Review by Tenshi No Shi
"The second port of a rare RPG gem."
October of 2006 is sure to go down in history as the best month ever for a fan of Final Fantasy. Not only did we get a brand new entry in the series with the debut of Final Fantasy XII on the Playstation 2, a release (upgraded to 3D no less) of the long-lost Final Fantasy III for the Nintendo DS, but also a Gameboy Advance re-release of Final Fantasy V. Of course Final Fantasy V did see life as part of Final Fantasy Anthology for the Playstation, but the localization of the then previously unreleased Super Nintendo classic was fraught with poor translation and graphic issues that took some of the luster away from what was an otherwise joyous occasion for Final Fantasy fanatics. So would Final Fantasy V Advance actually be the port we've been waiting for or just another poorly executed mangling of a great game?
Not surprisingly, Final Fantasy V's plot revolves around four elemental crystals scattered throughout the planet, each imbued with a base element (Earth, Wind, Fire, and Water). The people on this planet use these crystals to enrich their lives, prospering from the power that they emit. Little do these people know that they have put a strain on the crystals, a strain that threatens to unleash a great evil upon them. It's up to four unlikely heroes (an adventurer, a pirate, a princess, and a mysterious old man) to prevent this evil from destroying all life. While this theme is reused in many Final Fantasy titles (and bears more than a striking resemblance to Final Fantasy III), the character development and stronger focus on the story is what sets Final Fantasy V apart from previous entries in the series.
Considering the age of the title and the technology it was created for, one would be hard pressed to argue the virtues of Final Fantasy V Advance's graphics. On one hand, they stand as a brilliant reminder of just how far the Super Nintendo could be pushed in terms of graphic quality. On the other hand, when compared to the 32-bit born Final Fantasy VII, Final Fantasy V is a cryptically etched tombstone reminding us just how far games have come in such a short time. You can expect all of the technological splendor that you enjoyed ten years ago on the Super Nintendo, including the wonder that is Mode 7! Seriously, there is just no way to sell Final Fantasy V Advance on its graphical merit, despite the fact that it is actually quite good...for its time.
Much like the graphics, the sound is a testimony to the way it was. That way being, of course, MIDI. Though the music is simple, Square still manages to convey as wide an array of emotions in this games computer generated tracks as any orchestra. You can't help but be amazed at the synthesized warmth found within each song. Audio effects are equally impressive, given their age, emulating in sound the emotions that need to be conveyed when speech just isn't an option. When you compare it to any modern day game, it just doesn't stand a chance of being anything but archaic. But when it heard with the ears of one who can appreciate the effort put into such a traditional soundtrack, Final Fantasy V Advance is just as good as any modern game.
The Final Fantasy games have always stood as my favorite series of RPGs to have perfect play control. In most role-playing games, battle is complicated by a series of unexplained and unnecessary menus that serve only to confuse you. In Final Fantasy V Advance the menus are concise and to the point, offering the player immediate access to whatever command he or she feels the need to execute. Several commands can prove to be quite time saving if you don't like the tedious mucking about in sub menus. Given that the Gameboy Advance lacks the appropriate amount of buttons found in the last two releases this game received (Super Famicom and Playstation), it shouldn't come as a surprise that SquareEnix had to reconfigure the control scheme. However fans familiar with Final Fantasy shouldn't fret over the handheld's controls- The game plays just as smoothly as ever.
The best possible aspect on which to judge any role playing game is the originality of its design. This has been never more important or true than with this release of the Final Fantasy V Advance. Since the graphics and sound cannot compare to that of current technology, SquareEnix had to rely on the integrity of the design of this title to be its main selling point. For Final Fantasy V Advance, the incredibly deep Job System is the focus around which the game was built. Throughout the game, you collect crystal shards that unlock Job Classes that you assign to your characters. The leveling up of these classes will award you Abilities that can then be assigned to that character. Once you have learned all you feel you need to learn from that Job, you can then switch to a new Job, but retain all earned abilities. The result? You can have a Knight who wields Level 6 Black Magic or a Trainer who can not only capture and use Monsters, but also learn the monster's attacks through Blue Magic. The possibilities are endless, which in turn allows for a much more versatile game.
As with the last three Advance ports, SquareEnix decided to add a little something extra to the game, a bonus for those long-time fans who can't help but buy the same game repeatedly just because it's Final Fantasy. Not only is there a new thirty-floor dungeon to explore (filled with challenges and treasures) but four new Job Classes as well- Gladiator, Cannoneer, Necromancer, and Oracle. These new additions are a fantastic treat to an already incredible game, but the fact that SquareEnix cleaned up the translation, fixed a few glitches and retouched some of the graphics from the Playstation release makes this a true treat for gamers.
If you own a Gameboy Advance or a Nintendo DS, you owe it to yourself to pick up Final Fantasy V Advance- this classic RPG has more than stood the test of time and the new additions are more than enough incentive for collectors who already own the Final Fantasy Anthology on the Playstation. While the story may not be as deep as later entries in the series, nothing short of Final Fantasy XI tops the depth of the Job Class system, and that alone make it a fantasy worth playing.
Reviewer's Rating: 4.5 - Outstanding
Originally Posted: 08/07/09
Game Release: Final Fantasy V Advance (US, 11/06/06)
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