RETRO REVIEW: Final Fantasy V
Considering we won’t get a release date for Final Fantasy XV anytime soon, let’s go back a whole 10 games in the main series to a simpler time, where 16-bit was all the rage.
Originally released in Japan on the Super Famicom in 1992, us English speaking folks wouldn’t get a taste of Final Fantasy V until its release on the PlayStation in 1999. By that time, we already had Final Fantasy VII and VIII, so this little gem understandably went a little unnoticed, however it’s a joy to play and certainly deserves some love.
The premise of Final Fantasy V’s storyline is relatively simple – you must save the world from impending doom, as usual. Our unlikely hero, Bartz, a budding adventurer is taking a rest with his Chocobo, when all of a sudden the wind crystal shatters.
In the meantime, Princess Lenna is wandering what all the fuss is about, so she goes on her travels, eventually meeting Bartz, a questionable pirate who goes by the name of Faris, and an old mysterious fellow known as Galuf. Once they all realise this is just the first in a number of crystals, the group decide to team up and prevent other crystals from shattering. Thus, the epic journey begins. Always wanted to say that.
Like practically every JRPG at the time, Final Fantasy V is no different in the way you traverse through towns and dungeons, getting new weapons, armour, and magic along the way. However, what sets it apart from the herd is its unique job system. This system allows you to strategically equip each party member with a particular job or role as it were.
These initially include the likes of Monk, Knight, Thief, White Mage, Black Mage, and Blue Mage – so right off the bat, you’re welcome to experiment with these jobs, each containing abilities unique to that job. For example, the White Mage is generally useless in combat but is able to provide healing, whereas the Knight only focuses on damaging the enemy as much as possible, whilst maintaining a high level of defence.
Each battle will reward you with ability points (ABP), which is needed to advance each job further, in turn rewarding you with additional abilities. This can often mean a lot of grinding, but it’s well worth it when you’ve fully mastered a particular job as you’ll have a much bigger advantage when it comes to fighting bosses later on.
Eventually, you’ll be given plenty of other jobs to play around with, including Samurai, Ninja, Summoner, Geomancer, among many others. Obviously Final Fantasy and Final Fantasy III had jobs to choose from, but I feel Final Fantasy V took it to the next level, providing a unique sense of gameplay.
Final Fantasy V uses the active battle system (ATB), which allows each character to take their turn when the bar is fully filled. Certain status ailments can cause the bar to go slower or stop completely, so it’s always good to have items ready to counter the effects.
Being able to see the progress of an upcoming turn adds tactical thought to your next move, for example if say, Bartz is a White Mage and you can clearly see he will be available sooner than any other member of your party, you can plan ahead and think to youself “I’ll use cure 2 as Lenna is low on health”.
The soundtrack to Final Fantasy V isn’t anything to shout about, however there are a few tracks which stand out such as “The Decisive Battle”, which is played during battles with the game’s antagonist, ExDeath – it’s perfectly suited to the difficulty of any battle with him, making for an intense experience. Others include “Moogles’ Theme” and “Pirates Ahoy”.
Graphically, Final Fantasy V looks like other JRPGs at the time – charming, colourful, and filled with stationary unanimated enemies. It was the early 90’s – fitting the amount of content on a 16-bit cartridge was difficult enough, let alone having fully animated enemies.
The world map is filled with forests, mountains, and vast oceans, encouraging exploration whenever possible. This is done by simply walking, riding Chocobos, flying an airship, or submerging yourself in a submarine to reach areas you wouldn’t be able to do so on foot. There are a total of three worlds in Final Fantasy V, allowing you to seek out hidden locations and optional areas. Always a good thing in a game such as this.
Typically spanning 25-30 hours of gameplay (based on my experience), Final Fantasy V will keep you engaged throughout, whilst throwing tough enemies and bosses at you quite frequently. It may take a little time to adjust, but seasoned JRPG players shouldn’t have a problem.
Worth Playing Today: More so than Final Fantasy XIII…
Available On: Super Famicom, PlayStation, Gameboy Advance, iOS, Android
Released: 1992, Super Famicom