RPG Maker MV – Review

RPGMakerMv

Certainly, many of us, RPG fans, have found ourselves wondering what it would be like to create our own game. Idealize our own characters. Conceptualize a world, its inhabitants and dungeons from our own minds. Put forth a combat system rooted in classic tropes, such as HP, MP, spells and abilities, but with our own unique twist.

Some might feel overwhelmed by the amount of micromanagement involved and be afraid of losing track of their own creation. As such, they would prefer to build upon a well outlined standard, a solid base from which to steadily work their way up.

For both these kinds of people, RPG Maker MV, out now on Nintendo Switch, offers the solution!

 

RPGMakerMv_2
An example of the database editing that takes place. That empty column on the right is where the magic happens!

 

Making RPGs since 1992

For those not familiar with the well-established RPG Maker series, know that it already has more than two decades of existence under its belt, along with a dozen iterations that are spread across as many systems.

Not really a game, RPG Maker is rather a game engine for creating RPGs. More precisely, a piece of software aimed at building games with the classic JRPGs vibe, such as the illustrious Final Fantasy (before VII), the celebrated Chrono Trigger, the famous Dragon Quest (before the 3D) or the acclaimed series Suikoden, Shining, Phantasy Star, Mana, etc., etc. and such…

This is a genre that has been the subject of a fierce revival in recent years, not only thanks to the plethora of recent indie titles, but also some AAAs such as Bravely Default or Octopath Traveler. In short, it is safe to say that the format of games capable of being built with this new iteration of RPG Maker for Switch, are not part of an outdated concept. Quite the opposite!

Furthermore, with a bit of ingenuity and rolled up sleeves, it is possible to use the tools provided by the application to generate something derivative, such as tactical RPGs, like the classic Fire Emblem or Ogre Battle, or maybe something more focused on action-adventure to the likes of Zelda or even, perhaps, a metroidvania. Even if, for those genres, there are no native tools or support, it is still entirely possible, thanks to the flexibility of the software, albeit not without a great deal more of effort and experience from the creator.

To validate just how versatile this creation engine is, one only has to point out that some successful indie titles were in fact produced using versions of this software. To name just a few, we could mention Ara Fell, To The Moon, or The Amber Throne.

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Image editing happens on 3 layers. Then, there is an extra layer used to define regions of different effects, and finally the layer where the events are placed.

Switch versus the (PC) World

Without a doubt, when we imagine software development, we imagine it taking place on a computer. As such, naturally, the RPG Maker versions for PC are far superior to the console ones. Therefore, I believe that a good place to start is to focus on describing what the Switch version cannot do.

If the aforementioned titles gave you the impression that RPG Maker MV is the only tool necessary in order to turn someone into a full-fledged indie author, and allow distribution and commercialization of what may very well be the next Stardew Valley… You better not hold your breath!

Since console applications are part of a closed ecosystem, we do not have access to the files that make up the database, nor can we edit the engine itself with our own code. In other words, we are bound to the resources distributed within the application and cannot import our own visual and audio creations. Moreover, and as mentioned, we are restricted to the tools already provided as is – despite them being very malleable.

Lastly, it is impossible to extract a game and distribute it on another platform, only being able to upload our creations to the proprietary server. As such, being limited to sharing it only among other RPG Maker MV users.

Besides, selecting elements with a mouse is much more dynamic – whether from our code or the map – not to mention typing on an actual keyboard. Having to make selections with buttons or using the Switch’s virtual keyboard is not at all ideal, although we eventually get used to it and adapt quickly.

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While not optimal, button navigation works decently. Also, there is always the option of using the touch screen.

Giving wings to one’s imagination

But not everything is inferior, on the Switch version. With the limitations out of the way, let us talk about the benefits. The big one, which is a staple of the Nintendo console, is its hybrid nature. Not only can we create or test our RPG from the comfort of our home, while sitting on the couch, we can also go at it during a long train ride, on a café terrace, or to escape those dull moments over family dinners! No other system offers this much versatility.

Ease of use was also thought of, by taking advantage of the touch screen. This way, the impracticability of using the controller is mitigated, by allowing us to make selections and edits with a simple touch of a finger. Surely, the superior alternative for those of us already accustomed to working on mobile devices, or that simply prefer it.

Apart from these differences between versions, you can count on everything else that RPG Maker has to offer. We are talking about thousands of resources at our disposal, including sprites, animations, soundtracks and sound effects, presets, and much more. Which certainly lessens not being able to import external resources. There is also a free DLC, already available since launch, which adds even more assets. Besides, there is a small daily bonus whenever we connect to the server.

Undoubtedly, these resources are more than you will ever need, assuring the creation of hundreds of different games. Still, they all share the same distinct flavor since they all use the same art. But, perhaps the key feature of this software, is its ease of use, both to experienced as well as inexperienced users.

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Modifying the background, the animations, the sprites, the name of the variables, the position of the monsters, and the available battle commands, are just some of the things that can be edited on the combat screen.

 

The perfect tool to create and learn to create

Let us draw an important semantic distinction. Complex is quite different from complicated. RPG Maker MV is undoubtedly complex, and quite complete, thanks to the myriad of functions, customizations, and resources that we have at our disposal.

It is not, however, complicated to use. The given interface is not only intuitive as it is functional, and the fact that all the different options related to database management are perfectly characterized and cataloged, provides a pleasant pace to the learning curve.

And learning is, at a superlative, in what this title truly shines.

Immediately, even for someone without prior knowledge in programming or videogame development, you can start creating something simple. And in a short while, you can master more advanced functions and employ your creativity in order to push the software to its limit, and even do what you initially thought was impossible.

Constraints aside, RPG Maker MV for the Switch is an excellent creation engine. It not only draws on the user’s creativity, but also provides hours of pleasure while developing a game and later sharing it with the community and friends, as well as educates on the processes behind the inner working of an RPG.

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In addition to the illustrations already provided, it is possible to easily create your own with the character editor.

As already mentioned, this is not the software that will allow you to market the next big indie. It is, nonetheless and without a shadow of a doubt, a first big step in the right direction for anyone wanting to know more about the topic. Therefore, it goes strongly recommended to those whose curiosity has been piqued.

It is also important to mention that, while it is necessary to purchase the full version in order to create games, there is a free version available that allows anyone to download and play games created by others.

Those friends of ours who own a Switch but have not purchased a copy of RPG Maker MV, will not have any excuse not to play and test our creations!

positivo Thousands of assets available
positivo Easy to use and learn with
positivo Allows the sharing created games
positivo Free version allows to download uploaded games

errado Cannot import external assets
errado Cannot port game to a different system

Release Date: 11 September 2020 (consoles)
Developer: KADOKAWA CORPORATION
Publisher: NIS America
Genre: RPG, Simulation (game design)
Platforms: PC, Playstation 4, Nintendo Switch

Review copy provided by NIS America. (Switch)

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