Have you ever wanted to make your own game? The obvious answer to this is yes, and we have proof in 1,426,725 daily emails where someone wants to see their "brilliant idea" implemented into a game. Well, now you can with RPG Maker 3. Err, you could have used RPG Maker 1 or 2 as well, but now the series has made its move to glorious 3D on the PlayStation 2.
RPG Maker isn't a game as much as it is a toolset. The point here is that you can create whatever you want, within the confines of the assets that you're given at least. You can create the world, the character classes, weapon types, characters, dungeons, monsters... you name it. The theory behind the series is great, and while it does some of it well, there are still many aspects of the series that aren't quite "there" yet.
One problem has to do with accessibility. The game has a very steep learning curve. It throws menu after menu after menu at you, and while this is great in terms of how much control you have over every nook and cranny of your world and the rule set and creatures therein, you're still working against the incredibly long learning curve in order to craft your vision.
Part of the problem is that it takes a while before you learn the order that things must be created if you're starting from scratch. One piece of character creation may require another, but it might take you a while to learn this. Likewise, you might need to have created a piece of a dungeon or trap type before you can use them somewhere else. There aren't cascading menus that let you create a sub-type if you haven't already done so; you can only load up what you've already created. It would be nice, and definitely helpful, to be able to create a class or some such when you need one if you hadn't already. It certainly would have helped decrease the learning curve since you could essentially "mess up" and the game would prompt you to fill in the blanks.
RPG Maker 3's move to fully unique 3D models and set pieces brings with it a bit of a tradeoff. Though the last game was in 3D, much of the game's content was based around more generic models that relied on their texture sets to describe the details, which allowed for a large amount of customization as you could import images and such to customize the game all you wanted. With RPG Maker's shift to fully unique 3D models for everything, it's taken away your ability to create all of this custom content since there isn't any easy way to either create or get 3D models into the game. So, you're stuck with what's there.
For some things, the game includes a fairly large amount of art, while for others you'll find that your selection is rather limited. For example, there are a ton of character images that span a pretty wide variety of art styles, so your conversations, character bios and cutscenes are all quite customizable. You'll also find plenty of music and such to outfit your world. But the variety of 3D models is a little disappointing. When trying to pick a layout for a dungeon, you're stuck with a handful of rather uninteresting architecture types. And you don't have all that many options for your heroes and such, so you'll have to make due. If you're sorting of creating things as you go, you'll be fine. But if you have a specific look in mind beforehand, you might find yourself rather restricted.
Another bit of a limiting factor is that the game is designed to build old-school fantasy RPGs, so you'd have a hard time creating a futuristic RPG set on a high-tech planet. The concession here is that if they'd spent time creating models for a whole slew of different settings, they'd have less for each one and your creativity would be restricted more within each one of those. So, it's a trade-off.
It will take you a looong time to make a quality RPG of reasonable length with RPG Maker 3, especially from scratch. That's perfectly fine, though some people may give up partway through and never finish their creation.
For the people that do happen to put in the many, many hours it would take to make a nice game, once they're done, that's it. They can play it, and anybody they can get their save can play it, but their options for trading games is close to zero. There's no online functionality for trading created games, which we think is a huge oversight. If you spent 100 hours creating something you were happy with, you'd want to share it, right? The only way to do so would either be to physically copy your save to your friends, who may or may not be into RPGs, or use some sort of 3rd party device to copy your save files and upload them to an unofficial collection website. There really, really should have been an official way to do this.
So far as finished work goes, the enjoyment of the RPG will generally be a stylistic and character-based focus. The actual mechanics of the engine are extremely simple, with generic turn-based fighting, rather mundane world traveling and such. It'll be up to you to install real life into your characters through conversation and life into your world via the back story. We're not saying it can't be done, but for those people who just slap assets together with the assumption that the final game would be decent, it won't. If we were to rate the included sample game as its own title, it would probably get like a 3. It serves reasonably well in helping you see what RPG Maker can do, and how things tie together, but it's a terrible standalone RPG. Let's hope those who use this to make content will do better, and we very much assume they can.
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