There’s something magical about childhood creativity, especially when it comes to video games. At the risk of sounding like an old person, children didn’t have nearly as much access to games when I was growing up as they do now. And unless you had someone to teach you, you could forget about learning how to make them. Nowadays, kids have comprehensive YouTube tutorials on basic programming, crash courses, tutors, mentors — you name it. It’s a fantastic development and gives children the tools they need to achieve their creative vision.
But what if you don’t have those things?
RPG Time: The Legend of Wright asks this very question, and solves it in a way many kids have for generations: By using your imagination. In RPG Time, you are the classmate of Kenta, a primary school student and aspiring game developer. After class, Kenta invites you to play his new home-brewed RPG: “The Legend of Wright.” His notebook is filled with detailed sketches of fantasy monsters, landscapes, and occasional doodles that all seemingly come to life through the power of imagination. You control Wright, the titular hero, whose quest takes him on an epic journey to rescue Lay, the Princess of Light.
It’s worth pointing out that RPG Time is not an RPG in the traditional sense. Gameplay-wise, it plays much more like a point-and-click adventure game, in the vein of the Monkey Island or King’s Quest series. But that’s no reason to write it off. What makes RPG Time unique is its presentation — the game takes place almost entirely inside the pages of Kenta’s notebook, through animated drawings. In true childlike fashion, each of these pages is filled to the brim with oodles of doodles, many of which can be inspected to reveal additional unique dialogue. There are hidden items, side quests, and mini-games. What’s more, most of this content is also entirely optional.
Though optional, this content is the true core of RPG Time‘s appeal. The writing absolutely oozes a cute, childlike sense of humor and excitement. You can really tell that every line, every character, and every location was crafted with a love and appreciation for RPGs. Wright can climb down wells a la Dragon Quest, and enter a room with a top-down view reminiscent of some of my favorite Legend of Zelda titles. Every character is narrated through Kenta, who puts on a hat resembling the character he’s role-playing. Sometimes things may go awry — a storm might cut the power and turn the classroom pitch black — but does Kenta care? No. Like many kids are wont to do, Kenta improvises, incorporating the element into the story and adding another layer of immersion to the scene. If you don’t like reading text, though, the game may come off as a bit “on-rails.”
Still, I want to stress that RPG Time is filled with some of the most ingenious uses of props I’ve ever seen in a video game. In addition to the notebook, the game utilizes stationery often found in Japanese schools. Wright’s sword, for example, is a pencil that can be sharpened at a grindstone, which is actually an old-school manual pencil sharpener. The options menu is a tower made of Lego-like bricks. Wright’s health bar is represented with a tape measure that can extend and contract. Props are rendered to look like they’re made of cardboard, attacking enemies will leave pencil marks on the page, and consumables are represented with real-life snacks. There are probably a dozen more details that I’ve missed, and each one never failed to make me think “How in the world did they come up with this?”
What’s more, many of these details could have been lost in translation. As someone who went to a Japanese primary school, this was one aspect that worried me about RPG Time‘s localization. However, I can confidently say that the localization team managed to translate many of these aspects to a near-perfect degree. It isn’t just a direct translation; the same degree of care and attention to detail is also poured into the game’s English fonts, symbols, and puns. Thanks to this, even culturally unique concepts feel natural and understandable.
There are a few notable flaws, of course. For one, the control scheme is a bit awkward at times. Players must control Wright using the directional pad, but use the joystick to control the cursor. And while most items can be interacted with using the action button (“A” on Switch), in the inspection mode, you interact with objects using the right shoulder button. This led to a lot of situations where I would go into the inspection mode, only to accidentally back out because I’d pressed the “A” button which, for some odd reason, is the button that returns you to adventuring. Furthermore, Wright is constantly walking in a slow saunter. The inclusion of a run button would have been appreciated, especially when you consider the sheer amount of things that you can interact with.
Despite this, RPG Time: The Legend of Wright is a solid and charming adventure game. It is sure to captivate point-and-click adventure game and JRPG fans alike. Its stress-free, easy-to-pick-up nature makes it the perfect game to play with kids or by yourself. Most of all, it reminds players of what it truly means to think outside of the box. If you’ve ever daydreamed about entire worlds, scenarios, and characters during class, why not help Kenta do the same?