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Return of the Dark Sorcerer

Hack of Final Fantasy III

Description:

Return of the Dark Sorcerer is an incredibly large fan-made Final Fantasy 6 modification that’s been in development since around 2010. Originally the brainchild of Gi Nattak, the project has evolved over the years thanks to a dedicated team and other skilled members of the FF6 romhacking community.

This mod promises to showcase some of the challenging aspects of FF6 romhacking, as well as plenty of fun and exciting new content - from an all new cast of playable characters with customized movesets, a radically changed story with many new and edited events, new overworld maps, a new musical soundtrack, difficulty selection, new battle scripts for monsters & bosses, and an absolute ton of custom monster/esper and NPC sprites.

It is a highly personalized modification of the original game and therefore naturally won’t appeal to everyone. It’s not a sequel, or a prequel, or a remake to FF6, it is quite simply a massive amalgamation mod and customization of FF6 which does contain a whole bunch of references and can be rather nonsensical or even immersion-breaking at times… but if you go into it prepared for this, you should have a much more enjoyable experience. That being said, a whole lot of time and energy has gone into this project and we are quite pleased with the result.

ROM / ISO Information:

  • Final Fantasy III (USA) - NOINTRO
  • CRC32: A27F1C7A
  • MD5: E986575B98300F721CE27C180264D890
  • SHA-1: 4F37E4274AC3B2EA1BEDB08AA149D8FC5BB676E7
  • SHA-256: 0F51B4FCA41B7FD509E4B8F9D543151F68EFA5E97B08493E4B2A0C06F5D8D5E2
  • Headered and unheadered patches included

Links:

Screenshots:


Credits:

Credits
ContributorType of contributionListed credit
Mike FerrellHackingLead Hacker & Project Manager
DarkMageOriginal HackingFFVI improvement patch
GrayShadowsOriginal HackingNatural Ability Extension Patch, Golbez acting as normal magic learner hack, Stat Increase Items, Sp
HatZen08Original HackingGuest Adder, Learnable Rage, Step Dance, Antimagic Field, Resilient Morph, Even Gauge, SwrdTech Read
angelo26Original HackingNames clean-up patch, Restored ability names, spell granting event command, flashback color in battl
Leviathan MistOriginal HackingBattle speed up patch and fix
DrakkhenOriginal HackingPhysical damage overflow fix patch
Master ZEDOriginal HackingNew game plus patch
LenophisOriginal HackingNatural stat growth, new RNG patch
assassin17Original HackingRandom monster encounter fix patch
MadsiurOriginal HackingMost of ROTDS specific assembly coding (functionalities, additions, tweaks)
SynchysiOriginal HackingHalf damage spell back row flag, always sprint hack, gain level command, Health to Miracle
EdrinOriginal HackingPalette change check for characters in WoR hack
LufiaOriginal HackingStep Mine / MP cost ASM hack, in battle swap Steal/Throw function
James WhiteGraphicsall portraits / all monsters / esper sprites, WoB overworld tree, Dragon King, espers sprites
Poco LocoGraphicsMost main characters and NPC sprites, a lot of monster re-colors
ZeemisGraphicsFFIV Meteor spell graphic, Rifle (Auto-crossbow replacement), custom sword "Destiny"
SutebenuGraphicsA few sprites, Arc portrait, work on other portraits, Aerith, Opera Dress Tifa, Chained Tifa
Dr.BlankGraphicsElite Knight graphics (sprite)
LijjGraphicsOriginal Aurora portrait, and some help with the Onion Knight
XolarDarkGraphicsSome spell animations
JackimusMusicA good number of songs and compositions (see readme)
TsushiyMusicA few custom songs
JCE3000GTMusicA few song hacks from other games
LockirbyHackingWoB & WoR map design and hack
Lord EnvoyScript Editing/RevisionSome original bosses and and the FFVI Advance Dragon battle scripts
Poco LocoScript Editing/RevisionA lot of dialog work
SutebenuScript Editing/RevisionCleaning up some dialog/grammar in the early stages
Magical TrevorScript Editing/RevisionFor his amazing grammar and syntax help
ZozmaGraphicsBarberella ('Purple Haired Girl'), Zigfreid, Vargas, Clyde
DjinnandTonicGraphicsPrinny graphics
OBSailorStarGraphicsOlbohn graphics
FEOKGraphicsFusoya and Pirate sprites
SathkaGraphicsHector (Old hooded man) sprite
Eddie LeeGraphicsHeartless sprite
KorekiGraphicsBow Wow graphics
SynchysiOriginal HackingLimited Esper patch, various patches
dnOriginal HackingRage & Dance descriptions code
LenophisOriginal HackingNatural Stat Growth patch
B-RunOriginal HackingCharacters change palettes in the WoR check, unlearn spell command
BropedioOriginal HackingElemental Mixing
Think0028Original HackingDon't Reapply Status
EggersOriginal HackingExtended character palette code
seibabyOriginal HackingSmart Cover, Disable Near Fatal being reapplied if Dead, Independent Stop, Muddle Cancel, Quake remo
ScarabEnigmaGraphicsSome sprite work
emberlingMusicA bunch of custom songs
13375K31C43ROriginal HackingLots of patches

User Review Information

Great art, bad everything else (long review)

Reviewed By: PokeFaize on 01 Mar 2021

This mod is pretty impressive with the new sprites and the various soundtracks remixed for this game, and the new monster sprites are very well done! Many things within feel like a love letter to the various series the dev(s) pulled from for this mod!

However, there are very clear balancing issues to be had in this mod. Immediately upon leaving Narshe (er, Fraust) I nearly got a Game Over because the group of Goblins I encounters inflicted Stop on both Aurora and Cloud, leaving me unable to do anything as the Goblins whittled down their HP. Meanwhile most random encounters since then have been an absolute breeze with a minor annoyance here and there, and bosses ranging from a pushover to “This is balanced for a party you’re not given for this point.”

I’m stuck on Ultros at the Opera segment (mod dev(s) please make the entire Opera segment completely auto pilot so we can use the speed up to skip it should we have to refight Ultros) and this fight is so poorly balanced you essentially need Cura on at least two characters, however Cura isn’t available yet (heck, unless you bring Arc and/or Avalon, you CAN’T have Cure in your party for this fight at all), and if Arc’s Runic can’t absorb Ultros’ magic, I’m essentially stuck at this fight unless I do an excessive amount of grinding. (I’m on Normal Mode for reference)

The story is essentially the same, beat for beat, for the World of Balance segment, and characters are also rather stale and uninteresting (made even moreso by everyone not named Tifa or Cloud replacing their counterpart and joining at the same point in the story).

Spoilers ahead!!!

Aurora: Aurora’s sprites and portrait are very good (though her sprite not being symmetrical has some awkward effect on some animations, like shaking her head causing her lopsided dress to flip sides). Her combat usefulness is incredible, as to be expected of a character with a naturally learned spell list (and Terra’s replacement). However, her Esper Sprite leaves MUCH to be desired (Seriously? A succubus costume instead of something otherworldly like Terra’s Esper Sprite? Come on, you can do far better than that), and her character doesn’t deviate enough from Terra to really distinguish the two from each other (a problem that happens a lot for characters that aren’t characters from other games)

Cloud: Cloud is very strong, as to be expected from basically anyone who mods in Cloud into anything he’s not naturally from. Though with the steep level gap between learning new limits gets incredibly larger with each new limit learned (he learns Finishing Touch at Lv.50 but his Final Limit is learned at Lv.70…), he may fall out of the party for all but the most dedicated Cloud fans. He also has some… awkward writing moments, such as offering Tifa as a decoy for the opera (Cloud would offer himself before putting Tifa in any danger like that. Though, Tifa would volunteer to be the bait), and him taking Locke’s arc of trying to revive his dead ex-girlfriend (Aerith taking Rachel’s place) just leaves a sour taste in the mouth, especially with the combat cutscenes of Aerith decimating the soldiers chasing after her. If the next version replaces Cloud and others with Original Characters, I strongly recommend either removing Locke’s arc, or have the guy in the relationship take Rachel’s place.

Serin: hoooo boy… This is where the mod loses it’s magic of shiny new game. Serin is almost 1:1 the same as Edgar, personality, unique command, and everything. His portrait and color scheme also leave much to be desired (Black and red don’t go that well together, nor does being overdressed in dark colors like that while living in a desert kingdom). Again, if there’s another version in the works, I strongly encourage to rewrite Serin entirely (and move the Tools command to someone else so it doesn’t feel like you’re just getting Edgar with less appealing colors) because the “hot lady’s man” trope is very tiring and boring.

Ronan: speaking of copy/paste characters… here’s another one. Ronan suffers the same issue Serin does, in that, he’s still Sabin but less interesting as the characters he meets during his route split are… well, boring. He also has the same issue Cloud has with some of his Blitzes taking FAR too long to learn (there’s a staggering 28 level gap between his last two Blitzes). Unless the Vargas (or Raditz in this mod… for some reason…) battle is hardcoded to end when a specified Blitz Command is used, I recommend replacing Ronan with someone else (much like with Serin) and moving Monk somewhere else in the game.

Tifa: Tifa feels weird here, in that she’s written to be Celes but also Not Celes at the same time, especially as she keeps asking Cloud of all people why he’s helping her. Meanwhile her combat usefulness is much like Setzer’s Slots of Vanilla FF6: “random.” I appreciate the sentiment of using Setzer’s slots to mimic Tifa’s Reels from FF7, however without removing the “random” factor from them, they become an incredible liability to Tifa’s overall usefulness. In future version, removing the randomness from the Slots is an absolute must so players can have some control over what Reel Limit Tifa (or whoever replaces her should the cameo characters be replaced with new characters) uses.

Avalon: This guy’s writing is Cyan’s but less interesting (and without all the “thous”). the “twist” revealed during the Phantom Forest lacks any weight at all, since we barely know this guy by the time it’s dropped on us and it has little to no effect on the gameplay. Speaking of, he’s both really overpowered, and incredibly underpowered at the same time. Havoc can do incredible amounts of damage as it scales with his Current HP, however it does pitiful amounts of damage against multiple enemies, and the Status it inflicts is random. Keeping his HP topped off also requires you have Arc in the team to block Runic-able spells from hitting Avalon. If you’re not using Havoc as much as possible, his damage output falls behind quite a lot, which is a problem early on when spamming Havoc isn’t feasible since it’s so easy for him to get hurt or have to spend his turns healing as he’s one of the three characters with some naturally learned spells you get before Espers show up.

Oboro: Just when you thought Not-Edgar or Not-Sabin were boring enough, we now have Oboro, easily the most boring character of the cast. His story with Arc is so dull and generic it’s almost laughable, and his combat performance is even more of a joke. He did get buffed to have both Throw and Steal without losing his Magic commands, however he’s still incredibly lackluster. Shurikens barely do enough damage to at least be comparable to other characters using their basic attacks, Scrolls are too pricey to buy for how inconsistent his presence in the party is, and even with the Thief Gloves, he still struggles with Stealing. I wound up giving him the Speed Boots to make the most of his speed and had him be my Potion/Phoenix Down (er… Recharge, as they’re called in the mod) tosser during the segments when I had him. Once Espers hit the scene, his use as a speedy Item Tosser quickly loses value as more characters learn Cure spells (along with the fact that he leaves the party until the Not-Thamasa segment, I assume)

Arc: man, the writer really doesn’t know how to write kids, huh. (and the portrait artist really needs to rework the portrait so Arc actually looks like the child he is). He barely feels like a child character at all, with how serious he is, the swearing, and giving some graphic descriptions of how he’ll get revenge on Oboro for his mother’s death. Arc’s story is so hastily done and over with all on the Phantom Train, and his intro story is weakened greatly by having such a tame and mundane backstory (that takes way too long to get to its point, mind you) described as “the saddest thing this nun’s ever heard”, and being so closely tied with Oboro, who is the blandest character by far. The Phantom (er, Skull) Train segment needs a lot of reworking, especially to not tie off Arc’s arc so hastily. As for Arc’s in-combat usage, he has a very noticeable lack of any naturally learned spells when it feels like the Legendary Onion Knight should at least have SOME spells learned (even if Arc *is* an Onion Knight in Training). Arc is also made incredibly invaluable as a tank of sorts thanks to Runic not being Awful any more, and more enemies using spells that would warrant using Runic at all (stopping a boss from casting Regen on themselves with Arc’s Runic? yes please!)

Reaper: This is a guest character for the Phantom Train segment, and he’s getting a segment too because it just feels wrong and bad to make Gau’s Rage gimmick exclusive to a Guest Character, especially with the tweaks made to remove the “Berserk” from using a Rage. If a future version replaces the cameo characters with new characters, please return the Rage command to a permanent party member.

Another balancing(?) issue within this mod is that while you get far more Gil from random battles, shop prices have increased by what feels like five times the amount they should be (you can buy a Thief Knife from Neko at the start of the game for over 5k Gil, and you REALLY want to get it ASAP, even if it is one of the weakest weapons in the game). With the increased prices, enemies that can steal Gil from you now steal a tremendous amount of gil from your wallets, instantly decimating any time spent grinding for gil, and it really hurts on the progression.

Esper Summons are also incredibly lackluster and pathetic for Single Use casts, to the point where it’s even less worthwhile to summon any of them (including Kirin, or Spikey Tiger for this mod with the Regen on the party). for being Single Use and very MP Costly, these should be far more powerful than doing basically anything else.

TL;DR I’m impressed with what the devs behind this mod have achieved, and can greatly appreciate them showing off how much editing can be done with as much as the FF6 Modding Community has learned, however there’s a great deal of polish and rebalancing that needs to be done here, primarily in the gameplay aspect (after all, we came here for a fun mod, not some mind blowing story, yeah?). If I manage to get past Ultros at the Opera, my thoughts on this mod may change, especially as other reviews mention the World of Ruin being really good, and I’ll update this review to reflect that. But for now, I give this mod a 4.5/10. Impressive what’s been done, but there’s so much more that needs to be done to clean up the script and rebalance bosses and random encounters.

UPDATE: I eventually beat Ultros at the Opera after a bit of grinding to learn more spells and such (along with changing my party to Cloud/Avalon/Arc), I barely managed to scrape by Ultros by luck. Boy, was it not worth it in the slightest.

So, as I expected, the story for the remainder of the World of Balance and as far as I’ve gotten in World of Ruin is, beat for beat, the same as FF6, which means this mod fails to deliver a “radically changed story.” There are about three new scenes added during the Thamasa segment, however two of them (both involving General Leo) feel very awkward and mildly creepy with both ultimately being meaningless as Leo still dies and Aurora’s World of Ruin story is copy/pasted directly from FF6 with Terra and the village of orphans. The third, with FuSoYa, feels greatly out of place considering how nothing else in the story has changed in the slightest up to this point.

The Floating Continent has a new scene for the confrontation with Ghestal and Kefka, but this scene greatly weakens the plot, as it undermines the whole point of Kefka being horribly messed up and dangerous as a character to introduce the author’s “new” villain, Not-Kefka, which, as you might guess, feels fairly pointless in the grand scheme of things. (not to mention a laughable scene of Oboro thinking he’s actually useful)

But who cares about the plot if the game isn’t fun, right? How are the bosses after Opera Ultros? Put simply: they’re all also very unbalanced. half of them were jokes, while a couple were unfairly tough, and a couple were specifically designed just to waste your time. Arc is borderline mandatory for these bosses to Runic-Tank their dangerously powerful spells.

The World of Ruin bosses I managed to fight before I gave up trying to finish this mod ranged from questionably easy to unbearably unfair. I gave up trying to finish the mod when it took me nearly an entire hour just to beat a Monster-in-a-Box boss in Not-Daryll’s Grave.

Okay, well how are the characters between where I first stopped and now? Short answer? They’re all still bland and boring.

Long answer? Otis: Otis feels more like an excuse to justify having an SNES “demake” of the Pirates of the Caribbean theme in this mod, honestly. Less personality and character than Setzer with an even more lazily thought out Unique Command (Jump???? really?????? I know he has an alternate command via a Relic, but c’mon… Spears don’t even give their Jump damage multiplier in this mod).

FuSoYa: When FuSoYa shows up, things that are actually NEW plot-wise actually show up… and falls flat almost immediately as you go right back to Standard FF6 story immediately after. FuSoYa basically reprises his role from FF4 where he just infodumps important plot info and puts Tellah to shame. FuSoYa joins the party with nearly every single spell in the game pre-learned, and you get White Wind shortly after he joins, and Mighty Guard is right there on the Not-Veldt for the taking from the Commander enemy. FuSoYa is hilariously overpowered that it’s basically an instant-win just to have him (and Arc) in your party at all times when he’s available (he’s forced in your party for the Floating Continent anyway).

Eiko: Why is she even in this mod? She’s even less relevant than Relm is in Standard FF6, with a unique command that’s useless if she’s holding a Damage Dealing Esper, or apparently very powerful if she has a Support-Type Esper. Despite the concept of Summoners being introduced early on and made to seem as an incredibly powerful force that will be very plot relevant later on, Eiko is even less than an after thought (and whaddya know! Oboro takes more character writing from Shadow, and is Eiko’s father!)

Golbez: Golbez is here… for about 2 seconds and is FuSoYa but with a bad Unique Command (it’s Control). He shows up for the end of the Floating Continent then vanishes for presumably the remainder of the game).

Shop prices also got drastically worse, as you can maybe buy 2 or 3 pieces of equipment before running out of Gil, and it continues to get worse as you progress further in the plot.

Something good about this mod? Easily the new sprites and portraits. I may have ragged on a couple of the portraits in the original part of my review, but honestly it’s incredibly impressive that each character has their own unique character portrait, including Guest Characters! Each Moogle during the 3 Party Battle tutorial has a unique portrait, and when you get two guest characters using the same sprite, they both have different portraits! The enemy sprites are also incredibly impressive, each one carefully crafted to fit in the FF6 World while also staying recognizable to their original source (even the meme enemies fit right in this world!)

The amount of work and effort put into the art of this mod is unfortunately let down by the nearly unchanged story and writing, and the horrible enemy balancing. The writing’s biggest failure is copy/pasting nearly everything directly from FF6 (as stated earlier) instead of going all in on being original. The story may not have been *good* had the author chosen to go for full original ideas for this mod, however it certainly would’ve delivered on the promised “radically changed story” of this mod.

I unfortunately have to lower my rating score to a 1/10. As the incredible effort put into the spritework is, looks don’t make a game fun, and this mod certainly did its best to not be fun.

Version 2.5 Recommended - No

User Reviews
HeadlineAuthorDateVersionRecommended
Great art, bad everything else (long review)PokeFaize01 Mar 20212.5No
From brilliance to silly.Old_gamer12 Mar 20202.0.6Yes
Quality CrispRayofJay16 Feb 20202.0.5Yes
Better than the Original??Fein26 Apr 20181.8.3Yes
Best FF6 Hack of 2016break23 Aug 20161.6.0Yes
So very goodjesusbaddog23 Aug 20151.3Yes
Very Cool HackKlaviaturist27 Jan 20151.2Yes
Kludgy, but deserves meritEndymian09 Jan 20151.1Yes