Review by Arkrex

"The Famous Five!"

If there ever was a fantasy worth reliving, this is it.

Final Fantasy V was the 1st Final Fantasy game I had ever played. It has been over a decade since that momentous occasion. FFV was one of the many titles in the seminal series to have never made out of Japan, which was a big shame seeing as it was (and still is) the best 2D chapter out of the lot. After many fans cried out for a proper English translation, Squaresoft granted the wish in the form of Final Fantasy Anthology, a PS1 compilation which saw the first official localisation of this missing piece. However the dub wasn't as snazzy as one would have hoped for, and even worse, there were load times as each random battle started up. It wasn't too bad though; at least the common gamer could finally play the darn thing!

Now in 2006, newly named Square-Enix bring in another port of FFV, this time on the portable GBA console. There is a brand new dub here which flows better than the last (although Faris sounds a tad less ‘piratey' to me), and with the cartridge format the extra loading times in their previous effort are totally annihilated. It seems that the perfect port has been conceived here, and this time there are some extras which are definitely worth your time even if, like me, you have replayed this classic more times than you would have thought possible.

Visuals – 7
Sound & Music – 9
Gameplay – 9
Controls - A
Longevity – A
(30+ hours)
Replayability – A
(An RPG that you WILL want to come back to next year, next decade)
Difficulty – Moderate

Job Description – 10
VERDICT – 8.5

Pixel-Perfect

Out of the 3 SNES Final Fantasy games, FFV was the middle child; graphically and aurally it sits between its siblings (but read my FFVI review soon, just to see how far that game excelled over its younger brethren!) The 2D work is excellent here: lots of vivid colours, a simplistic style which gets the job done right, dynamic backdrops, and cool scaling and transparency effects. You may only have 5 main cast members with you (a big drop from the many featured in the prequel), but as they take on different jobs they don different outfits, and each individual brings their own unique (and adorable) look to Red Mage, Geomancer, Gladiator, or whatever.

The overworld looks the same as it was in the previous instalment, but battle scenes have upped the ante. The myriad of spell effects look bolder, the backgrounds incorporate more detail with a neat hazy effect in certain locations, and most of the new enemy designs look much better than before. In Final Fantasy V Advance we have new portraits to accompany key characters' dialogue boxes. Just like how I didn't like those featured in the other ports much, I don't like them here too. Some characters like Galuf and Faris look odd and nothing like what I would think those cute little sprites should be. Apart from that, everything looks top notch.

I want to be a Necromancer when I grow up!
The unique system featured in FFV is arguably the most flexible out of the entire series (excluding FF12). Similar to FF3's system you start off as a jobless Jack of all Trades, but as you gain special job crystals with story progression you can assign each character a different class (or the same if you prefer). With a new title comes new abilities and a restricted attire – after all, you can't have that pure and innocent White Mage running amok with a broadsword now can you? This means that while you may opt to choose a physical class such as Samurai, you have to manage how they can be equipped and make sure that your other members can compensate for their weaknesses – in this case it is recommended you have some magic/item healers to provide aid for your front-man.

Once you gain enough work experience you unlock stronger potential, extra commands, or specialised abilities. You can also switch jobs anytime you like. The twist in FFV is that the skills you gain from one job stay with you no matter what direction you choose to invest your time in next. This means you can level up a Black Mage to gain a certain level of mastery of the dark arts, and then change over to being a tough-as-nails guardian knight whilst still keeping the ability to cast black magic spells. Heck, if you really want a White Mage to go crazy with a broadsword, go ahead! With lots of different skills to pick up in each of the 25 classes, you can only imagine the possibilities; endless customisation, and how you play will differ from how everyone else plays guaranteed.

It sounds awesome doesn't it? Unfortunately there is one major letdown in hindsight: you can only choose 1 ability to carry over with you to your new job. This means no Thief with the ability to manipulate time, summon massive monsters, throw an array of disposable arms, and play a song all at once. With the Freelancer and Mimic classes you can equip more than 1 extra ability (still only up to 3 though), but since you won't gain any job experience that way, it's not something you are likely to do until the final moments. This is the biggest flaw of what is otherwise a superb, “the skies are the limits” system. This is why it is a crime that this system has not been extended in any RPG since, and is a damn good reason why if any Final Fantasy should be remade with the full works treatment, this is the one.

It's all about the crystals… again
FFV marked the introduction of now-famous ATB system (which was newly incorporated into the FF4A port if you were wondering). You know the drill: make your way around the world, randomly encountering packs of monsters, fighting lots of everything, talk to them, deliver this, destroy that, etc. etc. the tenets of the franchise. The hook has always been the battles and with the more active element, these are very fast paced and exciting, yet allow for a decent amount of strategy to be concocted.

The plot isn't one of the most developed ones nowadays, with all successive instalments providing more epic adventures, but your goals are always clear. The storyline may be basic, once again involving a whole bunch of supernatural crystals, but there are plenty of exciting events that occur at a perfect pace. There are many moments of intrigue, comedy, heartbreak and fury, and though the dialogue is cheesy, it is of the tasty variety.

For the first third of the game, it is always exciting and you will find your party in many fantastically thought out scenarios, from being shipwrecked at sea, to the famous Battle at the Big Bridge with the introduction of the mythical scene-stealer, Gilgamesh! The next third consists of a lot of fetch quests in essence, and the freedom of exploration seems to take a slight hit here. And then you have the final third which typically involves getting all your bearings together, tying up some loose ends, and leveling up until you are powerful enough for the final confrontation. Overall, especially with the great antagonist Ex-Death always on your back, there's hardly a dull moment and you will always be gently pushed forward as you live out this fantasy.

Perfect Port-able
After the problem-ridden FF4A, Square-Enix had to be more careful with FF5A to steer off the negativity its predecessor developed for it. This port is not like the original SFC version, in fact it's even better! There is a bit of slow down during some of the heavy-duty spells, but most of the time everything chugs along just fine. The ‘LTB' error from FF4A has been remedied, and both sound and graphics are on par with the original. With the added bonus of being able to quicksave on-the-fly, this port edges out the rest.

As for new content, again there is a bonus dungeon and again it isn't that great an addition in itself. But wait, there's more! There are 4 new jobs (so that's the original 21+4+‘jobless' = 26 all up) and they are actually worthwhile additions to the extensive amount on offer already! The Gladiator has some seriously brutal specialty techniques, the Oracle has the gift of foresight, the Cannoneer can mix up some lethal cocktails to be used as ammo, and the Necromancer works with dead stuff. You only gain access to these jobs near the end of the main game (they are a tad overpowered after all), but they are still useful in the final stretch and they do make that all-new dungeon well worth the extra mile.

Winner
Final Fantasy V is my clear favourite out of all the 2D iterations. It has a winning combination of well-drawn visuals that still look great today, a super soundtrack that still sounds incredible today, one of the greatest villains and semi-villains to this day (case in point: Gilgamesh), and a highly customisable system extended with some interesting new jobs on offer. There are of course a few minor blips, and one big one concerning ability distribution (for me anyway), and while it starts off great, it does start to drag itself a bit as time goes by. But Final Fantasy has always been like this, love it or hate it.

In retrospect, you will no doubt have fond memories of this classic just as I have. The Final Fantasy series has had a profound effect on many gamers around the world, but I honestly don't see it as being that exquisite. But when I was in the single digits, I took to FFV; as I went through my teenage years (ah, good memories there!) I enjoyed playing FFAnthology with a better home entertainment set-up; now more than 10 years later, I still think it is a pretty solid adventure, and definitely one that all RPGamers should give a go irrespective of whether or not they have been through it before - plus it's all in the palms of your hands now!

8.5/10 – A game which has aged better than myself! Different every time I replay it!

My Score System – a score of 7 from me denotes a good, solid game. Excellence earns a higher grade, whilst 4-6 reflects a below average product; glitchy, unplayable games deserve less.

01/02/07


Reviewer's Score: 8/10 | Originally Posted: 02/06/07


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