Final Fantasy 5 - Review

Some Things Are Best Left Where They Belong

By: Jade Falcon

Review Breakdown
   Battle System 6
   Interface 5
   Music/Sound 4
   Originality 4
   Plot 6
   Localization 3
   Replay Value 1
   Visuals 3
   Difficulty Hard
   Time to Complete

30-40 hours


Title Screen

   The abstinence Square possessed in the SNES days is a well-known fact. The company only released three of its six NES and SNES games in the United States. Only one of the SNES Final Fantasy games never made its way to the American side of the Pacific, being Final Fantasy 5. At least this was true until Final Fantasy Anthology was released in 1999. Hailed as one of the best of the Final Fantasy series, does the game stack up to its modern competition? (Note: This review covers the Playstation version of Final Fantasy 5.)

   Standard fare ATB battle systems plagued the SNES era of RPGs, and with Final Fantasy 5, this is no different. What makes Final Fantasy 5 different from the majority of other RPGs is the addition of the Job system, first introduced in yet another Japan-only incarnation, Final Fantasy 3. Each character is given one of a set of jobs, each job allowing the character to learn extra skills. The skills are then able to be equipped on the character and are useable during battle. Some jobs also have out-of-battle applications, like the thief can see hidden corridors. When a character has a certain job, he or she can only equip certain weapons and armor. What makes the battle system irritating is the ridiculously high encounter rate. At times, there is an even higher rate than in Final Fantasy 6, and some of the enemies, especially in new areas, can be tough nuts to crack.

   When an RPGamer thinks of a Final Fantasy game, he usually thinks of a great story. Final Fantasy 5 possess the least in-depth story in the entire series. The game starts off very slowly, with only one cliché task (crystal hunting), but as the game wears on, the story becomes quite complex. However, the story livens after transporting to the second world. One main theme in the story is death. The persistent tales of relatives dying makes the player wonder if they are the only humans left living.

Added FMV  

   I remember reading that Nobuo Uematsu holds that this is one of his favorite game scores. Upon closer listening and comparison between Final Fantasy 5's soundtrack and those of his other games, this soundtrack pales in comparison. I found only one truly memorable track, and that is the infamous Gilgamesh theme. This score can only be held as average. Sound effects are not much better. They basically are the same effects used in every SNES game. Square made no attempt to create fresh, different, interesting effects. Some sound more like somebody's pants ripping apart.

   The game was released in the midst of a large assortment of systems. The job system offers one of the largest opportunities to customize the characters. However, many of the more useful abilities accompanying the jobs could only be learned in the higher levels of each job, requiring a large amount of levelling up. Each character had to level up his or her own jobs: the skills learned from each job were not shared amongst the party. Only the most obsessed RPGamer would possess the patience and time to level every characters' jobs up.

Look out... it's Gilgamesh!  

   Completely finishing Final Fantasy 5, including gaining full levels for every job for every person, takes quite a while, and sparks almost no need whatsoever to replay the game. The only reason to play through again would be to find the ever elusive, so-fun-to-find Blue Magic spells. Very few subquests appear sporadically throughout the game, and they usually give little or no help to the game. What makes the game even less appealing is its high difficulty level. When transferring to a higher level of random battles, the transition sticks out because the party gets killed in an instant. Without the proper jobs or abilities equipped, some battles are extremely difficult to win. As with most SNES-era RPGs, a large amount of levelling up is required.

   1992: The graphics surely were not ground-breaking during its original release. They basically had the same feel as Final Fantasy 4's graphics, only with a little touching up here and there, and with a little more detail added in. The whole game seemed centered around a small number of colors, mainly greens, browns, and a few reds splattered in here and there. 1999: Square made absolutely no tweaks or improvements whatsoever to the graphics, haplessly making the game look more archaic than ever. The FMV added is simply not up to par with what Square has released in its previous Final Fantasy games.

   The team that created Final Fantasy 5 in 1992 was definitely not a dream team. Though it contains several high points, the game simply does not excel in any aspect to warrant a playthrough, despite the incantation of the job system. Some thirty hours that the game requires for a playthrough can be put to better use with its packaged sequel. The Playstation-ized version packaged with Final Fantasy Anthology does not suffer the loading problems as Final Fantasy 6, but its partner is a much better play. For your own sake, if you decide to purchase Final Fantasy Anthology, buy it for 6, not 5.

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