Greetings everyone, and welcome to the first article in my newest endeavor: Outside of Indie.
Nowadays, the term "Indie" means all these small (and sometimes big) video games released digitally on Steam, XBLA, PSN and other platforms. There are a TON of them out there, which makes it hard to keep track of every good game. Some games are bound to be cruelly overclocked by most people.
There also exist something called free games. Long before digital distribution made self-publishing and earning money with it a viable option, people created games purely out of personal motivation.
My goal is to raise awareness of all these unknown and/or underappreciated games. Anything that is Outside of (the well-known) Indie scene. Whenever I come across such a special game that is worth a try, I'll write a review for it.
And I start today, with the game Pirate Rush.
But first, let me give you a little history lesson:
The RPG Maker editor is quite the oddball. On the one hand, it is easy to learn and allows for creating a game quickly without any real programming knowledge (you still need a brain and common logic to use all the tools though).
On the other hand, it isn't exactly a popular choice for serious video game development. Sure, there's To The Moon, but what else? Rarely is there a game made with the RPG Maker that has reached much popularity on the Internet.
The reason why I got into the program is because I'm German, and there was a sort-of "RPG Maker Boom" in the German-speaking community a long time ago.
Vampires Dawn, a RPG game that has one of the better vampire stories around, started this boom. Quite a few games followed: Eternal Legends, Unterwegs in Düsterburg, just about everything created by Kelven - I played them all.
Part of the reason why the RPG Maker, and its games, became so popular in the German-speaking realm is because of the Bravo Screenfun magazine. It offered all these games on their magazine CDs, which helped spread the word for those of us who didn't have broadband back then (remember, that was during 2002-2007 folks).
This boom eventually ended, and while games may still have been made after 2007, personally I stopped paying attention. Nevertheless, these few years, and these games, showed me that it's very-well possible to make a great game, no matter the circumstances.
RPG Maker games could be seen as a form of mod: You take tons of sprites from other games, and just as many MIDIs, but create a unique game by means of gameplay and story - and strangely, that worked!
(Of course, some games still featured a few original creations, with a few edits here and there. And Kelven in particular even created all of his graphics from scratch, so both cases are possible).
For me, RPG Maker represents the quintessence of the Indie spirit. Even if the have to Frankenstein their game together out of everything the Internet has to offer, they still get the job done.
Wo ein Wille ist, da ist auch ein Weg.
A few years ago, I came across a game I randomly saw featured on an RPG Maker website. I'm not that much into playing RPG Maker games nowadays, but for old time's sake I tried it out anyway.
That game was Pirate Rush.
Pirate Rush is a game about pirates (duh!). While you can't assemble a crew or control a ship of your own, there's still a lot of good pirate stuff going on. The pirate language in particular gives the game the right feeling to it (Yarr!).
In a typical pirate story fashion, the game starts with a bottle floating through the ocean, with a message inside it. The message reveals that a legendary pirate has hidden some artefacts on several islands, and whoever finds them can collect the hefty treasure hidden by said pirate.
It's not just pirates who are interested in this message though: the Navy seeks out the islands to hunt for pirates, as they're bound to travel to these islands in droves.
The game features your typical turn-based combat system, but with a twist: Each character has a different attack mechanic, establishing a unique combat style for each of them.
For instance, a mercenary can use your gold to increase the power of his attacks - but since this is the same gold you use to buy items and equipment, it's a double-edged sword. Another character can use different attacks depending on what buttons you press, similar to Legend of Dragoon.
The game looks beautiful, using what seems to be background pictures with a handdrawn style for its maps, as opposed to the tile-based system usually found in RPG Maker games. The music is also nice, featuring music by Aaron Krogh, as well as a few other sources.
But to be honest, the presentation wasn't that much of a deal for me. In RPG Maker games, graphics and music are just a means to an end, they accompany the game. The real heroes are the gameplay and the story, which are unique in each game.
The beauty of RPG Maker games is that, no matter what type of assets are being used, someone can still create a game that you want to play, something unique, something with its own personality - and Pirate Rush is no exception.
This game actually isn't completed per se. it's merely a demo and its last chapter is missing (but the story ends with an ok cliffhanger at least). It's only 5 hours long at best, and it came out 2 years ago - meaning any and all hope of seeing this completed are pretty much zero.
I still played it all over again just for this occasion. I still spend a lot of time training my characters all over again. I struggled against the same bosses and puzzle all over again again.I still loved the short time I spend with it.