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Wow, this mod sure was a journey. It was a trail that stretched out over a year across three different versions and at least one restart (and beating another FF6 fullhack) before I saw the end credits. It was this hack which led me to registering a profile at Insane Difficulty and all the weirdness and wackiness that followed.
First learned of this by chance soon after the first public release back in late 2014. I learned it had new music and was a full hack and that was enough reason for me to give it a try and see where the rabbit hole went. Liked what I found enough to stick with the mod all the way to the end. I was happy to find I didn't need to grind magic, levels, or items to make my way through, generally changing my strategy was enough (with the occasional blessing from the RNG).
I have a lot to say about the trip through this mod and am finally putting words down. Rather than give an overt recommendation as I am rather biased, I'm taking the approach of laying out what to expect so readers can decide for themselves whether this is something to their tastes to sample.
New music: One of the main highlights, the entire soundtrack has been replaced and expanded. This on it's own is quite the achievement since replacing music in the game is not as simple as replacing a midi or wav. file. Experiences may vary though I found the replacements fit well overall. As someone tired of the original game's music for the most part, this is a welcome addition.
New graphics (both monsters and on the field): While not a large factor in my enjoyment of the hack, they do give the mod a unique visual identity that sets it apart. There's a number of new spell and ability animations to go along with the package.
Player character changes: While some will feel similar to vanilla counterparts with a new sprite set, most are altered enough to feel distinct. I'm not going to spoil the surprise by giving out details here, play to discover what's new.
New events: For veterans of the original game, it's easy to go on cruise control at times. Several times, I would be making my way through an area and would be caught by a surprise boss fight. This mod introduces boss fights where there weren't before, new sidequests, and other smaller changes. At some point, I stopped assuming monster-in-a-box fights were in the same locations.
Also included here are all the new treasures to find. Cruising through the game relying solely on memory of treasure placement in the original will miss a lot of hidden loot. It won't be as obvious as a treasure chest that wasn't there before either.
References: Whether it's dialogue, music, enemies from other games or media, player characters, and sometimes even attack and ability names, there are lots of references to other games and media. I happened to enjoy this and would bring a smile to my face when I recognized the source of a particular piece of music or saw a familiar looking name on the screen. Still this sort of thing isn't to everyone's tastes so players bothered by Dragon Ball Z or Super Metroid sightings may prefer looking elsewhere.
It will take a long time to finish. If looking for something to blow through in roughly the amount of time it takes to complete vanilla (or a little longer for a hard mod), this isn't it. It will deliver plenty of play time one way or another. There is a lot of content to experience as well as the raised difficulty level. Expect longer battles.
It was intense for me: There were times after a section or boss fight (win or lose) that I would feel compelled to set the game aside for a while after saving. With the increased difficulty came an increased level of attentiveness to win battles or manage resources so at times, I would just stop playing for a few hours or days. There were times I didn't touch the mod for months though that was more waiting for a new version for whatever reason, usually bug fixes.
It's hard: The Magitek armors at the start of the game come with a pair of unlimited use skills to ease the player in. One recovers enough HP for a full heal and cures status to one target. Another revives a fallen ally. The first boss fight still felt dangerous even with that skillset. I had an ominous feeling since that crutch would soon vanish.
The game does ask for a higher skill level to progress. Random enemies hurt enough that someone in the front row with up to date equipment was often in danger of freak KOs. Since I opted not to level grind, front row became a luxury. This mod really put my FF6 knowledge and bag of tricks to the test and applying all sorts of crafty and exotic approaches (how often does one petrify an ally as a strategy?) made a fun experience. Earlier on, the challenge with randoms comes from resource management. My perception of the challenge may be inflated since I rarely purchased consumables other than throwing stars (and I succeeded) so I was also aiming to prevent deaths until Raise and Osmose spells entered the picture, which is harder than just surviving. Later in the game, the risk of a party wipe for the unattentive becomes real. It sometimes make sense to run from randoms, whether it will be a large resource drain or high risk of a game over.
Random enemies are beefier and will often have a greater variety of moves. There were a few times I felt I was dealing with "same monster as vanilla with higher stats" but most often, the enemies in randoms felt like new monsters. Status effects feel more valuable and worthwhile, often being key to surviving randoms with my underleveled team.
Losing to boss fights a few times before winning is a normal occurrence. Paying attention to a boss' capabilities and planning ways to overcome is what got me to victory. There are a few easier battles sprinkled in that felt like an act of mercy when i encountered one.
Relics are stronger relative to the vanilla game. To help in dealing with the increased difficulty, the relic selection got a boost. Every status blocking relic either guards multiple ailments or has some other benefit. Effects that used to be on different relics have been combined into one. SOS Safe/Shell are replaced with permanent effects. And so on. On a smaller note, a few game breaking items have been downgraded. The 1MP cost Economizer effect is gone, replaced with something not as broken and there's nothing on the level of Snow Muffler to laugh off physicals.
You can use whoever you like and find some way of winning. Some optional bosses (and arguably the final boss) may take extra grinding to win without the unique skills of certain allies. Glad this aspect of the vanilla game is intact; it's all too easy to go overboard on challenge to the point a certain team is forced to progress.
All player characters that can equip Espers can learn all spells. It still manages to remain challenging even with access to Osmose. Having a full magic list is not a free pass to an easy game. There are some changes such as Quick being replaced with something less game breaking of course.
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