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

NigSek: A Monster’s Tail

Created by: SovanJedi
Released: November 2001 (First full release)
Engine: RM2000

Naturally, RPG Maker became quite the conduit for making fan-games of existing JRPG franchises, sometimes even non-RPGs would be made into fan-games. These games would top the download charts just for having “DBZ” or “Final Fantasy” in the title. Nigsek – A Monsters Tail doesn’t even bother wearing the IP on its name. It’s a sequel to another fan-game called The Legend of Zelda: Angels Four (made in RM95). Not only that but it’s the only RM game that I remember that used FMVs. Heck, you don’t even play as Link and there’s Pokemon in it for some reason.

The premise is that having saved Hyrule along with your friends, you were granted a peaceful limbo to dwell in. Before the existential thoughts can manifest, the balance of Hyrule gets disrupted. Link has disappeared from Hyrulian history, and your goal is to travel back and time and figure out why it happened. To complicate this further, you’re split into two halves. It’s full of weird mind bending aspects you would never expect a Zelda fan-game to broach. The writing is introspective and explores the fate and relationships between characters, but it also has a child-like wonder to it.

Nigsek pretty much breaks every fan-game convention on the list. Despite having more reason to use rips from existing Zelda games it has mostly originally made graphics. These graphics render large sprawling maps that aim to recreate a lot of the locales that you’d find in Ocarina of Time. But what about those dang FMVs? The seldom used “Play Movie” event command displays the author’s custom made CGI videos that look straight out of a PS1 game studio experimenting with 3D for the first time. These renders also match with the facesets, some chipset segments and battle scenes. More than simply just the author flexing his production values, the cinematics give a certain feel to the world and important situations.

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. Having said all of that, there are some weird issues with the game though. Following in the footsteps of Majora’s Mask there’s a huge day/night cycle that governs the flow of the game. Meaning you’ll be returning to a lot of places based on a running clock, multiple events happen in the same location which rely on the author’s management of events to run smoothly. It’s not hard to see why this would lead to a lot of errors. It also says something about the ambition of the game since it’s also complete. With all that in mind, this game is such a crazy anomaly on so many levels, so it’s worth checking out, just be wary of the bugs.

The creator continues to make games and art in the game industry to this very day. Check out his portfolio here.

Update: The creator saw the article! And made a recreation of the above screenshot.

2001 Misao Awards
Best Graphics:
Nigsek

Best Character:
Nigsek (Nigsek)

Most Innovative Feature:
FMVs in Nigsek

Greatest Risk that Succeeded:
Nigsek’s use of FMVs

Download Here (RMN Page)

(Youtube Sample Playthrough)

The Rose Chronicles

Created By: Legacy001
Release Date: March 2006 (Original Release)
Engine: RM2003

RM authors were known for their naughty game rips. Typically if you wanted graphics from an existing game, there would be resources fitted to RM’s specifications. If not, there’d at least be a sprite sheet online somewhere to edit from. Except the game Rose Chronicles took from didn’t have that luxury. The author ripped the sprites directly from a game called Hoshigami, then formated it to rm2k3 himself. Not only that but the characters were isometric. Since rm2k/3 can only do diagonal movement in special cases, Legacy001 opted for some comprimises. The payoff? The game ends up exhibiting a distinct look compared to other rm2k/3 games.

Yes. You have no idea how much pain I had to go through playing that game to get the sprites. It’s also as bad as trying to stick nonconforming sprites into a 24X32 charaset. (which doesn’t work by the way).

Legacy001, GW post circa November 25, 2005

Rose Chronicles follows Roselle as she goes 7 years into the past to prevent a tragedy from occurring. The game plays similar to a 2005 GBA game: Riviera. In which you are not able to move a character around the map, but rather drag a cursor around clicking on nodes to advance the story. In-between all of that are some battles done in RM2K3’s DBS which I might add contain a lot of neat details. The background interchanges between edited chipsets meant for top-down RPGs and backgrounds from Legend of Mana. It somehow comes together cohesively.

What I love about this demo the most is the characters. The way future Roselle collides with herself from the past and how loud mouth Marise disrupts it a little, makes for a fun RPG party to follow. There is a very Ivalice-like atmosphere to the world, and yet this isn’t a tactics game. I think this jumble of genres proves why RPG Maker needed to exist. There were only so many games mainstream JRPG developers could make, and once the trends come and go there was little chance for them to experiment. With the aid of clever ripping, RM allowed waves of games to follow up on that.

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.

Estimated length: 4-6 Hours

Misao Award 2006:
Best looking (graphically) game for 2006

Download 3.2 Version (3 Chapters) (Archive)
Download First Chapter Demo 1.1 (Archive)


Why Rose Chronicles is the Perfect RPG Maker Project (GW Archive Post)
Mention in RPG Maker games you should try Part II
Mention on a Polish site as the top 3 RM English games

Youtube Sample Playthrough

Tetris

Created by: JKB Productions
Released: June 2001
Engine: RM2000

Okay so we’ve all been enamored with the battle royale Tetris that came out of nowhere on the Switch recently. But hold up, alright, stay with me here, what about, Tetris, but made in RPG Maker? You might be asking: “Why would someone make that…” and I would counter with “Why the hell would someone not?” If you ventured into any game engine or a site with games on it, there would invariably be some kind of Pong or Tetris clone posted somewhere. It’s a neat way to get accustomed to programming or working with whatever new tool you come across. Obviously RPG Maker 2000 has its strengths and weaknesses, with quite a few limitations going for it. It’s not that strange to put a newly found engine to the test.

Thing is though, I didn’t expect the presentation to be so extreme. The title screen opens up to a sped up sparkman stage.midi with a mish-mash of backgrounds from different sources, one in particular being a CGI South Park background. When you hit New Game, the Konami logo jingle plays while displaying the JKB Porductions logo instead. This made me burst into laughter. The sincerity of an RM author rolling out the red carpet for their little mini game project really gets to me. Each background you choose in the game offers its own music, my favorite in particular is the cgi purple mountain-scape background that plays a Black Sabbath midi.

So how does the actual Tetris hold up? Unsurprisingly the game uses individual events to display the tetris blocks and moves them downwards. Event movement is VERY finicky to put it mildly. Since it’s tile based, events are technically on the tile they’re moving to. This can create problems in terms of detecting when a piece needs to stop and feels very delayed and bleh to snap together. Not only that, but you have to wait for the entire piece to reveal itself before you can move it. Suffice to say you won’t be T-spinning your way into high-score chain land. All in all though, it is still playable and very much Tetris. There’s a glitch that sometimes happens where the individual event blocks slide off, which gets me thinking on how this was evented and put together.

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. This is the only Tetris that I know of that has the South Park “Uncle Fucka” song.

Estimated length: ???

Download Here
Author’s Website (Archive) (Portuguese)

Youtube Playthrough

Zeara – Tales of the Matrielle

Created by: tomohawkjoe
Released: January 2008
Engine: RM2003

RTP always had a stigma. By 2008 people were weary about seeing the default graphical style in screenshots. Despite this, RTP went through a resurgence on GamingW. Hero’s Realm for instance combined RTP with 16×16 sized characters (you’d typically see in Final Fantasy 4). Meaning the door ways and various assets would have to be resized in order for the world to make sense. The user tomohawkjoe was often known for experimenting with a style similar to that, while still taking advantage of the ease of use.

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. The gameplay is really what makes this game feel very 2008 era. There is no exp, stats are dependent on your equips and the combat customization is very trade off-ish. It also has the “Defending heals your MP” mechanic which I remember being a trend around that time. The boss fights are actually pretty heart pounding, they force you to manage both your HP/MP and how much damage you want to deal. Additionally I love the way the animations look, the screen fading a bit before the spell appears is a nice touch.

When it comes to the story, the world is rather interesting. You’re called in to exterminate a horde of monsters, but then find a crystal that ends up sending you to the lands below. As a whole, it isn’t long enough to reveal all the details (in fact there’s a cliff hanger twist near the end I won’t spoil). There are some unfortunate spelling errors here and there though, and some of the background details are hard to follow. In conclusion I think this demo is pretty neat for what it is, it leaves me with a feeling that tomohawkjoe’s efforts were underrated. By the way I’m still searching for another game of his that starred a Zack look-alike character.

Estimated length: 30 minutes

Download (Demo + Original Topic html file)
Youtube Playthrough (Full Demo)

Redmoon Saga

Created By: Axis / Fallon
Release Date: August 2000
Engine: RM2000

After the RPG Maker 2000 english translation was released, a few of the first submitted games were probably really bad. Although mainstream JRPGs and the RM95 catalogue existed to take notes from, RPG Making software on the internet was only starting to gain momentum. A Blurred Line is one of the earlier games considered a classic even to this day, but what notables came before? Aside from the Don’s Adventures sample game, what games stood out from the rest in such an early time period? Redmoon Saga is considered one of them. 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.

From the moment I opened this game in RM2k,just looking through the maps, I could already tell that the author really had given some time and effort to his game. I didn’t get disappointed when I first started to play either, a cool title screen and an amazing intro was what I first got to notice. I think this author was the first to use the fog effect for the RM2k, and the first time a saw it was just blown away. That kind of eye-candy is what shows the real power of RM2k

Punk84’s Review, circa 2001

Although the majority of it is RTP, there was effort to make it feel less default. Even the chipset colors was altered to give the towns a vivid look. Aside from a few novelty firsts (such as the fog effect mentioned by Punk84) you won’t really get too much out of this game ultimately. MY GOD are the random battles relentless, they’re even in places that have puzzles or story events. Your characters don’t seem to learn any skills so the combat and progression is really lacking. Despite that, the game accomplishes a lot with the small stuff. The name/dialogue is properly formatted, spelling errors are kept to a minimum, the maps are quite elaborate, and the story’s flow is pretty straight forward. It avoids a lot of common beginner faults and shows what the engine was meant for.

The story is a little generic, starting with an in-media-res where you fight the villain and lose. Surprise! It was all a dream and you wake up out of bed. Even if the cliches are in full force, there is some demonstration of scene direction. For instance there is flash-back scene that happens in the same room that you trigger it in. Transparent past characters appear in the room to show a lapse in time. Flashback writing was common place in just about any RPG, but this game does take a step further into presenting that. The oddest part in the game is when our hero extorts a key from an NPC in order to gain access to the dungeon. He’s a total asshole about it and even his friend tries to reign him in. There’s no prior context to prelude this and it’s kind of just moved on from.

At the end of the day, sometimes it’s not about making the best game ever. It’s just enough to cross over whatever the current standards are in order to show others how it’s done. Creative works often evolve from each other, and it’s pretty easy to observe that in early RM.

Estimated length: 1 Hour or so

Download (Queen’s Court)
Download Mirror (Monkey Productions)
Punk84’s Review (Archive)
GamingW Article mentioning Redmoon Saga (Archive)

Youtube 1 Hour Play-through

Fatal Limits

Created by: JPC
Date Released: February 2002
Engine: RM2000

They say imitation is the sincerest form of flattery. Most RPG Maker games tend to have very traceable influences and they vary based on the choices an author would make. To say Fatal Limits is a recreation of Final Fantasy 7 isn’t quite accurate. It starts off at roughly the story beat in FF7 where Cloud and crew decides to rescue Aeris from Shinra as opposed to a bombing mission equivalent. Only, you aren’t terrorists, you simply want to escape the city and travel the world. There are tiny little details that are divergent from FF7, and it’s interesting to see how even the style of the cutscenes and phrasing mimic the source material and then don’t. I think it proves that unless you are actually lifting exact moment to moment aspects of the source material directly, there are still ways in which a game can define itself.

The mapping has a very grunge look to it, often using variants of the Future chipset that came from the RM2K sample games that seems to be mixed with other rips. What’s interesting about the aesthetic is the overuse of anime posters on the walls. There’s a sort of fascination with having a shop simply called GUN as its banner that never gets old. The demo mainly centers on the confrontation with the Aegil Corporation (*cough* not Shinra) while bumping into a princess who has connections with a very anti-technology civilization. You know the drill, but the game sort of goes with the flow in assuming you know this too. The battle screens are made as if they’re side view with the heroes out of frame. Since RM2K is known for first peron battles the characters simply appear in screen to simulate what that would look like. It was before RM2K3 and yet people were still eager to avoid the first person perspective that was associated less with Final Fantasy and more with Dragon Quest.

But really what makes this game stand out in my memory was the city at the very end: District 7. The mp3 Butterfly by SMiLE.dk. complete with lyrics blares through the cityscape as hordes of NPCs block your path. As a 14 year old playing it at the time, this was more than enough to immerse me into this urban world. These maps are bursting with life and personality with neon anime signs constantly cycling in and out. 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. I recorded the entirety of the demo just so I could experience the song playing in the background. The whole thing comes out of nowhere, and I think it’s fitting that the end point of the demo lets you wander around a bit before quitting. It makes me wonder, if maybe FF7’s Midgar would have been better with SMiLE.dk playing in the background.

Estimated length: 30 minutes

Demo Download

Youtube Full Playthrough

German RM2K Site Review (Archive)

Shattered Samurai

Created by: ArCsLnGa StUdIoS
Date Released: January 2003
Engine: RM2000

The late 90s obsession with Japanese culture and anime could be felt throughout many geocities/angelfire fan pages. Often you’d find gifs of SNK Fighters and anime chibi characters without a clue of where the webmaster got them from, other than they probably got it from a similar site themselves. Shattered Samurai is an amalgamation of that all in an RPGMaker game. 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).

The biggest memory that stuck out to me back when playing it in 2003 was the CMS (Custom Menu System). It was very flashy and elaborate and cumbersome. But the strangest thing is that almost every menu option had a sound effect of (presumably) the author reading them out loud. We can only assume the Kenshin background image are supposed to be the two main characters. The lens flare over anime aesthetic also contributed a lot to a perceived “cool factor” at the time. The ABS combat was sluggish. You could hit enemies if they’re 1 or 2 tiles away making for predictable encounters, but some fights did try to mix it up.

What makes this game a notable time capsule is its ambiguous Japanese setting. The home town is filled with cherry blossom trees, NPCs with conical hats, advice giving ninjas, and kanji scrolls on every wall. Yet main characters will have super western names like Jennifer or Charles, and very modern background elements. Probably the most RM culture part of this game is the house full of characters from other games and media. The writing is sometimes conceited though, often injecting samurai tropes whenever possible and proverbs that come off as wise for the sake of it. There’s a lot of staged conflicts without any particular purpose other than that’s what happens in an anime with lots of swords. It’s a huge misunderstanding of eastern ideals, but the game itself is like lens in which you can see into an anime fan’s mind circa 2002.


Shattered Samurai has been the community proclaimed “asian game”. It seems like the community (mostly gamingw) is seeing it as a bad thing. Guess were all the great RPG ever made come from? Japan maybe? Anyways as an Asian person, I personally loved the storyline about two rival clans. It seems to fit the anime type storyline from many great shows. Although the battle system has its ups and down, I think anyone would be crazy to say that it wasn’t unique and enjoyable. With excellent graphics and a high potential storyline, I just can’t wait for version 2 to come out.

Aznluv’s Review

This game was eventually completed at the tail end of 2002, although there is an earlier demo version and a sequel. Also I’m pretty sure I wrote a review on Dark Dominion claiming it ripped off Rurouni Kenshin and someone commented and defended the game. That’s about all I remember.

Estimated length: 3 Hours

Download (Complete Version)
Download (2002 Demo)

Main website (archive)
GamingW Page (archive)
Dark Dominion Page (archive)
Golden Dragon page and Review + Download Mirror

Youtube Intro Playthrough (No Commentary)
Let’s Play Series by ShadowHawk2012