seemingly no problem ending their events such as NPCs that can join your party, so it is possible to do, but the answer just eluded me. Perhaps when more people are playing, I can figure it out, but regardless, the answer was not simple to me.

Lastly, we have the Database. The Database pretty much stores all of the content you want to see in your game. This includes playable characters, monsters, classes and skill sets, weapons and armor, etc. Every key thing needed to make the game can be found here. Making characters, monsters and weapons/armor is simple enough, though I felt like there was a real lack of assets for those things specifically, which is usually my personal issue when it comes to RPG Maker titles. In RPG Maker Fes, characters and monsters have pallet swaps which…I guess adds to more variety, at least more so than past entries, but, to me personally, it just wasn’t enough. I also felt like there weren’t really enough assets for weapons and armor. You really only get two unique icons for a specific type of armor like cloaks, for example. I felt like there really needed to be a bit more. Speaking of wanting more, the soundtrack for Fes is pitiful compared to VX. RPG Maker VX had ten or so battle themes to choose from and gave a lot of variety when choosing tracks. Fes only has two battle themes, two boss battle themes and two final boss battle themes. Geez. I mean, the music all sounds decent, but it just doesn’t have the variety that VX had. As for classes and skill sets, they are pretty easy to manage and fun to create, but making magic skills can be a bit of a pain because of the variables feature. I don’t know what variables are so I have trouble understanding setting those up for the magic skills and it’s not really explained well in what variables really are. You can also set up your title and game info here when you want to show it off online, and while the features are again limited, it was still fun to toy around with.

Speaking of online, we’ll talk about that next. And man, I have to say, I really dislike the online features. Mainly because you have to PAY for extra features. Assets are one thing, and if people want to pay for those, then by all means, but the one thing that irks me is that you have to pay for extra slots when uploading games online for those to see. So basically, let’s say I had four slots. That means I can only upload four games and if I wanted to upload more, I’d either have to pay for extra slots or take off one of the games that have been uploaded. Except four slots would be too generous. Take a guess at how many slots you are given initially? One. One lousy slot. One game that you can upload at a time. That is completely unacceptable. For imaginative people with different stories and ideas going on inside their heads, they are clearly going to want to make more than one type of game to share with the world. And the fact that it’s stuck behind a pay wall just really upsets me. As for other online features, you can also download other assets as they become available, but they aren’t free. Some updates will be free such as adding Disgaea portraits to the database at your disposal. You can also check out what other games people are uploading and sharing and download them to play for yourself. But keep in mind that it takes up one of your saved game data slots. So, the games you download will be right where your created games are saved. The one really nice feature that’s not exclusive to the game though is that anyone has access to the games people make, so long as they download the software for it on the Nintendo eShop. So you can play anyone’s game in it’s entirety even if you don’t have a copy of Fes.

Ultimately, I think RPG Maker Fes has some neat features that make it stand out from other titles in the series by having some easy functions, a lot of great map assets, and the ability to play wherever you want in the form of a handheld, but I think that if you mainly play on a PC and have an extended knowledge of how older versions of RPG Maker work, then you really aren’t getting much out of this and can likely make more impressive things. However, for what it is, I think RPG Maker Fes is a pretty solid tool that’s just watered down by limitations of the 3DS. If you want to jump in and make some RPGs in the comfort of your hands, then I think you should definitely look into Fes. Otherwise, stick to RPG Maker VX. It has much more content and even if it isn’t as easy to jump into, you can look up some guides to help.

Also, if you’re interested, check out my demo on Fes. It’s called the “Demo of Demos.”

Final Verdict: Only pick it up if you’re interested in playing an RPG Maker title on the go. It has a lot of easy accessible features mainly from the Map Editor, but it lacks a lot of variety with it’s assets and can be confusing to navigate at times.

[Note: This product was provided by the publisher for the purpose of this review]

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