RPG Maker 3 is the third installment of the series from Enterbrain, brought over to the United States by Agetec. While the previous two games (one on the Playstation and the other on the PS2) have been well-received by enthusiasts, they’ve generally been considered too difficult for average players to get into as well as being rather graphically deficient. This time the graphics have been bumped up to allow people to actually create PS2-level content as well as adding support for the hard drive. A six-hour RPG has been included in the game to give people something to play, and Agetec has stated that they’re looking at ways to connect players to share content as well.
The main questions here are is it easier to design an RPG in this and how easy will it be to share content between players? If things go well and the community provides, this could be the closest thing the PS2 will get to what Neverwinter Nights did on the PC.
As stated previously, the graphics make a huge jump between RPG Maker 2 and RPG Maker 3, the graphics now in full 3D and of PS2-level quality. While this is true, it doesn’t take long to discover that it’s early PS2-level quality. Along with this comes a number of small problems including clipping issues with characters moving through each other while doing animations and some slowdown issues while trying to draw particularly elaborate areas or while preparing spell animations.
Still, it’s a solid improvement over the previous title and allows for quite a bit more customization of the games than previously available.
There is a solid variety of music in the game, with forty-nine BGM tunes that can be played. There are tunes for dramatic encounters, ending and beginning the game, general walking around an area and even songs for differing types of weather. The tunes aren’t of the quality one might find in Final Fantasy, for example, but they definitely get the job done.
When actually playing one of the games you build (or the game that comes with RPG Maker 3), there are a few sound-related issues. First, there’s an annoying ‘dinging’ sound that comes whenever text is displayed on the screen, whether narrated, spoken by another character or on a sign or something similar. The other is the fact that there is little to no difference in how footsteps sound. This means that walking on sand sounds the same as walking on stone, which can kill a bit of the feeling of immersion one strives for when building an RPG.
In the editor, one almost wishes for a mouse and keyboard to get around. Using the analog controller is quite clunky and slow, especially in creating areas in the game. This is to be expected, granted, and it brings up the question why isn’t mouse support enabled for this game. The keyboard is at least supported, which works wonders while taking care of naming things as well as writing dialogue for the game you build.
While actually playing the game, the controls are still somewhat confusing and clunky, especially the player movement controls, as you use the left analog stick to (slowly) move your character around and the triangle button to run.
When you first load up RPG Maker 3, you’re given choices between editing a game, playing a game and loading a game (and the always present options). Most of your time is going to be spent between the edit and play options, although even while playing a game you’re given some control over the editing capabilities of the game.
In Edit Mode you’re given control over four subsections of the game: The World, Characters & Items, Story & Rules and Data Management.
The World is where you’ll create the Field, or the game world itself, Towns, Dungeons and the Layout of items and objects within the world. In Field, you can not only create the lands, setting up the type of terrain, amount of forestation, roads, place villages, castles and dungeons and the like, you can also set up all the options for it, including the music used, the types of monsters present and how often they appear.
In Characters & Items, you create not only the PCs, but also all NPCs, monsters and every item that is used in the world. You’re able to create up to 100 different classes to use on the characters you create, each one having their own unique abilities that you can create. You can even make one character class level up faster or slower than another. You can also create up to 300 unique items, 100 monsters, 100 monster parties and 100 NPCs. It’s a large amount of variety to use in making a game. You can also use animations on the characters to express different emotions or reactions to what might be going on.
Story and Rules is where you create the meat of the game: the plot. You can set up the events of the game, set up all of the conversations between major NPCs and the player, create the settings of the game…it’s all in there. You can even use effects to have different visual things happen when events happen in the game. Having an earthquake happen as a plot point? Use ‘shake’ to shake the screen. Warping across the world? Use ‘warp’ to show this, or use it to signify a fight (akin to some of the Final Fantasy games). Again, there’s a lot of detail involved and that can get a bit overwhelming at times, especially without a solid in-game tutorial mode. Hopefully the manual will be nice and thick and rectify this issue.
Contained in the game is a six-hour game titled “Dear Brave Heart”. One of the goals of the game is to show you some of the features of RPG Maker 3 and how to use them. This is done by going into the Sample House and then traveling to the town of Sample. It’s nice to have this kind of tutorial in the game, as it’s better than just throwing people into creating their own RPG without any guidance, although as stated before, it could go a bit more in depth as far as creating areas goes. Still, it’s a nice beginning.
You can also test out the combat engine here, which is passable. It’s similar to that of a number of early PS2 RPGs, done in 3D with positioning of the characters before the battle important to your tactics. It plays well enough, although there are a few noticeable lags in the game, mainly while activating a special attack.
The plot of the ‘Dear Brave Heart’ story is basic but works well, with you attempting to help put a lid on the last of 72 demons that have escaped a seal that they were placed behind. It does a good job at showing how a game can be built within RPG Maker 3.
The game supports the hard drive, which is almost a necessity if you want to have a lot of games to play with or want to create a lot of games, as the game itself takes up nearly 1/4 of a typical 8MB PS2 memory card. It’s not a requirement by any means, but it’s definitely nice to have and it’s also nice that Agetec chose to support the hard drive for their game.
The value in this for the most part is going to be in the game creation area. There are tons of options to use in creating a game world, fleshing it out, and all of it is relatively easy to do. It’s still going to take work to create a solid world, however, although dabblers can still probably create something decent without too much difficulty. The people who really buy this for game creation, however, will have hundreds of hours of work/play ahead of them.
People who really want an RPG to play though will have to wait on the community to start creating content for this game. With any luck, the content will start flowing and it’ll give other people a way to play this title.