It’s good, but very slow and clunky. It’s just as entertaining as always, but the Switch version feels like it’s going to break every 5 seconds. When you get over that, it becomes just as addicting and fun as any version of RPG Maker before it. Not my favorite iteration, but It’s perfectly serviceable to anyone that needs to put their game ideas on a screen. I would wait for a few updates to fix all the bugs first though.
With this new Nintendo Switch and PS4 version of RPG Maker MV, it will mark the third time I review this software. I started with the original RPG Maker MV on PC, and then the 3DS version RPG Maker Fes. Finally, we have the Nintendo Switch version of MV that I played, which is probably my least favorite version out of all of them. This does not mean that the game is bad by any means, but it does have some technical issues that stop it from being my default choice for bringing my RPG ideas to life. Honestly, I still prefer the 3DS version for quick and spontaneous ideas I want to jot down, and then developing them further on the PC version. However, if the Nintendo Switch version ever gets any updates that fix all the annoying issues, then I would have less problems recommending it.
If you have no idea what RPG Maker is, the answer is in the title of the game itself. This is a game/software that lets you create your own simple 2D RPG in the vein of classic SNES games like Final Fantasy and many others. Granted, the PC version of RPG Maker MV is far more advanced, lets you import original assets and download plug-ins, but that doesn’t stop the console versions from being fun experiences all on their own. MV, just like all other versions, comes with a ton of pre-made assets you can play around with, and even create your own characters with a (very limited) Character Creator. From big set pieces to tiny details, RPG Maker MV has you covered on most fronts, especially this version that gives a few pointers before you begin.
RPG Making 101
When you boot the game up for the first time, you are greeted with a comprehensive tutorial on the bare basics of creating your own RPG like creating dialogue, doors that lead to different maps and making NPCs move. I like this a lot, since it gives you a good place to start without feeling completely lost in the many, many menus and buttons you’ll have to familiarize yourself with every time you want to do something new. The only thing I don’t like about this tutorial is that it doesn’t offer anything more advanced other than the elementary knowledge required to start. The other 95% of MV is left for you to figure out for yourself, which is great for creative people, but terrible for the easily overwhelmed. Not only that, but I couldn’t find a way to see the tutorial again after it was done. If you forgot what the tutorial taught you, then you’re out of luck.
One thing that I would’ve also appreciated was if the game offered some sort of short sample world that we could see in action; just to see what was possible with the tools available to you. But instead, you are left with an empty canvas with your name on it. It’s not a dealbreaker, but I think most people would appreciate a good example of what can be done with RPG Maker MV, instead of going in almost completely blind.
Super RPG Maker
In any case, after the tutorial is done, it’s off to the races as you construct everything about your RPG; and I really do mean everything. Every location, character, text, music, enemy and everything else is completely up to you to decide. You can even give some characters voice acting with some pre-made sound bites, which is something that I don’t remember ever happening in older versions. The details can even go as far as changing the terminology for all the basic elements of an RPG. If you want to change the word “Magic” to “Farts”, then go ahead. The world is your oyster! You could also take the easy route by not bothering with any of that and leaving everything with its default name.
The actual process of creating your RPG is quite easy, especially for the Switch version that has two ways of doing it. For one, you can use a controller or the Joy-Cons for playing on TV Mode, which is comfortable in its own right. There are many shortcuts and commands that make moving the cursor around the screen relatively easy. It takes a bit of getting to, but when it clicks, you’ll be flying through all the menus like a natural. Obviously, nothing will be faster than a mouse and keyboard, but the control scheme is good enough to have the creative process not be a struggle.
However, I found myself getting far more into it in Handheld Mode, where I could use the touch screen for every single feature, including typing out all the text far more easily. Touch screen controls are a godsend when you can undo mistakes at the tap of a button or easily zoom in and out of the map without having to find your cursor and trudge your way over to the appropriate buttons.
The only problem with touch controls is that the interface doesn’t scale to make this comfortable. Most of the time you’ll find yourself trying to tap on tiny buttons and hope that you didn’t hit something else by mistake. Speaking of tiny things, a ton of assets, images and text in Handheld Mode look so microscopically small that you’ll be digging your face into the screen constantly to get a clear view. TV Mode makes it better, but most things still look pretty small there too. Despite all the fun I had, I unfortunately have more issues beyond just that.
All Games Have Bugs
As I eluded to before, my issues with this game is less about the creation process itself, but more about the technical hiccups that plague the entirety of the Switch version. Every single step and button press you make feels unstable, like a computer chugging and struggling not to crash. Selecting menus and tools for your creation always takes an uncomfortably long amount of time to respond. I was constantly wondering if the next button press will be the one that will crash the game completely, making me start from my last save again, but that moment never came. It’s a stressful and constant ghost that is always looming over you when playing this game. But the worst part hasn’t even arrived yet. We still have to playtest our game.
When the moment of truth comes and you finally start testing the game you worked so hard on, it’s difficult to enjoy it with how broken the game player is. Sometimes, the controls simply won’t respond to your button presses. At all. I felt like I had to slam my fingers into the buttons hard multiple times for it to register one press of the A button. This also happens during battles, where I tried to select options from menus, and nothing would happen. Eventually, the game would catch up to all my button presses and leave me confused as to where I actually am. Sometimes only one button press registers as two or even three presses all at once.
The perfect example is when you start a battle and you want to look at your magic spells on a menu. You might be fooled into thinking that the Magic menu doesn’t show up at all and it goes immediately into targeting an enemy, but that’s not the case. It’s actually the game registering one button press as multiple presses, which makes the game go so fast as it tries to catch up with itself that it skips over the magic menu entirely, creating this clunky mess of trying to back out (a press of the B button that flat-out doesn’t want to work either) and properly select the spell you want.
The most baffling part out of these issues, is that they practically don’t exist if you save and quit your project entirely, and then play the game you’ve made so far separately. Even then, there are still some issues, like the game freezing up for a second when you enter and leave the main menu, and also my characters moving in a straight line without me pressing anything. And let’s not forget a lot of audio clips that get cut off toward the end, so it’s difficult to listen them fully. This is only a few of the many small issues I found that makes this version of RPG Maker MV on Nintendo Switch look very unpolished and messy.
I had a ton of fun creating my small game Wall Breakers, which had a fully realized town with houses, NPCS and Events. I even added an overworld map with a (randomly generated) dungeon and other locations to explore. I created all of that out of practically nothing, which makes me proud and further encourages me to work on it even more. However, all of the prevailing issues I mentioned definitely knocks the whole thing down a peg.
A Messy, But Still Very Fun Experience
Playing RPG Maker is like playing Minecraft. If you are a creative individual that wants to craft their own stories and doesn’t need to be told what to do, then this will be a great outlet for you to express yourself. However, if you are the kind of player that would rather have a linear set of goals to follow with a straightforward path, then you will be overwhelmed at the empty canvas and large selection of tools in front of you. The bugs and lack of polish won’t help in getting you into it either.
Overall, if you can get over some clunkiness (and some flat-out broken things) on the game’s part, this is still a competent version of RPG Maker MV that you carry around everywhere on your Switch. Despite its flaws, I spent more late nights than I want to admit on my Switch with my eyes glued to the screen. It was exciting every time I learned something new about what I could do in MV while creating my own little world for the sake of this review. But, I had so much fun doing it, that I will most definitely continue building up my project until I’m happy with it, far after this review is done.
If you don’t want to spend the $79.99 it costs to get RPG Maker MV on PC, you could do a lot worse than grabbing it on Switch, especially if you just want to make games casually or play other people’s creations online.