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[hack] SF2 - RETURN TO GRANS

Rebalanced classes, higher difficulty, visual improvements, better story

Discussion about this classic Genesis/Mega Drive game.

[hack] SF2 - RETURN TO GRANS

Postby greyskies » Tue Mar 08 2016 5:23am

Shining Force 2 has been one of the defining games of my childhood, and from the moment when I first stumbled upon the Caravan and the SF2 Editor I was obsessed with creating a hack that would bring the game closer to my vision of how it should have always been. I started working on this thing sometime in 2011, and would continue to tinker with it every other year, after having one of my regular cravings for tactical RPGs.

I finally think that this hack has reached a state which I would consider more or less finished, and so I figured I'd make it available for download for anyone who feels it has been far too long since their last Return to Grans. ;)



IN A NUTSHELL

Return to Grans is a more challenging version of the original game, which also features a better narrative as well as improved visuals.

- Dialogues in the game have been vastly reworked - about 40% of all text passages have been altered, replacing the oftentimes bland writing of the original.
- Many of the less appealing graphics in vanilla SF2 have been improved/replaced, such as the battle sprites of the Vicars or the Archers.
- Difficulty and balance have been reworked by tweaking enemies' stats, skills and numbers on the battlefield. Battles will mostly appear familiar due to mostly the same enemies and setups, but will often play out quite differently thanks to new abilities, magic spells and surprises.

Gameplay-wise, the hack will require you to play more tactical; careful positioning and a well-thought-out composition of your party are far more important than in the original game.


This hack comes in two flavors:

SF2 - Return to Grans is the complete version, as described above.

SF2 - Retold features only the improved dialogues and visuals, while the gameplay remains untouched, i.e. you will be playing original Shining Force 2 with all its flaws, but it will look prettier.

I am also in the process of uploading my most recent playthrough on Youtube.



QUICK OVERVIEW

If you are interested in a more detailed overview of the changes, I have compiled an extensive pdf-guide on the hack, which can be found among the links below.

WARNING: SPOILER!



SCREENSHOTS

WARNING: SPOILER!




DOWNLOAD LINKS

Download SF2 - RETURN TO GRANS
the complete hack (.ips file)
latest version: 1.024

Download SF2 - RETOLD
Improved story & art, original gameplay (.ips file)
latest version: 1.024

View the GUIDE
it's fancy with colors and stuff (.pdf file)
latest version: 1.3


Version changes:

WARNING: SPOILER!



INSTALLATION GUIDE

WARNING: SPOILER!




If you have any problems with downloading, or encounter any bugs while playing, please send me a PM.
I hope you enjoy playing!

~greyskies
Last edited by greyskies on Tue Jul 18 2017 9:43am, edited 28 times in total.
.
Check out Return to Grans - A Shining Force II hack which features a completely
reworked story, numerous visual improvements, and tons of balance changes.

Also available as storymode hack only.
.
Check out Return to Grans - A Shining Force II hack which features a completely
reworked story, numerous visual improvements, and tons of balance changes.

Also available as storymode hack only.
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Re: (hack) SF2 - RETURN TO GRANS

Postby Shining Hopeful » Tue Mar 08 2016 3:38pm

Hello, why is the game file so small ? The story one is 1.3MB but the hack is 1.4K.

I don't see how that can be right ?

Other than that question this sounds very exciting, sorry to start with a quibble.
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Re: (hack) SF2 - RETURN TO GRANS

Postby greyskies » Tue Mar 08 2016 4:22pm

Hey there,
no problem at all.

The file is so small because it's not a full ROM, but rather a patch.

Offering the complete ROM for download would violate the forum rules, so what you'll have to do is get the ROM elsewhere (which is, to the best of my knowledge, not illegal as long as you own the original game) and download the hack/patch here.
Afterwards you'll have to use an IPS patcher to merge them both together, so to speak.

I'll have to admit that I am a bit uncertain on whether any version of the ROM available will work with the patch I am offering for download, so if there's any questions in this regard, just contact me.


And just so there's no confusion, the "story hack" (SF2 - Retold) and the "full hack" (SF2 - Return to Grans) are both standalone patches, so to say.
SF2 - Return to Grans is the full version;
SF2 - Retold is only the dialogue changes, for those who want the revamped story, but no tougher battles and fancier graphics.
.
Check out Return to Grans - A Shining Force II hack which features a completely
reworked story, numerous visual improvements, and tons of balance changes.

Also available as storymode hack only.
.
Check out Return to Grans - A Shining Force II hack which features a completely
reworked story, numerous visual improvements, and tons of balance changes.

Also available as storymode hack only.
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Re: (hack) SF2 - RETURN TO GRANS

Postby DiegoMM » Tue Mar 08 2016 11:30pm

Very interesting!
I like some or recolors and new sprites.
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Re: (hack) SF2 - RETURN TO GRANS

Postby Shining Hopeful » Wed Mar 09 2016 4:53pm

No,no, I get it's a patch. I know all the rules on ROMs, and agree with them.

But I don't get how a patch that is 1.4 kb has that many changes, yet the story mode is 1.3MB.

A patch of 1.4 Kb would change almost nothing, are you sure you've got it right ?
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Re: (hack) SF2 - RETURN TO GRANS

Postby Wiz » Wed Mar 09 2016 6:28pm

Clearly, there's an incredible amount of passion in this work. :shock:

Thank you so much for this ! :damnit:

I won't have enough free time to play it all through the end at the moment, but I'll definitely give it a try. :)µ


EDIT :
The Retold patch seems to work like a charm.
But I'm afraid the Return to Grans patch is incomplete : the patched ROM is only 2MB with no script changes and no graphical changes, at the least.
From what I can see into the patch, it only changes :
- Parts of the Item Definitions (1 modification from 0x171FE to 0x17203)
- Spell Definitions (3 modifications from 0x17897 to 0x178A7)
- Pointers to Character stats pointer table and starting data (0x1EE008, 0x1EE00C)
- Character stats pointers (from 0x1EE28B to 0x1EE2E7)
- And actual stats (0x1EE45B to 0x1EE94B)
Hope this helps !
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Re: (hack) SF2 - RETURN TO GRANS

Postby greyskies » Thu Mar 10 2016 8:13am

Oh, I'm sorry, I completely misunderstood the problem (and truth be told, I have no idea how it occurred). I have uploaded an updated version, so I hope all is good now. Thanks a lot for notifying me of this error, Shining Hopeful and Wiz!

Wiz wrote:I won't have enough free time to play it all through the end at the moment, but I'll definitely give it a try. :)µ

When you do, I'd be happy if you could provide feedback, in particular on the difficulty in the second half of the game. I feel it's always a fine line between challenge and frustration, and I hope I managed to get it right :)
.
Check out Return to Grans - A Shining Force II hack which features a completely
reworked story, numerous visual improvements, and tons of balance changes.

Also available as storymode hack only.
.
Check out Return to Grans - A Shining Force II hack which features a completely
reworked story, numerous visual improvements, and tons of balance changes.

Also available as storymode hack only.
greyskies

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Re: (hack) SF2 - RETURN TO GRANS

Postby Shining Hopeful » Thu Mar 10 2016 3:47pm

Glad to help. And on the question of balancing difficulty, I really do get it. I did a hack of Shining Force (Enemies of Greater Intent, plug, plug) and the longest thing by far was play-testing it for difficulty. And my hack did not involve a new story at all; can't imagine what you suffered!

How that the new patch is up I will download it and have a go at some point.
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Re: (hack) SF2 - RETURN TO GRANS

Postby Wiz » Thu Mar 10 2016 9:39pm

Just some quick feedback :

It works on real hardware, woohoo ! :)

There's something wrong with the 2nd and 4th intro cutscenes, with the king : the castle map is all black and the guard walks up invisible stairs :excited:
But the storm light effect works, so the map is properly loaded. Could it be a palette problem ?
Oddly enough, the Retold hack also has this tiny bug.
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Re: (hack) SF2 - RETURN TO GRANS

Postby Stordarth » Fri Mar 11 2016 3:50am

Wiz wrote:Just some quick feedback :

It works on real hardware, woohoo ! :)

There's something wrong with the 2nd and 4th intro cutscenes, with the king : the castle map is all black and the guard walks up invisible stairs :excited:
But the storm light effect works, so the map is properly loaded. Could it be a palette problem ?
Oddly enough, the Retold hack also has this tiny bug.


Definitely sounds like it. Ran into that issue before. Should simply be a case of editing the default palette back in.
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Re: (hack) SF2 - RETURN TO GRANS

Postby greyskies » Fri Mar 11 2016 10:52am

Shining Hopeful wrote:Glad to help. And on the question of balancing difficulty, I really do get it. I did a hack of Shining Force (Enemies of Greater Intent, plug, plug) and the longest thing by far was play-testing it for difficulty. And my hack did not involve a new story at all; can't imagine what you suffered!

How that the new patch is up I will download it and have a go at some point.


Oh, now I feel really stupid for giving the newbie explanation after I misunderstood your first comment :)
Tell you what, I'm on vacation in Japan in a few weeks, and I'll be in for a 12 hours flight. Sounds like the perfect opportunity to marathon a SF hack ;)

Yeah, at times it was cumbersome with all the text changes, in particular because if you expand them beyond their intended length, there's a chance that cutscenes dialogue gets messed up... and there's still a few very minor issues with the formatting, but at some point I just decided that I'd rather live with it than risk messing up the hack...


Wiz wrote:There's something wrong with the 2nd and 4th intro cutscenes, with the king : the castle map is all black and the guard walks up invisible stairs :excited:


... which seems happened at some point anyway - thanks for notifying me of the bug with the intro, Wiz! Changing it was literally one of the last things I did, and frankly, I wondered whether anyone would actually watch it :)
.
Check out Return to Grans - A Shining Force II hack which features a completely
reworked story, numerous visual improvements, and tons of balance changes.

Also available as storymode hack only.
.
Check out Return to Grans - A Shining Force II hack which features a completely
reworked story, numerous visual improvements, and tons of balance changes.

Also available as storymode hack only.
greyskies

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Re: (hack) SF2 - RETURN TO GRANS

Postby ch4zzyklon » Fri Aug 12 2016 8:13pm

Hey man, I'm probably a little bit late, but I have a question. Did you change the ending? I want to know how this unfolds before downloading the patch. Does Sarah end up with Bowie or something?

Thanks beforehand!
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Re: (hack) SF2 - RETURN TO GRANS

Postby igable » Mon Aug 22 2016 3:44am

I will have to try this. I was reading the PDF you made. I have two questions, does Bowie still learn Bolt 4? Also I read you changed some stats. One being Bowie, how much lower did you make his DEF? I mean can he be 2HKO now by the late creatures? Or just don't leave him alone to take on like 3 guys?
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Re: (hack) SF2 - RETURN TO GRANS

Postby Sniper Lyle » Tue Aug 23 2016 9:57pm

For me the story/writing in SF2 is really dull and probably the biggest obstacle to playing new hacks of the game, so I'm interested in seeing what you've done with it here.
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Re: (hack) SF2 - RETURN TO GRANS

Postby greyskies » Thu Oct 06 2016 1:13pm

Hey guys, sorry for the late answer. It's been a while since I've checked the forum :)

ch4zzyklon wrote:Hey man, I'm probably a little bit late, but I have a question. Did you change the ending? I want to know how this unfolds before downloading the patch. Does Sarah end up with Bowie or something?


It depends on your definition of "change". The ending is one of the more heavily edited things in this hack, but by this I mean that a lot of the dialogue has changed. So, no, (spoiler alert) it's still BowiexElis. What you can expect when playing this hack is that this romance does no longer feel forced (at least not to the extent of vanilla SF2).


igable wrote:I will have to try this. I was reading the PDF you made. I have two questions, does Bowie still learn Bolt 4? Also I read you changed some stats. One being Bowie, how much lower did you make his DEF? I mean can he be 2HKO now by the late creatures? Or just don't leave him alone to take on like 3 guys?


It's been a while since I finished this project, so I'll have to admit that I can't answer you with 100% confidence, but I believe this to be true:
Bowie will still learn Bolt 4, albeit close to his maximum level (which he will reach more easily). I can't really say how high his Defense will be, but it's probably about en par with PLDNs. I don't think that 2HKOs are likely, but probably possible, if it's two particularly powerful enemies. Then again, you mustn't forget that this hack also makes the game more difficult. Long story short: compared to the rest of the force, Bowie is still relatively sturdy, but he's no longer a tank.


Sniper Lyle wrote:For me the story/writing in SF2 is really dull and probably the biggest obstacle to playing new hacks of the game, so I'm interested in seeing what you've done with it here.


Let me know if you've enjoyed it :)
.
Check out Return to Grans - A Shining Force II hack which features a completely
reworked story, numerous visual improvements, and tons of balance changes.

Also available as storymode hack only.
.
Check out Return to Grans - A Shining Force II hack which features a completely
reworked story, numerous visual improvements, and tons of balance changes.

Also available as storymode hack only.
greyskies

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Re: (hack) SF2 - RETURN TO GRANS

Postby DiegoMM » Sat Nov 12 2016 7:54pm

Today I started a playtrhough of your hack and its amazing. :excited: :excited: :excited:

Very fun!

You put a lot of efforts in it and I apreciate discovering all the littles details you changed.

I like the new color of Astral portrait, the little jokes as in the soapy water part or the references from lord of the rings and game of thrones.

All the texts are really well written, you did magic to create a more immersive experience with so little space to work on.

Im playing in super and loving the difficult. I was surprised to see slade being useful in his first battle.

Congratulations for the wonderful work.
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Re: (hack) SF2 - RETURN TO GRANS

Postby greyskies » Mon Nov 14 2016 9:15am

Hi DiegoMM, thanks a lot for your kind words! I'm very happy to hear that you're enjoying my hack.

I hope your journey remains challenging and interesting, and I'd appreciate your feedback on the balancing :)
.
Check out Return to Grans - A Shining Force II hack which features a completely
reworked story, numerous visual improvements, and tons of balance changes.

Also available as storymode hack only.
.
Check out Return to Grans - A Shining Force II hack which features a completely
reworked story, numerous visual improvements, and tons of balance changes.

Also available as storymode hack only.
greyskies

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Re: (hack) SF2 - RETURN TO GRANS

Postby Flaming Manakin » Sat Dec 03 2016 2:20pm

I don't post here much at all any more, but just wanted to write to say thanks for this. The tweaks you've made to the original game are many of the same ones I also feel I would have made. Not started playing yet but really looking forwards to it!
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Re: (hack) SF2 - RETURN TO GRANS

Postby DiegoMM » Sun Dec 04 2016 1:34am

Im in moun battle now.

Playing in super was a mistake, every enemy is overoverpowered, but I know that is not mean to be in this dificult. When lesser demons started to show up, they could kill anyone with 1 attack, the same for the cerberus now. So, for not overgrind I decided to cheat, so I boosted the protect ring and gave one for every member lol

Im still enjoying all the changes, I see the game is very balanced (if was not my dificult choice) and the dialogue is superb ( I laugh with the luke joke in pacalon). The graphics change is very good too, it encourages me to use vicars, clerics, pegasus knight and berserker.

I dont know if it was fault of the super dificult but I think all the paladins are too weak, they barely can do damage to enemies that others force members can kill in the same level.

I noticed a little mistake in karna cleric walking sprite when she is in left/right position.

If I found something new Ill post
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Re: (hack) SF2 - RETURN TO GRANS

Postby greyskies » Sun Dec 04 2016 12:44pm

Playing in super was a mistake, every enemy is overoverpowered, but I know that is not mean to be in this dificult. When lesser demons started to show up, they could kill anyone with 1 attack, the same for the cerberus now. So, for not overgrind I decided to cheat, so I boosted the protect ring and gave one for every member lol

Yeah... the 25% attack boost makes super really uncomfortably difficult. If I knew how to do it, I would have reduced the boost to 10% or something. As it stands, I could only issue a warning :)


Im still enjoying all the changes, I see the game is very balanced (if was not my dificult choice) and the dialogue is superb ( I laugh with the luke joke in pacalon). The graphics change is very good too, it encourages me to use vicars, clerics, pegasus knight and berserker.

Thanks a lot! I put a lot of effort into the dialogue in particular.


DiegoMM wrote:I dont know if it was fault of the super dificult but I think all the paladins are too weak, they barely can do damage to enemies that others force members can kill in the same level.

Are you using Rick or Eric? Because I believe that I didn't really nerf the Paladins in general, but I normalized their attack around Chester's level (and if I recall correctly, he is noticeably inferior to the other centaurs in vanilla). They should however be slightly tougher and have a larger HP than in the original game, as I intended them to be used as light tanks (not as tough as Barons and Berserkers, but more agile).


DiegoMM wrote:I noticed a little mistake in karna cleric walking sprite when she is in left/right position.

I'll look into that! Thanks!


Flaming Manakin wrote:I don't post here much at all any more, but just wanted to write to say thanks for this. The tweaks you've made to the original game are many of the same ones I also feel I would have made. Not started playing yet but really looking forwards to it!

Thanks, I hope you'll enjoy it!
.
Check out Return to Grans - A Shining Force II hack which features a completely
reworked story, numerous visual improvements, and tons of balance changes.

Also available as storymode hack only.
.
Check out Return to Grans - A Shining Force II hack which features a completely
reworked story, numerous visual improvements, and tons of balance changes.

Also available as storymode hack only.
greyskies

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