So.. After so many years of lurking, I had to create an account just to comment on this hack.
This truly is a great hack.. one of the best in my opinion.
Like most classic rpgs, I have played this one at least 10 or 15 times since I was a kid. Yet, it has been many years now since I have played much of any classics. This was a breath of fresh air.
I am playing through the marsh cave now. The freshness and newness of this hack has brought back many memories. I may have been 7 or 8 the first time I was able to beat Marsh Cave and I was too young to know that I should have stocked up on Pures and Tents. I used my last tent to save after exiting marsh cave and, try as I might (and I tried.. like 20 times..) i couldn't get back to town without dying because my team was poisoned and close to death.
These are some things that have really impressed me and also made this the best version of final fantasy (hack or square produced) out there..
I just _knew_ that the empty room with the 3 statues at the bottom of the marsh cave must have had a secret battle. It did.. but.. wow, I stand no chance. It is 2 Clay Golems and 5 Squids (Squidlarkin?). Maybe If I had a Sage or Warlock but my only offensive caster is a wizard. I can tell you love this game as much as I do based on changes such as this.
It was great that Astos' castle was now a dungeon and , surprise, he was hostile from the get go. I beat him before Marsh Cave. Love that you flipped some things around. No Crown required now. It is almost open-world feeling. Great!
I could run to Elf Town before getting the ship? And the ship required a dungeon? And.. the pirates actually had Bikke fighting with them? Awesome.
You would be surprised how many people don't know about the Peninsula of Power. I found it on my own as a kid and of course abused it, which was easy with Fire 2. You have changed that in a great way. Now that fire spells are single target only, it takes much more strategy to tackle the Zombulls and Frost Enemies.
Not only that, but you included two other areas (the swamps of power?) Based on your sense of balance and accessibility, I would say you did that not only to offer some variety but to cater to different playstyles. Nice.
I remember you saying gold would be scarce. I was a little worried but you have done well with it. Some battles are still profitable, as intended, Such as Kyzoku. And of course, the 4x Giants are the go-to farm to afford elf-land equipment.
I love what you have done with the equipment system. It is more streamlined, takes less inventory space (did we really need gauntlets?) and, naturally, would allow more space in the code for cool weapons in the end-game. Which I am stoked about. End Game variety is a must for supporting various play styles and I have no doubt that you have put a lot of thought into that.
Also, this allows a new way to play the game for those seeking a challenge. It is pretty fun to hit the dungeon before you buy equipment.. You will probably get some of the gear you intended to buy anyway. It would save you gold as well.
Little things make a big difference. Love the Ravens and Dark Imps.. almost feel like those guys should be grouped together in some randoms. Squires in the marsh dungeon made me smile.
Ok.. now that the spoilers are out of the way, I have some other thoughts.
This hack really is a diamond in the rough. Despite the vast fan base and the great documents and tools that our community have produced, this game has, up until now, never really seen a hack of this magnitude. I believe bigger things are to come but for now, I can see myself playing through this hack again and again over the years. Thanks for that
What would I like to see change? Well, everything is solid on code end. But I do think i would be cool to see someone do a graphical hack of your hack. I remember in the golden age of rom hacking.. back when we had to hex edit with "FF Bytes" and edit graphics with DOS based tools.. it seemed that every day a graphics hack would pop up. Those are not as popular now, because we have entered the age where visionaries such as yourself now have the means and the support to do great things such as this. But, I have a bit of nostalgia about those old graphics hacks. I remember seeing things such as the Ogre from FF4 sprite being used in place of FF1's. and that was amazing. Zombie/Ghoul etc has a notoriously ugly sprite and there were some great changes to that one in particular.
Those were fun times but they were chaotic and unfocused. Now, if someone in this day and age, with the chops and ambition and discipline required was to get ahold of this hack, that would be pretty awesome.
That being said, this hack is as close to perfect as any hack I've played over the years and I can see your love of the game in every nook and cranny.
If I had to put a number on things.. this is an 11 man. Congrats on your effort!
Just wanted to share some more of my progress and cool stuff I have found
Heavy spoilers ahead
So I managed to get the airship at level 11 now but have yet to find the canoe. Really loving the changes. It is like a whole new game.
To anyone who wants to get the airship early like I did.. it probably wouldn't have been possible without first raiding the Sunken Palace.
Getting the oxyale required going through a small dungeon. After entering the Sunken Palace you can get a Mithril Axe pretty early on and some Mithril Chainmail.
That axe has me hitting pretty hard for level 11 and I was able to kill the "Eye" monsters guarding the Floater in two hits. Oh - my Rogue was using a silver sword I bought from crescent town, he was hitting decently hard as well.
I found a (secret?) battle just as soon as I opened the Dwarf canal. "Seraph".. I couldn't take her out at the time but I may give it another shot now. Also, ran into some Magitek Armor
They promptly destroyed me. Love the added touches!
Loving Rogue as leader.. it is challenging because he is a bit soft, but that makes it so much funner. Nice being able to run easily from mundane battles and getting the surprise attack is always helpful.
Second is Viking. I considered a paladin instead. The strategy would be to switch paladin Leader before boss fights. I hate that I have to sell all the plate armor but Viking does hit like a truck.
Finally, using Wizard and Priest. Enjoying the strategy of having only single target spells. I've never played that way in FF before so it is fun. Wizard is no slouch though. He has been pretty hoss so far.
Priest is super effective as a healer. I miss out on some support spells but, again, it is nice to change up the old strategy. WILL is pretty cool I must say.