Well for those of you who checked/subscribed to this thread, I decided to just go with static bitmap particle creation with ParticleIllusion [ http://www.wondertouch.com/index_2.asp ]. There are tons of emitters on that site and a good, open 30 day trial for those who haven't heard of it before. If you screw around with the emitters long enough, you are bound to come up with something. Even if it isn't dynamic and built into the game, it looks very good and infinitely better than nothing at all.
It's a shame that this topic isn't discussed openly very often. It seems to be a really touchy one that programmers like to avoid.
Most people just shrug it off and link the other person to Google and that helps nobody when the person asking the question wants info from experiences users on sites dedicated to them.