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• Final Fantasy 5 Advance

developed by Squaresoft, Tose/published by Square-Enix/2006.11.06
1 Player/Cartridge (4 save slots)/Super Famicom, SONY PS1, Gameboy Advance

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Final Fantasy 5 was a 16-bit buried treasure, taunting non-Japanese gamers in magazine previews with the likes of Dragon Quest 5 and 6 back in the early ’90s. Fortunately, Squaresoft saw fit to release the game in English on the PlayStation in 1999, seven years after its debut on the Super Famicom. It would take another seven years for the game to see its most complete English release, on the Gameboy Advance, in 2006. It was one of the first games to be translated by rom-hacking fans, and provided the basis for an animated sequel called Legend of the Crystals.

The PlayStation edition included a new cg cinematic introduction and ending (easily accessible to anyone via youtube), but was otherwise inferior to the SF edition due to the frequent and annoying load times, which made the game almost unplayable. Thankfully, the GBA edition does away with the loading and has a slew of its own extras, such as redrawn battle backgrounds, additional challenges, a new translation, and a handful of new jobs to master.

Job Classes

The 8-bit Final Fantasy 3 introduced a robust job system that allowed players to customize their party with an impressive number of job combinations. Players were no longer confined to one set of skills for the duration of the game, but could take advantage of whatever skills they were prepared to earn through battle experience. If you’ve recently played Final Fantasy 3 on the DS, you’ll be familiar with what is on offer here, but Final Fantasy 5 takes this job system to a new level.

ffv-01-023Players now have the ability to mix and match abilities from different jobs, allowing for even more skill combinations than ever before. In all, there are some 26 jobs to master in the GBA edition, including most of the series’ staples such as dragoons, mages of every color, and summoners, as well as entertaining classes such as beast masters and dancers. Gone are any redundant classes (with the exception of the Red Mage), and most jobs have around 4-6 skills which will make your life a whole lot easier when facing the tougher enemies in the game. Unfortunately some jobs have pointless or rarely used skills that just don’t justify the time spent earning them, but on the whole the system is very well balanced.

The list of available classes steadily grows as players come into contact with the crystal shards, and provide a great deal of satisfaction when mastered. Jobs level up independently from characters, and grinding will be required to master them all. Thankfully, mastering every job is not a necessity and most players will find the battle system enjoyable enough to do a little grinding here and there anyway – fighting battles to pass the time has never been easier now that you can do so on the go!

Story & Characters

Unlike most chapters in the Final Fantasy saga, Final Fantasy 5 features a small cast of party members, with only 5 in total. This is balanced out by the Job system, which dramatically changes the look of any given character. The story is also less epic than most, and while there is a world to be saved in the end, the game never takes itself too seriously.

ffv-01-008Bartz and Galuf provide most of the comic relief, while the girls Faris, Krile, and Lenna take on the more dramatic roles. Taking a cue from earlier games in the series, the four party members (referred to as Dawn Warriors) must travel the world saving life-giving crystals from destruction. Meanwhile, an evil entity known as Exdeath is seeking to engulf the world in the Void, reminiscent of the Nothing from the Neverending Story. While it certainly won’t be winning any awards for originality, the story strings us along with entertaining quests in the chase to end Exdeath’s evil plans.

The journey will take the characters to 2 different worlds as well as an interesting combination of the two, where they’ll meet engineering genius Cid (along with his grandson Mid) as well as the original Dawn Warriors responsible for fighting Exdeath some 30 years prior. Similar to Final Fantasy 3, they’ll mount Chocobos, soar the skies via Airship, and scour the sea floor via Submarine.

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Graphics & Music

Final Fantasy 5 is a 16-bit RPG with decent production values, but players expecting a middle ground between 4 and 6 will be disappointed. In terms of presentation (such as spell effects) it is no better than Final Fantasy 4, but what Final Fantasy 5 lacks in production values it more than makes up for with its engaging game systems. That said, the redrawn battle backgrounds and character portraits are a nice touch, and the music has been faithfully adapted to the GBA’s inferior sound system. The enemies are generally more detailed than in 4, some of which were even lifted by 6. The most striking aspect of the game’s visuals is tied to its greatest success: the job system. Every character has a total of 26 very different “outfits” depending on their job, so playing “dress up” can have some pretty cool and unusual results.

Closing Comments

ffv-05-007It’s a shame that Final Fantasy 5 wasn’t localized back when it would have been more fully appreciated for its innovativejob system, and that its PlayStation release was marred by an obtuse translation and unbearable load times. Luckily, the GBA edition not only fixes these problems but adds fuel to the fire with a new 30-story dungeon and boss after the main game is completed. The graphics haven’t aged as well as its 16-bit brethren, and the snail-paced battles will have some gamers looking for a fast-forward button in vain. But for true Final Fantasy die-hards Final Fantasy 5 is a must, and will provide many hours of nostalgic fun.

Quick Run-Down

PROS:

  • Job System keeps things interesting
  • Old-school Final Fantasy vibe
  • New jobs and dungeons added in this release
  • Better translation than the PS1 version

CONS:

  • Lots of random encounters
  • We had to wait 7 years to play it!

One Sentence Review: Final Fantasy fans shouldn’t miss the chance to play this!

One Word Review: Jobtastic.

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