Seekers of the Sun

Author: Remains of Scythe / Remainaery
Released: June 2004
Engine: RPG Maker 2000

In the early 2000s, CBSes (or Custom Battle Systems) were all the rage among RPG maker users. At the time RM2K was only able to do Dragon Quest (first person perspective) battles that were quite plain. There was an unspeakable notion in the scene at the time: that almost everyone wanted something akin to Final Fantasy 6. Give us chibi sprites standing on the side of the screen delivering blows that pop out numbers and all of our problems would be solved (except for motivation, limitations of time, and responsibilities). However Seekers of the Sun is notable in that it didn’t just rest at making a side view, but decided to tackle a Chrono Trigger styled battle system. Where the battles would happen on the actual map you were just walking around on. There have been “tech” demos that attempted this, but this is the only actual playable RM game with a CT styled CBS that I can recall.

The game is set in a cold dystopian underground complex. You play as the edgelord of edgelords, an artificial being known as Abyss. Much like the start of Elfen Lied (or the more kid friendly Pokemon: Mewtwo Strikes Back) you’re going on a rampage on those responsible for creating you. Abyss spouts lines of dialogue about how powerful he is and pathetic the things he’s going up against. Although this is all quite self-indulgent and angsty I kind of welcome it these days. Anecdotally I come across a lot of modern RPGs and games that are a bit too afraid to go down this route, or are too self-aware to fall too hard into this trap. The strength of this game’s grim dark tone is that things just feel IMPORTANT in ways that are hard to explain. Probably due to the various biblical references and showy philosophical musings. Ultimately this feels like an in-media res intro ala Breath of Fire 4 where you play as a powerful being at first to get a taste of the battle system while things are still easy. It’s likely you’re meant to play a more optimistic protagonist later on.

The graphics are mostly CT edits that are cohesively put together. There’s this dominant blue hue added to a lot of the assets and makes the world rather cold and unwelcoming. Some places look really great, and even if they’re a slog to navigate sometimes, they sure work well as a backdrop for when the battle starts. Speaking of the battles, there’s sadly not much to say. You can spam attack, defend, or use an item. The author’s note says he was persuaded to just release what he had even if the battle system was still basic. Still it’s really cool to see what the result looks like when put into an actual game with story. The execution is simply making the attack animation be a picture that moves to whatever xy coordinate the monster is, and play effects over the target. The challenge compared to other CBSes is mainly figuring out how to organize events on the maps themselves without things getting too messy. Taking a peak into the editor it seems like a lot of copy pasting is done in an organized fashion on the maps to pull this off. Every possible target and charset setting/animation is placed on the map even if you’re only fighting way less than the maximum. There are interesting design challenges to consider as far as how they’re initiated and where the space ought to be. There aren’t a ton of a battles to experience as a result of this.

The CBS programming was done by Kokibi, and in true collaborative fashion, Remains of Sycthe helped with the art on Kokibi’s own project: A Gate into Eternity. Seekers of The Sun garnered way more attention despite both projects featuring elaborate battle systems. Notably this was a German made game (seems only to be in English as far as I know) that was featured on Gaming Ground Zero alongside the likes of Velsarbor. It’s interesting to look into the author’s history and his origins being that of a webcomic circle. A lot of the faceset/portaits are his and seems very much in tune with the angsty dark anime aesthetic that plagued many deviant art pages and webrings. It gives the impression that RPGMaker wasn’t just for making “your own Final Fantasy” but also to bring imagined adventures to life that you had in drawings and in your mind. There’s a blend of rips and custom art that really adds character to the game and even though this only got as far as a proof of concept, I’m glad it exists.

Estimated Length: Less than an hour

Download Here (English)
RPG Maker Quartier Download (Mirror)
RMArchiv Page (Download Mirror)
Author’s Deviant Art
GGZ Archive and History + Download
Youtube Playthrough
Interview with Kokibi and Scythe (Google Translated from German)
German Site Page (RPG Atelier)
Trailer (Youtube)

Crossbone

Created by: Daniel Olsén
Released: August 2003
Engine: RM2000

It’s got pirates, robots, explosions and an old man who talks to birds! What more could you want? Back in the Gaming Ground Zero days I would occasionally browse the main site. There was no way to know of an upcoming game release or anything, no notifications or popups. You’d just go through your daily sites and hope to see an update. Games weren’t user submitted on GGZ you see, they were often approved and placed by the webmaster. One early morning, I happened across a game called Crossbone with only a couple of sentences and a title screen to go by. That was the thing about GGZ, you never really knew what you were going to get. Yet the games from that site were always a step above most RM games due to the curated nature of the members and the community.

Replaying this for the first time in 15 years, I realize this game still has a lot of heart. While the battles are a bit rough (enemies are sometimes higher HP than they need to be), the sequences are just so imaginatively crafted. A lot of the scenes often take a page out of a Final Fantasy’s idea of comedic relief. Where nameless henchmen have just as much personality as the main characters. A lot of the events play out like a Saturday-morning cartoon with a pint of seriousness. You play as Breeze, an anchor wielding (swords aren’t cool enough for him) freelancer who always has trouble following him wherever he goes. After getting entangled with some pirates he gets knocked out by a wave caused by an unknown being. This spirals into further crazy adventures.

“I was planning to pack so much into that game that it would have been unwieldy. I did learn a lot about being creative within limitations thinking back on it, even if it creeps up on me from time to time. Now my problem is usually the opposite, I tend to over-plan so I end up exhausted before I even begin haha.”

Daniel Olsén

The art is comprised mostly of original art overlayed on an RTP chipset framework. For example you might see the standard RTP ship tilset, but covered in metallic tiles made by the author himself. A lot of the scenes are accompanied by drawings that act as comic book panels of sorts. They give a really good cinematic emphasis in the flashbacks and important segments. I could talk about the individual aspects of this game, but it really comes down to it feeling like an adventure. I think RPGs always have that problem of sometimes starting out with hometown + chores or like fighting rats in a sewer dungeon. Crossbone just says screw that, you’re fighting a robot with an anchor in the first 6 minutes. There’s a sequence where this old man summons a giant owl god thing with a sword to fight this giant bug thing. There’s another section where a ship you’re on gets raided by dragon people using a slime infested coral reef that stops the ship from moving, but like, it can also turn into a mech? AND A UNICORN LOOKING BOAT ALSO TURNS INTO A MECH TO STOP IT.

“The ship battle sequence for Crossbone is made by the creator of Mog’s Adventure, in return I created the maps and such for the final dungeon of that game. A lot of the non-sprite art in the game is embarrassing looking back since I tended to draw the heads before the body so the proportions came out all janky. But it is what it is and every experience is valuable for the future. After Crossbone I went to college, I experience various things and worked as a freelance illustrators for a few years.”

Daniel Olsén
The dungeon in Mog’s Adventure that Daniel worked on

The author Daniel Olsén still works on game projects from time to time. His passion for fiction and art has never faded and mostly does art and comics. It’s easy to see the connection between how bombastic and theatrical Crossbone was and his current artwork. Although that can take a lot of effort and time, sometimes leaving an impression is worth it in the end. It certainly added to the surprise of browsing through RPG Maker games all those years ago.

Check out Daniel Olsén’s portfolio!

Estimated Length : 2 hours or so

Download Here (Archive)
GGZ Archive and History
Youtube Playthrough (Chapter 1)

RM Historia March 2019 Roundup

Since I’m in the habit of doing a lot of record keeping, here are some article recaps for the previous month. It’s been half a month in starting this blog, and the rush of realizing the need and potential for this… thing, this project, is easy to get overwhelmed by. I decided to pace myself more and keep some articles on the back burner instead of uploading them as soon as possible.

To summarize what this is, RM Historia aims to go through the RPG Maker games that time has forgot and provide context behind the communities they were made in. It also dwells on the connections prevalent in our media in order to try and better make sense of this fast internet high-way. Secretly it’s just an excuse to post screenshots/video coverage and keywords of rm2k/3 games for the giant search machines to latch onto.

Here are the games covered last month:


Wings of Origin

An emotive and vengeful story combined with the use of Brave Fencer Musashi tracks made this small demo stick with me. It’s a ride full of twists and turns all in 18 minutes.


Shattered Samurai

I recall this topping a lot of download lists on various sites probably because of the title or its liberal use of Rurouni Kenshin images. Regardless, it’s a pretty subpar action game with a story that focuses heavily on the death of the main characters parents (and by heavily I mean literally every NPC references it).


Fatal Limits

That’s the cool thing about RPG Maker, you didn’t need high caliber assets or talented skills to convey a dense dystopia. There’s just an aesthetic to this that’s hard to resist.


Redmoon Saga

Created 2 months after the RPGMaker 2000 translation had been released, clocking in at around 1 hour squeezed into 15 maps, this demo managed to impress people at the time.


Zeara – Tales of the Matrielle

Zeara’s charsets and monsters are custom while the chipsets are heavily edited RTP to match with the style. There’s a very cute aesthetic to the entire game, and it looks rather unique as a result.


Tetris

The real question though, is it THE Tetris? Very likely not. The aesthetics are somewhat charming though, and it feels in the vein of CD-i Tetris and how it’s more interesting to look into the background/music choices than the actual programming.


The Rose Chronicles

This started just as a side project Legacy001 worked on to take a break from doing the Naufragar series. Though it’s understandable why the project took too much effort to continue working on. In the end it ended up being one of the more memorable demos of the mid-GW era.


NigSek: A Monster’s Tail

This homage really interacts with the lore and ethos of Zelda, given that it came out before Wind Waker, there’s an interesting context from what material was available back in 2001.


Huey the Kid

Why did I remember this game? Why did I pick this game to review? I dunno. There doesn’t have to be a crazy meaning to everything, media doesn’t always have to go through holding up against the test of time. What matters to me the most about this game was the simple context of when and where I was playing it.


Solar Tear

The perfectionist mentalities were rampant, but so were the expectations and the standards. It’s sometimes hard to release with so much pressure on the line. In any case I was glad I got to experience this cyberpunk landscape once more.


ALEX : A Two Days Collaborative Game

This was a chance to witness many different development skills people possessed and put them together. Outside of this event, some members would never release a game of their own due to their motivation, but the event was a chance to just put something out there. There was also a guarantee that everyone would be playing each others maps, leading into something to talk and reflect about.


Legion Saga Zenith

Created by: BusterManZero
Released: June 2003
Engine: RM2000

So what if I told you people not only made fan games in rpgmaker, but people made fan games of rpgmaker games in rpgmaker? Really makes you think doesn’t it? The catalyst for such a project came from the Legion Saga series by a user called Kamau. These were 3 full games made in RPG Maker loosely inspired by Suikoden and other RPGs. What made Legion Saga special was that it was proof that you really could make a “numbered” series with RPG Maker provided you had the motivation and drive to pull it off. The original Legion Saga was going to have a remake made in RPG Maker 2003 (though there’s even another still being made), and there was even a spinoff game featuring a side character that had an ABS. It was everything you’d expect from a “franchise” even having its own lore wiki before wikis were even a thing. Enter in people wanting to make fan games to further expand on this potential universe, 9 of them in fact. Many of them were never finished, but the most prominent was Legion Saga Zenith (Not to be confused with Legion Saga Zero) as it was one of the first.

This is a strange combo of things. At first, the system sets, the Roco facesets, the Luca Blight Battle midis and the political dialogue involving kings and assassins are all there to feel like Legion Saga. Now most common wisdom would say if it looks and quacks like a duck then… but wait – the wide open mapping with no concern for proportions, the constant spelling mistakes, dialogue prose that of a robot… this is a noob RTP game! It may be far from RTP in terms of resources, but the application of everything makes it feel very rudimentary. It’s not to say the actual Legion Saga series doesn’t always have its shortcomings, but there’s just something about the cutscenes in Zenith that feel “off” as if there isn’t any coherence to the narrative.

Important events will just happen and then resolve moments after. Typically a known Legion Saga character will come in to save the day only to leave faster than that. As if these characters were actors with limited billing to do a cameo in a straight to VHS sequel. The writing overall really does sit in the realm of Shattered Samurai. Instead of awkwardly appropriating Asian tropes though, it’s weirdly appropriating itself while collapsing in on the source material. When both the source game and fan game are made in the same engine and only mere years apart, it becomes interesting to separate the standards and differences between the two, a microcosm of fandom vs creator interaction.

“Okay that’s great and all” you interrupt, “but is this game deemed CANON?”

Looking at the handy rules and regulations, you wouldn’t even be considered a fan game if you set the events after Legion Saga 3. But what does it matter at this point? Star Wars is by all accounts being made by fans these days. Just about any long lasting franchise will be recycled into eternity thanks to copyright extensions (Several NES games would be entered in the public domain by now to give you an idea of an alternate history). RPG Maker 2k/3 pre-2013 was a wild west though, the Legion Saga games were made on an illegal program used along with illegally used graphics. There is no real jurisdiction to refer to, nothing was enforced except from the culture of the RM community itself. That’s what I like about the situation of Legion Saga fan-games, they just did not give a shit about the outside world, yet stood by these invisible rules by Kamau’s word anyway. One thing that’s for sure though… is that Space Funeral 2 and 3 are definitely canon.

I have no clue what I’m going to write when I get to like, the 10th Final Fantasy RM fan game…

Download Here (Archive) NOTE: May require RTP 1.8
Download (Queen’s Court Mirror)
RPG Town topic on the state of LS fan games (2003)
Legion Saga Downloads
Youtube Sample Playthrough

ALEX : A Two Days Collaborative Game

Organized by: RPG
Released: February 2007
Engine: RM2003

In the early days of RPG Maker it was actually quite common for “teams” to form up to make RM games. As time went on however, many games that would go on to be released were usually just done by one author with friends maybe contributing assets. There was just something about the way RPG Maker was built and the lack of any sort of proper source control that lead to authors simply solo creating stuff on their own. You didn’t need to know how to program and all of your visual/audio assets were borrowed anyway… Which made for some awkward credit sequences when all you put is “Yourself” a bunch of times and of course, “Nobuo Uematsu”.

Throughout RM history, community based games became the main way creators would actually collaborate without strings attached or clashing visions. It was a chance to insert something funny or endearing and ride the chaos that is creation. A popular method was to simply start a project and then hand it to the next person until every participant in the collab had their turn. Another method was to actually utilize the flexibility of map files (IMUs) in a typical RPG Maker project folder. As long as you weren’t referencing something from the database like stats or battles you could actually make the maps independent of each other until they needed to be sewn together through teleport events. The most notable of collab games was ALEX. A collab game series featuring the default hero in which many jokes about the RTP canon and forum culture in general were welcomed. The consistency of the main character also gives an origin point for every contributor to pivot from.

The story goes that the RTP crew is sick of Alex hording all of the glory, so they tie him up and drop him to the ocean. What follows is a sort of limbo dream sequence where community members are free to insert their ideas of what that “dream” would be like, each map eventually fades out and ends as if to pass the torch. The premise reminds me of An Occurrence at Owl Creek Bridge though the conclusion is a bit reversed.

So it’s really hard to review this game without simply reviewing each map individually. There’s a huge blend of different tones and directions this game goes through. The ‘gameplay’ ranges from mini games to simple NPC fetch quests, to just flat out joke maps or cutscenes. The thing that really gets me, are the really good looking maps that would fit well in a screenshot topic, but the creator decided to just go all out visually instead of making something interactive. The result of this is actually pretty fun. You’d think the game’s quality would be pretty low when knowing the context of its creation. But the variety is the games biggest strength. There are a lot of RPGs out there that can feel really mundane even if its game mechanics are rather polished and professional. RPG Maker games are kind of at their best when they flow in such a way that doesn’t feel entirely cohesive, sometimes you just want a random mini game or a fetch quest thrown in to shake things up, or a cutscene to mellow things out. Ultimately you don’t want these parts to take too long though, and that’s where the event limitations really shine. You only had two days to put it together, and everyone had the same engine and framework to do it in. While some maps are a little difficult, the organizer thankfully added some cheats or shortcuts to make the entire game beatable.

It’s also just a great snapshot of the Gaming World community for the time. As many of the entries actually did try their best to make an impression and weren’t entirely shitposts. When you think about game communities in general, there isn’t actually a whole lot of interaction that goes on as far as game development goes. Usually it was best to pass the time by discussing other topics or getting to know the members in other ways. This was a chance to witness many different development skills people possessed and put them together. Outside of this event, some members would never release a game of their own due to their motivation, but the event was a chance to just put something out there. There was also a guarantee that everyone would be playing each others maps, leading into something to talk and reflect about.

Many GW members that didn’t participate were impressed by the success of this project and wanted in on the next one. Alex 2 never ended up happening, but a much much bigger sequel ended up happening known as ALEX III. Which I’ll likely also cover at some point.

Estimated length: 1-2 hours

Download Here (Archive)
Original Release Thread (Archive)
Full Youtube Playthrough

Solar Tear

Created by: Mr. Nemo
Released: June 2009
Engine: RM2003

Solar Tear was a game I had my eye on for a long time. It was sandwiched between the GamingW to RMN era, when the communities were shifting (though it did first appear in GamingW around 2004). A demo for Solar Tear was debuted for the Release Something! VII event which was a traditional community driven effort to get people out of the Screenshot Topics, chin up, introduce your game to everyone, and actually expose it to the world to get some feedback. Though the events slowly turned into a deadline date for everyone’s demos (hell, even an excuse to game jam a full game), it was originally intended to have games release “as is” or even just random snippets. They didn’t have to have a carefully molded cliffhanger, some tie in to the next chapter or even some bombastic intro. Aside from making sure the “Start Event” was in the right spot and things lined up, the work in progress clunky-ness was the whole point.

Now I played Solar Tear back in its 2008 release (apparently there was also a 2004 demo). I recall not liking it very much despite enjoying the setting and vibe. Playing it now I can see why this game was the ultimate monkey’s paw. Your rpgmaker cyberpunk dream game is released, but it has every recipe for being a bad experience. Slow walk speed, slow ATB bar, a status effect christmas, needing to know monster weaknesses ahead of time, really bad economy balance, skills that don’t seem that useful, and somewhat obtuse puzzles. The author doesn’t need to hear this, he acknowledged the faults of this project long ago. Still, if you open up the editor and cheat some of the problems out, it’s still a neat slum romp experience.

So hypothetically: what if the author never released this demo and just kept going towards the full game? He would likely not have found these problems sooner, or knew that these were problems. There would have been so much more to lose if the author had held back on the release. I’m glad that wasn’t the case. But it’s interesting to think about in the grand scheme of things, what we tried to encourage and discourage in the community. The perfectionist mentalities were rampant, but so were the expectations and the standards. It’s sometimes hard to release with so much pressure on the line. In any case I was glad I got to experience this cyberpunk landscape once more. Luckily the game is still being made after all these years. It’s under a different name and likely a revised scenario, but the same appeal of the game is there for me. Like every sucker who hinges their hype on someone’s spare-time-motivation, I’m still waiting.

Estimated length: 2 Hours

Download Here (Release Something VIII Demo)
Arbiter: Prototype (Current Game Page)
Original release thread (Archive)

Youtube Sample Playthrough

Huey the Kid

Created by: Taylor`y`Josh
Released: July 2003
Engine: RM2003

Back in the early to mid 2000s the site Gaming World became my go-to place for everything RPG Maker. It would just keep appearing on google whenever I was looking for resources or games. At some point the site stopped, everything was frozen. Coaster Craft Gold was permanently on the front page for all to see. But my teenage self didn’t care, the site was still functional and I could still browse the many pages looking through content even if nothing new was going to be posted. Since a lot of RM games were funneled/re-posted through GW, it was a time for me to catch up on the RM games I had missed. One of these games I randomly remembered from this time was Huey the Kid.

It’s one of those RM games where it’s hard to tell if it’s a comedy or serious game. You play as an RTP kid sprite edit and the story dispenses the ‘save the world’ hooplah in favor of a small incidental adventure. A kid dares you to test the raft, but after a frantic mini-game you realize you’re off course and away from home. This leads to adventures involving slaying monsters and being ignored by adults. There’s a rugrats-like wonder to the perspective that doesn’t quite get committed to, a lot of NPCs have weird funky things to say occasionally. Yet there’s an odd goal of finding out “where you came from” involving angels. Your cat is also named “Teddy Boy.”

It’s the first rm2k3 instance I can remember that used Battle Animations instead of Battle Charasets. Battle Charasets were sets of 3 frame animations meant to make swapping weapon graphics easier, but there was lesser known option to use Battle Animations instead (which were used for things like spells but had way more control and frames of animation). Huey also uses a hammer, which wasn’t the weapon of choice by most RM heroes. There was also a great deal of editing in the animations such as head tilts and manually holding puzzle items. It also has a very strong grasp on cliff based mapping, where elevation is carefully considered. These kind of details perplex the “People who use RTP are lazy” stigma this game would normally be placed in.

Huey the Kid didn’t get the best of reviews. It’s somewhat average by a lot of standards. The puzzles are longer than they should be, the battles don’t really demand much, and there were better RM games starring kids. So why did I remember this game? Why did I pick this game to review? I dunno. There doesn’t have to be a crazy meaning to everything, media doesn’t always have to go through holding up against the test of time. What matters to me the most about this game was the simple context of when and where I was playing it. I’d like to think that when GW’s main site froze, the flow of time really did stop.

Estimated length: 1 Hour

Download Here (Archive)
GW Game Page (Archive)

Youtube Sample Playthrough