This game has some pretty big flaws, but it’s not a terrible game. I do think that if you tried to play this on an actual console with no help it would be a frustrating and tedious experience. But if you use an emulator so that you can speed up the battles, and rely on the maps I linked in the first post when you get stuck, it’s definitely a playable old-school RPG.
The problems with the game really come from a combination of factors. The dungeons tend to be large, with a lot of passages and traps. This isn’t necessarily bad, but the ridiculous random encounter rate makes it more tedious than it needs to be. Even this wouldn’t be terrible, but the balance of the random encounters is not good. If the enemies have area effect spells, or use status effects like Sleep, Charm, Confuse, or Stun, it’s very hard to fight them. You can win the fight, but you’re opening yourself up to a chance of a game over. Given how long the dungeons take, this is not something you want to do. So you end up running from a lot of fights.
The story is acceptable for late 1993, but it’s mostly concentrated at the end. The beginning part, obviously inspired by Dragon Quest IV, works well. But after that there’s a long period where you have an overall goal but no short term goals, so you’re just going to whatever the next town or location is.
The graphics are not bad — the character models are large and detailed, and the animation in battles is decent.
Oh also, the reason it’s called Monster Maker is a pointer to the monster recruiting system, but this was also really badly implemented. One of the Megami Tensei developers worked on this and the recruitment system resembles MT. But in addition to the random and confusing system that matches MT, they made another really bad design decision. The only way you can use the monsters is by completely subbing out your human party for a monster party in battle. The human party can come back in later, but the humans and monsters can’t fight together. Also if a monster dies you have to go to a Monster Maker hut to revive them which is annoying. I also was never able to combine any monsters, but to be honest I mostly ignored this system except for getting a goblin. The goblin can find traps and also open up the Goblin Markets which have good equipment.
Overall I just think it’s a shame because this game has a lot of promise but a few bad development decisions made it probably not worth playing for most people.
Next up is Shin Momotaro Densetsu, the last game of 1993. It gets a lot of praise from the Japanese community so I’m looking forward to it.