Review by Computerbug8

"The gameplay options are again improved, but the story is hardly better than the oldest entries"

Over the past couple years, many people have said that early Final Fantasy games were incredible, but as the technology became more advanced, the games actually started becoming worse. Some say that the last time a true Final Fantasy game was released goes all the way back to the release of FFVII, others with FFX. The reason for this little ramble is that FFV (Advance) is proof that even the older, classic FF games are fallible and that it IS possible to improve over the retro entries in the series.

STORY

The story starts off with hearing about the winds are dying due to the diminishing power of the crystal, and the king of Tycoon hops on his wind drake to see what the problem with the wind crystal is. After he arrives, the wind crystal is shattered and a giant meteor comes crashing to the planet. You then take control of the main character, Bartz, who is right by the meteor when it crashes and he goes to check it out. In typical FF fashion, Bartz and a few other characters find out that they're the Warriors of Light and they must go and restore power to the crystal and order to the world before it's too late.

Honestly, Sqaure, what's with this whole "Warriors of Light" thing? Hasn't it been used enough already? Okay, so if the fact that the game is still using the exact same story seen in the first one isn't enough to make you start having concerns for the plot, then get ready for more. The protagonists who are selected as the "Warriors of Light" (who picks these warriors, anyway? Honestly.) are bland and uninteresting, with the exception of an old man with amnesia named Galuf. There aren't any giant twists seen in the game's story, and no parts will grip you and make you want to keep playing to find out more. So the story is weak and the characters are uninteresting, but there's still one more nail that needs to be driven in the plot's coffin: the villain. Just for spoiler's sakes I won't say his name, but trust me: the villain doesn't do ANYTHING to help make the plot better. His name is ridiculous, he's dressed in all armor, he wants complete power over the universe, and yes, he even feels compelled to have a "Mwa-ha-ha-ha-ha-ha!" moment in pretty much every single scene he appears.

So, if you've played FFIV or FFVI, you know that it is possible for a 16-bit FF game to have a good story with good characters. But for some reason or another, FFV just couldn't pull it off.

GAMEPLAY

Thankfully, now that the story is out of the way, the more redeeming features of the game can start shining through. As usual, you'll have to go through the overworld and into several dungeons. However, the dungeons in FFV are surprisingly easy and much simpler when compared to some of the other dungeons that have been seen in the past FF games. I'd be shocked if anyone needed a guide to get through the game's dungeons; even the last one is simple and linear.

Unfortunately, going through the simple dungeons is made harder due to the high amount of random encounters. At times, you'll hardly be able to take five steps without getting into a fight. Luckily, the fights in FFV are usually pretty quick and easy.

FFV uses the ATB system where you have to wait for your time bar to fill up before you can attack. Like always, you can either choose to physically attack, cast magic, and the like. Enemies have their typical weaknesses and the same status effects return for another round. The battles aren't terribly complicated and they're not worth getting into that much, especially if you've played other entries in the series.

But something that is worth getting into is the job system. If you're unfamiliar with the series, a "job" is really the kind of fighter one of your characters will be in battle. You start off with only basic ones, like knights or magic casters, but as you progress through the game, you'll unlock new ones like geomancers or dragoons.

After you equip a job title to your character, said character can instantly start advancing in their job level by earning AP points from surviving battles. As you gain more AP points, you gain new, stronger moves. But here is where the customizing options kick in: even if a character isn't performing a specific job, that character could still have the job's abilities. For instance, a character who is a knight could have black mage abilties. How? By equipping the Black Mage ability onto the knight. The catch is, the knight will only have black magic attacks that it had as a Black Mage. Put simply, if the knight was a Black Mage that was maxed out before, then the knight could have that ability equipped and be able to cast things like Firaga. But if the knight has never used black magic before, sticking it with a Black Mage ability will be no different than you would be without.

Because of this, the customization options are endless. You can have knights who can heal themselves (always a winning combination in my book), White Mages who can fire cannons, Samurais who can summon, and much more. The only drawback is that same abilities require up to 300 AP to learn, and since you only get about 3 or 4 AP at most, you're going to be doing a lot of grinding, and no one likes to do that.

That should cover the customization and battles, but now the next question is: how easy do these things make the game? Well, if you've played a lot of other FF games, you probably won't be expecting much of a challenge, which is a great thing for the casual gamer. However, FFV seems to offer a bit more challenge than the others. Unlike in other FF titles where you could go several hours before losing a boss fight, you might find yourself looking at the Game Over screen in FFV a bit earlier on. In fact, some of the bosses may even take you multiple tries to beat. (But trust me-figure out the weakness of each one and knocking down the boss will be easier than a first grade math test.) The only boss that should REALLY give you trouble is the final one, but even that one has a little trick to avoid having to take on his second form. (which is the hard one)

GRAPHICS

The graphics in FFVA aren't all that bad. The characters look colorful, and their portraits during dialogue aren't all that bad. The environments are nice enough and have a moderate amount of detail put into them. The spells in battle are all right, but not as good looking as they were in other games.

There's not really much to say about the graphics. If you've played other handheld FF games, then these ones will seem very familiar. They're just more of the same...not that there's really anything wrong with that.

SOUND

As far as the sound goes in FFVA, it didn't really exceed any expectations. The main battle theme is all right, the boss music is pretty good, and all the towns themes sound all right, albeit a bit repetitive. (Yeah, they use the same three or four tunes even though there are more towns than that) The bad guy's theme at least has that evil sense to it, and his boss battle music is probably the best battle track in the game.

Really, the soundtrack is more average than anything else. I can't think of much more to say about it.

LENGTH

For a handheld, FFVA actually delivers a decently lengthed experience. I can't imagine anyone completing this in under 20 hours, but a first playthrough will probably take you over 25. And there is an extra dungeon you can play afterwards which will add on to the game's length even more, so you're getting a nice adventure for a GBA game.

PROS

+ Lots of customization options
+ Music is all right
+ Graphics are pretty good
+ Good length for a GBA game
+ Difficulty is almost perfect

CONS

- Story and characters are underwhelming
- Random encounters are too frequent at times
- Too much grinding to max out some abilities

CLOSING NOTES

FFVA is a good RPG for the GBA, just not a very strong entry in the FF series. If you're expecting a nice or memorable story, this game will almost surely disappoint you. However, the vast amount of customization options saves the whole game from being mediocre and dull. While the difficulty is a bit higher than previous entries in the series, it's not so tough that you'll have to spend hours thinking of a strategy to beat a single boss. (except for MAYBE the final form of the last boss if you don't take the easy way out) And with the customization options, there can be a lot of replay value if you want to go back and set up challenges for yourself. Overall, FFVA is far from the best entry in the series, but is still an all right game when it comes down to it.


Reviewer's Score: 7/10 | Originally Posted: 01/28/08

Game Release: Final Fantasy V Advance (US, 11/06/06)


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