Final Fantasy V review
Hehe... butz


Otherwise known as Hironobu Sakaguchi's swansong, Final Fantasy 5 is the 16 bit entry in the series that, like Final Fantasy 2 and 3 on the NES, didn't see an American release until the PS1 days. I have no idea why this is, because I would've thought that westerners would dig the idea of a less serious RPG. I guess because it was following the ultra serious Final Fantasy 4, that people would be surprised to find that its successor would be this light hearted romp... especially if Final Fantasy 6 was going to be a darker game. Look, I don't know for sure why it was never translated and released internationally outside of the west's general disinterest in JRPGs at the time, but what I do know is that this is a fun, fun game.

Oh wait, wasn't that what Final Fantasy: Mystic Quest tried to be and failed miserably because it was so simple in its approach and so easy to play that it flat out insulted everybody's intelligence? Ouch. You know, Final Fantasy 5 might have some tricky bosses, but they're oh so much fun to fight that I forgot that they were harder than what was in Final Fantasy 4. The story, as shallow as it is (especially compared to even the butchered English translation of Final Fantasy 4 on the Super Nintendo), is so much fun to follow because of its consistent use of humor like the characters taking the piss out of each other or getting into situations that warrant some funny one liners, and some fourth wall jokes here and there never hurt. Oh, and Gilgamesh is a laugh riot. Everything he says ranges from amusing to hilarious due to how much of a childish oaf he is, despite being essentially second in command to the main antagonist. Said main antagonist is a less serious version of Golbez – instead of having a tragic past and being a cold, calculated individual, this guy is just a violent psychopath whose head is likely not screwed on tightly enough.

But much like the eternally overrated Resonance Of Fate (at least within my circle of friends), Final Fantasy 5 is known more for its characters and dialogue rather than the story itself. It begins with the wind slowing down and feeling stale, and it turns out that the Wind Crystal had been shattered. The game truly commences once a meteroite crashes and Bartz, one of our main protagonists, investigates it and finds another main protagonist, the princess Lenna, getting attacked by goblins near it. Basically, what it boils down to is that our main characters have to save the crystals from exploding because the world is powered by them. The story hardly, if at all, has any big twists and turns or any real development. You do learn more about the characters, but everything moves a bit too fast for anything to settle in. Really, nothing about the story is technically good, except for the fact that it does a good job of not taking itself too seriously. It feels like a parody, but it's a good parody, so it helps you overlook how mediocre the story really is. Mind you, after a certain point, it starts to take itself a lot more seriously and it becomes evident that the story is really generic and mediocre – your usual save the world bollocks – but there's still a bit of that light heartedness in the air that'll ease the pain of an otherwise bland storyline.

Hey dude, is that a sword in your pants or are you just happy to see me?

Final Fantasy 5 has the same battle system that Final Fantasy 4 uses – that being the ATB system where it was turn based and yet things were seemingly done in real time. When the bar next to your character's name fills up, you can input a command for them, although enemies can seemingly attack at random, forcing you to stay on your toes throughout each battle. Like Final Fantasy 4, it makes things more intense as you'll need to alternate between an offensive and defensive strategy on the fly, and bosses and even enemies may be likely to counterattack. “But that's no different from Final Fantasy 4, it simply offers a sillier story” - okay, well, let's talk a little more about the bosses, shall we? One boss hits and runs, meaning you need to be quick to kill it before it hides again; one boss – or rather, a set of six bosses will revive one another, meaning you have to kill them all at once; one set of four bosses will punish you for using multi target spells; one boss basically requires you to beat him at his own game; one boss could potentially remove dead fighters from play.

Final Fantasy doesn't typically indulge in some puzzle-esque boss fights; usually, that's what the Shin Megami Tensei games do. In fact, Final Fantasy is known as a series of mostly easy games (the first three on the NES and the Japanese and DS versions of Final Fantasy 4 not so much, but then they require longer periods of time grinding than the rest). Then you play some Final Fantasy 5 and your head explodes. Final Fantasy 10 is the only other Final Fantasy game I can think of with puzzle bosses, but both of them aren't exactly fan favorites by any means. Unlike Final Fantasy 10 though, Final Fantasy 5's more straightforward bosses can hit like a truck. Like Final Fantasy 4, you don't need to grind a lot; just fight the enemies that you run into on your journey and you ought to be at a decent enough level. At least, that's how it gets more often than not anyway. Sometimes, it'll completely surprise you with a boss that'll completely murder you, or even some enemy encounters that'll give your party either a wake up call or a severe pounding, which'll force you to grind on other enemies until you think you're confident enough to proceed.

WHOA, not so close...

Even then, grinding isn't as much of a chore as you'd think it'd be. Why? Because the class system from Final Fantasy 3 returns with a vengeance! There's a good variety of classes – oh, it might not seem like it upon first glace as there are plenty of different warrior type classes like knight, mystic knight, samurai and berserker, but they each have different sort of abilities. For one thing, berserkers don't exactly have abilities; they just attack, but they have a lot of attack power and stamina to keep up the offense without dying to too many hits. Meanwhile, knights are more about protecting weaker allies, mystic knights are more about enchanting their swords and samurai either throw money or try to instantly kill enemies. Don't even get me started on the different mage classes! Whether they hit hard, heal, support, learn certain monster attacks or even mess with the ATB bars (in a good way of course), you could almost say that you're spoilt for choice! You acquire groups of glasses after getting each of the Crystals and from there, you experiment with each one to figure out what class combination works best.

Now, where grinding comes into the fray is that after each battle, you gain AP on top of EXP, which allows you to level up your classes. As you level up your classes, you can not only gain new commands and passive abilities like increasing stats or equipping certain weapons on top of the default command, but you can also transfer most of them onto other jobs. So basically, you can have samurai who can use white magic if you power up your white mage class enough as that character. There are so many different ways to customize a character that it becomes like a fun little game, creating the best party for any given situation. You can't learn every ability under the sun or master every single class for every single one of your characters, but what you can do is master abilities to make sure that somebody has your back! Give it some time; it'll be one of the most addicting things that a Final Fantasy game has cooked up since Final Fantasy 3's class system, Final Fantasy 7's Materia system and Final Fantasy 6's story, just to get as many different combinations together while destroying everything you see with your super soldiers!

PS4's class with Final Fantasy Versus XIII-- I mean Final Fantasy XV

Being that it is largely a port of the Super Nintendo game, Final Fantasy 5 is a 16 bit game. The only “modern” touches are found in the load times that makes getting into battles and saving take a wee bit longer than necessary, and the surprisingly good looking FMV scenes. Now mind you, we're talking PS1 standards here, not quite up to the Final Fantasy 13 (or even 10) standard just yet. Be that as it may, the two FMV scenes are fairly detailed (even if the textures are a bit... erm, plastic-y) and reasonably well animated. Bit of a shame there are only two FMVs because these were the reason that we got load times, but ah well. Oh, by the way FMV designers – BARTZ HAS BROWN HAIR, NOT GRAY-ISH BLONDE!! Yours truly ~ Aevers. But I digress – the in game graphics look nice enough. They're bright and colorful except where it needs to be less colorful, and even when it ought to look more depressing, it still looks fairly colorful. Not much really stands out about it; it just looks like a typical Super Nintendo RPG that some nobody would make. It just happens to be made by Square, that's all. I guess it took them another year before they became that company that knew how to push the hardware of any given system (it's with Secret Of Mana, not Final Fantasy 6, even if that game looked great too).

For some reason, this version's music has this weird distorted echo to it, like it was recorded inside a bubble while somebody was browsing the internet with their 56k modem. It was clearer in the Super Nintendo version, which is weird – you'd think the PS1 version would be much clearer! Even then, this isn't quite Nobuo Uematsu's best work. Don't get me wrong, this is still a good soundtrack and the highlights, like the Walz Castle, 2nd world, both final boss and especially the Gilgamesh themes, are amongst some of the best songs in Final Fantasy's repertoire, but then there are some of the other songs that don't quite sound as memorable nor emotional. I mean, they have some impact and they do manage to accomplish what they set out to do, but when it's not doing so hot, the soundtrack flounders in comparison to Final Fantasy 4 and is, at best, just a good soundtrack to have in the background or something. Going back to my Final Fantasy: Mystic Quest comparison at the beginning, if that game did something well, it's definitely the soundtrack, which did the whole upbeat thing a lot better... just a shame for it that Final Fantasy 5 did the whole game thing better, huh. On the whole, the soundtrack is rather upbeat, which goes along with the theme of the game rather well as it isn't quite as serious as Final Fantasy 4 and 6. At its best, it hits like a tricked out Firebird; at its worst, well... much like how I'm not a hyperactive little girl all the time, Uematsu isn't a musical genius all the time.

Final Fantasy 5 deserves an 8/10 for being so much fun to play through! Its story leaves a fair bit to be desired, but hell if the humor doesn't make going through the story worth it! Not to mention that it has some of the trickiest, most fun and flat out well designed bosses in the series and the job system is absolutely fabulous! It's a shame that it took 7 years for there to be an official release in English because it would seem like the perfect game to get Americans into the swing of things – okay, the bosses might've been a bit tricky, but with such an addicting job system and a light hearted story at play, you'd think nearly everybody would be all over this game! Ah well, nothing we can do except hope that people buy this game in the PSN store...

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