RPG Maker - Review

Baby Steps

By: Red Raven

Review Breakdown
   Battle System 4
   Interface 5
   Music/Sound 2
   Originality 6
   Localization 5
   Replay Value 2
   Visuals 4
   Difficulty Taxing
   Time to Complete

Not likely


RPG Maker

   Undoubtedly, at one point or another, we all have had the unquenchable desire to take the reigns of a RPG's design. To create illustrious graphics and sound, to script compelling dialogue, to grip a complete stranger for well over 40 hours and lead him or her on a journey into our own imagination. Is this not what Squaresoft and other such companies have been doing for us, for well over ten years? Then why, when finally it seems that the tool for our dream making has been made, there is no fanfare? No parade in the streets? Not a single fan-made game across the entire Internet? Simply put, the right tool has yet still to be made.

   Sure, when you get right down to it, you can make an RPG with RPG Maker. But to do so would be akin to painting Van Gogh's work with crayons; playing Mozart on a kazoo; performing Shakespeare with sock puppets. You could do it, but you wouldn't, because the final product would never be as good as original. The same applies to your dream RPG and the one made with RPG Maker. These metaphors also conveniently extend to the major areas of RPG Maker itself, in terms of graphics, music, and presentation, respectfully.

Meet the battle system.
Meet the battle system.  

   As any old school gamer would be quick to point out, graphics are not everything. Very true, but you are not the only one that has to put up sub-standard, Nintendo-style, visuals; so is everyone else who wants to play your game. It's not to say that the enemies or the characters themselves look bad, I'm referring to the towns, dungeons, and a general lack of any kind of animation whatsoever. With great companies releasing cutting-edge games with superb graphics everyday, it is a giant step backwards to sit down with a game designed with RPG Maker. A step back not everyone is willing to accept.

   To go along with sub-par visuals, you have to contend with sub-par music. The 35 MIDI scores you have to choose from are frightfully bland, and this unfortunately denatures the very effect music in a game is designed to do: convey emotion and set the mood.

You can make your own sprites too. Not recommended, though.
You can make your own sprites too. Not recommended, though.  

   As far as presentation is concerned, it definitely will not leave you in a good mood. What Squaresoft and other RPG companies have skillfully hidden from us for a long time is exactly how hard it really is to create a role-playing game. RPG Maker does not inherently make the process difficult, it simply does not help you, and in this case, that is just as bad. Spell, Map, and especially Item and Event Creation are long and arduous exercises in patience, much too much so for the average player. Item Creation for example is simply a mind-numbing process, even for something simple like a potion, and takes roughly two minutes. To make a potion you must: name it "Potion", select its type as "Cure", allow it to be sold, allow it to be dropped, set whether you can see its status as a cure item, select whether or not it can break, select what it can cure (in this case, life), and finally set a money value for it. Weapons and armor are considered Items and also have to be made in the same way, except you now have 6 more variables. This bottleneck of momentum simply kills any inspiration you might have had, especially after coding weapons, armor, helmets, shields, and accessories for 4 party members. Not to mention upgrades and other special items.

Does this look like a masterpiece? YOUR masterpiece?
Does this look like a masterpiece? YOUR masterpiece?  

   The other big thing in presentation is the battle system; traditionally the area the gamer will be most accustomed to throughout an RPG. To put it mildly: don't bother. It's the same system seen in Phantasy Star and not quite as customizable as you can be led to believe. And with the ridiculousness of the equipment creation process, you might as well just make an interactive movie. It'd save you time...and sanity. But of course you'd have to actually mess with Events, and trust me, you don't want to.

   So what does this leave us with? A $40 coaster? At this point, yes. I have yet to run across a soul with enough time and energy to post his or her own RPG. And with the prospect that I definitely will not be making a game at any point, it's not likely change my copy of RPG Maker's eventual fate. At any rate, I must admit that this was a very promising premise, one that I hope some other company will elaborate upon. Hopefully on a more advanced console, then perhaps it could have the benefits of a DVD-sized space to fill with high-resolution graphics and high-quality sound. And hopefully, keyboard support. Until that day comes, just enjoy the fruits of someone else's labor.

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