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.
New Challenger has arrived for battle... the Ybox 63 X... The upper body is just basically a Sega Saturn controller, for anyone who remembers what that looks like lol. You'll fight these at the local high school area.
Finally got enemies on the map lol. Thankfully I used ones I didn't really need to draw moving sprites for since that's what the issue is with them. I know for some I'll have to draw dash and/or run cycles.
came across an action sequence editor you can use during play-testing for MZ... I'd be in big business if I had that for MV lol. at least an editor exists, but none of my custom motions would work with it.
characters now have specific motions for each mood they're in. Both Mike and Ray are in a hype state so their idle animation changes. I wish I could post in a thread how I did this but it's too old and I don't wanna necro lol. but I figured out something someone was struggling with.
everything is FINALLY ready I think cosmetically in battle. Even finally managed to figure out custom gauges for enemies, as well as putting the panic gauge somewhere out of the player's way so to speak.