Thank you NIS America for sending us this game to review!
Years ago, I made a PC game using RPG Maker XP. Though I relied mostly on the stock artwork and sound effects, the option to use original assets truly make a game stand out from the rest. RPG Maker FES has a decent amount of fantasy themed characters, enemies, buildings, and interior assets built into it, but if you want to do anything that goes beyond the scope of the included material, you may want to consider the cheaper PC version instead. For $40 FES is a competent suite that is relatively easy to use and making games on the go is surprisingly fun.
In total there are sixteen save slots which can be used for various game projects. When creating a new game you’ll be brought to the main screen which has five options: Map Settings, Event Settings, Database, Test Play, and Save. Test Play lets you play your game in its current state and will show you a debug screen and will allow you to pass though obstacles that you normally couldn’t. Save should be self-explanatory if you don’t want to lose your hard work.
The map settings screen is where you’ll be designing your world map, cities, interiors, and dungeons. There are ninety-nine map slots so take that into consideration if you add a lot of unique houses and dungeons/caves in your game. Whatever map option you choose you’ll have to pick the size (32X32, 64X64, 128X128) and design it. There are pre-made samples of each category and you can use them as-is or tweak them to your liking. Creating maps from scratch is entirely possible too.
When creating your map you can paint different terrains by pressing the X button. From this menu you can select black for a backdrop and various terrains like dirt, grass, gravel, sand, snow, ice, and so forth. My only complaint here is that even the smallest size is way too big for many interior maps and an option to bucket fill the black backdrop would have been helpful.
A map without stuff to do is pretty boring. You can hard code in enemy encounters in specific places or create character events and let them move in specified patterns or wander around freely until your character touches or talks to them.
There are many simple pre-built events like a hotel, church, and store interfaces. The menu dialog is all configured; all you need to do is add in the items or set the prices for the inn or the cost of prayer to revive a fallen party member. Adding your own event is necessary for NPC encounters. Events are done through a drag and drop interface and you cannot code or add your own scripts whatsoever.
The main character and party members (up to four at a time) are configured in the database section. Monsters, groups, professions, weapons, and sellable items are also customized here. The database also stores your game’s name and subtitle. Sadly, you have a limited number of characters for the game’s title length. The subtitle gives you a little more to work with though.
There’s a 27-page manual built into the game and it’s handy in teaching you the basics about RPG Maker FES’ interface. Most of features are best learned through trial and error. It took me a while to master my game’s opening sequence with the story and gender assignments. The hardest part was to have it go away afterward. I solved that problem by having it place the character somewhere on the map after it ran. Before I set up the story sequence, I couldn’t figure out how to change the character’s starting position. Instead of working with the character’s icon on the map, it has to be done through the event manager.
From a moral perspective, you can make games as magic heavy or absent as you like. Standard RPG violence is expected in the built-in battle system where you issue commands and see them take place. There isn’t any blood shown. Sadly, some of the female character art shows more skin than clothes. Taverns can be present in your towns, but you can alter the menu to only serve root beer if you wish.
All in all, RPG Maker FES has a lot to offer for aspiring game makers. Anyone can freely download the RPG Maker FES player from the eShop and play games that other users have made. DLC packs offering more content will be released in the future and I look forward to seeing what I and others can do with this software.