Final Fantasy V
  • Genre:
    • RPG
  • Platform:
    • Super Famicom
  • Developer:
    • Square
  • Publisher:
    • Square
  • Released:
    • JP 12/13/1992
Score: 85%

This review was published on 06/05/2013.

Final Fantasy V is a Japanese role-playing game originally released for the Super Famicom in 1992. The Super Famicom is the Japanese name for the Super Nintendo Entertainment System, in case you're wondering. Square, the company behind the Final Fantasy series, used to have a habit of not releasing its games to the West, especially RPGs. As hard as it might be to believe now, even their bread and butter Final Fantasy games would often skip out on western territories. RPGs weren't very popular on consoles until around Final Fantasy VI and VII, so it was pretty common for the West to miss out on key RPGs. Final Fantasy V is one game that didn't get released in the West at all until late into the PlayStation era in 1999, in a PS1 compilation known as "Final Fantasy Anthology," which contained a fully translated Final Fantasy V and a slightly modified Final Fantasy VI. Final Fantasy V was the real star in that one, because North American gamers had already played Final Fantasy VI on the SNES in 1994, but V was all new to them. Final Fantasy V is actually a big deal for the series, as it's the second game to sport the extremely popular and well-liked job class system, in which any character can change classes at any time during the game. The first Final Fantasy to feature this was the third one on the regular 8-bit Famicom, but that one didn't get released outside Japan, either. Final Fantasy V would be the first time North American gamers got to see the job system in action, and it remains one of the best systems in the series. The game itself is a little on the generic side, but the job system helps make the experience a fun one.

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Everything in the world of Final Fantasy V revolves around the four elemental crystals of wind, water, fire and earth. The elements of the world itself depend on these very crystals. If the crystals were to be disturbed in some way, it would cause an imbalance that could potentially lead to catastrophic events. And that's just what happens. The wind begins to slow down one day, and the king of a kingdom called Tycoon decides to investigate these strange turn of events. He mounts his trusty dragon stead, which is the coolest thing ever, to fly towards the mystical wind shrine, where the almighty wind crystal is kept. Much to the king's surprise and dismay, the wind crystal shattered right before his eyes. This obviously spells trouble for the world of Final Fantasy V. Not far off from where this took place, Bartz, a whimsical adventurer, was merely minding his own business one day when he witnesses a meteorite crash into the Earth. He hops onto his chocobo, a bird similar to an ostrich, to ride off into where the meteorite landed. His chocobo is named Boco, by the way. Boco is my favorite character in the whole game. Anyway, Bartz soon discovers the daughter of the king of Tycoon, Princess Lenna, being attacked by some nasty goblins. Being the young strapping lad that he is, Bartz decides to swoop in and save the princess. That's so cliched. After Lenna regains her composure, she tells Bartz that she wants to follow her dad to the crystal shrine to see what's going on. Bartz decides to tag along with her, because he's a useless bum without a job, and also because she's a hot chick with money. Yeah, there really isn't much of a reason for Bartz to follow her. The two venture off into the dangers of the world to discover the mysteries of the crystals, meeting many companions along the way. Final Fantasy V's setting is kind of generic, but at least the narrative keeps things moving along at a good pace.

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Whereas Final Fantasy IV was a very serious, melodramatic tale of many honorable sacrifices, Final Fantasy V decides to take a more light-hearted, adventurous tone. The story rarely takes itself too seriously, which can either come off as a good or bad thing depending on what type of experience you were bargaining for. There certainly are serious moments in the game, like a dramatic death scene of a long-time party member, but overall this quest tries to be on the aloof side. The bright side to this is that the adventure has a lot of fun, varied locations to visit, such as a pirate lair, a haunted ship graveyard, ancient pyramids, and a lot of other cool locations. Many of these locations may sound silly, and that's because they are silly. Does that really matter, though? I mean, if you're having fun, then who cares if some of these locations seem a little out of place. That's my take on it, anyway. The issue, of course, is that the plot is fairly generic and uninteresting, never managing to take hold like the stories in other Final Fantasy games. Beyond a strong start, the game eventually devolves into another typical quest of hunting down and defeating a generic bad guy, who's even more generic than the baddies in Final Fantasy IV. He also has almost no back story. With a name like Exdeath, I suppose he really didn't need one. What I'm trying to say is that Exdeath is no Kefka. The great Gilgamesh was birthed in this game, though, so that's one thing we can be thankful for. Gilgamesh acts as a comic relief, being that incompetent bad guy who always fails spectacularly. You fight him at many points throughout the game, and fights with him are always amusing. The Gilgamesh fellow even makes multiple appearances in future Final Fantasy games. If it weren't for the adventurous story and Gilgamesh, Final Fantasy V's plot would win an award for being incredibly generic.

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Fights in Final Fantasy V are the same like in any other Final Fantasy game, for the most part. If you played one menu-driven RPG, you essentially played them all. The same Active Time Battle system that Final Fantasy IV first made use of is reused in this game, albeit in a slightly improved form. Unlike in Final Fantasy IV, you can actually see the bars this time, which certainly helps. Each entity in the field of battle has a bar that gradually fills up over time, and commands can be selected once a bar is fully filled up. That can give the battles a sense of urgency, since enemies can get extra hits on you if you take too long to select commands. Enemies and characters have different stats that alter the rate at which the bar fills, which basically determines the turn order. In other words, it's really not that different from other turn-based battle systems, beyond the added sense of urgency. The thing that makes the battles at all interesting in Final Fantasy V is the job system, as it allows for maximum versatility. You can't actually change jobs during battle, but you can essentially completely rearrange your abilities outside of battle, meaning every battle could play out differently if you were so inclined. This is a double edged sword of sorts, because the battles will be as interesting as you want them to be. If you want to steamroll the game with a party of all knights that repeatedly use the attack command, you can. Where's the fun in that, though? You have to be creative to a certain extent in order to make the battles in Final Fantasy V fun or interesting. In reality, the battles are merely an excuse to try out all the fancy abilities you just learned via the wondrous job system. Battles in Final Fantasy V are just too generic to provide a thrill all on their own, but hey, at least the graphics inside of a fight are nice.

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Considering the job system is the main draw to this game, I couldn't very well write a review without explaining it in explicit detail. Upon acquiring the crystal shards from a broken crystal, all your characters gain access to various classes known as jobs. All characters can use every available job, and they can change jobs at any time, given you're not in a battle or cutscene. That right there is the beauty of the job system. Jobs will alter the stats of your characters, their equipment options, abilities, and spells. They basically become entirely different characters when switching jobs. You got stuff like knights, which can equip heavy armor and powerful weapons, monks who can pack a wallop with their bare fists and have high amounts of hit points, black mages with offensive magic, white mages with curative magic, jobs that can summon magical beasts for massive damage, and much more. The options are literally endless. As if that weren't already enough, you can learn new abilities by gaining points fighting in a particular job. Stuff like magic can be bought at shops and is permanently useable by all characters in your party, but other abilities must be learned on an individual basis. It gets better, too. You can mix and match abilities from different jobs. For instance, you can have a black mage that can cast white magic spells, or a knight that can cast black magic. This increases the amount of options you have tenfold. The greatest thing about the job system in Final Fantasy V, however, is that there are no penalties for switching jobs. You can experiment and tinker to your heart's content with no foreseeable consequences. The only problem with the job system is that it can be boring if you're boring. If you want to raise a party of completely identical characters, then you can, and it would make the game rather dull. The characters are blank slates with which you can do whatever you want; therefore you need to do something interesting for those characters to be interesting. Other than that, the job system in this game is fantastic. When it comes to character customization, Final Fantasy V is king of the hill.

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Almost as a direct consequence to the awesomeness of the job system, Final Fantasy V has one of the worst casts of characters in the series. First of all, there are only five playable characters, but only four of them get to be in your party. The fifth one is merely an identical replacement for one party member you lose at some point, so you may as well consider it only 4. What's good about this is that you never have to worry about balancing the levels of different party members, because you'll always have the same party no matter what. The bad thing is that these characters are absolutely generic. I wasn't joking when I said they're all like blank slates. That applies to their personalities as well as their stats. Bartz is the typical hero who goes on adventures, and that's about it, really. Lenna is the tomboy princess of some kingdom, but her personality is as interesting as a plank of wood. Faris is the leader of a gang of pirates and, for some reason, decides to join your party. Again, Faris rarely contributes to the story in a meaningful way. The last character is Galuf, an old man with amnesia. Galuf does say amusing things from time to time, admittedly, but for the most part, his dialogue is as plain as everyone else's. I think there was potential to really make these characters interesting, but Final Fantasy V never quite uses that potential. I mean, you would think the leader of a gang of pirates, Faris, would be a more interesting character, at least. Unfortunately, that's not the case. As it is, the cast of Final Fantasy IV is actually more interesting and varied than this one. It's a shame, because you'll have to stick with these characters for the entire game. Final Fantasy V really could have benefitted from some better characters.

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The endgame in Final Fantasy V is pretty good, with a plethora of side quests that net you neat gear. Shops stop selling competitive equipment and spells late in the game, so you have to acquire all the most powerful stuff through questing. These quests usually result in you tackling a tough optional dungeon and then fighting a challenging boss at the end. There is one ultimate weapon for each job in the game, more or less, and these are only a few of the rewards available to you in the game. As cool as it is to get a new weapon or armor, I think the most rewarding rewards are the spells. Acquiring a new spell means any mages in your party automatically gain new firepower that will be useful in just about any combat situation. The summons are among the most exciting things to obtain, because you usually have to fight the summons themselves first before they'll allow you to use them. This harkens back to Final Fantasy IV, but it's still cool as can be. Like a lot of endgame quests from other RPGs, however, the challenges of completing the quests can sometimes be harder than beating the final boss. That can make the prizes seem insignificant in the grand scheme of things. All these quests are ultimately for the purposes of preparing you for the final dungeon of the game, which is long and hard, as most final dungeons tend to be. Doing all the quests and getting everything will likely make the final dungeon a breeze, making the quests worth your time. Final Fantasy V will keep you playing for many long hours with its extensive optional endgame content. And that can be a good thing if you enjoy Final Fantasy V.

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Final Fantasy V brought the world the amazing job system, but that's pretty much all it did. The plot, characters, and setting are all pretty generic, even for the time. The story might not be as cut and dry as Final Fantasy IV, but it's still pretty dry. The characters are certainly dryer than Final Fantasy IV's cast. Final Fantasy V is an entertaining enough game in its own right, but don't be surprised if you aren't surprised, as there are no surprises to be had here. For some of you, the endless entertainment provided by the job system will be enough to justify the game. However, if stories are important to you in RPGs, then you may find yourself disappointed. To be fair, the story does sort of have that Chrono Trigger or Secret of Evermore vibe to it, in that it's an adventure that'll take you to lots of fun places. It's not entirely out of the question that some people will enjoy plot's light heartedness. At the end of the day, Final Fantasy V isn't one of the best RPGs on the SNES, but it's still worth a look if you don't mind the lackluster story.

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