Note: This review is based on the Japanese version of the game.
Final Fantasy V was one Final Fantasy that American gamers didn’t get to see until Square released Final Fantasy Anthology in America for the PlayStation. Although Final Fantasy V is, in my opinion, one of the weakest Final Fantasies, it just goes to show how great the series is, in that the game is still quite good, just not classic. Read on.
Final Fantasy V’s story begins with the King of Tycoon sensing a bad aura in the air. He travels to a shrine where one of the four sacred crystals is held, only to see it shatter before his eyes. Then the wind stops…and the catastrophes begin.
Butz (contrary to popular thought, his name is pronounced ‘Boots’, not ‘Butts’), a wandering adventurer, with his trusty sidekick Boko the chocobo, sees a meteorite fall from the sky and land near where they had camped out. Going to investigate, Butz discovers two monsters dragging a girl away – this girl is the princess of Tycoon, Lenna (Reina in the FFA version). From here, two others join Butz and Lenna and these four heroes must save the crystals in order to keep the world intact.
The plot does escalate beyond this simple notion; a great evil is awakened, and a new world is discovered. Though it is cliché for the most part, the plot is still interesting and fun to watch unfold. Though not as deep as Final Fantasy IV’s, Final Fantasy V had a better plot than most RPG’s of its time and can still hold its own, without the depth and originality.
The characters in Final Fantasy V are above average, but nothing special. While Yoshitaka Amano’s artwork is great and the characters are memorable-looking, their personalities are the only things they have going for them, and there is no character development for the most part. Butz is a carefree adventurer, and even though certain things about his past are brought up, nothing is overly stunning or changes him in any way. Lenna is just a quiet, caring princess. Faris is like a tomboy, with a pirate’s attitude. Galuf is headstrong but still a little air headed sometimes. That’s the cast of Final Fantasy V in a nutshell.
The antagonist is just pure evil, nothing more. No motives are really explained. That bothered me; since the cast is so static, why does the villain have to be? There are humorous scenes littered throughout the game, but still, no one receives development. Personality can only go a long way in a Working Designs game, not a Final Fantasy from 1992.
The score for Final Fantasy V is probably the weakest of the Final Fantasies, sans the soundtracks of Final Fantasy I-III for the Famicom (NES). The thing is, it is still very good music; just not the perfection I’ve come to expect (I guess unfairly) from Nobuo Uematsu. While there are many good themes, there are huge shares of filler tracks that lack personality and are quite pedestrian. Some of the melodies didn’t seem fitting, and the airship theme didn’t even seem epic to me.
Another downer is the fact that the sound quality is almost exactly like Final Fantasy IV’s; there is no jump in sound quality whatsoever, and I would at least like to have had a better sampling rate or better quality strings. There are plenty of good themes though, such as the character themes and chocobo themes. On the bright side, there are a few classic tracks, such as “Battle with Gilgamesh”, which ranks as one of the best songs I’ve heard, and all of the world map themes. The main theme, “Ahead on Our Way”, is also excellent. Again, it’s mostly good music, but it needs more identity. The sound effects sound almost just like Final Fantasy IV’s. No difference in quality.
The gameplay in Final Fantasy V utilizes the tried and true random battle system and plays almost exactly like Final Fantasy IV, except for the job system. Introduced on a Final Fantasy for the original Nintendo, the job system allows gamers to completely customize their party. As you go along, new classes become available, and each job has valuable skills that can be learned. There are ninjas, monks, knights, black mages, white mages, geomancers, lancers, and more. This really added to the gameplay and spiced up an otherwise standard entry in the gameplay department.
The thing I take off for is that dungeons need more spice and random battles are an annoyance. The dungeons have no real strategic layout; they are too straightforward like FFIV’s, and with small, pixilated dungeons something else must be thought of. It’s still fun though.
The graphics in Final Fantasy V run off the same engine as its predecessor, Final Fantasy IV. The sprite-based backgrounds are almost the same in quality, and the only noticeable difference is bigger characters in battle and more detailed battle backdrops. That’s about it. The game is entirely in 2-D sprites, and while they’re not ugly, there is no advancement whatsoever from Final Fantasy IV, and that is simply inexcusable, considering the true power of the Super Nintendo.
Final Fantasy V is about twenty-five hours in length and proves to be a moderate challenge. Seasoned RPG veterans won’t have much trouble plowing though the game. The control is exactly like FFIV’s; it is simple digital control. A run button would have helped, and thankfully it was implemented in the FFA version. Still, it’s not in the original and can make for time-consuming travel in dungeons and such.
Final Fantasy V is a very good RPG, it’s just marred by the fact that it’s not as good as the other Final Fantasies (not including the NES ones).