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Laith

FF9: Alternate Fantasy intermittent playthrough (kinda, just bosses)

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So, this is a mod that was made by Tirlititi on FF9, called Alternate Fantasy (he did post about it in ID at some point, and is also in RHDN and Qhimm. I think he hasn't updated in a while, but might do so in the near future? It'd be nice if he posted about it here as well, perhaps). It's a mod made for both Steam and PS1 versions (with the only perk of being able to recruit Beatrix permanently in the Steam version), and features a lot of changes. The only other two people I know from here that have tried it are @Kjata and @Hart-Hunt.

I've been playing intermittently, and I'm mostly trying to tackle it at the lowest level I can. I don't really have a way to organize time for a stream, so I settled for boss fights, where I show what I'm using before the battle (or after, depending), and I'll take this chance to excuse myself for the poor quality of the recordings. :P I've recently come to a stop because I feel I WILL have to grind to be able to fight Hilgigars...

You may have noticed I used the gil booster at some point to be able to acquire the equipment I wanted/needed. I simply decided I wouldn't be bothered by grinding in two of the ways I knew wouldn't affect my party's lvl: chocobo hot & cold till death, or soloing monsters outside of Treno with Marcus (having Dagger and Steiner dead so they won't acquire any exp, although I'm not sure if the Marcus/Eiko thing is still there, and I'd rather not affect Eiko that way). So I feel fine being a cheater in this case, considering I'm only after the strategy for the boss fights in a borderline-lowest-level-possible kind of playthrough.

ANYWAY, here it is.

 

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Like Laith said, I've played it. While I like a lot of the changes to the party, I don't like the mod. It's barely more difficult than vanilla, I got past Cleyra without ever once dying, or even feeling like I was in danger of it. I don't have anything negative to say about the design choices, because I actually quite liked most of them. It just wasn't a mod made for me.

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I have similar feelings, but they're a bit more negative, yet constructive the same. The changes that were done were good and refreshing, but for the mod to feel like a complete experience worth playing (especially on a pretty long game like IX), then more and radical changes should be done to the enemies / bosses / equipment / skillsets (which is the main scope of the mod, a reimagine / rebalance of the original). In general, I felt like I was playing the same game, except for some ocassional moments, and I wish those moments weren't so ocasional.

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The way I see it, I suppose I agree to some extent, if not fully, with both of you. Considering that all the mods of FF9 I've seen retain the very same feeling of playing the same game, even though they're mods (talking pretty much about both Unleashed and Alternate Fantasy), and I would think a more polished product could come out from trying to work out the best aspects of each of the mods' philosophy (reworking the effects of skills and characters' skillsets for the sake of balance, tweaking stats, and increasing difficulty from there).

I'm liking it so far precisely because of the changes, but to work this pseudo LLG out, I've pretty much applied the same strategies for a regular vanilla LLG, which... makes it feel samey. The mod wasn't geared toward difficulty either, and it doesn't have to be so that it's enjoyable, but personally I think it would be nice.

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The problem is, FF9 is a shit game to mod. The damage scales like crazy, the enemies have a random attack pattern, and you have a forced party for like 75% of the game. I have ideas for how to make it better, but I don't know how easy it would be to implement them.

A quick list of what I would like to do:

  1. Freya gets cure from the time you get her.
  2. Change the damage of the base Black Magic spells, as well as their availability. As it stands, Vivi is the king of dps up until Lindblum, at which point his magic does low damage, costs a resource, and he fucking dies to an angry look. Then once you get Blizzara from Gizamaluke he is the main damage dealer for more or less the rest of the game. So he starts with fire, gets thunder in Lindblum which is a lot stronger, than gets Blizzard from Gizamaluke. I'm not entirely sure what to do with his later spells, but whatever.
  3. Eiko and Dagger need to be differentiated somehow. They both have white magic, and the both have good damage. They also have the same equips. I get that a white mage is borderline required, but despite their differences they are still way too similar. I don't have a good idea for separating them, but I could come up with something.
  4. The "Immune to X Status" abilities need to be moved to the late game.
  5. The equipment availability and stats need to be reworked so the game isn't "one character does all of the damage while the other sit around and chuck potions and phoenix downs."
  6. Quina needs to get abilities that are relevant when you get them. Both mods mentioned (Alternate Fantasy and Unleashed) are bad about this, giving you abilities that cost way to much or are otherwise useless at the time.
  7. Bosses need more health and/or minions. This is one thing I feel is probably trick from a technical standpoint, but against a single enemy status effects are either useless or over powered. If Beatrix had 2 soldiers, or Gizamaluke had 2 crabs, casting spells that cause status would be useful without wining the fight instantly.
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Eiko could probably still be a summoner (so it actually goes with the story), and try to accomodate her white magic skillset to be more like a time magic skillset? I mean, there's only Haste, Slow... maybe a Hastega or Slowga if it's possible? And to actually put Slow in there and not be part of Vivi's command... Or she could keep her white magic and have her summons go with effects of time magic-ish spells (like Carbuncle casting Reflect, but with the other summons).

It's kinda late and I can't really elaborate much right now, but I realize that I don't even know how feasible this is.

From what I gathered, I take it you want to make sure characters have a little more "orientation" within the preset roles they have (Zidane being a thief, Freya being a dragoon, etc.), with what you mentioned with the stats, and also maybe make more equipment exclusive to certain characters? I agree with what you said about Quina, I didn't even think about the immunity abilities but I can also see that, and of course giving minions to bosses. Hell, I'd even like to see the fights against the other guardians with their respective couple of characters, as opposed to just the Earth Guardian, trying to make sure they're not repetitive for the later counterparts, but fun enough to attempt with just 2 characters each.

I haven't actually sat down to think about this, because I'm nowhere near modding a game, but if I ever do it, I'd like to think I'd start with this one. Given the kind of hell it is to mod, though, I might regret those words.

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I was thinking Dagger could be more like the Oracle from FFT. Or something like that, I'd have to actually see what I could do before i could get a real idea. But since Dagger is the "summoner" and Eiko is the "White Mage" it would be weird to mix that up.

And no, I don't want the characters to fulfill their typical FF roles. Zidane shouldn't just be a thief, he should be a sort of "Jack-of-All, Master of All." Considering he is forced into your party for the vast majority of the game, I don't see him being the second best at everything. Especially with steal being such a prominent mechanic, having Zidane steal should mean giving something up. Give him great damage, great support, and be the thief.

Freya would be sort of the "third white mage." She wouldn't be as good at it, because she can actually kill things, but if you don't want to use Dagger or Eiko you can use her. She would also make a good secondary healer. 

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I can see Freya having a somewhat decent support game, and it could fit a little bit of a "holy dragoon" theme, much like Beatrix's role as a "paladin".

I dunno about Zidane, though. True, you're pretty much forced to play with him at all times (you do get to not play with him on Unleashed if you wish to do so, by the endgame in Memoria, which I don't think is possible before that. Not sure if it's possible on Alternate Fantasy as well, probably not.), but giving him both good damage and good support is probably too much, but that would also depend on how the difficulty of this hypothetic mod turns out, I think. I'm just thinking that, while you're usually stuck with him, he's usually accompanied by other support characters (going by your Freya idea, she'd be the support in the Gizamaluke/Burmecia/Cleyra section, for example), and him being good at everything might trivialize the others' roles (again, I think that might depend on how this idea turns out as a whole). I do agree on him at least having good damage, which he already does in vanilla... and since he's got speed, he can be quite the dps, but it's not that important considering how easy the game is overall.

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