Review by brutusmuktuk

"Warning: Contains addictive material. Do not play if you are pregnant or nursing. Side effects include insomnia and skipping meals"

Square-Enix has been kind enough to release their beloved Final Fantasy series on the Game Boy Advance and Nintendo DS. Those who were too young to experience the original six Final Fantasy games now have the opportunity to do so on a handheld, which is a much more fitting place for them. Final Fantasy 5 was originally released on the SNES in 1992 in Japan only, and the U.S. didn't see it until it was released for the Playstation in 1999 along with Final Fantasy 4 in Final Fantasy Anthology. The GBA remake of FF5 is even better than the PS remake, with crisper visuals, more jobs, and more quests. My question is, why did Square keep the Final Fantasy game with the most revolutionary, addictive leveling up system of most any RPG out of the hands of Americans for so long?

The Good:
+ Addictive job class system
+ Story has a good sense of humor
+ Lengthy quest and you will never get bored

The Bad:
- A couple of the classes are worthless
- Character development is lacking
- You might not want to put your GBA down

The Perplexing:
? There are four new classes, but only one of them is any good, and of the remaining three, one requires you to finish the game

Story – 8/10

The story follows the “Save the world from the evil badguy” guidelines, with mysterious pasts, travel to other worlds, and a few embarrassing scenes between the hero and one of the female character in the party. Despite the fact you probably won't walk away remembering much about the plot of the game, you are almost guaranteed to laugh at a few scenes. Early on you will realize the game doesn't exactly take itself too seriously. It has a different feel from the stories of the rest of the games in the series, though more closely resembling the humor of FF9. Where FF4 raised the bar for Square to fully develop an interesting story with engaging characters, FF5 focuses on the combat aspect of the series. One could argue that gamers play the Final Fantasy series for its great stories, but then they would forget the popularity of the Final Fantasy Tactics games. FF5's gameplay obviously influenced those games, and because of that, FF5 should be judged by its gameplay more than its story.

Gameplay – 10/10

Those not hooked by the story will more than likely be drawn by the combat. Only the FF Tactics games can match the addictive quality of this game, which makes it stand out from the rest of the games in the series. Once you get past the introductory beginning and allow your characters to grow a few levels and advance in the storyline, you will be allowed to become job classes. The job classes at first are the usual FF type classes: knight, thief, monk, white mage, and black mage. The freelancer is the original class, which can use any ability and equip any weapon and armor, but it can only use an ability once you've mastered it. To master abilities, a character must become a certain job class, such as the knight. As the knight, the character can use the knight's default ability, Guard, and any other abilities that character may have mastered, along with the Item and Fight commands. When a fight is won, each character earns experience towards their level along with ability points, AP, towards their job levels. Earn enough AP and the character learns new abilities for good, so that when you change the character to become a different class, that character can still use the previous class' abilities. For example, if one of your characters learns White Magic level 1, and you switch to become a knight, then that knight can use level 1 White Magic as long as that ability is equipped. As you can see, it's not much different from FF Tactics, and it's not any less addictive.

There are plenty of job classes to choose from (many you will recognize from FF Tactics), including the samurai, ninja, bard, ranger, geomancer, beastmaster, dragoon, dancer, and many others. There's a lot to mix and match. You can choose to build all of your characters differently or find a powerful combination and have all of your characters go down that path. The addiction comes from wanting to level up your characters' current class so you can change it to the next class you wish to level up. Using an FAQ on this site, you can determine just how far to go with a certain class or if a class is even worth leveling up. There are some abilities and classes that are practically worthless, such as the berserker, bard, and one of the new classes, the oracle. You won't miss much by skipping out on these classes and their abilities, but these not-so-great classes are offset by a few awesome classes, such as the mystic knight, ninja, samurai, and the dancer. Combining some of the abilities of a few classes, such as the ninja's dual wield, the ranger's rapid fire, and the mystic knight's spellblade will create one offensively powerful character. The gladiators' Finisher move and the Mimic's Mime ability must also be mentioned. With the former you can dish out massive damage, and with the latter you can mimic any ability last performed by one of your other characters, such as summon Bahamut for no cost.

I can go on and on, but it's more fun for you to discover these abilities and the fun for yourself.

Visuals/Sound – 8/10

The music of the Final Fantasy series is always good, and this is no disappointment. The visuals are crisp and colorful, much nicer looking than the duller Playstation version. Nothing here is above standard RPG visuals, and nowhere near as impressive the visuals in Golden Sun, but most GBA gamers probably don't play their games for the visuals. It's a safe bet that you won't have to turn your volume down and you won't go blind from horrendous graphics.

Longevity – 10/10

You'll find a nice, lengthy game with some extra stuff to do even after you beat the final boss. The only way to unlock one of the game's new characters, the Necromancer, is to finish the game and then beat a couple of more bosses. Like FF4, there are also individual character missions to accomplish as well. Square-Enix has assured its gamers they will have plenty to do on the small GBA cartridge. Your money will be well spent on this fantastic game.

Score – 10/10

Reviewer's Rating:   5.0 - Flawless

Originally Posted: 06/11/07

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