If a project that you’re working on is as “above water” as you claim it is, you wouldn’t have to change the name of the project — all while changing nothing else, mind — once you know that people have well-founded concerns with the legality of the project. You also wouldn’t have to gloat that people who worked for the original project decades ago “were happy that you were bringing it back”, because everyone already knows that there has been random support of former employees of the original project since you were touting yours as a “passion project” meant to bring that one back… that, again, everyone thought was being done in a manner that was above water. (I’m not even going to get into the part about “we got invited to an employee party” or whatever, because not even I am drinking enough Kool-aid to make that believable.) Copyright violation is copyright violation. Theft of intellectual property is theft of intellectual property. If you’re making money off of it, which you are via Patreon and have had a previous developer admit to — that the Patreon account actually funds the developers rather than what it was publicly stated to have been developed, which was the project’s server — you can’t claim application of fair use laws, and you can’t claim abandonware on a project that currently has a current version out, which this one actually does (2022 on).
The only good thing to come from all of this is that discussing it with various other streamers caused them to come to the same conclusion (not abandonware, not applicable use of fair use laws, not even actual use of fair use laws, would not be a good idea to continue to be a part of), which is one reason why I bailed from it.