In 2004, I felt that my interest in RPG Maker was really starting to wane and that I would probably stop using the program soon unless I came up with something that I truly enjoyed working on. I decided that, for whatever reason, an action RPG with Final Fantasy 4-esque graphics would be the best way to go. Looking back on that decision today, I am certain that if I had proceeded with my initial idea, I definitely would have failed horribly.
When I began gathering resources and plotting out my action RPG that I had taken to calling Blackmoon Prophecy, I began to realize that I was almost subconsciously mapping the game as a Final Fantasy fangame. So many elements from the old Final Fantasy titles were present, probably because of the ripped graphics I was using. I decided that maybe an action RPG wasn’t the thing for me to tackle at that moment, and I decided to turn Blackmoon Prophecy into a real fangame. It then became Final Fantasy Blackmoon Prophecy, and my simple goal was to emulate the feel and gameplay of the first six titles in the Final Fantasy series.
I had previously made one Final Fantasy fangame in RPG Maker 2000 called Final Fantasy Mythologies in 2002 or 2003, and it was pretty terrible. In my heart I felt that it was a gem, but as an actual fangame? Well, it was pretty terrible. Only I could enjoy it. I wanted to do better with Blackmoon Prophecy, and I also wanted to dispell the illusion that all fangames suck. That is a belief that has been a part of the RPG Maker community since it’s early days in 1999 and 2000, and a slew of awful Dragon Ball, Final Fantasy, and Pokemon abominations did not help fangames receive a better image. There certainly were good fangames, but they were few and far between. I wanted to make my mark on the fangame side of the RPG Maker community, which is why I chose to make Blackmoon Prophecy feel and look like the old Final Fantasy games. I did not want the game to forge it’s own unique identity, no. All fangames that have done that have mostly failed. I decided to play it safe and, hopefully smart, by modelling practically every aspect of Blackmoon Prophecy after the first six Final Fantasy games.
I released several demos between 2004 and 2007. Initially, not a lot of people took to Blackmoon Prophecy. There were lots of bad maps, dialogue was overly juvenile, and the overall presentation (such as battle animations) was a little disheartening. With each demo, I refined the game more and more to carry a more authentic Final Fantasy feel until it seemed that almost everybody who played the later demos at least partially enjoyed the game. Negative feedback dropped quite a lot over the three years of demo releases. It has now been about three years since the last demo and I can safely say that the refinements I’ve made since then are very thorough and vast. Many dialogue sequences and maps have been completely remade and, in some cases, areas of the game have been completely removed because I deemed them to be too amateurish.
While Blackmoon Prophecy will never feel 100% like the classic Final Fantasy games due to the use of RPG Maker 2003′s default systems, I really do believe that I’ve come closer than any other fangame author in the RPG Maker community. At times, an uneducated viewer could probably mistake Blackmoon Prophecy for a legit Final Fantasy game. A very authentic Mystic Mysidia is ripped from Final Fantasy 4, and Final Fantasy 6′s auction house has been recreated very faithfully as well. Little things like that give Blackmoon Prophecy a distinct Final Fantasy feel. I’ll never nail it perfectly though, but then again I sort of feel like the atmosphere, feeling, and gameplay of the old games are lost forever. Final Fantasy remakes on portable consoles always feel like they have less soul than the originals, and the recent Final Fantasy IV: The After Years on the Wii felt nothing like the game it was meant to be a sequel to. It felt like a strange fangame of sorts. It just seems like nobody can really capture that old feel anymore. I don’t think I can capture it, but I can at least emulate it.
So, exactly what is this Blackmoon Prophecy game about? In traditional old-school fashion, this is a game about saving the crystals from an evil villain and that’s it! It sounds simple because, like the old games, it is. Of course there are many plot devices and storylines that play out, but at it’s core, Blackmoon Prophecy is just an old-school game about saving the world.
The game is set in Gaia, a world that is governed by four major powers – Branch, Ivalice, Lenadia, and Lindblum. Branch is a war-ravaged nation with a predominantly dragoon-based military, Ivalice is your typical shady Empire, Lenadia is a peaceful and vast land ruled by King Gorn, and Lindblum is an economic powerhouse.
The players assume the role of Vahn, a dragoon from the Branch Kingdom. A year has passed since the Crystal War which saw the King of Branch wage war on the world via crystal power. The King was defeated by the other nations, and the crystals returned to their rightful shrines across the world. Now, something mysterious is clearly going on. Strange happenings have been occurring at the Water Shrine, and a local dragoon named Darius has been acting peculiar and defiant in many cases. Can Vahn get to the bottom of it all?
Throughout Vahn’s journey he will team up with a black mage, white mage, summoner, ninja, blue mage, swordsman, dark knight, and a treasure hunter. Each have their own distinct abilities and all excel at different areas of the game. For example, the dark knight is able to manipulate the shadow resistance of fellow party members and enemies. If he lowers an enemy’s resistance several times, he can then use his Black Strike ability. On it’s own, it is an average shadow elemental attack, but after manipulating the enemy’s resistance, it turns into a devastating attack. A few minutes after the dark knight joins, there is a boss battle in which all three opponents are immune to shadow attacks, which makes him useless in that fight as a combatant. As well, the white mage is very weak against shadow elemental attacks and, in that same fight, can be hit by a shadow attack that deals roughly twice as much damage as her maximum HP. Since she is the primary healer, having her in a fight in which she can be killed in a single blow is risky however, if the player were to keep the dark knight in their party, they could theoretically use him exclusively to support the white mage and keep her alive. Situations like that arise pretty often, but a few characters are lucky enough to not be affected much, such as the black mage who commands at least one spell of every element.
In terms of emulating older Final Fantasy games, there’s a long list of things in Blackmoon Prophecy that may be nostalgic for a few people. Characters such as Cid, King Gorn, Siegfried, and Ultros are present while towns like Cornelia, Kohlingen, Mysidia and Silvera are recreated in some form or another. There is a choboco race track where players can bid on the winner and receive prizes, and an auction house where the player can having bidding wars with NPCs over items. A few location names, such as Ebot’s Rock, Mount Matoya, and Gulgur Volcano may remind players of the good ol’ days as well. The summoner character is of course another source of nostalgia with her summons such as Ifrit, Ramuh, and Shiva. More obscure summons like Zoneseek are also in the mix. You name it and I’m probably trying to capture it in some form or another!
I’ve been working on Blackmoon Prophecy quite a lot recently and, at the pace I am going at right now, I think I’ll finish in the summer of 2011 sometime. Finishing this game is definitely one of my goals, and will probably be one of my New Year’s Resolution as well. This is one of the very few things I have ever put online that was enjoyed by quite a few people. That sort of thing can make a person feel good, and I’d love to finish this game and release it to the masses. Stay tuned next year, it may happen!