The glory days of the SNES were marked by a significant number of Japanese Role Playing games that have since claimed reputations for themselves as must-play titles. However, during this time, there were other lesser known titles that never reached the shores of North America. In 1992, Final Fantasy V was released for the Super Famicom in Japan. Despite selling over two million copies, the game did not come stateside until it was released alongside Final Fantasy VI for the PSX as part of the Final Fantasy Anthology collection in January 1999. Since that release, the game has also been ported to the Game Boy Advance and is also now available for purchase in the Playstation Store. With this option, the game is more widely available and one must wonder if the quality of the title is a reflection on why it took so long to make it over.
A Unique Fantasy - During the late 1980s and early 1990s, there were few JRPGs that utilized what has become known as the job system. The most notable title to use customizable classes for different party members was a title that also never initially released outside Japan: Final Fantasy III. Final Fantasy V followed in its footsteps by implementing a rather exhaustive job system that featured a number of different classes that allowed for a wide range of customization. It is this customization that creates freedom for the player and allows for a greater duration of replayability. The basic premise is rather simple. The player accumulates both experience points and ability points after successful battles. Ability points are used to level up the class so to speak. Once enough points have been obtained, the characters then master the class. Abilities from a mastered class can then be carried over to a completely different class which allows for a number of different options for each playable character. Experimenting with different options becomes an all-consuming activity in of itself. Having this freedom sets the title apart in the gameplay department despite some hiccups in the story department.
Uematsu Does It Again -Throughout the industry’s lifespan, video game composers have gained wider and wider recognition, especially as media and technology have evolved during the past few decades. However, despite growing recognition, one name has stood out in particular: Nobuo Uematsu. Uematsu’s work on the Final Fantasy series is his most notable accomplishment, however, his score for Final Fantasy V is often as overlooked as is the title itself. The mood of the game is less serious than other titles, and as such, many tracks deliver an airy, light-hearted atmosphere that deliver in creating a carefree gaming experience. Tracks like "Walking the Snowy Mountains" deliver on this front. However, the soundtrack also shows a degree of diversity as more somber songs are used throughout to invoke a haunting moods that capture the feelings of characters.
HICCUPS ALONG THE WAY
Storyline That Falls Short -The one area where Final Fantasy V does not live up to expectations of the series is in its storyline. While the lighthearted nature of the story in the opening half and in sporadic moments afterwards is a nice change of pace, the story never delivers in providing an experience that makes you truly care about the characters and the world in which they live. The story can be best thought of as having memorable moments that are few and far between and rarely connected to one another. The story certainly has an overarching plot, but it is plagued by severe pacing issues and the characters are unable to carry the weight of the downtime.
Loading and Graphics Issues - Other subpar aspects of the game include load times and graphics. The Playstation Store version is a direct port of the Anthology title, and as such, it suffers from the same loading issues that plagued the PSX version. Not only are the wait periods on the load screens rather long, there is a delay when the menu is being brought up by the player which makes making changes to the party less than desirable. Furthermore, I encountered some snags in the graphics particularly as it pertained to grainy textures that ruined the otherwise vibrant world map colors.
Final Fantasy V is a mixed title. It has its fair share of strengths such as the gameplay and weaknesses such as pacing issues in the plot. However, the positive traits of the title do outweigh the negatives. The soundtrack and strong job system are heavyweights and carry the title despite its few shortcomings. One has to wonder as to why such a overally strong title was delayed in coming over. Whetever the reason, PS3 and PSP owners can both rejoice with its release on the Playstation Store. With a $10 price tag, it is certainly a title where the numbers of hours spent playing will far exceed its small price tag. If you’re suffering from the slow pace of the winter game season, this title will most definitely consume a large portion of your time.
*This review was based on the PS3 version of the game with a review code provided by the publisher.*