Final Fantasy V - Retroview

A Stepping Stone

By: Desh

Review Breakdown
   Battle System 8
   Interface 8
   Music/Sound 7
   Originality 7
   Plot 5
   Localization 7
   Replay Value 6
   Visuals 7
   Difficulty Medium
   Time to Complete

25-40 Hours


Final Fantasy V

   Square's initial move to the Super NES was successful - Final Fantasy IV was a hit in both America and Japan. As game designers became more aquainted with the system, the graphics and music improved and became more "full." However, as much of a success that IV was in America, Square decided not to release Final Fantasy V here on the SNES system. Why, I don't know, but Final Fantasy Mystic Quest seemed to be the American replacement... but was hardly so.

   Like in FFIV, FFV sports the Active-Time battle system. For such an early system, it was as close to a real fight as was needed. A nice improvement was that the Active-Time-Bar was introduced, allowing the player to see when the next character's turn was coming, as opposed to the nerve-racking wait in its predecessor. Otherwise, the battle system was and has been identical for six games.

   Once again, Square shows off its ability to create a very usable interface. The menus are clear, and the job system, originating in FFIIIj, has been redone. The job system here allows any character to take on the role of many jobs, and gaining AP in battle allows them to further master their job. As "job levels" are gained, a character can use an ability from another job in addition to those of their current job. For instance, if Lenna learns the first level of the white mage, she will learn White!-Level 1. Say she changes to a monk. In addition to the monk's abilities, you can choose to have Lenna also have the White! command. At level one, as a monk she could use first level white spells. This system is essential to learn and balance for the final battle.

Yet another Hiryuu game kept in Japan...
Yet another Hiryuu game kept in Japan...  

   Once we leave the ingenuity of the job system, Final Fantasy V starts to become an average game overall, not just an average Square game. For one thing, the music, while becoming more complex and "used" to the new system's capabilities, seems a bit dry and tired. There are a few songs here and their that are good, but... none are very memorable. A funny thing to note about the music, though, is that the theme music for Sephiroth and Kuja have their roots here... interesting...

   As with every Final Fantasy released, a revolutionary concept or idea has emerged for the gaming world. However, Final Fantasy V does not bring forth very many new ideas, and those that are new are not quite big enough to be considered revolutionary. The major original concept was the application of the job system, which was a take-off of Final Fantasy III. It was a good change to FFIII's system, and a fresh idea. Unfortunately, that was about it for great ideas.

   The storyline follows this unoriginal path. The basic story of four crystals and an evil power trying to steal power sealed by these crystals is far from original. The playable characters also lack... well, character! They are all very one-dimensional, and even that one dimension is rather paltry. The story becomes both blah and melodramatic at the same time, almost like a bad soap-opera. Thankfully, the translation wasn't horribly butchered for the PSX release, Anthology.

   The job system allows for an infinite number of ways to play this game, although you would only want to try a few. With all the jobs, you can create a tremendous number of different parties and test their effectiveness in different situations. Also, their are many secrets to discover, a new commodity that FFIV only hinted at and FFIII tried its best at with its limited technology. The replay value, however, is rather low because of the blahness of actually going through the game.

Great place for a party
Great Place for a party  

   The graphics are a good step up from Final Fantasy IV. Movement is smoother, and "special effects" are flashier. Battle animations are also cleaner, as well as magic spells. Unfortunately, the overall palette feels rather washed out.

The difficulty in this game is varying... throughout the game, fights were relatively easy. However, when the final area is reached, the difficulty soars. The final boss himself is very tricky, whereas previous bosses aren't very hard at all. Overall, the difficulty is medium with some extreme battles here and there.

With this imbalance, completion time can take much longer than expected. If one were to rush through, twenty hours would be the fastest it could realisticly be done. There are many side-quests to consider, as well, such as finding all the espers and hidden jobs. And, for you perfectionist (and masochists) out there, there's always the glory of having all your characters master every single job.

Heh, heh..FIRE! FIRE! FIRE!
Heh, heh..FIRE! FIRE! FIRE!  

Overall, Final Fantasy V was a great stepping stone for Square in its development of this series. It was the transition that brought us to the greatness that Final Fantasy VI boasts. A handsome game, although average, Final Fantasy V is proof of the ever-improving quality that Square has promised the RPG world.

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