Review by kiriyama2

"I have no zippy tagline, it really is just a great game."

Final Fantasy is one of those series that has become a fanboy favorite. Primarily the ones from the PS1 on. I personally never entirely cared for the series, particularly VII (I disliked it before it was cool to hate it), I just never really latched on to them. Sure I enjoyed VIII, and I adored IV (or what I assumed was II for a portion of my life), but really the series just never did much for me. I suppose I just enjoyed other RPGs like Baldur's Gate, Phantasy Star, Breath of Fire 2, and Earthbound more than this series. Then why in the name of all that is good did I purchase Final Fantasy V Advance then? Pretty much just that I wanted an RPG to fill the GBA game slot on my DS (a man can tolerate only so much Golden Sun, and I couldn‘t find a copy of FFIV). Also there was the fact that there is curiously little fanfare for this particular entry in the series. Sure you always hear about how VI has the grander story, or how IV is more pleasing gameplay-wise (which I suppose is true, but still IV > VI, yeah, I went there), but there's very little ever said about this entry. Which I think is quite perplexing, because, for what my opinion's worth, Final Fantasy V Advance (hereafter known as FFV) is the best of the SNES/GBA era Final Fantasy games. Sure it may not have the best storyline of all of them, and maybe IV has some better fights, but V really is just a joy of a game. It really is a shame that the SNES original never came out to North America.

FFV starts out with the king of the kingdom Tycoon leaving his castle to investigate the Wind Shrine to find out why the winds have stopped. At about the same time a meteor crashes near Tycoon and a young adventurer named Bartz (evidently he was named Butz in the SNES original) decides to investigate. When he arrives at the meteor's crash site he finds a pair of goblins carrying a young woman named Lenna toward the meteor. Bartz saves Lenna and the pair find an old man named Galuf near the meteor. Galuf suffers from the all too common disease of amnesia, but recalls that he needs to get to the Wind Shrine. So Lenna and Galuf ask Bartz whether he wants to accompany them, and leave when he turns them down. As luck would have it Bartz ends up saving the pair again, and the trio set off for the Wind Shrine. Shortly thereafter they come across a pirate hideout and decide to steal the ship. They're captured by the pirate Faris, who decides to go with them to the Wind Shrine to get to the bottom of the mystery of why the winds died out. After defeating the guardian beast of the Wind Shrine the wind crystal shatters and the adventurers are given the shards and are charged with the quest to protect the Earth, Fire, and Water crystals, and to save the world. The story gets a bit more involved later on, and it's actually a pretty good story. It usually gets panned for being too generic, but really I rather like it. Besides pretty much all of the Final Fantasies prior to VII was all about collecting crystals to save the world from a vague disaster (vague in the sense that you don't find out what's really threatening the world until later on in the game), sure VI may have the best story of the SNES era, but damn it, V is good too!

FFV is really a beautiful game. The sheer beauty of the original sixteen bit nature of the SNES game has translated wonderfully to the GBA. In fact it actually looks a bit better (which I suppose shouldn't be surprising, considering the GBA's more powerful and all), and the character models look absolutely terrific. Each one of the principle characters look quite distinctive, even their specific job class graphics look different from the other characters. Sure the black mages and by extension the red, white, blue, and time mages are all pretty much the same template, they look quite different from one another (for instance, the Galuf black mage has a sweet ‘stache). The models for the other characters, like Cid looks nifty. The character portraits look wonderful, but then again I'm a sucker for Yoshitaka Amano's art style. They look quite cool, especially the king of Tycoon, he looks cool (or for lack of a better phrase, badass). The environments in the game are usually bright and colorful, there's not really a whole lot of murk in the game. Sure there are some spots where it doesn't look all serene, but still they are quite good sixteen-bit environments. I even like the faux 3d look of the map when the cinematics, or other gameplay segments require it. Sure it looks a bit pixilated and kind of silly, but I like it. The enemies in the game look pretty good, and they are interesting to look at. Particularly the boss characters, they look especially great. Then there's the summons in this game. They all look wonderful in all their sixteen bit glory, I particularly like Ifrit and Bahamut. Then again I've always been a sucker for bad ass looking dragons, and unstoppable hellspawn. There is however just one thing that sort of bothers me about these graphics. It's the fact that the character sprites are tiny. Sure I do realize that it's the GBA, but they look like mini versions of the characters. It's particularly weird, when you consider that in battle they look appropriate sized, yet when traipsing around the world, it's strange mini-Bartz, and mini-denizens of… whatever the world name is. But it's not enough to drag it down, it's just a bit of a head-scratcher on my part. I suppose it was to make it run smoother, or something.

One thing that the Final Fantasy series has always been about was an utterly fantastic soundtrack. FFV is certainly no slouch in this regard. I really do love the music in this game, it's just so great, particularly the wind shrine music, it's just such a fitting catchy tune. Of course it's an orchestral sounding dramatic soundtrack, and one would assume that the limitations of the SNES (and GBA) would drag down the quality of the music, but really it doesn't. It sounds quite wonderful. It's even got that same wonderful victory tune, of course it's a variation of it, but still, it sounds great. Gosh I am just so taken by the sheer wonder of the soundtrack, Uematsu really hit it out of the park with this soundtrack. The battle sounds also sound good, it's pleasing to hear the people dole out the harshness with the accompanying slashes and impact sounds. So yeah, the sound in the game is utterly fantastic, and really speaks of how great sound can be on the GBA.

While FFV doesn't take great strides to change a thing about the gameplay in a Final Fantasy game it really is quite fun. The tried and true formula of walking around the over world and skulking around in dungeons to pick turn based fights against monstrous foes returns in FFV. While I could make the complaint that it's repetitive and boring, it really isn't. For some reason I genuinely enjoy the fighting in this game, and I can't stand most games of this sort. Sure you're still just standing in a straight line (or zig-zag sort of line, depending on your formation, I for one keep my spell-casters in the back) and selecting a foe with which to inflict either blunt damage to them, or magical death, but it just really works here. It really is quite fun to set your guys upon a horde of whatever, ice soldiers let's say, and have them inflict massive pain on them.

What really steals the show for me is the job system in this game. Which surprised me quite a bit, you see in the game you can choose which sort of job (or class, if you prefer) you want any given character to be. For instance, you can have a knight, thief, black mage, ninja (which you unlock later in the game), whatever you want to take up the roles in your team. You can also run through the entire game just rolling as black mages, or the more physical intensive monks. I don't know why but I genuinely enjoyed and appreciated the sheer customizability that the job system provided. You see, unlike some RPGs your people won't be stuck as just that one class for the whole of the game. You can have it so your knight can duel-wield swords using a skill you learned from your time as a ninja. Or you can have a white mage be able to wield swords using a skill that knights possess. I just particularly enjoyed having a summoner being able to summon a big demon from the depths of the stygian pit while being able to inflict pain in excess of several hundred hit points barehanded from his time as a monk.

Unfortunately while I really do enjoy the job system in this game it's not without its faults. For instance, you will quite often have to spend a lot of time in an area to rack up the job points in order to get your blue mage to level five just to get whatever nifty skill he has there. This can take upwards of two hours to do, as sometimes most of the enemies give you only one job point. But you know, this really doesn't detract from the enjoyment you can derive from the game, because the game really doesn't force you to spend X amounts of hours grinding to get your people's jobs up to any specific level. It's just sort of recommended so you can kill things more efficiently. Some people will no doubt be turned off by the amount of grinding that the game can contain, but I actually rather enjoyed it. I suppose I'm just deranged like that.

I really don't understand why this game isn't more popular than it is. Because it really is a gem of a game, everything it does it does right. Even though you will spend a lot of time just grinding away to raise your characters' job levels it doesn't matter, because it's just a good time doing it. Granted it may not have the best story in the Final Fantasy series, and IV may have better battles FFV really is a great game. I really do think it's the best of the SNES/GBA era. The sheer amount of customization regarding the job system alone makes it worth the purchase. So I heartily recommend picking the game up for your GBA, you will derive many hours of enjoyment from this game.

Graphics: 10/10
Sound: 10/10
Story: 9/10
Gameplay: 9/10
Overall recommendation: Buy it!

Reviewer's Rating:   5.0 - Flawless

Originally Posted: 02/20/08

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

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