Final Fantasy V - Review

Between a Rock and a Hard Place
By: LordoftheFleas

Review Breakdown
   Battle System 10
   Interface 8
   Music & Sound 9
   Originality 7
   Story 6
   Localization 4
   Replay Value 4
   Visuals 6
   Difficulty Hard
   Completion Time 30-40hrs  

Before his ominous (and cool) roles in Final Fantasy 8 and 9, Gilgamesh was still ominous (and cool)!
Before his ominous (and cool) roles in Final Fantasy 8 and 9, Gilgamesh was still ominous (and cool)!

The Final Fantasy series has long been hailed as the greatest RPG series in North America, and the one by which all others are judged. Thus, it is somewhat of a surprise that not every single game in the series was originally released here. As a matter of fact many RPGs did not make that fateful trip across the ocean during the 16-bit era, but there was one that was always talked about above the rest. Finally with the release of Final Fantasy Anthology in 1999, Square appeased its fans by bringing over the legendary forgotten Final Fantasy.

Final Fantasy V was certainly not legendary for its graphics. Though apt for its time (1992), they were based off of the same engine as the games predecessor, Final Fantasy IV, and featured the same tiny super-deformed sprites, world design, and bland, washed-out look overall. Despite these shortcomings, the graphics succeeded in giving the game its own unique feel, with areas such as Ex-Deaths Castle and the Cleft of Dimension standing out. It is evident that especial attention was given to the monsters in-battle graphics, because they are some of the most well-detailed of any on the SNES. The FMVs that were hyped to be included in the package are few (two), but they rival those found in Final Fantasy VII and Final Fantasy VIII.

Several issues with the previous installments interface are remedied in this game: namely, the amount of items that can be held is increased and the menus are much more well organized and navigable. There are optimize and remove functions which make equipping characters much less of a hassle. Lastly, you can DASH if you hold down the cancel button while walking, and theres a skill that allows you to go four times as fast! This may not seem like too big of a deal, but when playing an RPG where you have to walk everywhere (such as Final Fantasy IV), you realize what an important feature this is.

However when it comes to story kudos once again goes to the previous installment. That game featured one of the most beloved stories of the 16-bit generation, and Final Fantasy V followed with what can be accurately defined as a touched-up rehash of the first games story. The crystals are losing power due to an ominous force, four Heroes of Light come together to stop eminent evil--though there are no Four Fiends, this story has been told before. Worse yet, the cast is littered with bland characters, of which only few receive anything close to resembling character development. This may sound harsh considering that once again this game was released in 1992, but (here I go again) Final Fantasy IVs characters were rich with personality and development (and that game featured a larger cast). What keeps you playing in spite of the weak story and characters is the plot, which is actually rife with enough twists that, though cliched, make it interesting enough to continue forth.

Whoever translated this game for the Anthology version--to put simply and nicely--does not need to translate anything else ever again. Admittedly, some of the weakness of the story and characters can be attributed to the translation, which is littered with enough errors and misspellings that at some points the game is downright unintelligible. Im certain that some members of the Final Fantasy Tactics localization team laughed themselves too pieces after reading this--not a good sign.

The ORIGINAL Omega Weapon!
The ORIGINAL Omega Weapon!

After reading to this point, many may think Why would anyone clamor so much over this game? Its not even better than Final Fantasy IV, and they released that over here! What was there to complain about? The answer to that is Final Fantasy Vs crown achievement and most notable addition to its lineage: the fabled Job System. Based on previous templates from Final Fantasy and Final Fantasy III, it was perfected in this entry, and many people consider it to be the best PURE battle system in the series. By training in different jobs such as White Mage or Knight, characters would learn skills like Steal and Jump. The best part came when you mixed these skills to form powerful combinations, like a Summoner who could also cast time magic or a Knight who had a Thiefs speed. There were also two special jobs, Bare and Mimic, that when assumed took on the traits of all other jobs mastered by that character. All in all, the Job System is what MAKES this game, and almost single-handedly atones for all its faults.

Considering all of the above factors, Final Fantasy V will take anywhere from about 30-40 hours to complete the first time through. There really is no reason to play it again: though there are more sidequests than before they are not easily missed the first time, and the multiple endings boil down to who is alive, and not zombified or petrified, after the last boss is defeated. The only real reasons to play through this game again is to try out different job combinations, or to master every single job, (but believe me when I tell you that there are too much other games out there to play), or if you want to *gasp* relive the story, if you get a nostalgic itch to do so.

So, was Final Fantasy V all that it was cracked up to be? The answer is up to you. For me it was, if only to experience the great soundtrack and gameplay. Right now it even places on my top 5 Final Fantasys list (which is subject to change after the release of Final Fantasy XII). The problem is too many people pass off this game and fail to appreciate it for its own merits, just because it is sandwiched between two of the most praised and beloved RPGs of all time. Due to its difficulty and emphasis on battles I strongly recommend this game to fans of strategy RPGs like Final Fantasy Tactics and Ogre Battle, but when looked upon as its own game apart from its SNES brethren, it can be enjoyed by any RPGamer.

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