RPG Maker

Publisher: Agetec Developer: ASCII
Reviewer: Locke Released: 09/19/00
Gameplay: 60% Control: 65%
Graphics: 72% Sound/Music: 70%
Story: 75% Overall: 67%

RPG Maker is prohibitively confusing. It features unusable (or nearly so) tools, and, in general, a total lack of any organization.

This offering from Agetec includes: a dungeon designer; an event designer; a paint program (for making customized character, monster, and starting screen graphics), a worldmap assembler, a scenario system manager, and a monster/item/magic/character designer. Every one of those tools is lacking in some way.

To begin, observe the dungeon designer. For some reason, you have a choice of labeling your dungeon as "indoor" or "outdoor", which results in you getting totally different tilesets. Aside from the problem that some tiles, which should be present in both sets, are present only in one (like stairs and columns), the sets themselves are chaotic to the point of madness.

For starters, you have no way of knowing whether your characters can walk on the given tile (which frequently results in dungeons where you characters can walk on walls but not on the floors, or cannot move at all) before you actually playtest the dungeons. All tiles in a given tileset open into a small window, which is hard to navigate. Not to mention that some tiles cannot be placed in groups even when you select that option, and that most are incredibly ugly.

To save you from embarrassment, the game offers a moderately exhaustive selection of pre-made dungeons, which are assembled from tiles to which you have no access and generally look much prettier and have fewer gaps. Oh, and they take up less memory than your custom-tailored monsters. Unfortunately, the fact that you cannot customize these dungeons destroys any usability, especially in the case of some fairly empty ones that are literally begging for an artistic touch-up.

You have the option of tacking on background music to your dungeons. The fair selection of melodies would be even nicer if the manual didn't have the BGM list from a beta version. In general, the two manuals with a combined page count of one hundred seem to have been written in a dazed state of mind. For some reason there are a number of utterly unnecessary screenshots of the game's menus, several of which are noticeably blurred. The manual jumps from a dry style cataloging the features to a style that feebly suggests uses for some of the tools ("shift the tint into the reds to simulate a fire").

The item/spell/monster designers are simply deficient. Start with the fact that you can create up to 255 spells, but are only given thirty graphics to accomplish that with, those graphics are lifeless, even with all of the "special effects" applied. Add the tinny, useless sound effects and you have a disaster on your hands.

There are 99 different monsters, each in four different palettes. Though you can outline each monster's combat habits pretty well (most imaginable actions the creature can undertake are expressed in percent probabilities), most images are, again, absolutely lifeless and too dark.

In the item designer, you can assign any possible stats to each item, but each item can only have one effect. Neither do you get to write the captions you see so often in other games (although you DO get to choose the blurb that appears on screen after a spell is cast - "Radiate!" - "Exude!" - "Protrude!"). In character design, you select the constant number of points by which the stats increase at level-ups, and the character's special ability (if any).

Therein lies one of the game's greatest faults - you aren't given the slightest idea about how the stats interact. How do you figure out the damage incurred from the attack and defense ratings? How do you design a monster, or a weapon, or a magic spell without knowing that?

The paint program is extremely touchy; creating a character or drawing a background is something that is much easier accomplished on a computer screen with a mouse, rather than six feet away from the TV screen with an oversensitive controller. Add to that the fact that the buttons are amazingly tiny. Oh, and you can also draw "demos" involving your created characters. Not that you can actually put those demos into the game...

The event designer is an outstanding achievement in the field of uselessness. I can't even begin counting the features that should have been available. The screen is permanently centered on your main character. You have to shift it manually to center it on something else. The switch-throwing mechanism is flawed. There is a small bug involved in changing the event graphics, especially after your characters have been turned invisible. And so on, and so forth, ad infinitum and beyond.

And when you finally, after endless hours, do assemble your so-called game, what do you have on your hands? An ugly piece of miscellany, with a simplistic turn-based battle engine where the monsters bob up and down when they attack, where the ugly spells are painful on the eyes and are accompanied by terrible sound effects, where the dungeons themselves serve as the battle backgrounds, where the quaint characters travel on rails on sepia-colored maps from green dot to green dot... it's too terrible to continue. If anyone cares to hear the rest of my review, I'll be under my bed, weeping uncontrollably at having seen a great concept viciously murdered.


The bulk of RPG Maker involves setting values for everything from characters to magic.

With Anime Maker you can create your own graphics and animations for your RPG.

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