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Final Fantasy V – SNES

Final Fantasy V – SNES

imagesPlatform: Super Nintendo Entertainment System

Developer: Square

Publisher: Square

Release Date: December 6, 1992

Genre: RPG

Nerd Rating: 7.5/10

Reviewed by Paladin

A lot of folks out there may not remember this one, probably because it wasn’t actually released in the United States on the SNES. The early 90’s was a great time for video games; Super Mario Bros. had saved the industry from collapsing and as a result, great game after great game kept coming out for both Nintendo and Sega consoles. In order to stay competitive, costs had to be cut somewhere and while the Final Fantasy franchise was successful, there wasn’t enough time in between Final Fantasy IV (released here as Final Fantasy II) and later Final Fantasy VI (released here as Final Fantasy III) to properly bring Final Fantasy V to America. We wouldn’t see it for the first time until 1999 with Final Fantasy Anthology, which featured both FF’s and VI remastered for the original Playstation. Therefore, V’s release console was actually the Super Famicom, the Japanese equivalent to the SNES.

It’s a shame too, because while I agree that FF’s II and III may have been too difficult for American gamers at the time, is a charming and enjoyable game that really could have benefited the series if it had been released here. With IV and VI being on the serious and dramatic side, lends itself to a more humorous and lighthearted experience that, while not my favorite entrimagesy, still provides for hours of solid entertainment.

Let’s start with the biggest thing this game is known for; the battle system. Taking a page out of the book of the past, FFV brought back the job/class system, allowing the player to change the combat class of the characters at will, and took it step further. In FFI the player can choose one class out of six for the four main characters and then change it up on the next playthrough. FFIII brought it back, but this time with 24 classes instead of six and the ability to change the classes at any point during the game. If that sounds fun, then it only gets better in V.

Final Fantasy V features 22 different jobs with the abilities of each one carrying over into the next as you switch. In battle, you gain experience points to level up, but you also get ability points and after so many, you begin to permanently learn techniques from each class which you can then utilize when you change to another. This aspect alone makes V worth playing. In FFIII, if you had strong physical characters and needed a medic, you changed someone into a White Mage but consequently lost some muscle and in FFI you were stuck with what you picked in the beginning. This time around, your Knight can learn White Magic, your Black Mage can Jump like a Dragoon, your Monk can summon the most powerful of monsters to your aid, and the combinations keep on coming. Besides being fun, the genius behind this move is that it makes level grinding not just bearable, but downright likeable, a difficult feat in an RPG. When I first played this game, I loved the suspense of wondering which classes I would get from each elemental crystal and what moves I’d be able to learn from them. It’s one of the best battle systems for any Final Fantasy and that’s saying a lot.

images (1)It almost lets me forget about the mediocre story and the mediocre characters that propel it. There’s no question why this one is unanimously agreed to have one of the weaker plots in the series or where the emphasis was during development. Our hero, Bartz, is traveling the world at his father’s dying request, and comes across a fallen meteor. Galuf, an interplanetary, or possibly interdimensional (it’s confusing) traveler climbs out and tells Bartz that his world is in danger. They set out to warn everyone and, after a whopping 3 other characters join them, get swept up in trying to save the world.

The basic story of save the planet is present in any RPG and this series is no exception. What makes an entry good or bad is how it tells the story and doesn’t do it well. The characters are all cardboard cutouts with almost no personality, especially Bartz himself. There is nothing to set this guy apart or give him an identity in this game save that he’s a world traveler, and we don’t even get to see him do that too often. The one possible exception is the pirate captain, Faris. It’s cool to see a woman running a ship and her tendency to fall into typical pirate dialogue can be fun, but the attempts to make her a gruff loner don’t really work. She’s interesting, but only by comparison. The villain, Exdeath, may have one of the most frightening character designs in the series and a couple of great theme songs, but his good points stop there. I still have trouble following his erratic scheme to suck everything into the Void or why he even wants to do it. The Void is just that, a big, scary black hole that apparently sucks up whole universes…except that the main characters have no problem flying into it or surviving once they’re in there. I gave up hope on the plot when I discovered that Exdeath is actually an evil tree in human form.images (2)

That being said, I’d be remiss if I didn’t mention Exdeath’s bumbling general, Gilgamesh. If fell short on the villain, then it made up for it with this guy. The way he talks himself up only to fail miserably makes me laugh every time and is topped only by his legendary theme song. I mean it, go YouTube it right now because it’s one of the most iconic in the series. Too bad the rest of the music didn’t quite follow suit. After four great soundtracks, Nobuo Uematsu was bound to have an average one and this is it. There are no songs that stand out as being overly terrible, but with a few exceptions, most of the tracks don’t really suck you in like they do in other games, and they have a monotone quality to them.

If you’ve never played a Final Fantasy and you’re looking to start, I’d hold off on this one for a bit. The story and characters are weak enough and some of the lightheartedness campy enough that it could put off newcomers. However, once you’ve gotten a few under your belt, definitely come back to V. The gameplay is so addicting that it more than makes up for the rest. If this were a stand alone title I may think otherwise, but the fact that so many other FFs have such strong stories and characters means that you have options. Once you’ve played one with a solid story but average playability, Final Fantasy V will be there to pick up the slack. Rough around the edges, but with a creamy center that leaves a satisfying taste in your mouth.

Written by Paladin

 
 

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