I used to think rpg's were kind of lazy when they recolored enemies or didn't animate them with a million poses. Though after dabbling with game dev I can see that it's a lot more realistic to work like that.
Going back and looking at the original battler sprites - and wondering why I felt the need to try and change things when they looked fine already, the only thing that needed fixing was the map tiles. It's apparent I lack discipline or self-control.
I don't know if it's a mentality thing. But sometimes when I leave the project for a few days, and then come back - you suddenly know how to fix/balance things when you haven't been looking into them for a bit.
welp, thanks to Luna MV, I was able to add the Balloon as a window... thus allowing me to edit the font color and outline... so now it looks like comic bubbles above characters. I have NO idea why I couldn't get this to work through more conventional means, but here we are.