Agetec’s RPG Maker, released for the Sony PlayStation in 2000, was a great idea hampered by clunky execution. A fairly powerful utility, it allowed players to design their own characters, scenarios, enemies and quests to make their own role-playing adventures. Unfortunately, RPG Maker suffered from an almost indecipherable interface, a murky manual, limited sound and graphic effects, severe memory limitations and a carpal-tunnel inducing text-entry system. The game sold fairly well despite these problems, and now Agetec is bringing their next-generation game-making tool: RPG Maker 2 (actually the fifth installment in Japan) to the PlayStation 2, which looks to be much-improved on all fronts.
Visually, the most obvious difference between the two titles is the boost in graphical complexity – this installment ditches RPG Maker's Final Fantasy VI-era graphics for polygonal character models and environments. The overall effect is similar to Xenogears or Grandia, but with polygonal characters and better graphics. Players can now design scenarios with weather effects, day/night transitions and more to take place in their custom-made 3-D worlds.
Though the characters are super-deformed, enemies are bigger and have more detail, as in most old RPGs. Though the option to draw and animate your own characters is no longer present, there are more than 100 character models and 120 monsters to choose from; with numerous details that can be added to each for variety, and virtually limitless coloring options. Characters can also have up to four programmed “emotion states,” allowing for changes in mood to accentuate plot points and situations.
The game’s interface has been altered to reflect the jump to the third dimension, with the most significant improvement is the addition of USB keyboard support – no more typing in dialogue and descriptions …o. n. e …. l. e. t. t. e. r …. a. t … a … .t. i. m. e.
The adventures consist of individual events and triggers tied together into an overall quest. The title includes standard RPG location tile sets for towns, dungeons, fields etc. for players to assemble as they choose. The environments aren’t just flat plains with buildings and structures on them either – you can alter elevations to make geographical features and terraced landscapes.
RPG Maker 2 also includes different gameplay modes for novice and advanced players. Beginners have the benefit of a simple streamlined interface while expert world-builders will have a plethora of customization options open to them. Hopefully Agetec will be as helpful with the manual – a game like this really needs clear instructions. The PlayStation 2’s larger memory card will also allows players to create larger adventures.
RPG Maker 2 looks to be a vast improvement over the original in almost every way, but we’ll find out if looks are deceiving this December.