Review by Fin_Obelius

"Hell's Bells!"

Introduction
This is the remake of the fifth iteration in the massively popular Final Fantasy series which was released on November sixth, 2006 on the Game Boy Advance portable system. Being the brain child of Square Enix, this isn't the first time it was remade (There was a version for the MSX). This is arguably the best version of FFV as Square Enix removed the excessive loading times and glitches. though. SE also reduced the insane difficulty that marked FFV as one of the hardest Final Fantasies ever made. The mediocre translation didn't help either. Regardless of this quadruple whammy, this game which was released in 1992 in Japan, found its way to western shores in 1998.

But now, over a decade after the original release of Final Fantasy V, Square Enix decided to give the Game Boy Advance the honor of remaking every Final Fantasy that was released on the Super Nintendo Entertainment System (SNES)-with extra content to make it worth to replay for SE's loyal fans. Sporting less glitches and a whole new translation team to boot, Final Fantasy V makes a dramatic comeback!

Story
This game has a simple yet well presented storyline with well developed characters. SE even put in side quests intended solely for character development. For that, I give the big wigs in SE kudos. Although this isn't the first FF to have a full blown story, this is certainly one of the most well done out of the NES-SNES era. Even so, it employs the done to death save the world concept. On to the actual details of the tale itself, you start off as some guy named Bartz who's riding a chocobo (a chocobo is a big yellow bird, for those who don't know).

But I'm getting ahead of myself. Firstly, the king of Tycoon leaves his castle on his loyal Wind Drake, Hiryu, to investigate the Wind Crystal. When he does arrive, the crystal shatters before his eyes. Meanwhile, a big-ass meteor hits an area out of nowhere. Incidentally, Bartz happened to be passing by on his chocobo, Boko. As they proceed closer to the meteor, they meet the daughter of King Tycoon as well as a strange, strange old man standing near her (several unnecessary implications spring to mind) named Galuf. After the whole deal of them exploring the interior of the meteor, they set off to find out what has gotten King Tycoon's panties in a twist.

Although this game might not have one of the most powerful storylines in the series, the dialogue is to die for. By nature, FFV is a game not meant to be taken too seriously. A good example would be its GBA translation. The big wigs over at Square Enix HQ decided to hire a team to retranslate FFV from its original Japanese format to improve from the mediocre script of the SNES FFV. The results might surprise more than just a few fans. Instead of being a mainly serious game as most other Final Fantasies are, the translation team managed to make FFVA a gaming experience that isn't really meant to be taken seriously. Don't get me wrong, FFVA has its share of serious moments but also has times where you chuckle at the bad puns and cheesy lines.

Gameplay
The gameplay is easily Final Fantasy V Advance's most original and flat out awesome aspect. In m own humble opinion, FFVA's gameplay far surpasses it's predecessors. In fact, after you've played this game, you'll wonder how you were able to put up with the stiff gameplay of the past Final Fantasies. All this praise is directed towards the Job System, of course. In the beginning, you only are able to take advantage of six jobs. However, you gain the majority of the jobs after certain events have passed pertaining to the storyline (you can even gain a few extra jobs after undergoing a few sidequests!).

You will keep getting job after job until a total of 22 is achieved. Those jobs received via sidequests don't count (There are 4). Making for a total of 26 jobs available. In other words, 26 different ways to kick ass would be my first thought but there are actually more. Players of FFIII might be wondering how this is different from FFIII's job system. There are a few reasons, actually. But the most prominent would have to be the ability to mix abilities you procure after using a class for so long. This makes for nearly infinite possibilities. Ever wanted a Black Mage that could cast White Magic as well? Sure. How about a Knight that can wield dual katanas? Why not? How about this: A Summoner that knows how to Jump like a Dragoon? All that plus many, many more.

Unfortunately, this also can either make this game the hardest ever or pathetically easy. Sometimes I don't think Square Enix really understands the possibilities the class combos offers. In any case, to win this game with minimal effort, you will have to have a pinch of creativity and a whole lot of patience to make the perfect party. Therefore, this game isn't for you if you prefer button mashers and the such.

Those insane combos are realized only if you have the patience to go through the necessary AP (Ability Point) training. Problem is that the majority of the abilities you receive require a ridiculous amount of said AP. But as was said, it's almost always worth the effort to get certain abilities. You procure AP and exp by fighting random encounters and bosses. In other words, random encounters can actually pay off in the long run. This also effectively reduces the annoy factor of the encounters and almost makes you WANT more monsters to attack you. Utilizing the best of FFIV-the Active Time Battle System-the battles require your attention as to attack swiftly and ruthlessly before your enemy does. So quick thinking is the key to victory.

Except if your character has some uber move then all you have to do is spam that move, but where's the fun in that? Anyways, every character and enemy has an ATB gauge to determine when your next turn is. When it fills up completely, your character is ready to unleash hell on your opponent. Your opponent is capable of doing this as well, unfortunately. The concept is an ancient one for RPGs. Poke your opponent with a sharp object until it stops moving or its HP (Hit/Health Points) runs out.

The improvement over FFIV that I am most glad to announce is the lack of lag in the ATB gauge. Square made that mistake with FFIV and the PlayStation version of FFV but apparently, they learned from it. The reaction time of your opponents is also another aspect Square improved in FFVA. Square did a beautiful job on the gameplay. Well done, for learning from your past mistakes and creating the masterpiece that is FFVA!

Graphics
The graphics is not a major improvement from FFIV, but among the most noticeable would be the finer detail in the sprites for the game itself. The sprite characters also interact with the environment in a broader variety of ways. For example, now characters are capable of laughing, and performing the action instead of having just the text box inform you that they are laughing. Another upgrade would be that NPCs no longer are stuck in an infinite movement loop. When they stop walking, their legs stop instead of perpetually moving. FFV also has a more diverse variety of colors to offer.

Summary
Get in car. Go to GameStop/EBGames. Find Final Fantasy V Advance. Go to cash register. Cough up the dough. Insert game in Game Boy Advance. Commence the playing. Cue the addiction. Remember to take toilet/drinking/eating/sleep (screw school! This is an masterpiece, dammit!) breaks. All in all, this game is one of the best Final Fantasies out there. The gameplay has been improved and takes advantage of the best of FFIII and FFIV. The graphics may not have been improved, but the attention to detail is impressive. A veritable cornucopia of goodies other than the story awaits you, especially on your second playthrough, because heaven knows, this game's replay value is sky high, what with the job system and whatnot. With a bestiary and more optional bosses, this game is sure to keep you occupied for quite a while, not to mention the perfectionists.

And this in on a handheld as well. So this game is both extremely entertaining and a good display of the GBA's power. Who would've thought? A SNES Final Fantasy on a handheld not a decade later after it's initial release?! So this game benefits Nintendo as a veritable advertisement of the Game Boy Advance's power capabilities. As for me, I have to return to sating my addiction to Final Fantasy V Advance.


Reviewer's Score: 10/10 | Originally Posted: 02/04/08

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


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