As a longtime fan of RPG Maker titles, any release is big news for me personally. I have been hacking my way around projects since before the series had a proper introduction to America and have had hands-on time with literally every release since that time. RPG Maker MV is a perfectly good port of a program that is about five years old now, giving console gamers a fun way to flex their creative muscles. That being said, those familiar with the PC versions of the game will no doubt be acutely aware of the console limitations to be had here as well.
We covered RPG Maker MV when it first released on PC back in October of 2015 (you can read the review here), and we loved the software for a variety of reasons. Many of those same reasons still resonate today, despite half a decade having gone by. You do not have to know a stitch of programming to put together a reasonably simple RPG. It’s a great way for people to tell a story that they can share in a unique way with friends, family or just the RPG Maker community in general.
Things kick off with a pretty solid set of training wheels in the tutorial that comes with RPG Maker MV (though I did have some weird issues getting the trophy for completing it to pop, for those of you who are trophy hunters. I had to delete my data twice to get the tutorial trophy to track, and I have no idea why. Also, it is worth noting for trophy hunters that this game does come with a full platinum – despite not being a traditional ‘game’ in and of itself). The tutorial was helpful for me because I was familiar with MV but it helped me to navigate how to use the controller for this software. I am much more used to the mouse and keyboard approach on the PC. This is a PS4 review, and I have to imagine that the touch screen of the Switch would add some extra quality of life (similar to how RPG Maker Fes did on the 3DS a few years back), but with the PlayStation 4, I had to make use of the controller. That took a bit of wrapping my head around using buttons to jump from one window to another so I could select my desired tools or map.
Thankfully, there is keyboard support here. I tried it with a few different ones – a generic Logitech USB, a Microsoft Bluetooth one and a Tesoro USB and all of them were recognized by the PlayStation and worked just fine with this software. This is the first time I’ve actually used a keyboard with my PS4, so I wasn’t sure how well they would work, but it was all plug and play for me and a huge win in trying to add dialog to my projects. I can’t honestly imagine trying to put together a typical RPG project using the virtual keyboard – it would just be too slow I think.
Generally speaking, the controller works as well as one could hope. It was not super intuitive to me right out of the gates, but once I got through the tutorial, I was able to figure it out. Obviously compared to a mouse, the workflow is not quite as smooth, but it gets the job done. To that end, the framework is all there with mapping, events and all of the logic one needs to move from one map to another, to open and close doors, raid treasure chests and of course fight monsters, gain experience and level up characters. The engine itself translates very well in this port and leaves the creator a robust set of options to work with. There’s nothing else quite like it on current gen consoles and that alone deserves recognition.
Where veteran RPG Maker fans will start to see the limitations is in the flexibility to personalize the games a bit further. Obviously you can’t go adding plugins, or writing custom code scripts or importing original art and assets the way you can on the PC version. There just is not that level of flexibility to be had here. One of the greatest aspects of the RPG Maker community are the scripts and asset resources provided for free (or for purchase) that allow for a wider range of presentation. The RTP (default) art and tile sets have a nice variety and work well with one another, but as this software ages, most game releases will start to look and sound very similar to one another, relying heavily on concepts, event use and narratives to differentiate completed titles.
Thankfully there is an in-game forum of sorts that serves as a sort of creative hub where people can share projects and even some new DLC artwork that has become available. As of the time of this review, with this being relatively new software, there is not a ton of content out there, but I have no doubt that it will begin to populate more fully over time. One sort of strange compromise made is that you can only have one uploaded game at a time (outside of ‘submissions’ – which is looking as though it will be used for time / theme events to keep the community engaged, which is a very cool idea that I hope resonates and encourages plenty of sharing). My guess is you will be able to purchase extra uploads if you want them (there was something similar to Fes if I recall correctly – it has been a few years now since I used that software).
There’s some quality of life items that were introduced in the lasted PC version of RPG Maker MZ (we reviewed it here), that I did not expect to find in this console release but would have liked to have seen. So everything you are getting here is based on the five year old MV. One thing that works well on this console version that I appreciate is how it tries to track memory usage. With PlayStation 4 consoles being pretty standard (versus the wild west that is PC configuration), it’s nice to see that information as I’m designing my maps.