RMN's Favourite RM Games of All Time List (2019 Edition)

Gonna try this! I don't play many RPG Maker horror games, so just assume Ib OFF and Yume Nikki would be somewhere on here if I did.

1. The Way: Nostalgia pick, really? This was my Xenogears as a kid
2. Dhux's Scar: in retrospect this game steals liberally from Dragon Quarter. That said it has a lot of attitude and funny jokes, so it's still my fave
3. Helen's Mysterious Castle: nice and compact dungeon crawler w/ many small perfect details
4. Space Funeral: SPACE FUNERAL.
5. Capella's Promise: amazing game with some cool and unique ideas. I wish more RPG Maker games made in the Japanese scene were available in English...
6. Star Stealing Prince: can be pretty hard, but has a lot of heart. As prince of a small realm you can wash the dishes of your subjects
7. Hero's Realm: while uneven and perhaps packed w/ too much stuff, this game better captures the appealing qualities of Dragon Quest and early Final Fantasy than most other games made in the engine I've seen
8. Jimmy and the Pulsating Mass: haven't played as much of this as I'd like...would slot it a notch or two below Undertale in the world of Earthboundlikes. A real triumph by Housekeeping
9. Exit Fate: I'm not sure why this game is so low here??? I think it's because as great a game it is, it doesn't really capture the same atmosphere as the game it's riffing on, Suikoden. That said, easily one of the most polished and fully fledged games made in RPG Maker
10. Chain of Retribution: it's fun!

Wooden Ocean

Yo, I bought this game over itch.io but it doesn't look like the newest update (or any download, actually...) is available over there. Are you thinking of uploading it some time in the near future?

Jimmy, We Are Go for Launch!

Bought it from Steam, about half an hour into it. It's already a huge improvement over A Very Long Rope! The game's influences are pretty clear, but I can tell you put some thought into how all the little pieces fit together. And the scene where Mr. Beaver gives you a tour of his house was a very Earthbound moment.

Will keep going and see how things turn out, either way I'd so far gladly put it in the ballpark with paid RPG Maker champions Helen's Mysterious Castle and Rakuen

Blog 35: A new RPG Maker RPG (Japanese) to introduce & Seraphic Blue-related Video

Hat World looks pretty neat! I might try the Chinese version to practice the language (since I definitely need a refresher...)

On the note of Japanese RPG Maker games, I've been playing a couple of neat ones that have just been translated into English--Helen's Mysterious Castle (a really fantastic short game about exploration and battling, also adorable) and Capella's Promise (which was translated by vgperson who also did Ib, etc.) I think you'd dig Capella's Promise in particular, it's a big (20+ hours!) game w/ lots of unusual mechanics (synthesizing classes w/ a plot-relevant item, enemies all drop randomly generated loot, lots of flexibility in learning skills...) There are a lot of promising RPG Maker games made in English, but looking at some of the crop that's been brought over recently from Japan it's refreshing that so many of them put real thought into their inner workings rather than blindly emulating SNES classics (keeping in mind some of those projects do that REALLY WELL.)

Either way, thanks for translating all 50+ hours of Seraphic Blue and bringing more cool projects like Hat World to my attention I guess! Makes me want to go learn Japanese, even if the language is tough as hell for an English speaker

A Very Long Rope to the Top of the Sky

Nah, if it makes you feel any better this game's definitely a step up over many of the games on this site, at least storywise. There seems to be this prevailing sentiment among a lot of aspiring rpg makers that they have to make everything themselves (or at least rip all the graphics themselves and use other people's scripts) but when it comes down to it there are very few people who could pull that off alone. They exist (Derek Yu for example) but don't blame yourself for having to cut corners in order to make a 50+ hour rpg. It's enough to drive anyone crazy!

There's nothing wrong with either random encounters or VX's default systems, by the way. They can help but you can do a lot with the bare minimum of resources. I think the issue with A Very Long Rope is that there's so much stuff packed into it that there's not quite enough mechanical variation to carry it properly. You don't need mini-games or a fancy battle system but successfully executing the basics are very important. So don't feel like you need to make things fancier, if anything stripping unimportant stuff out might be a better idea. Would put greater emphasis on the story as well, which I think is what you care most about anyway.

For what it's worth I think the first few hours of this game have enough promise to "earn the right" to do anything, if that makes sense. Again, if I have time in the future to keep playing, I may post more impressions! We'll see.

A Very Long Rope to the Top of the Sky

So I've been playing this game! Here are a bunch of comments after playing about an hour and a half in.

-There are two things I really, really dig about this game. The first thing is how the party (so far) is a family, Ivy and Mint as sisters and their grandfather as guardian/caretaker. I can imagine the story expanding to a pretty epic scale, but right now the stakes are all extremely personal which is something that a lot of Japanese RPGs (particularly on this site) could stand to learn from. It's definitely a good change from the paladin hero encountering a magician who says something along the lines of "you are the chosen one, since we fought the third boss together I will go with you!" Another thing I dig is the music, which I assume is custom and if so, is probably one of the better custom soundtracks I've heard in an rpg maker game.

-I'd be interested to know what games you played inspired you while making this? The touchstone I immediately draw is Dragon Quest V (which is all about the player character growing up, finding a family and constantly dealing with fate's shitty hand) but you may have had other touchstones, I dunno.

-The gameplay is very much the weakest link, to the point why I wonder why the game is designed the way it is. The first town you encounter in the game (haven't gotten to the rest) is really wide and empty and doesn't have much to discover, despite all the open houses. Battles can be challenging (boss battles especially) but they usually come down to bashing the opponent with skills while refilling MP periodically. There isn't really a "hook" (Final Fantasy's ATB live-action shenanigans, Shin Megami Tensei's emphasis on shoring up weaknesses or even Press Turns) to make things more interesting, which isn't a bad thing! But there are too few enemies and too many battles and regular enemies don't have much character. The boss battles are a little better though.

-The last step of the puzzle in the first dungeon is waaaayyy too much for the beginning of the game. Brute forced my way through it by pressing every button in turn. One thing you should think about (if you already aren't) is puzzle escalation--making sure that each dungeon builds on each other. Truth or lie buttons should come later.

-I do like how each "quest" so far is a little twist on an old jrpg faithful: the "bandits in the mountains" quest turns out to be something totally different, the beast in the woods is actually a spirit tampering with the hunter's mind. That said, I'm hoping there aren't too many of these because with the game's reported length (50 hours or so?) I can imagine these excursions becoming padding and then swiftly becoming tedious.

-Another thing: while the writing is definitely better than the norm for a lot of these games, I'm a bit mixed on the way this writing is employed during the story. One of the hallmarks of really great jrpgs is how they're able to convey a lot of information with the bare minimum of exposition or player interaction--the Dragon Quest games are actually really good at this, as are Final Fantasy or even the Mother series. A lot of the best story beats in A Long Rope are completely removed from player interaction, meaning that instead of a story sequence that makes sense mechanically you have a (well-written) cutscene in which the characters talk at each other through countless dialogue boxes. The scene in the beginning with Ivy and Mint climbing the rope was pretty effective, but I can only imagine how much more effective it would have been had a)you found a way to convey the monotony and exhaustion and horror of that experience to the player through the game itself and b)(optional) if you had more context for Ivy and Mint's relationship beforehand. It was an effective moment but maybe it could have been deployed a bit later to greater effect?

-Mint's status as a Sick Party Member makes me worry about cheap emotional tricks later on, but the writing's been good so far so I'm giving you the benefit of the doubt.

-In the end I'm struggling with why you chose to make this a video game in the first place when it would have made an equally good book. I can see why you might have looked at your writing and music skills (which are both pretty impressive) and thought "I'll show off both at once!" but as it stands you have a really interesting and effective story and a pretty good soundtrack mired in substandard mapping and what looks to be a lot of padding. I don't expect you to make any big changes to this game, since it's finished and the game is really long! But in the future, assuming you choose to make another game I'd recommend either practicing your mapping/design or (much preferable) finding a partner with equally as good knowledge of mechanics as you have of writing and other things. Hell, if you were to go to town on this game and change things up I think it could be seriously great but I wouldn't expect anyone to put that much effort into a game they've just completed. Better to move on to bigger and better stuff.

-Alternatively, another thing you could do would be to program a mode to make the game much easier (eliminate random battles entirely maybe? just have a couple of really effective but difficult battles?) so that people who just want to play through and see the story may do so. I might very well tough it out, definitely want to see where it goes, but when the writing and music are definitely the best part of this game it makes sense to find a way to show both off to as many people as possible.

-If anything I've said here contradicts any big twists/secrets/game mechanics in the latter parts of the game, take all of this with a grain of salt!

In short: this is a game with fantastic writing and very good music that also acutely feels like somebody's first effort. If it sounds like I'm being a bit harsh here it's only because I can almost tangibly feel how great this game would be if it was deeper and less wide, if that makes sense. I'd almost say "great first effort, the next one could be astonishing!" if this one wasn't already 50 hours long (which complicates things.) At any rate, if I keep playing this thing I'll let you know whether things change or if I have a more positive impression overall.

Spellshard: The Black Crown of Horgoth, and Other Unexpectedly Great Retro Games

So a thread on the Talking Time forums about great RPG Maker games that came out this year lead to somebody mentioning a certain old-school freeware JRPG called Spellsword: The Black Crown of Horgoth. I thought I'd check it out, and lo and behold it turned out to be one of the best games I've played this year.

From the three or so hours I've played, Spellsword looks to be a cross of the early NES Final Fantasy games with a bit of Dragon Quest. You choose a party of four from eight classes, wander around from dungeon to dungeon hunting down Lords of Ruin and fighting in challenging but generally fair battles. It's pretty fun, and while I'm nowhere close to completing it, it looks like there's a lot of game in here. There's also quite a bit of dialogue, but thankfully the game knows when to shut up and the quality of the dialogue itself is infinitely better than the threadbare stuff of the games Spellsword is emulating. The game looks to have been made in OHRRPGCE, but this is easily the most polished game I've seen in the engine.

Also, did you notice the lightsaber in the logo? Supposedly you unlock greater technology the more Lords of Ruin you defeat, leading to multiple class upgrades that lead to new abilities using sealed technology. I haven't gotten that far yet, but it certainly sounds like it'd be pretty interesting! At any rate I'm surprised that I've never heard of this game before, since while it's admittedly low-tech it certainly compares to any of the better RPG Maker games I've seen made in the past few years.

You can pick it up here if you're interested! If you go to the creator's site there's another game called Dungeonmen I haven't played around too much with, but looks to be an equally fascinating hybrid of Final Fantasy with Wizardry. Any thoughts on the game? Or have you stumbled across any freeware retro games recently on the net that blew you away by how good they were?

Under-Rated Games People Should Play

NIER was savaged by critics when it was released for presumably being "generic," a "God of War clone" and "unfun." That's really too bad because it also happened to be the best mediation on videogame violence since Shadow of the Colossus, not to mention one of the saddest games ever made. Also it had rideable boars that you could drift on, and an absolutely phenomenal soundtrack.

Otherwise, Anachronox is pretty great. It's like a JRPG except with Western influences and absolutely hilarious writing. One of your party members is a planet shrunk down to miniature size.

I've also heard fantastic things about Bangai-O Spirits, but I was never able to get into the thing myself.

Chain of Retribution

I've been playing this game recently, and what stands out to me more than ever is that it is literally a "chain"--an assembly line of fights and goofy dialogue and plot twists that's about as non-linear as a roller coaster. It embraces the "corridor" design of games like Final Fantasy XIII and its ilk, even as it packs in little details and quirks that those games never really had.

But the battle system is so fun! And the game rounds off all the edges of old-school rpgs: you can save anywhere, fight anytime, are healed after every fight and have just enough flexibility in the system to try out different character builds, but just enough guidance that you have to have to rely on character's strengths. And then, when you're certain the game's too easy and that an excellent battle system has been wasted, a boss comes out of nowhere and kicks your ass and you realize that you have to think.

I might actually be enjoying this more than Blackmoon Prophecy. The latter is a pretty good game that gets the "flow" of Final Fantasy games just right, but in the first couple of hours I played of it, there wasn't really a moment where I felt exhilarated. Chain of Retribution has about two or three of those moments in the first few hours alone. For a game on a much smaller scale, that's not bad!

If I was Tim Rogers I think I'd say this game is "crunchy" or something, but I think I'll spare everyone. Still wish this game had a sad axe(man?) in it though.

Blackmoon Prophecy

In the Fire Shrine:

Please tell me that you don't have to backtrack all the way to Mysidia, after getting your ass kicked by Rubicant? Please?!?