Final Fantasy V Advance - Staff Review  

The Middle Final Fantasy
by Michael "Macstorm" Cunningham

Moderate to Hard
30-40 Hours


Rating definitions 

   It may not be exactly in the middle, but Final Fantasy V plays the role of the middle child. As the only SNES Final Fantasy skipped for US release, it wasn't until the PlayStation compilation Final Fantasy Anthology that American gamers were first able to play this title. Once again with the latest release on the Game Boy Advance Final Fantasy V Advance takes the middle spot again in more ways than one. It takes its place as the second of four re-releases in a series of Game Boy Advance ports. As if that wasn't enough, it was also launched a mere seven days after the highly anticipated Final Fantasy XII and only nine days prior to the long-awaited Final Fantasy III. Needless to say, Final Fantasy V Advance has faced an uphill struggle being the middle child. The question is how has it fared?

   In terms of story, Final Fantasy V Advance is the same as its prior release, though the translation is much cleaner. The dialogue is littered with pop culture and modern day references. While this might seem cheesy at first, FFV embraces this quirky sense of humor and makes it its own. On a more serious game such lines as "That lobster just got served! With cheese biscuits and mashed potatoes." would detract from the overall feel of the game. Thankfully, this title doesn't have an overly epic storyline, so without changing the game completely, it makes the best of what it's given.

   Final Fantasy V plays host to five main characters: Bartz, Reina, Faris, Galuf, and Krile. This group of adventurers must prevent the destruction of the four elemental crystals. The crystals are the source of life in the world, so as the party investigates the reason for the shattering crystals, they will encounter many surprises and much tragedy. While each character does play an integral role in the story, the overall level of character depth is fairly low. With the new translation, each character does seem to have a greater personality than the prior release; however, it is still difficult to develop any sort of emotional attachment to them. The main story lasts about thirty hours, but the greatest part of that time is spent with the battle system, not the plot.

Overpowered It may be overpowered, but I still used it.

   Story takes a backseat to gameplay in Final Fantasy V Advance, as this game is heavily focused on combat. The core of the game is built around the most in-depth job system seen in a main series Final Fantasy game. This game offers up twenty-six job classes, four of which were added as new content for this release. It includes the classic White Mage, Black Mage, Thief, and Knight jobs, but also introduces the series to Blue Mages, mages that are able to learn spells from enemies, and the sword masters known as Samurai. Jobs such as these have seen many changes since Final Fantasy V but were first brought to life here. Taking the basic job system a step further, Final Fantasy V allows skills that have been learned to be used when swapping to another job. Such customization allows for tons of possibilities, from a Monk that can steal to a katana-wielding White Mage; it's a nice feature. Battles take place via traditional turn-based combat, not varying hardly at all from Final Fantasy IV's Active Time Battle system. Issues that may frustrate gamers are the fairly high encounter rate and extreme difficultly of bosses in comparison to normal enemies. Later in the game, the addition of the new Gladiator job does toss a bit of imbalance into the battle system, as the job has an overpowered skill called Finisher. This ability does not always hit, but when it does hit it deals 9,999 points of massive damage. The success rate of the skill is high enough to where it can make battles, even some bosses, extremely easy.

   Interaction within Final Fantasy V is everything gamers have come to expect from the collection of Game Boy Advance ports. Item and inventory management feels natural, though sometimes equipment optimization can be irritating due to the fact that the party obtains many items with misleading stats. One example of this is the Excalipoor sword; gamers will have to trash this sword because its extremely high stats cause it to continually be optimally equipped even though it only deals one point of damage. Another issue with the management of equipment is having to unequip or reoptimize everything when changing jobs or even modifying abilities. There may be times that automatically optimizing isn't preferred and the only other option is having the characters unequipped and then reequipping everything manually. These mechanics are not major problems, but it would have been nice for them to be cleaned up.

Massive damage. Now that hit the weak spot for MASSIVE DAMAGE!

   Visually, Final Fantasy V Advance does not stand out. While developers made attempts to improve the graphical quality, there was only so much that could be done with a Game Boy Advance port of a SNES game. Much like all of the prior Final Fantasy re-releases, Nobuo Uematsu's music returns with minor remixing. The intense combat piece "Battle on the Big Bridge" and the peaceful "My Home, Sweet Home" do make for a rather enjoyable soundtrack.

   Thankfully, the additional content is substantial. This version contains four new job classes, three of which are available before the end of the game, and bonus dungeons. The dungeons are not for the casual gamer, as it seems as if the encounter rate has been boosted on top of the bosses being made even more challenging than those in the main story. While more content prior to the end of the game would have been nice, the additions are better than nothing.

   It is difficult to see much originality within this enhanced port. But points must be awarded for the modernized translation. It would have been easy just to reuse the same dry translation or to not really take the time to modify any of the dialogue, but the developers added a nice quirky sense of humor to Final Fantasy V that gives it an up-to-date feel. Innovation was not the focus of this title, so a lack of originality is forgivable.

   This middle child really had something to prove with its siblings making waves all around it. Final Fantasy V Advance stepped up to the plate by providing players with a quality port with a nice handful of bonuses. Though the game may look dated, with its impressive job system, classic soundtrack, and endearing dialogue, gamers that find the time to pick up this title will find an enjoyable and challenging RPG.

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