"I cannot stress enough that, while there are great missteps taken with the software, it's incredibly satisfying to use when you get the hang of things."
Be it through a manuscript, a screenplay, or even just lyrics, I've always wanted to be a storyteller. There's something satisfying about turning something I imagine into something real. I don't care what the medium for creation is so long as I get to create, and because of this, the idea of RPG Maker Fes was beyond appealing to me. More software than video game, RPG Maker Fes brings the series to the 3DS with the promise of making your own RPG on the go without needing any knowledge of programming. For as much as I loved Fes, I was annoyed with it as well, all due to the fact that the game doesn't offer any sort of tutorial.
It's almost as if Fes assumes that you have some sort of understanding as to how to create a game. If the goal of the software is to make your own RPG without any knowledge of game development, why throw players into the deep end without helping them get their feet wet? Things aren't explained well enough in the instruction manual either, meaning that you are on your own when it comes to realizing the depth of these systems. And believe me, there is a lot
Though it was frustrating for me to find out how to do things via trial and error, it was incredibly satisfying when I managed to accomplish what I set out to do. One of my favorite "aha!" moments came when I was able to figure out how to get the sprite of an upcoming party member to appear on screen, showing that the character was in that specific location. When approached, the character then joined the party after a dialogue bubble popped up, and her graphic disappeared because I had created a switch condition which made her static sprite become invisible and turned off the collision. Without the condition, her graphic remained even when she was walking around in the party. It was a small victory, but one that made me smile and realize that I could create something special if I put enough time into the software.
And there's the rub; RPG Maker Fes requires you to sink dozens upon dozens of hours into it just so you can understand how to use it. You're constantly tweaking the stats of your characters and monsters to make sure you find the right balance of difficulty, and wanting to make sure your overworld map looks as good as possible. Likewise, you want to be absolutely certain that the layouts of your dungeons feel unique and, between all of this, you might also decide that you want to create new skills for certain professions or even add a new cutscene. You have to be prepared to dedicate yourself to your RPG, otherwise there's no point in buying the software.
Still, it's great to see a title on the 3DS encourage such creativity, and people are going to be able to tell very unique, original stories through it. I didn't care enough about the RPG that I created in my reviewing process to truly be proud of it—I just wanted to get a grasp on the mechanics and explore the software as much as possible without the pressure of my perfectionism—but I do plan to go back and create a proper game, because there is something absolutely magical that happens when everything clicks into place.
I cannot stress enough that, while there are great missteps taken with the software, it's incredibly satisfying to use when you get the hang of things. I adored creating my characters, coming up with professions, and deciding on their special moves. (You can even decide what the animation will be!) I liked designing the maps and customizing the towns, hiding hidden treasure chests that contained extra healing herbs inside houses. I felt weirdly smart when I realized all of the cool things I could do during a cutscene, such as causing the screen to shake. There was a moment just a few hours into my usage of Fes where I realized that I was
crafting my own RPG, and it felt completely surreal.
It should be said that, in creating your RPG, you'll only be choosing from pre-made assets, with each character and monster design offering four variations. The review build for Fes offered only a "Fantasy" category to choose assets from, though DLC has already been released in Japan that offers creators more variety.
Those who don't have the desire to develop an RPG can still play the creations of others. In an absolute genius move, anyone can download RPG Maker Player, a free app on the Nintendo eShop. This allows you to download and play the creations of those who purchased Fes, and seeing what others have made might even inspire you to pick up the software yourself. I expect that a full, dedicated community will rise through this app, and I can't wait to play what more imaginative players than myself have made.
RPG Maker Fes got on my nerves at times, but I was still completely enamored by it. The touch screen controls work perfectly and the game even has a predictive keyboard to help as you're typing up dialogue. Between being able to make your RPG in chunks on the go and having such a wonderfully user-friendly UI, Fes makes the creation process easy—it's the process of executing these creations that it doesn't make simple. If you're prepared to dedicate yourself to your RPG and have the patience to learn Fes's intimidating mechanics, you'll find that it's a fun piece of software that will help you bring your creations to life.
This review is based on a free review copy provided to RPGFan by the developer. This relationship in no way influenced the reviewer's opinion of the game or its final score.