RPG Hack Showcase: FF6 Return of the Dark Sorcerer v2.6.4 (SNES)

Hack Showcases and RPG Hack Showcases are a series where I show off various game and rpg hacks. I try to stick with hacks that improve gameplay or add quality of life features, completely or partially change the plot and characters, along with additional content, dialogue, graphical and sound improvements. Non-rpgs I try to give a full run to, or at least enough for a solid review. Rpgs I will stick with titles that have enough changes in the beginning to show off, and when I can, show parts later in the games where more differences appear. There may be spoilers in the reviews and videos. Some of these I may stream fully in the future or play on my own. Reviews are open to later revisions due to bug and content updates or me playing them and finding anything new I wish to bring up.

Led by Mike Farrell with a team of many contributors, RotDS is a complete overhaul of FF6 into it’s own game. Using the plot and characters of FF6 as its base, RotDS paints an entirely new world where the events are taking place, using the plot, locations, characters, etc as its base. Even the world map is completely changed! Heroes, villains, locations, magics, Espers and more are completely different, including a number of surprises where heroes are much different than the hero they are based from in FF6! If you go into this thinking its a straight hack of FF6, you’re gonna have a bad time because the strategies you would use in FF6 may be different in fighting an enemy or boss here. Even the soundtrack is different! Compiled from a number of different sources, the soundtrack uses tracks from various other games, and real life music, to convey the tale of our heroes in music with both soundtracks. Starting the game you can choose your difficulty level too! INew sprites and character portraits show your cast in great detail, and the sprite and portrait work is very good, as well as the new bosses! Some of the new cast you may be familiar with from other forms of media too. The magic system is different also- not everyone can use all the Espers and learn all the spells like in the original!

It’s worth noting also downloading the patch file also comes with an assortment of goodies, including an optional Side B soundtrack, little fixes and changes here and there like alternate screens and features from FF6, listings of all the gear, Espers and magic, and a strategy guide with fun little hints for those who need help, and development notes. Some of these screenshots from my hack showcase, others from the RotDS website. I’ll also be happy to update and revise more of this review as i play more again.

Note: latest version of RotDS is 2.6.4, review was done with 2.6.3. Most changes between them were some bug fixes, etc.

SO HOW IS IT? This hack is an amazing piece of art! From the sprite and other artwork, the gear, the re-visioned cast, the world map, choices of music and more. This and the FF4 Free Enterprise randomizer are what got me into learning and playing more game hacks on and off stream! The game still follows all of FF6’s story beats, but everything is twisted to tell the new story in this world. All the playable heroes are redone, where they may keep their motivations for joining your party, they may not keep all their attributes and personality. In Serin’s case, he’s more of a leech than Edgar was! Where a new hero may be a stand-in for a member of FF6’s cast, doesn’t mean they have their skill set either. Avalon as Cyan doesn’t have Cyan’s swdtechs, but Cloud does! Tifa has Setzer’s gambling wheels and stealing is done via relics found early. One of the biggest changes is Arc, who does the task of filling in for gau. He’s great, useful, and has a great story arc when you meet him which merges as part of Orobo/Shadow’s own character arc. Where you may think you know a boss is coming up, there might be something completely different, or you may find yourself in a boss fight you didn’t expect!

I will say though, not all of the cast are original, you have Professor Oak from Pokemon as Cid, Cloud and Tifa as locke and Celes’ stand-ins, and a couple cast members from FF4 and FF9 rounding out the crew. Some can argue easily that they were stand-ins until new characters were created, and they just worked out and were left in, and you can argue using characters from other games for the cast turn this into glorified fanfiction. One of the files included when you download this hack has random notes regarding the development, and how and why Oak, Cloud and others are still here. It turn off some players easily, for me, I kinda like it. Takes getting used to, but they were incorporated seamlessly it doesn’t feel like they were phoned in. In fact with Tifa and Cloud as Celes and locke, you may run into a Sephiroth and Aeris cameo as part of their backstory. You’ll also find some enemies from other source material such as other rpgs, tv shows, and anime too.

GRAPHICS AND MUSIC: oh man where to start with the graphics between the portraits, enemies and sprite work! The sprite work is very well done! Base sprites being from FF6 and other Square games were well adapted to the nature of this hack. Even the ones for the dev team! Artwork is quite well done too, even if some of it looks a bit cartoony (was that the point?). Some enemies are from other games and forms of media and they’re adapted quite well. The artwork for the character portraits has a simple yet fun style to them, I was amused by all the various portraits for the Moogles during the fight against the Prennies in the beginning. Enemy artwork is well done and not overpowering to the sprite work of the heroes for new and older bosses in vanilla.

And the soundtrack…WOW! All the music for both soundtracks were pulled carefully from a variety of sources, either other video games, movies and more. As you travel, you may recognize a track or two from other Final Fantasy games, Lufia, Zelda and more! A certain member of your party has a great theme from a famous movie series starring Johnny Depp too (which when I first heard it i lost it). All the music during battles, traveling and cutscenes is appropriate for those actions, so you won’t find any cutesy music during a tragic cutscene or something upbeat when traveling inside a dark and spooky haunted train.

PLAY CONTROL: Play control is the same as FF6. Blitz attacks are slightly different but inputted the same as in vanilla.

CHALLENGE: This hack will test your patience, sometimes in a good way, sometimes in a bad way. At the start you have a choice to play on normal difficulty as well as 3 higher difficulty settings. Many enemies and bosses you can just spam attacks, but there’s many newer enemies added to this hack, that will destroy you if you try it. Think of them as a puzzle, you need to learn when to attack, when to buff or debuff, and so on. Some parts of the World of Ruin could be aggravating.

As stated, the challenge even on the normal difficulty later in the game can be off-putting. Though many of the bosses added to this have a puzzle element to them: you may die a few times to learn what to do and what not to do, but you’ll overcome them eventually. The other thing regarding some of the cast being from other games can turn some players away from this hack too. I honestly wish there was a way to skip the dev team introductions in the very beginning before the game’s introduction itself, or speed them up some with faster text scrolling.

I GIVE RETURN OF THE DARK SORCERER 4.5 OUT OF 5 ESPERS!!

GAMEPLAY VIDEO:

LINKS:
https://rotds.webs.com/
https://www.romhacking.net/hacks/2207/

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