Sounds like a good project, but it's not accurate to pin this on Working Designs. It's highly unlikely that Working Designs just arbitrarily pulled out difficulty edits out of their ass. If you know about that part of gaming history, very often the Japanese licensers compelled the localizations for the US (and perhaps even Europe) to ramp up the difficulty as a strike against rentals. The Japanese game industry lobbyists failed to ban game rentals in the US as they did in Japan, so the difficulty screwups were an attempt to combat game rentals. Sega was particularly bad in this respect (just look at what they did to Streets of Rage 3), but not the only one. Look it up if you don't believe me.
As far as the goofy dialogue, I think it's an improvement as an English localization. If you think the original games contain no goofy humor or pop culture references, you are not very informed. But it's not funny at all if you don't get the humor or references, so might as well change things. Re-translations can go too far the other way with literal translations that make no sense, or just pretentious BS like calling General Leo "Shogun Leo", as in the patch of FFVI I slammed. Also, the difficulty in these Working Designs games was high but not unplayable. NES games were tougher. You might argue the Japanese originals were too easy, but they had more money to burn on a ton of games at the time, or more willing to, similar to how today's games are easy to the point where they have a tutorial to teach you how to move.
But as I said, these patches are still a worthy project for those interested.
Well, the story I've heard mentioned a couple of times is that according to the "official" WD explanation, the increased difficulty was designed to prevent people from beating the games "too quickly", being dissatisfied, and returning them to the store. I haven't seen a source for that, so I'd appreciate it if anyone can link me to wherever Vic (presumably) said it. In any case, they kept doing the difficulty changes very consistently, for many years, for games licensed from many different publishers, so I doubt it was just due to their hands being contractually tied.
I didn't know about rental games being banned in Japan, though -- that's really nuts. Seems like Japanese law is way too corporate-friendly, at least when it comes to games. There's that, the Tokimeki Memorial memory card case, the DS flashcard ban, and probably more stuff I haven't heard of.
As for Lunar... well, I can and have said a lot
about the script rewrites and don't care to again, especially since I don't seem to be changing any minds, but I'll specifically cover one of the points you raised. Of course the original game has jokes in it, like virtually any JRPG. Working Designs certainly didn't invent Mystere, the Bunny Karate stuff, etc. But to say that all or even most of the jokes in the US version are "localizations" of the Japanese ones is simply not right. Here's a book you can read in Dalton:
Someone correct me if I'm wrong, but I'm pretty sure that translates as:
"Delicious Fish Dishes"
These are very healthy fish dishes anyone can easily make...
Wow! Hirooo, I want this book!
The "joke" is that Ruby loves fish, see? Not very funny, I'll grant you (though it does help set up a much later scene). Here's what the line becomes in the US version:
FERAL FLATULENCE CONTROL
HIRO! I THINK GRANDPA NEEDS
Now, I don't know more than the absolute rudiments of Japanese, but I can certainly tell you that there's no secret hidden cultural reference in the original text that the US version is trying to convey the spirit of here. The new joke is just there to "make it funnier". Depending on your sense of humor, maybe it is and maybe it isn't, but that's not the point. Regardless of whether it's "better" or not, it simply doesn't match the original dialogue by any stretch of the imagination, and I can tell you from having looked that the majority of the jokes in the US version are "made up" in this fashion.
I really, really don't want to derail this thread into an argument over Lunar's script, so I'll stop myself here before I can go on about the rewrites to non-throwaway dialogue. If anyone is interested in comparing the JP/EN scripts for themself, I can upload my dialogue extraction tools.
Anyhow, thanks for your support. Just trying to give people more options here.