RPG Maker Fes (3DS) Review
Packed with more features and customisation than you can shake an enchanted staff at, RPG Maker Fes allows players to make their very own role-playing adventures on the 3DS, where creating is much more fun than the actual playing.
From the same line of RPG Maker games behind many indie games on Steam, Fes brings an impressive range of options to the Nintendo handheld. All the classic 2D turn-based RPG elements are included, from the dialogue, to combat, all the way to map design. Nearly everything is determined by a list of pre-set options, such as character models and building styles, but what a list it is! There is no shortage of tools to mess around with, to the point where it can be initially intimidating trying to make heads or tails of your waifu whimsical adventure in the making.
This fear is lessened by the ability to download other players’ creations and observe their techniques. Most of the uploaded games allow you to use the editor to make your own changes, or learn how a particular scripted event was programmed – creators can choose to disable editing on their work, but most allow free-rein. There are some seriously impressive creations out there, including a re-creation of Pokémon Red & Blue.
Unfortunately, the biggest issue of Fes becomes apparent when playing these homages to classic RPGs – why spend your time playing these limited versions when you could go back and play the originals for a significantly better gameplay experience? The tools Fes offers are impressive from a basic development perspective, but it does not necessarily make for a whole lot of fun to play. Combat is of the no-frills, static turn-based variety, which is fine, but this means each creation feels incredibly similar to play through. The characters and story may differ, but the core experience shares the exact same DNA, making for a soulless husk of an experience.
Another issue from a creation perspective is the limit on uploading games for others to play. There is a limit as to how many RPG adventures you can upload to the server; beyond this, you need to pay real money to unlock more upload slots. It is unlikely anyone other than the obsessive creators will exceed the original limit, but this is a disappointing, bordering on exploitative, aspect of Fes that will hamper those with a creative streak. On the flipside, this may encourage players to upload only their very best work. However, Super Mario Maker rewards players with more uploads as a result of receiving good feedback from the community, which seems like a fairer system than an aggressive microtransaction model.
This aside, RPG Maker Fes does offer a compelling sandbox of tools for anyone who has ever wanted to dabble in RPG development. The game uses a lot of conditional programming constructs, such as a raft of “if” and “when” operators which are deeply satisfying to play around with. For example, it feels perfectly logical to program a character to deliver a piece of dialogue when stepping on a particular tile or teleport to another location when set parameters are met. The actual act of developing an RPG within Fes is by far the most enjoyable part of the game. Playing said RPGs makes you wonder if the effort was worth it.