Game Info:

RPG Maker MZ
Developed By: KADOKAWA, Yoji Ojima
Published By: Degica
Released: August 20, 2020
Available On: macOS, Microsoft Windows
Genre: RPG, Game Development
ESRB Rating None specified
Number of Players: Singleplayer
Price: $79.99

Note: Soon after publication, an error was pointed out via a Disqus commenter on this article in that I referred to a feature for changing tile sizes as if it were a removed stock feature when it was never a stock feature of the previous RPG Maker MV. I have since fixed the error and regret the misinformation included prior to this retraction.

I would like to thank Degica for the review key for this game.

In 2015, RPG Maker MV was released. It dared to be different and innovative with a multi-platform engine, Javascript as a scripting extension base, and tried to shake-up the RPG Maker brand with several new features. It had some performance issues and undershot some expectations, so the creators took the lessons learned and made RPG Maker MZ.

Like all RPG Makers, MZ is a top-down, 2D tile-based engine for creating RPG games. And, like in MV, it still uses a Chromium web backend for cross-compatibility with more than just Windows, though the editor is limited to just Windows and macOS support for now. Linux support is likely to follow since MZ shares a lot in common with MV, though ETA on that is unknown at this time. It still retains compatibility with all MV formatted resources. Resizing and modifying assets from VX Ace and other RPG Maker engines are still possible to convert to MV/MZ format, if the creator wishes to exercise that option, according to the terms of the RPG Maker EULA.

MZ also brings a few more things to the table aside from being an improved MV. The animations forego the usual animated PNG files and instead incorporate the Effekseer animation middleware, which allows for more dynamic particle effects and is optimized to run well with MZ's improved backend code. Since VX Ace, the typical if quite underwhelming face generator for characters has gotten a huge overhaul. Prior, VX Ace and MV featured a very basic generator entirely dependent on limited stock templates, proving vastly inferior to customized art tools and manual creations that were done by independent artists. Now, the included character generator ships with many features that allow for creating much more varied character designs. While custom artists won't be out of a job, MZ is much closer to giving the novice their own full-fledged character art engine along with the main editor.

A few features from earlier Makers also make a proud return alongside a few new ones. The multiple layers feature beloved of RPG Maker XP is back, only it's togglable for those who do not need of its features. The core files of the game engine can now be automatically updated for game projects to keep them current with the latest core script code. Also, the plugin interface of MV now has many quality of life improvements, including the integration of many well-beloved MV plugins into the stock engine via the database, and the custom plugins are now easier to toggle on and off.

RPG Maker MZ

Strong Points: Greatly improved stability; many more features and stock content compared to preceding Makers; lots of quality of life enhancements to the editor
Weak Points: Some features from MV excised that make compatibility with older makers easier
Moral Warnings: RPG style violence if combat is enabled; References to demons and the undead in stock enemy graphics; some female enemy stock graphics are partially nude (though without explicit details)

Graphically, I'd call MZ a massive improvement over MV in several regards. MV was in many ways merely a tweaked VX Ace in terms of tilesets, but MZ features many new tiles, all of which are textured in loving detail for both fantasy and modern/sci-fi games. The character art is a refined, vibrant improvement on the already good if flawed MV style. Enemy battler art is MUCH better than in MV, being incredibly detailed, far less cartoony, and the designs are no longer niche and silly looking. The new particle effects provided by Effekseer integration look beautiful and load much faster than the old PNG animations as well. Tweaking the animations in the game editor is also much less complicated.

Sound and music effects aren't too different from MV, though they do include far more of them by default, and the tracks included even have some techno and ambient aural infusion to go with the MV orchestral emphasis, so they have more variety. Backend improvements to the engine compared to MV means the sounds and music stream on-demand instead of trying to load the whole files all at once, saving valuable processor cycles for other things, and using much less memory. Support for M4A was cut from MV, returning to OGG format by default for reasons of compatibility.

Controls have not greatly changed since MV. The editor is still driven primarily by mouse and keyboard, though the game interface has been improved to include much more integration for touch support, including clickable drop-down menu integration by default. Like in MV, there is support for controllers and PC gamepads as well.

Stability across the board is a massive step up from MV. The developers freely admitted on the RPG Maker forums that MV made a lot of mistakes in using a web-based backend, and they have striven to optimize the code in all regimes. Given how the sound and graphics now load much faster when playtesting, I would contend they did a much better job. They also provided finer-grained control over many aspects of the game engine from the game editor, integrating many things that required custom plugins like disabling certain menus, and I'm pleased to report these options work very well.

I did get reports from some friends of some crashing issues with importing files and some movie playback issues soon after release, though I was unable to replicate these issues.

RPG Maker MZ
Score Breakdown:
Higher is better
(10/10 is perfect)

Game Score - 92%
Gameplay - 18/20
Graphics - 8/10
Sound - 8/10
Stability - 5/5
Controls - 5/5

Morality Score - 70%
Violence - 7/10
Language - 10/10
Sexual Content - 4/10
Occult/Supernatural - 4/10
Cultural/Moral/Ethical - 10/10

Morally, there are a few concerns.

Violence is the typical RPG style "give commands and watch it happen" variety, should the creator opt to include combat, which can be front-view, side-view, turn-based, action-based, or some combination of all of them. Blood and gore are absent by default.

Language is again only as foul as the creator wishes, much like in all other Makers. Sexual content is a bit more pronounced compared to MV, as some enemy battlers do show some partial nudity thanks to much higher fidelity in detail in the stock art.

There are the usual stock references to demons, the undead, and minor occult references in the enemy battler art, though using the stock art is entirely optional. The tilesets curiously now use generic "magic circles" in a snowflake pattern as opposed to the former hexagram/Star of David look they had in earlier makers. This is entirely generic and references no real-world religion or occult symbology to my knowledge.

Morals and ethics in created games are entirely at the discretion of the game creator, any depravity or glory depicted is limited only to the intentions and game concept of the designer.

Like all Makers, I highly recommend having more than one Maker; doing so allows the designer to use resources from that Maker in any other RPG Maker engine as specified in the RPG Maker EULA. I especially recommend having both MV and MZ at least, their resources are directly cross-compatible, and this will provide MZ users a vast wealth of resources to use from day one.

Overall, given RPG Maker MZ costs the same as MV did and provides a lot more by default, I can more than safely say it''s worth the purchase price. Morally, aside from the content noted in the stock resources, it is otherwise suitable for all ages as a game creation tool. As the latest member of the computer-based RPG Makers, as both a fan of the series and as someone who was a bit underwhelmed by MV, this is a refined successor well worth it for the aspiring RPG game creator.

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Daniel Cullen

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Christ Centered Gamer looks at video games from two view points. We analyze games on a secular level which will break down a game based on its graphics, sound, stability and overall gaming experience. If you’re concerned about the family friendliness of a game, we have a separate moral score which looks at violence, language, sexual content, occult references and other ethical issues.

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