150th Review Special, Finale: March of the Masterpieces

As anyone who has read my reviews knows, I tend to be very sparing when handing out 9/10s or 10/10s. While mainstream outlets tend to hand them out like penny candy when a game is promoted enough, I make games (and films, for that matter) work for those grades. I have it so that when a work earns a passing grade, even if it’s a 7/10, it’s a cause for celebration. With me having awarded no 10/10s in this block of 50 reviews, all we have left to discuss are the ones I awarded a 9/10. These are the games I point towards when talking about the hallmarks of a given era or decade, so if you’ve haven’t played them, check them out right away.

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The early internet age gave rise to the popularity of a piece of software called RPG Maker. Though builds of this program had existed as early as 1992 on various Japanese platforms such as the Super Famicom, it would gain international popularity when the first Windows version was released. Its greatest appeal was that it allowed anyone to craft their own experiences in the medium. Before, one would need a degree of expertise to even entertain the idea of making a game. In spring of 2014, a gaming community centered on the software, RPG Maker Web, held a contest for aspiring indie developers. Dubbed the Indie Game Making Contest, the rules were simple: the entrants needed to create a game using RPG Maker, and they had from May 29 to June 30 to complete this task.

Among the entrants was a duo of programmers: Eliza Velasquez and Casey “Nightmargin” Gu. The former focused on writing the scenario and coding while the latter served as the main artist, contributing character designs and music, though there was a lot of overlap. Created in RPG Maker 2003, they named their work OneShot. Unfortunately, despite their best efforts, the two of them did not win the contest. The contest was won by Red Nova for his RPG, Remnants of Isolation. Not letting the defeat damper their spirits, Ms. Velasquez and Nightmargin decided to remake and expand their creation. To this end, they upgraded to the more advanced RPG Maker XP, and recruited a third person by the name of Michael Shirt. He proved immensely helpful debugging the code, resolving many game-breaking issues during development. When their work was finished, they made the improved version of OneShot available for the popular digital distribution platform Steam on December 8, 2016. Upon its official release, it quickly became a hit with the reviews on Steam being described as “Overwhelmingly Positive” – a rare achievement in the community. How did this game resonate so deeply with those people?

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