Oh snap, I'm using this blog. This is a rough draft I'm posting now for the two people mentioned here, and I may or may not go back and proofread it later.
So. I've recently started playing FFVI again, this time with a rebalance/hardtype/script edit mod called Brave New World. It's two years in the making, and instead of releasing it and forgetting about it, they're taking feedback and adjusting things.
Brave New World is a mod that aims to rebalance the game and enhance the script with a combination of Lina Darkstar's translation resources and their own comedic talents, and it hits far more than it misses. It comes with a huge readme explaining general changes as well as a spreadsheet detailing all sorts of changes to equipment, Skills, Magic, and Esper bonuses, so while they're not upfront about the details of what's changed, you're not running in blind. Even with these resources, I'm constantly surprised and impressed.
The two people behind it, BTB and Synchysi(known as Averlus on GameFAQs), used the previously mentioned translation - a damn good one - as a resource for much of their dialogue changes, which is very cool. Characters stay in character, and the serious scenes aren't made into jokes, but humorous and scenes are definitely spiced up.
First off, it's funny. Very funny. Kefka and Relm swear now, to better fit the foul-mouthed reputations they have. It generally works, though they swear just a bit more than I'd usually prefer. Indeed, such regular use of coarse language that's practically common verbiage these days out of Kefka makes him seem more normal, in a way, and there's at least one moment where not having the swearing might actually enhance the impact of what he's saying*. His swearing is basically a lot of F-bombs, and while I'm not offended by it, it feels a bit boring. Kefka's insanity is very creative, and limiting him to a couple of coarse words dulls him down. Relm has a similar problem with her small vulgar vocabulary. At the same time, her word for Strago is as much affectation as it is insult. But I'm just playing the mod, not grading it, and I don't feel strongly enough about it to send them threats. In the end, it works, and I appreciate that it's mostly limited to two people overall and I greatly appreciate that the humor is never sexual in nature. Too many "comedians" go heavy on this.
Swearing aside, characters are expanded, given certain phrasing they're fond of, and more room to play. One of my favorite added lines is as simple as someone calling Sabin an idiot, and it runs entirely on situation and timing, as well as who says it.
There was this one bug where a couple of people were in Magitek Armor during a very sober scene, and it was ridiculous enough to wrap around and almost seem reasonable. That should highlight just how crazy Cyan's Dream is this time around.
But what first got my attention is that BTB and Synchysi balanced Esper bonuses and Magic by creating a brand new list of bonuses, restricting Espers to specific people, and implementing those restrictions just like you would for equipment. The restriction on its own was something I tried to do a few years back and failed horribly, to put it nicely. I daresay they actually did a very good job of it; there were a few things I was thinking of exploiting, and all of those ideas were already addressed; kudos. Characters have been rebalanced, so much so that who gets to be in your party isn't such an empty choice anymore. Stamina is a useful stat; HP/MP gains have been remade from the ground up; Equipment has been drastically modified so that every choice matters; SwdTech, Blitz, and Lore are versatile skillsets that bring the characters to prominence in ways beyond Bum Rush worship. In fact, these guys implemented so many of my dream ideas that I no longer need to play at hacking FFVI, and can lay those old dreams to rest. I've got the hack I wanted through and through.
If that weren't enough, they've edited events and made some of their own, creating jokes where there wasn't even text before, giving monsters new lines and behavior. Instead of his original status as That Stupid Boss who tries too hard to be the next Gilgamesh, Ultros is a multi-dimensional source of comedy. He really should have been on the stage. The Three Dream Stooges are as chatty as the Magus Sisters, with three times the stooge. Even Celes gets a snarky comment or two when appropriate. The fun feels at home in the game, and it isn't to the detriment of the story's serious parts. If that's not enough, they've expanded the sidequests. There are more hints on where to go, who to talk to, and what to do. It feels like they made this game for first-time players, in the best way.
The game is more difficult this time around, but that's inevitable when even one or two of VI's legitimate problems are addressed. That said, everyone is given a bag with a handful of tricks, and just about everyone has something useful in any situation. Some characters have some gimmicks, but nothing that makes anyone else less of an assets; I have formed teams that should be terrible, only to know success. As with the Espers and the script, the goal seems to be to celebrate what makes FFVI the game it is, rather than undoing it and making an entirely new game out of it. I've done a few crazy things with this game; I've even partaken in a GameFAQs community competition with the game and wasn't immediately outed as a poser. But this mod is taking me to task. I just geared up for a fight with one of the game's eight Dragons**, with a team I thought was tailor-made. Everyone had Float, I had the game's two Dragoons, and Gogo teaming with Strago for the New and Improved Lore. But they lacked one or two key components(entirely my own failure as a strategist), and that's enough to have no chance. Strategy is a huge part of the game now, to the point that the developers of the mod implore you to use the Wait option. A refreshing break from some other hardtypes who proclaim that Active Speed 1 is the only way to play. The way things are now, little gimmicks like being in a menu during your own spells are actually influential now, as is forgetting to be out of a menu during a boss's lengthy attack. I must stress the overwhelming fairness of the game's difficulty, though, in making no character useless and not making bosses a series of 9999 factories.
At times, I forget I'm even playing a mod, and make no mistake that this is an extensive hack. It runs smoothly, and the only bugs I've come across are some clipping issues when walking on the WoR overworld, and a handful of database typos that aren't gamebreaking yet still fixed in short order. As of this writing, things have generally been fixed and re-released within a day or two.
If this project sounds interesting, or if you just want to check out the readme to have an idea of how much these two have done with this game, check out BTB's website at http://abusemynipples.biz.
(No, really. That's his website.)
And if you do fire it up, talk to everyone at the Beginner's School. Seriously. I managed to do that, read the readme, and I STILL overlooked a major change or two. Don't be me. I lost half the battle.
*I refer to his angry outburst about halfway through the game. I may not have the mouth of a saint, but I also don't have the mouth of a twenty dollar prostitute, and one thing that has never lost impact in my life as an overly talkative sarcastic guy is that when you absolutely want to convey how much emotion you feel, the most direct way to do it is to not swear at all. People begin to listen very closely very quickly. This might be contradictory when it comes to crazy people, but we're talking about someone who is becoming the true threat before the heroes' eyes. In my opinion, things stand to be a bit more tense in that scene.
**I really should have been posting notes here once I started playing, but I forgot this blog existed, and I honestly was mostly winging it. As it stands, I'm approaching the endgame, so I may as well start from here. I've got all the characters recruited, and just a couple of sidequests to do before I start hunting down the 8 Dragons and storm the final dungeon. Some can't wait to die.