So I've been working on and off on RPGMaker XP projects for a while now, and I've mostly been having fun. Out of curiosity, though, I decided to download the "demo" version of its successor, VX Ace Lite, which is, instead of a limited time demo such as some demos are, a demo that only lets you work with a limited number of materials (the package of graphics is smaller, and there's some parts that keep you from having more than a very limited selection of characters, classes, items, etc.) but lets you otherwise do anything the full version would.
I decided to play with it for a change of pace (I've been a little bogged down on the XP projects), and have decided that, in many respects, I greatly prefer XP because it's actually graphically superior. (Part of it comes from larger, more flexible sprites, but all the artwork is generally nicer, with the exception of the enormous iconset and the battle animations; also, I like the way the battlers are set up in XP better-having the actual option to display your characters is nice, Dragon Quest homaging be damned. Also, while both have mediocre English translations, VX Ace's is worse.) Much as I like JRPGs, I've never really been a fan of tiny square-shaped people.
There's also a few things that I have to chuckle at, such as the fact that you can give a character a nickname and a description.
Sorta handy, true, especially since you need annoyingly fancy junk to get anywhere with something similar in XP, but the silly bios that come in the default game ruin the effect a bit. Admittedly, VX Ace also has multiple things built in that one has to wonder why they were left out of older versions, like a built-in vehicle system and a reflection characteristic, but if you're desperate for that there are (admittedly difficult) ways to do that in XP.
There is one thing that makes me consider whether I'd want to get the full version of VX Ace, though: The Features system in its database makes configuring battle stuff actually fun.*
Why? It's because this is a system that allows you to assign Features to things in a powerfully modular way. If you want a character to, say, have the ability to equip a sword, you can go to the Actors tab where the player characters are and assign the "Equip Weapon [Sword]" Feature to that character. Or you could give it to the character's Class instead, and it would work mostly the same way. Or you could have a different piece of equipment that assigned the "Equip Weapon [Sword]" feature. Weird (and probably pointless), yes, but you could do it. But there's a total of six different things you can assign Features to, including status effects. Yes, hypothetically you could make the ability to use a sword a status effect.
And while it's not quite the same as the Features system, the way that skills and useable items work is close to identical and similarly flexible, which is a thing I really would have appreciated in XP. (It also leads to the rather funny possibility, since they anticipated the idea of a "use item to teach skill" feature, of using a skill to teach itself; there's a rather funny scenario I came up with years ago as a thought experiment that I find myself thinking of which this might actually allow to a degree. Here's a hint to what it might entail, although I admit that might be a bit cryptic for a non-M:TG fan.)
And then there's the little Note section, which was actually the first thing that got me stirred up about the differences. There are way too many things in XP that don't have a good place to make notes to oneself, and I'd really have appreciated that.
So there you have it: My nattering about a free product that's got a better not-free version.
*I had fun with XP's for a while, but honestly it's a bit of a hassle, especially with the errors that somebody made along the line that make it hard to, for instance, give an enemy the maximum hitpoints, experience, and gold that the default engine allows. You can enter any six-digit number for those things (actually, experience and gold can both go higher)... except that you can only directly enter five digit numbers into the boxes in question, and then use the arrow buttons/keys to raise it.
I sat down and took something like an hour one day just scrolling the hitpoints up to use as a template for high-level enemies.
And oh yeah, the way one determines who can equip what is a friggin' checklist.