Folks, as you know, I’m the game journalist that’s an RPG Maker respecter. It’s good to make things in it, actually. Well, I didn’t like RPG Maker MV very much, but that’s beside the point. Anyway, I bring this up because I feel obligated to talk about the newest iteration of RPG Maker on the block: RPG Maker MZ.
RPG Maker MZ didn’t exactly leave the greatest impression when it was first announced. In fact, it barely left an impression at all. At the start, everything about the game was bizarrely drip fed in a way that was really easy to mock. I distinctly remembered that when the Steam page for MZ was made, there was a lot of placeholder text saying “Get ready to be wowed!” which you know, sets people up to not be wowed.
But it’s finally here, I guess, so I decided to splurge a bit. So, is it actually a good engine in its own right? Or is it just RPG Maker MV 2?
Hopping into the thick of things, I decided that I wanted to make some kinda crime game about a gang of thieves wanting to break into a casino. Now, while RPG Maker MZ still holds itself to the 48×48 tiles set by MV that’s somewhat controversial, mapping is now more convenient with the addition of a long-wanted feature: layers. The game map has four layers to work with so you can easily stack things on top of each other; note my basic two story building in the screenshot. Now, I wish there was a better visual indicator of what layer you’re working on besides small text on the bottom, but you know, people always have trouble telling what layer they’re working on for art, so I guess it’s fine.
The engine comes with a lot of default assets for you to play around with, and while most of it is fantasy stuff, there’s actually a bunch of sci-fi/modern fantasy things if that’s the route you want to go. In particular, I’m mystified by the sentient militarized monkey and gorilla. Love those fellas.
And I gotta say, a lot of the music that comes with the engine kinda slaps with some decent variety. The Battle 1 theme feels like a standard decent JRPG battle theme, while “Battle 4” has this laid back beginning that feels like the song to use for emotional/plot important battles and “Battle 5” just had me thinking of the Danganronpa soundtrack. It’s actually good stuff, would recommend using in your game.
Besides the default stuff, there’s also a character generator, as introduced with MV. It has a lot more parts, which I think was previously DLC stuff. The character generator creates a basic character set alongside a matching face sprite and sprites used for if you’re trying to use the Final Fantasy-styled side-view battle system instead of the Dragon Quest-style front-view battle system. If you’re going for the former, the character generator is super convenient. However, because everything made in the generator is still in MZ’s art style, you’re going to have to make things from scratch if you’re trying to make things in a different art style.
So, I got a basic map made and a character generated, so it was time to look at how the “event” system worked and the database to see the game’s moving parts. And from the past 50+ hours or so that I’ve spent in RPG Maker VX Ace this year, I can confidently say… that not a lot has changed? Like, there’s a few quality of life changes like giving you a preview of how an event moves if you’re mapping out its movement, finally making nametags a thing for messages and letting you change the game’s resolution without an outside resource. However, there’s nothing really game changing – except for animations.
The biggest meaningful change that RPG Maker MZ brings to the table is changing how battle animations worked. So, the animation system in the RPG Maker engines kinda suck. To make animations, you have to import huge sprite sheets into the engine and then manually put animations together, which doesn’t feel good unless you tween the frames, which may end up looking like shit instead. In fact, I typically leave making animations for last in my own projects unless I want to put a demo out.
MZ says “fuck this” and throws all that out in favor of letting you import particle animations, with you only making edits like adding sound effects. To go along with this, MZ officially partnered with Effekseer, an open source particle effect creation tool. Now, you do need to learn how to make particle effects within this program, but it does seem intuitive and the end result does look cooler than whatever you would made in the old engines.
Plug-ins also return to give more life and variety to RPG Maker games, with quality-of-life changes that allows you to easily edit their parameters and a way to change them within the game through a new event command. However, the problem is that MZ is not back-compatible with the ones made for MV, which already throws a bunch of resources out the window. However, that’s not to say that new ones aren’t being made. In fact, Yanfly, the prolific RPG Maker coder that retired a while back, is looking over the Visustella group, which is working on adapting their old plug-ins to the new engine along with making their own stuff. If you do get into RPG Maker MZ, this is a group to look out for.
As for me though… I’m not into the new RPG Maker. At all. The big change to animations is legitimately nice and I welcome the better mapping, but for the most part, it really is just kinda RPG Maker MV 2. This is honestly not a must have at all. Either stick with the older RPG Makers or wait until this one has a sale.