Review by LordShibas
"A Mediocre Final Fantasy"
Final Fantasy V is another Final Fantasy game that originally did not get released stateside. I'm not really sure why, but Square decided to skip over Final Fantasy V and go straight to Final Fantasy VI. During the Playstation generation, Square decided to localize the game for the states and release it in the Final Fantasy Anthology, along with Final Fantasy VI. The game received a few upgrades and was later ported to the GBA as Final Fantasy V: Advance. The Advance version offered an additional dungeon and a few new job classes as well.
After recently playing the terrible Final Fantasy IV port to GBA, I was skeptical about Final Fantasy V: Advance. The good news is that the Final Fantasy V port to GBA is much better than the Final Fantasy IV port, and it matches up pretty well with the Playstation port.
Final Fantasy V: Advance is a bit different than Final Fantasy IV and VI. While the core, turn based combat is the same, Final Fantasy V: Advance offers a grandiose Job System which changes the flow of the game in a major way. Instead of simply leveling up your characters, you will also need to raise their job levels through ability points. Ability points are gained from winning battles much like exp.
The Job System breaks down like this. Your characters can be assigned any job which you have obtained. Examples of jobs are: Freelancer, White Mage, Red Mage, Thief, Fighter, Ranger, Summoner, Beastmaster, and many, many others. Each job class has a set of abilities which go with them. For example, a White Mage will be able to use white magics and a Dragoon will be able to use the Jump command. In order to learn these abilities, you must first accumulate enough ability points. Once you have obtained the ability, your character will permanently learn it, and you can use the ability regardless of which job class you currently are.
The job system allows for a tremendous amount of character customization, but it often leads to some dour circumstances where your characters are lacking certain abilities that are needed. I often found myself completely unprepared for boss fights and I would get flattened time and time again until I went back and grinded for the abilities that I needed in order to defeat the boss. This gets old fast since it happens frequently. This game has some major balance issues.
Now let's take a look at the rest of the game and see how it stacks up to other Final Fantasy games.
Graphically, Final Fantasy V: Advance looks pretty average. The character models are boring and un-inspired and look like they were ripped straight from the first Final Fantasy. On the bright side, the animations are nice and there is no slow down.
Enemies look pretty standard for a Final Fantasy game and end up being nothing special. Some of the magics and summons are impressive. There are some nice transparency effects which go along with the spells.
The areas are nothing special either and most of them look like they could be ripped from any Final Fantasy game. The areas just aren't very unique.
The over world map is often confusing to navigate since most of it looks the same, and you will need to check your map often to make sure you are going in the right direction.
Speaking of the over world map, it's downright pathetic. It lacks any detail at all and does not even have location names. It only shows you where you are at.
Sounds and Music 6/10
Final Fantasy V: Advance does have a few catchy tunes, especially the town and castle music, but most of the tracks are forgettable and I expect more from the Final Fantasy series. The music in Final Fantasy IV is far superior to the music in Final Fantasy V: Advance.
The sound effects are good and do not stray from the standard Final Fantasy formula. Spell effects sound good and everything else is passable.
The story in Final Fantasy V: Advance is not very interesting, and the characters are flat out boring. It's by far the worst Final Fantasy story I have ever seen.
You will be following the adventures of an adventurer named Bartz, who ends up having to track down the four crystals, just like in Final Fantasy. However, when he gets to the crystals, they end up exploding into crystal shards for various reasons. The crystal shards are what give you the ability to use the job system, and when you find additional crystal shards, you will get new jobs you can change to.
Bartz meets up with a few travelers shortly into his journey, but they are not very interesting and seem like they are traveling together by pure coincidence. Lenna, your first party member, is the princess of one of the castle towns, but you would never know since she's as dumb as a brick and often points out the most obvious things. Galuf is an old man who lost his memory and always whines about it, and Faris is a pirate leader that chooses to join you because he has the same pendant as Lenna. (I'm not making that up either)
This ship of fools will be traveling to un-interesting location after un-interesting location to doing fetch quest after fetch quest. The formula gets old pretty fast.
Since most people are familiar with standard Final Fantasy gameplay, I'll try to keep this area of the review focused on the Job System, since it's a make or break feature of the game.
The Job System is a great concept and it's meant to bolster the already great gameplay of Final Fantasy, but it really makes things more complicated and more tedious. Since there is no other way to get ability points than fighting, you will be grinding a lot in this game. The levels you gain almost seem irrelevant, and the abilities you are equipped with are far more important.
When you get to a fire boss, you better have everyone equipped with black magic for casting ice spells, or you'll be in for a world of hurting. It seems simple enough, but the problem is getting your characters to where they need to be. It takes a long time to get the necessary ability points needed to obtain the abilities. This leads to needless grinding.
There are also a lot of hidden areas to explore within any given town and castle. These areas can often lead to bonus items which will help you a good bit. The problem with this is that they are immediately accessible, so it's easy to walk into one of these areas, trigger an encounter, and have your party wiped out in two rounds. These areas are pretty un-predictable.
The Job System isn't all bad. It offers limitless customization and replay value, but there are too many follies with the system. The time sink needed and the lop-sided balance are enough to turn anyone away.
Longevity and Re-Playability 8/10
This game has a lot to do, and the job/ability system is deep as hell. It could easily keep you occupied for 50-60 hours if you really get into it. There are also a lot of hidden areas to explore, side quests to partake in, and there is a new dungeon as well.
The problem is that most of the re-play value for this game involves lots of grinding, which you may grow tired of.
Final Fantasy V: Advance isn't a bad game and there are times when I was really enjoying it, but the job system is poorly balanced, and since the entire game centers around the job system, the problems that it brings to the table will be a constant hindrance.
If you are looking for a turn based RPG that will take up a lot of your time then it's a good game to play, but you will no doubt run into some frustrating elements of the job system that will annoy and confuse you.
After spending a good bit of time with this game, I can see why Square didn't bring this game stateside at first. It's not really a game for everyone.
Reviewer's Score: 6/10 | Originally Posted: 10/27/08
Game Release: Final Fantasy V Advance (US, 11/06/06)
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