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Final Fantasy V Advance (Game Boy Advance) artwork

Final Fantasy V Advance (Game Boy Advance) review


"You might say it's the black-sheep of the SNES Final Fantasy games; sandwiched between two notably story-driven entries, Final Fantasy V doesn't have a memorable lead akin to Cecil of IV or Terra of VI. Furthermore, you'll accumulate only four constant party members, a paltry figure compared to the twelve and fourteen of the aforementioned games. Modest in comparison, but it doesn't stifle this whimsical tale of world-saving adventuring."



You might say it's the black-sheep of the SNES Final Fantasy games; sandwiched between two notably story-driven entries, Final Fantasy V doesn't have a memorable lead akin to Cecil of IV or Terra of VI. Furthermore, you'll accumulate only four constant party members, a paltry figure compared to the twelve and fourteen of the aforementioned games. Modest in comparison, but it doesn't stifle this whimsical tale of world-saving adventuring.

The world's primary elements (wind, water, fire, and earth) are governed by powerful crystals. The people have been able to lead prosperous lives by amplifying the power they provide, but the sudden shattering of the wind crystal proves to be the beginning of a dark resurrection. Bartz, a happy-go-lucky adventurer, sets off on a quest to protect the remaining crystals with the help of Lenna; a secluded princess, Faris; a surly pirate captain, and Galuf; a mysterious amnesiac.

There's more comic relief than your average Final Fantasy, including a humorous case of gender confusion, and the new translation contributes extra humour through pop-culture references (though a few may go way over your head). But saving the world is a serious business! Comedy there may be, but it's accompanied by some serious twists and turns. Back in 1992, some of these events would have really had an impact; they still do, but inevitably they will be diminished if you've played any modern RPG that uses advanced audio-visuals to put a point across.

Despite this, V Advance still looks pretty good. Like many of its contemporaries, the 2D landscapes and character models seem to have a charm that helps them very much in the modern day. Naysayers will shout nostalgia, but in all honesty the 2D look holds up well on both GameBoy Advance and DS screens. Unfortunately, the speakers on these handhelds don't really do justice to the soundtrack. The Nobuo Uematsu-composed soundtrack is of the high quality you'd expect, but the catchy melodies and sweeping themes sound muddy (and slightly distorted at higher volumes) through these speakers.

If the storytelling is modest and slightly understated, the job system very much compensates. As you progress and collect crystal shards, new job types will become available to use. Initially you're limited to classic Final Fantasy archetypes like knights and mages, but you'll soon have more exotic jobs at your disposal (ninjas, samurai, and many more). The real kicker is how you can mix-and-match jobs and abilities to create crazy hybrids. Skills can be learned by accumulating ability points in battle, which can then be equipped when you switch jobs. Monks who can summon, dual-wielding blue mages, and dancing muggers are but a few of the strange combinations possible.

Connoisseurs of modern RPGs that are more focused on real-time action, rather than the strict turn-based formula, might find the high encounter rate and occasional need for grinding a sticking point. There's no getting away from that, but the quality of the job system and its integration into battles will diminish the tedium to a degree. And considering that, you could make a good case that V best stands the test of time of all the old-skool Final Fantasies.

That potential is further expanded on the Advance version with four brand-spanking new jobs: oracle, cannoneer, gladiator, and necromancer. They don't have a tremendous effect on play seeing as they're acquired late-game, but regardless there are some very cool abilities on offer. Oracles can foresee events in battle, but the target could be ally or enemy. Cannoneers mix components to create damaging and status-inflicting ammunition. Gladiators possess powerful finishers, equally capable of dealing 9999 damage or missing altogether. Necromancers are similar to blue mages in that they learn skills from enemies, but considering this class can only be unlocked after beating the game and bonus dungeon, it's by far the least significant. The other three, whilst not being available until the last couple of hours, will come in handy in the significant bonus dungeon.

Speaking of said dungeon, the sprawling Sealed Temple introduces bags of challenge through a range of powerful new bosses. And we aren't just talking tough bosses, we're talking super-tough bosses that'll require some serious levelling and watertight strategies to take down. But that's a long way away. You'll notice plenty of other additions straight from the off, such as the quick-save feature and a bestiary (very handy if you have trouble remembering which enemies are weak against what) which generally contribute to make V Advance a more user-friendly experience.

All the additions in this Advance port of Final Fantasy V undoubtedly make it the definitive version, and even without all that it would've been great value for money. With extras, potentially extending the game to well over forty-hours, it's a bargain. The only sticking point is what's gone on in the close-to-two decades after its release. There've been a lot of RPGs in that time that have (obviously) far exceeded the technical capabilities of the SNES and used that to great effect in telling stories with hard-hitting emotional punch. They aren't necessarily better – it isn't an exaggeration to say few games in that time have provided something better than the fantastic job system – but you should consider alternatives if you're looking for a top-drawer story that grabs you and never lets go.

Rating: 8/10

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Featured community review by PAJ89 (September 13, 2009)

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