Memes and other goofy aspects, forcing certain playstyles (forcing LTC with things to force you to push ahead at their pace, enemy composition that forces you to field certain units to deal with them, etc.), a focus on learning skills by level up in classes in the Skill System (would rather everyone have a unique combination of skills at base instead).
Make units feel unique instead of stat packs and classes, let the player be creative and have fun however they want, and, it doesn’t need to be grimdark and hard-line serious, but the goofiness needs to have a time and a place (comedy and tragedy are both classic aspects of storytelling, so they’re both fine to have in moderation and at appropriate times). (There is probably a way to structure a hack like a comedic play where it could be more heavily favored in that direction as opposed to something a bit more serious, but I’m having trouble thinking of a scenario that would fit to allow tight, coordinated comedy (less memes, more scripted) while still making the war and battle aspect that primarily goes along with the gameplay work. If it worked out, it would be a good fit for having a project that would certainly be different from most - see below.)
Different types of stories - we’ve done the generic FE formula enough. Come up with a theme and drive the story off of that.
Make a story about the hardships of a knight in service to their liege or one that has to weigh the responsibilities of leading soldiers in battle and the delegations of duties and tasks to them with the outcomes of those battles. Make a story about an adventurer merchant that buys, sells, and steals weapons and treasures to grow their business. Make a story about a con man that impersonates a famous noble or soldier and what that entails.
There are plenty of non-standard tales to be told that can incorporate FE mechanics and gameplay. Bonus points for ensemble storytelling where one central character isn’t the driving force and anyone can die or have things happen to them at any time.
Don’t get me wrong, projects like these are out there, but it seems like the vast majority always want to make something like what we’ve already got plenty of (which, if done well, these can be fine, especially since FE often leaves plenty of things on the table that could have been done better).
Heck, if you really want to make a story focusing on a noble but you have a (more) unique angle, more power to you! Two of the hacks that I wish would have been able to be completed (Exalted Legacy and Eternal Bond) both took political / rulership / succession angles with the focus on nobility, exploring it in ways FE never really bothered to do in depth (the burdens of rule, family and succession conflict, etc.), as it is often more focused on the “power fantasy” and “growth to a leader” aspects.
Also, overhauls to the weapons in the game. Change up what spell animations go where and what the spells do (hypothetically, for example: turn Bolting into a Range 2-3, A Rank Anima spell with 30 Crit but 65 Hit, 15 Might, and Armor Effectiveness). New weapons and implementations of abilities - no need to stick to exactly what the GBA games have as default.
Leaning towards no, because it makes it feel fanfiction-y. (Not that there’s something wrong with fanfiction in general, but it feels less authentic to me personally. It makes it easier, since you have a pre-made base to work off of, sure, and it’s always fun to think up your own stories, ‘What If’ takes, etc. based on things you love, but I’d rather enjoy something brand new.)
If you’re making up most elements anyway and you’re not really drawing from established places, connections, etc., then it seems like you could do away with the connection to that existing lore relatively easily or at least come up with your own spin / analogue / expy on it.
Again, dipping in to established lore to base a project on can be done well enough to warrant a yes, provided it clearly stands head and shoulders above the bar (Elibean Nights for its interesting Tale setup, FE7x for Myke’s superb writing, etc. - granted, these both directly do contain characters and locations from the canon games, but they’re two good examples that, conceptually, it can work). (Even Extinguished Blade at FEE3 a few years ago took me by surprise with its presentation, graphics, and alternate Elibe setting and what was covered in the demo plot-wise.)
For the aspects:
- Writing / Dialogue
- Map/Level design
- Combat & Balance/Progression
- Character intrigue
FE via hacks is mostly the same simple type of gameplay unless you’re a “wizard” that is pumping out tons of hand-crafted custom code and I have many things that I have grown bored of/with when it comes to gameplay that I’d love to see evolved in in ways beyond the GBA engine (or even SRPG Studio, Lex Talionis, or FEXNA), so it takes a back seat for me to what story you want to tell, the worldbuilding, and the characters. I don’t see FE as chess with characters, plugging in whoever gets the objective completed, I see it as a story with “real” (-feeling) people that features combat with those characters. I want to use certain characters for a run and not be “forced” into needing to use someone specific just to get an optimal one turn KO on a unit that would otherwise smash me on the Enemy Phase. I want to see how characters react to things or how dialogue changes when a unit fell in battle (a la Path of Radiance). (You should still have Pre-promotes or other “safety” recruits during the story, just in case, even though you would expect someone to have played a game in the series before playing a hack and they’ll more likely than not reset before losing a unit, especially if they want to use that character the whole way through.)
Gameplay is still important though, and if it isn’t fun or captivating, it’s hard to stick around for the story, even if it’s stellar. Animations and music are supplementary for me, if only because if you want a wholly original product, they require creation, which either means subpar graphics/tracks if you aren’t good at making them, using community available items which runs the risk of some things being too commonly used and shared between projects, finding others to collaborate with that can do them, or hiring/commissioning them, which requires funds and is a hard ask/demand to require from a creator making a non-commercial project.