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RPG Maker II (PlayStation 2) artwork

RPG Maker II (PlayStation 2) review

"I won’t lie. I haven’t made a single RPG with RPG Maker 2. "

I won’t lie. I haven’t made a single RPG with RPG Maker 2.

Sure, I’ve made a few miscellaneous things. Built a couple dungeons, made some characters, designed a few attacks, molded some animations. Even came up with a solid plot. But that’s not enough. If you get RPG Maker 2 and think you’ll just churn out some Final Fantasy scale epic before the night’s out, you’re in for one sad night. That’s not to say you’ll never make a tale worth telling; if you have what it takes, you can make this game work. If.

You’ll need a keyboard.

Yeah, you can type things in with your controller; the game doesn’t require a keyboard to play. But if you have hopes of making an RPG before you become eligible for Senior Citizen discounts, you’ll want one. Whether it’s just inputting the names for each character or writing the final boss’ obligatory ‘I’m the best and you’re all screwed’ rant, you’ll have some heavy writing to do, no way around it.

You’ll need a love for fantasy.

RPG Maker 2 has everything you could possibly want for a fantasy RPG. A massive bestiary, filled with every monster type you’d care to name and a few you wouldn’t. A complex building editor, capable of making anything from the tallest towers to the deepest dungeons. Perfect customization for a perfect fantasy world.

But only fantasy. You could conceivably make a modern day world and pull it off, but you’d have to explain a few things. Like how come no one drives cars, or why everyone uses swords and staffs instead of guns. The game has modern-day character models, but not many, so unless your RPG is set in a cosplay convention, you’re best off sticking to the way of Tolkien.

You’ll need the patience of Buddha.

Be under no illusions; creating RPGs is hard. Playing RPG Maker 2 gives you a great understanding of why companies like Square and Atlus take their sweet time. You have to create each dungeon, each town, each castle. Characters have to have names, have to have models, have to have attacks. Encounter rates? Set them. Encounter areas? Set them, too. You have to tweak each and every monster you create, make sure they’ve got just the right strength. Make them too hard and they’re an annoyance. Make them too easy and they’re an insult. Test, tweak, test, tweak, over and over and over.

And that’s the easy part. Even when you make all the dungeons and towns, even when you’ve created every character and perfected every monster and set everything you could imagine setting, you still have to put it all together. You must face the dreaded switches.

You see, an RPG, any RPG, is essentially nothing but a bunch of switches. Example: You go see King Ventera in the kingdom of Honesta de Gameria. He tells you that his kingdom is under assault by the great dragon Zigfried, and if you go to the dragon’s lair and slay him, he’ll hook you up with his daughter, the Duchess of Bluberry. The minute you’re done talking to him, a switch goes on that opens up the dragon’s lair. You go in, you slay the dragon, Honesta de Gameria’s property values go back up, everyone’s happy. Most importantly, a switch goes on that makes the king do what he promised, which would be adding the Duchess to your party.

That might sound somewhat simple, but you have to keep in mind: an average RPG has hundreds, maybe even thousands, of switches, and you’ve got to keep track of every…lastone. If one switch is placed where it’s not supposed to be, things fall apart. You could ask a little girl for directions and suddenly find yourself face to face with the end boss. You could examine a fireplace and get assaulted by a gang of robots. And cutscenes are practically nothing but a string of switches. Scribble them in a notebook, write them on a database, whatever it takes; keep track of the switches or lose track of the game.

You’ll need direction. Oh lord, do you need direction.

I swear this: If you don’t have a good idea of what you’re going to do before you do it, you will never make an RPG. You’ll get a little bit into it, just making random things with some vague notion of putting them all together. You’ll realize, too late, that what you had in mind isn’t going to work, because you didn’t really have anything in mind. You’ll scrap the whole thing and start all over, same fruitless effort with the same fruitless result. You’ll be…like me.

Imagine a world. Create a plot; beginning, middle, end. Think up characters; think up monsters. Plan out every step before you take one. And then start.

Above all else, you’ll need to understand.

Even if you get the keyboard, even if you spare the time and find the direction, even if you dedicate yourself and actually make an RPG…it might still be crap. You might look back at your labor of love and learn that you really hate it. You might have liked it in parts, but hate it as a sum. You might think that you’ve just wasted 50+ hours of your life. And while I can’t tell you exactly what that feels like, I can only imagine it sucks. Big time.

RPG Maker 2 is a boring game. It’s hard. It’s tedious. Much work, with little, if any, payoff. But it doesn’t have much choice in the matter; there’s no way it couldn’t have been. On the flipside, it’s also incredibly complete; so long as you’re looking for a fantasy world, there’s almost nothing you can’t do within reason. But you have to be committed.

So if you’ve got everything you need to make a killer RPG with this, one that you can share with your friends and truly enjoy, then go ahead. Pick up RPG Maker 2 with all due haste. But if you’re missing so much as one requirement, don’t even bother. I’m telling you, from one lazy slob to another: You will hate it.

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Featured community review by lasthero (September 30, 2005)

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