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.
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.
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.
Created by: Carius Date Released: Nov 2005 / Early 2007 (Demo Remake) Engine: RM2003
The author Carius was usually known around the GamingWorld community as a keen event programmer. Usually making tech demos for contests and tutorials on how to tackle RM2K3’s many limitations. Despite this reputation he did manage to crank out a more conventional JRPG called Wings of Origin. Starting out as a DBS contest entry, it’s essentially a visual novel with no player exploration with a few battles here and there.
Angel-like people known as “Airfolk” rule the skies. However, the protagonist Takeo is banished from flying ever again. 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. What I like most about the writing is that we’re never quite sure of Takeo’s exact motivations for wanting to abandon his grounded life for revenge. The plot presumably sets up Takeo’s son as the actual protagonist. There’s a mysterious figure that appears at the beginning and my hunch is that it might be Takeo’s son from the future. This game will never be completed so we’ll never know! But it says a lot about how much this game accomplishes in such a short time.
There’s actually 3 versions of the game. The DBS contest entry, the 2005 story demo, and the 2007 remake of said demo. The 2005 one is the one I remember, even now I still prefer it though. The music choices are just better in my opinion. The art/mapping might be slightly improved in the 2007 one, but it’s still a general mishmash of Star Ocean / Tales of Phantasia / Rudra. There is interesting DBS experimentation in it but I really just like this demo for the story and the abundant night sky atmosphere.