Review: Final Fantasy V

Final Fantasy V
Final Fantasy V (Game Boy Advance)

Final Fantasy V (GBA)

Being the fifth month of the year, this month’s Final Fantasy title was naturally Final Fantasy V, a game I had played long ago when it came out as one-half of the original Playstation’s Final Fantasy Anthology over a decade ago. The only thing I really recalled about the game was not liking it and eventually giving up on it; prior to this past month, it remained the one title in the series that I had quit and not beaten — although, full disclosure, as I learned in March, I never actually beat Final Fantasy III originally on the Nintendo DS, though that was not because of disliking and quitting it, as it was with this game. So, to be honest, my initial thoughts going in to this game was a bit of dread, worried that it would be one boring forced slog through this game, especially after having played such a great title like Final Fantasy IV.

Well, let me tell you — I loved it. I was surprised, too; I thought I would get to some point where the game’s pace would annoy me or making me groan at the fact that I had to keep going for the sake of just completing it for this challenge, but that was not the case at all. The story kicked off right away, with the main character of Bartz immediately meeting two others, and very shortly thereafter a fourth. These four would then be together for the majority of the game, which was good in that it formed a bond between each of them, as well as between the player. Though I love Final Fantasy IV, one of its issues is the fact that its wide array of characters swap in and out of the party throughout the story at such a rapid pace that eventually you start wondering just how long it is that you have the newest (or returning) party member before he or she also splits. Not so in this game.

The graphics are standard fare for the 16-bit era (though possibly enhanced for the Game Boy Advance release on which I was playing) and the sound is good stuff for its time period. I had seen a Final Fantasy: Distant Worlds concert back in March, where one of the pieces played was “Clash on the Big Bridge” from this game, but I did not really know it. Hearing it in-game might actually be better, given the visual atmosphere and all. The story itself was compelling enough that I wanted to keep continuing to see where it was headed and how it eventually played out (which worked out well). In fact, I only learned after the final dungeon when I went on a message board that a large portion of the final act of the game was actually optional, and I could’ve actually just gone into the final area for the win much earlier than I did. However, I was so glad I didn’t, because it allowed me to experience that much more of this game.

As for the gameplay, one thing I had recalled from playing this way back when was feeling like I had to change my Jobs and start leveling up a new one in order to get past specific points in the game. See, by comparison, in Final Fantasy III, you had 20 jobs and there were portions of the game that definitely called for your characters to utilize specific ones in order to advance. The thing was that, when you switched a job, you also lost any of that job’s abilities in Final Fantasy III. Here, when you level a job and learn a new ability, your character now has access to that ability even if they change jobs! So, along with wanting to advance the story in order to unlock more new jobs, I had a ton of fun actually leveling the jobs on all four characters so that they’d have a wealth of abilities available to them. I started by personally assigning each party member an overall role. For example, I assigned Bartz being a heavy-hitter that could also take the damage if needed, so he learned Knight and other damage-oriented abilities from associated jobs first, before moving on to other abilities such as magic and summons. Likewise, Lenna learned all of the available magic first, Galuf was my pure damage-dealer, and Faris was my thief/ninja. Eventually, I could teach them all everything, if I so desired, but the bottom line was that I could personally decide how to build my characters out to perform specific roles, with myriad abilities available to them at any given time. I ended up teaching a bit of each kind of magic to each character as a base of knowledge before they took on their more defined roles as well. This made it so that, when I’d face a new challenge that might require a steady stream of Thunder casts, my characters could remain in their current jobs and need only equip their learned abilities. It made for a really fun game overall.

The supporting characters and locations that you come across were also memorable, and going back to previous areas in later parts of the game revealed not only new dialogue based on the current events, but also potential changes to the areas’ layouts themselves as per the story. It really made exploring a fun element of the game to see what had happened elsewhere and what the people there had to say about it.

The game also has a lasting appeal in a bunch of optional content, mostly high-level stuff to be done after or around the end-game. Sadly, due to my time constraints, I was not able to tackle this within my given month of May, but I would love to further explore this down the line sometime.

When it comes to ranking this game versus the previous games in the series I have played thus far, I am torn. I really like Final Fantasy IV, but I feel like if I had to return to play one of the five games thus far in the series, I’d play Final Fantasy V again over Final Fantasy IV, so I am ranking it higher. Now, that might just be because it’s fresh in my head. It also might be because I have played IV several times over to the point that I mostly have it memorized. But the bottom line is these two are pretty close. Actually, I played Final Fantasy IV on the Nintendo DS 3-D release (read: not Nintendo 3DS), so maybe playing Final Fantasy IV on the PlayStation Portable (which includes two sequels as part of the bundle) would compel me to play that again over playing Final Fantasy V again. But then, if I look at both game’s I’ve played and their bonus content — neither of which I completed — I feel like I’d return to finish off Final Fantasy V over Final Fantasy IV (though, if I’d gotten the PSP version, I’d be going for that instead).

As you can see, I’m really torn between the two, but it’s clear that they’re the best the series has had to offer thus far, if completely different in gameplay. An ensemble cast, dropping in and out of the story and playability, each character with pre-defined roles versus four characters that you control for almost the entire game, each fully customized as to how you’d like them to play, to the point of each learning everything possible if desired. In the end, I’ll go with:

1) Final Fantasy V
2) Final Fantasy IV
3) Final Fantasy II
4) Final Fantasy III
5) Final Fantasy

Now, this may change by year’s end, when the “shine” of Final Fantasy V has subsided. But if I look at it as, “What would I be most likely to go back and replay,” taking just the original versions of the game (ie no extra content or included sequels), I’d go with Final Fantasy V.


Final Fantasy V (Game Boy Advance)

Final Fantasy V (GBA)

Being the fifth month of the year, this month’s Final Fantasy title was naturally Final Fantasy V, a game I had played long ago when it came out as one-half of the original Playstation’s Final Fantasy Anthology over a decade ago. The only thing I really recalled about the game was not liking it and eventually giving up on it; prior to this past month, it remained the one title in the series that I had quit and not beaten — although, full disclosure, as I learned in March, I never actually beat Final Fantasy III originally on the Nintendo DS, though that was not because of disliking and quitting it, as it was with this game. So, to be honest, my initial thoughts going in to this game was a bit of dread, worried that it would be one boring forced slog through this game, especially after having played such a great title like Final Fantasy IV.

Well, let me tell you — I loved it. I was surprised, too; I thought I would get to some point where the game’s pace would annoy me or making me groan at the fact that I had to keep going for the sake of just completing it for this challenge, but that was not the case at all. The story kicked off right away, with the main character of Bartz immediately meeting two others, and very shortly thereafter a fourth. These four would then be together for the majority of the game, which was good in that it formed a bond between each of them, as well as between the player. Though I love Final Fantasy IV, one of its issues is the fact that its wide array of characters swap in and out of the party throughout the story at such a rapid pace that eventually you start wondering just how long it is that you have the newest (or returning) party member before he or she also splits. Not so in this game.

The graphics are standard fare for the 16-bit era (though possibly enhanced for the Game Boy Advance release on which I was playing) and the sound is good stuff for its time period. I had seen a Final Fantasy: Distant Worlds concert back in March, where one of the pieces played was “Clash on the Big Bridge” from this game, but I did not really know it. Hearing it in-game might actually be better, given the visual atmosphere and all. The story itself was compelling enough that I wanted to keep continuing to see where it was headed and how it eventually played out (which worked out well). In fact, I only learned after the final dungeon when I went on a message board that a large portion of the final act of the game was actually optional, and I could’ve actually just gone into the final area for the win much earlier than I did. However, I was so glad I didn’t, because it allowed me to experience that much more of this game.

As for the gameplay, one thing I had recalled from playing this way back when was feeling like I had to change my Jobs and start leveling up a new one in order to get past specific points in the game. See, by comparison, in Final Fantasy III, you had 20 jobs and there were portions of the game that definitely called for your characters to utilize specific ones in order to advance. The thing was that, when you switched a job, you also lost any of that job’s abilities in Final Fantasy III. Here, when you level a job and learn a new ability, your character now has access to that ability even if they change jobs! So, along with wanting to advance the story in order to unlock more new jobs, I had a ton of fun actually leveling the jobs on all four characters so that they’d have a wealth of abilities available to them. I started by personally assigning each party member an overall role. For example, I assigned Bartz being a heavy-hitter that could also take the damage if needed, so he learned Knight and other damage-oriented abilities from associated jobs first, before moving on to other abilities such as magic and summons. Likewise, Lenna learned all of the available magic first, Galuf was my pure damage-dealer, and Faris was my thief/ninja. Eventually, I could teach them all everything, if I so desired, but the bottom line was that I could personally decide how to build my characters out to perform specific roles, with myriad abilities available to them at any given time. I ended up teaching a bit of each kind of magic to each character as a base of knowledge before they took on their more defined roles as well. This made it so that, when I’d face a new challenge that might require a steady stream of Thunder casts, my characters could remain in their current jobs and need only equip their learned abilities. It made for a really fun game overall.

The supporting characters and locations that you come across were also memorable, and going back to previous areas in later parts of the game revealed not only new dialogue based on the current events, but also potential changes to the areas’ layouts themselves as per the story. It really made exploring a fun element of the game to see what had happened elsewhere and what the people there had to say about it.

The game also has a lasting appeal in a bunch of optional content, mostly high-level stuff to be done after or around the end-game. Sadly, due to my time constraints, I was not able to tackle this within my given month of May, but I would love to further explore this down the line sometime.

When it comes to ranking this game versus the previous games in the series I have played thus far, I am torn. I really like Final Fantasy IV, but I feel like if I had to return to play one of the five games thus far in the series, I’d play Final Fantasy V again over Final Fantasy IV, so I am ranking it higher. Now, that might just be because it’s fresh in my head. It also might be because I have played IV several times over to the point that I mostly have it memorized. But the bottom line is these two are pretty close. Actually, I played Final Fantasy IV on the Nintendo DS 3-D release (read: not Nintendo 3DS), so maybe playing Final Fantasy IV on the PlayStation Portable (which includes two sequels as part of the bundle) would compel me to play that again over playing Final Fantasy V again. But then, if I look at both game’s I’ve played and their bonus content — neither of which I completed — I feel like I’d return to finish off Final Fantasy V over Final Fantasy IV (though, if I’d gotten the PSP version, I’d be going for that instead).

As you can see, I’m really torn between the two, but it’s clear that they’re the best the series has had to offer thus far, if completely different in gameplay. An ensemble cast, dropping in and out of the story and playability, each character with pre-defined roles versus four characters that you control for almost the entire game, each fully customized as to how you’d like them to play, to the point of each learning everything possible if desired. In the end, I’ll go with:

1) Final Fantasy V
2) Final Fantasy IV
3) Final Fantasy II
4) Final Fantasy III
5) Final Fantasy

Now, this may change by year’s end, when the “shine” of Final Fantasy V has subsided. But if I look at it as, “What would I be most likely to go back and replay,” taking just the original versions of the game (ie no extra content or included sequels), I’d go with Final Fantasy V.


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Jason L. Hubsch

Jason L. Hubsch

I love music, video games, comic books, pro wrestling, politics, and God -- and not necessarily in that order! If you like any of these, chances are we'll get along.

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