Gotta Love Them Romhacks?

Over the past few days, I’ve watched my pal Metasigma play through a Final Fantasy VI rom hack. Pony Fantasy VI, while it sounds like the sixth installment of a bestiality pornography series, is actually a rom hack of FFVI that turns the game into a My Little Pony: Friendship is Magic-themed story. There are various balance changes besides the cosmetic/script changes–Luna, the Pony-formerly-known-as-Sabin, is pretty much completely overpowered thanks to being handed Air Blade/Kamikaze right away. Failing slots can also be a good thing, as you now recover obscene amounts of HP from Lagomorph/Best Pet. And so on.

But this is not a rant against My Little Pony in general (I have no strong feelings on it one way or another, and am probably the last person on the planet who can say that. If you were to take this picture and swap out the appropriate characters and words, I think I’m closer to the first panel in my philosophy RE: My Little Pony [Henceforth abbreviated “MLP”]. Amusingly, even though he’s the one playing the game, MetaSigma falls much closer to the second panel [Although I have no idea what he’d be force-feeding MLP fans. G.I. Joe maybe?]). It’s really not even a rant against this specific rom hack (A major MLP fan in Meta’s even acknowledged that what he had seen to that point was terrible).

This is, rather, a post about rom hacks, and more specifically, about rom hacks that change the story. Balance changes and the like are fine, but I have to admit I don’t see the point of taking a beloved game such as Final Fantasy VI and changing the plot around. Aside from my other issues with the hack (“WHY ARE THEY ANTHROPOMORPHIC?!?” was something I repeatedly asked the chat…while I don’t know much about MLP, I’m pretty sure that outside of talking, their mannerisms are more like proper ponies than humans-with-pony-heads), the issue you’ll always run into with a hack like this is people not being able to get the original game out of their heads. As an example (Spoilers for the hack incoming; FF6 is like 20 years old now so if you haven’t played it by now, too bad for you), near the end of the Floating Continent, Fluttershy, the Pony-formerly-known-as-Shadow, joins you and says something to the effect of “Thanks for waiting for me! I’m glad I won’t be left alone on this big scary island as it crashes into the ground!” I thought this was actually kind of cute, knowing nothing about the MLP characters. Someone else in the chat responded with “But Shadow isn’t cute.” And this, to me, was a perfectly legitimate reaction. I was capable of thinking of “Fluttershy” as their own character, but the person in the chat couldn’t divorce the hack from its source material, and I can’t blame them.

I suppose my first question would be “Have you ever seen a romhack that overhauls the plot of a game to something almost entirely different?” And the second question would be “If you have, were you able to accept it as its own product? Or did you find yourself unable to get the source material out of your head?”



    • James Dziezynski on June 6, 2012 at 4:04 pm

    Besides the somewhat bizarre trend of bronies, wouldn’t you think that ROM hacks are simply a way to dig into the guts of a game and figure out how to manipulate the reality that the game imposes? I’ll be the first to admit one of the things I like about classic gaming is the linear nature that is absent in modern games that offer an ever-expanding “universe”. That’s probably why I’ve yet to play through any hacks. I tried Zelda Outlands but it wasn’t all that fun. And to adopt a stance from the world of writing, life is too short for bad books… or video games.

    Back on point, I think any hack needs to be treated as the clever adaptation it is without being too worried about “canon”. Heck, if it wasn’t for hacks we wouldn’t have had Ms. Pac Man :)

    • emptyeye on June 10, 2012 at 7:08 pm

    Interestingly, I’m not generally a fan of being “railroaded” in a game. And some of those early RPGs aren’t as linear as you think–Final Fantasy, for instance, lets you beat Tiamat second and Kary last in one sequence, and the class upgrade quest is one of the codifiers of the RPG sidequest (Saving the princess in Dragon Warrior is probably the true earliest example in the console world). And Phantasy Star II? Yeah, on a macro level, there are three pretty distinct acts (Act I: Up to Climatrol, Act II: The Control Tower, Dams, and Gaira, Act III: Dezo), but there’s a lot of freedom in how you tackle Acts II and III in particular.

    As for hacks in general, like you, I don’t think I’ve ever actually played a hack through completion–the furthest I ever got in one was a couple levels in Mega Crap about 10 years back. Yeah.

    I do think the hack I mentioned in this post initially may have been better served had the story been transplanted into its own original game, done in something like RPG Maker. But then it may not have ever gotten any notoriety. Who knows.

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