One thing you could try, in order to make the walking animations more exagerated, is to make bopping of the body up and down for the side-view walking animations. For example if they have normal tallness when standing still, you can draw the bodies one pixel shorter when taking a step, and at the same time make the feet a bit more apart.
Yeah, that was something captured in the reference sprites I followed most, but I was having too hard of a time trying to draw in such a small space without scraping off 1/16 of my canvas.
Also, I'm leaning toward emulating the Dragon Warrior style of having NPCs constantly animate, even when they are just standing there. If I pursue that kind of style, it would look better if they didn't actually bob up and down.
Yeah I thought about that too, a still-standing character that is bopping up and down might look like he is walking in place. I do like the DW style is better than FF style (no animation when not moving) since it's more interesting when all characters are always moving (like in old cartoons
where everyone seems to be dancing to the music at all times). I guess you can try out various things and decide what looks best when you set up the animation. I always do my characters like that in RPG Maker.
I was going to say, lower set eyes and more visible scalp, due to perspective, could improve them too. You seemed to have addressed both as well.
Yes; I've been seeing that in a few examples, like in what Alp and DragonDePlatino have done. When I get around to it I certainly want to try making my characters look like that.
I think more scalp is nice, especially since you are not using the space around the mouth anyway. The perspective doesn't necessarily have to be too realistic. RPGs often view objects from several different perspectives at once to make it more interesting to look at.