Even with the option of easy drag-and-drop Events, there still looks to be plenty of from-scratch creative power under the hood. We took a deep dive into the Events menu and saw a smorgasbord of gameplay options that can be set as responses to player input, from starting and stopping timers to shaking the screen or changing the weather, triggering emotes over characters, increasing or decreasing the party’s gold, health, or levels, and adding in all manner of dialogue exchanges, story beats, and decision trees. The potential seems almost endless, and in dedicated, creative hands, we can imagine all sorts of experiences coming out of RPG Maker Fes: dating sims, visual novels, and potentially even action games should all be doable with these tools and some imagination.
It helps that the controls were intuitive and easy to get to grips with, with the touchscreen put to good use for drag-and-drop designing and text input. We were especially happy to see that the on-screen keyboard features predictive text input, which should really help with typing out longer dialogue trees and story beats. Trying out our masterpiece at each stage was also a piece of cake, thanks to the simple ‘Test Play’ function that lets you jump right into the current scene, complete with a debug menu to change parameters for testing purposes. The build-test-tweak loop felt comfortable and natural on the handheld, and should be a great fit for commute-time or couch-time play sessions.
And though we didn’t get to spend as much time poking around beyond our map-making and Event creation, there’s plenty more to customize there as well: you’ll have control over the characters, party and enemies, of course, but also be able to set parameters, names, and descriptions for weapons, items, special attacks, and professions (ala Dragon Quest vocations or Bravely Default’s jobs), and cue up different tracks of pre-composed music when and how you see fit.
In terms of art assets, the build we played only had selections from a ‘Fantasy’ set available; for characters, that meant the usual suspects like mages, fighters, and swordslingers, along with more eclectic models like a mildly terrifying clown. The actual art itself — both in the character portraits and the tiled map elements — reminded us of KEMCO’s recent line of 3DS eShop RPGs. Happily, we were told that “Fantasy” is far from the last word on Fes’ art; a sci-fi pack was mentioned, and more styles are planned to be included through in-game packs and/or DLC.