Title Final Fantasy V
Developer/Publisher Square
Type Role Playing
English Version Not Available
Reviews #1

Review #1 by BWA

The wind stops blowing ... giant meteors strike the planet ... and the elemental crystals shatter. Someone--or something--is unleashing the dreaded force of "Mu" -- "Nothingness" -- upon an unsuspecting world. Four travellers, brought together by fate, may be the last, best hope of Earth.

In 1987, Square Co. Ltd released "Final Fantasy", an RPG that quickly picked up fans everywhere, and gave birth to a series that gained notoriety as a DragonQuest-killer. 11 years, 7 "episodes" in the series (although none were true "sequels"), over 14 million copies later, and the Final Fantasy series has become possibly the most popular name in RPG's ever, rivaled only by the DragonQuest series. FFVII was only the fourth installment to make it out of Japan--FF1, FF4(easytype) and FF6 were the previous three. While FF2 and 3 were released in Japan before FF1 was ever introduced to the US in 1990, with FF4 soon to follow--few people missed the fact that 2 FF's were skipped over in the US. But the last snuff--FF5--was one that hundreds of thousands of fans will never fully understand, as numerous letter-writing and e-mail campaigns hosted by various websites (and even a certain US video game magazine) failed to budge Square from its decision not to release FF5 in the US.

About one year ago, Square put out a re-release of the SFC classic, Final Fantasy IV, with a couple of CG FMV sequences put in for extra flavor. And just a couple of weeks ago, on March 20, Square re-released Final Fantasy V in Japan (originally released in Dec 1992). Neither are likely to make it to the US, and thus make interesting items to an import collection... :) First of all, I myself have never played the RE-RELEASE of FF4, so I won't be able to compare the 2 re-releases (I did however play both the Japanese version (normaltype) and the US version). I played the SFC original FF5 to death however, so here's my impressions of the re-release:

FF5 spans 3 worlds (one CD--the original was 16 megabits/2 megabytes) and took me ~35 hours to beat/50+ to completely master all of the abilities. (In comparison, FF6 took me about 42 hours/75 to learn every spell with all 14 characters, and FF7 took me 36 hours/88 to beat all the weapons and get the gold chocobo)

The game centers around 5 characters--only 4 of which you meet at first. The introduction starts at Tycoon Castle, where the King senses something strange in the Wind, and starts off towards the Wind Temple, where the elemental crystal of wind is housed. The King's daughter, Princess Lenna tries to come along, but the King tells her to stay behind and keep watch over the Castle. The King of Tycoon then mounts the Hiryuu (flying dragon) and sets off for the temple. The scene then shifts to a pirate ship, and Faris, the captain, is alarmed when the wind suddenly stops... the scene shifts again to an old man, named Galuf, who also notices that the wind has just stopped moving as well, and tells himself, "I must hurry..." The scene goes back to the balcony of Tycoon castle, where Lenna, all by herself, feels the stoppage of the wind and suddenly becomes worried about the safety of her father... The scene then shifts to the Wind Temple, where the King enters the crystal chamber just in time to see the crystal shatter into a thousand pieces... {screen fades out) Meanwhile, Butz--a wandering soul--and his chocobo Boko, are enjoying a warm bonfire just SW of Tycoon castle, when the earth starts to shake and a meteor crashes nearby. Butz and Boko put out the fire and leave to investigate, and the adventure begins...! The entire game centers around 5 main characters throughout, and there isn't much decision making involved in who to have in your party, etc. (Although you can only have 4 people in the party at one time, you never have all 5 characters available at once) This is a little bit different from FF6 and 7, and even FF4 has multiple characters coming into and out of the party, but the battle system is where FFV shines bright. FFV uses the Job system, VERY similar to the one used in Final Fantasy Tactics (as well as FF3 Japanese version). When the characters recover various pieces of the elemental crystals, new "jobs" will become available, such as "Knight", "monk", "white mage", "black mage", "dancer", "archer", "thief", "mime" and many more. These jobs are "matured" by gaining ABP (ability points) in battle (along with separate Exp. Points), and by raising job levels, the player will learn new abilities that can be used outside of that job. For instance, if you make Butz a black mage and raise his job level to 4, you will gain the ability to use up to level 4 black magic (out of 6 levels of magic total) even if Butz is not a black mage... so you can turn Butz into a white mage and still use up to level 4 black magic... or a Knight with strong magic casting abilities... or if you raise your monk job level, you can be a wizard with the hand-to-hand fighting ability of a monk... or... well, the possibilities are endless (as you know if you've played FFTactics). Confusing? At first, the job system is a bit of a daze, but after some time, you'll find the customization of abilities to be incredibly deep. The job system also makes it necessary to keep up and balance all four characters' jobs and ability levels... there are a couple of special enemies towards the end of the game (Omega and Shinryuu) which are incredibly impossible if you don't have the correct line-up of abilities, and even if you do possess all the necessary abilities, these 2 battles are mad-difficult--at best. (I guess you could put them on the same level as Ruby and Emerald on FFVII US/Internat'l) However, most of the bosses and enemies can be beaten in a various number of ways, which definitely adds to the variety in the gameplay and keeps it fresh.

Packaging: OK, well, this probably isn't that important to some, but it is to me. The game comes on a single CD, in a standard sized jewel case (unlike the larger case that FF4 came in, as well as Tobal2 and Xenogears). The front of the booklet has a picture of the logo ("FINAL FANTASY V" emblazoned on top of a dragon) in the center, with 20 character (all dressed up randomly in each of the 20 jobs--more on the job system later) placed on the cover (10 above the logo, 10 below)... the character sketches are similar to those found on the cover of the box of the SFC original. The back has a couple of screenshots of the actual game, and one picture of the CG intro, as well as some text... The CD itself if bright blue with the FFV logo at the top.

Onto the game itself. As soon as you turn the power on, you'll see the SQUARESOFT logo at the center of the screen, along with some strange, low music, and the game goes straight into the CG intro. The movie is almost 2 minutes long, and shows various clips of characters (whose designs in the movie are clearly taken from Y. Amano), along with a rotating crystal, and a meteor flying towards the earth. After the CG intro, the game goes to the original intro, and for the most part, the game plays as normal.

The graphics of the game are identical to the original (completely untouched)... perhaps a bit dated, but sure brings back memories... However the first thing I noticed was the poor quality of the music in the game. The quality of the music in the original is at about the level of FF4 (FF2 US), and was pretty good (I personally liked it a lot), but the quality of the music on the PS version is pretty bad in comparison--much less "vibrant" and not nearly as crisp sounding as on the SFC... probably due to the different sound chips used in the 2 systems. The best analogy I can give is: download a MIDI version of a song from a FF game (or ANY video game) and compare that to the music in the actual game... the MIDI version sounds a lot more flat and... MIDI-ish, right? That's exactly how I would compare the music in the PSX version to the original SFC version... a pretty big step down in sound quality if you ask me, which is VERY disappointing IMHO (CD-ROM???). The sound effects suffer a similar fate; they all sound distant and almost a bit muffled--kinda like if you compared the sound of the punches in the SNES version of SF2 to the arcade version--they just sound weaker and softer, although the actual sound effects are the same, they just don't sound as good.

Another immediate difference is that you are allowed to use the X button to dash immediately from the start of the game--you don't need to have a thief in your party (I wonder if the DASH ability of the thief is still there?). Also, when a battle starts, the screen "twists" and rotates, a la FF7, instead of flaring in and out, a la FF4-6. The battles take about a second to load, and at the end of a battle, instead of having the screen fade to black, the "black" closes in from the top and bottom of the screen. Minor differences, but noticeable to any hard core fans...

I understand from sources that the mode 7 effects in the FF4 port were a bit choppy (since it was a direct port from the SFC version)... I can't comment on that in FF5, because the only mode 7 in the game until you get the airship (about 15 hours in) is the meteor crash in the introduction... (well, there are a couple of other meteor crashes later on...) and the screen is SUPPOSED to shake during that, so I can't really tell how the mode 7 conversion is in the port of FFV...

As far as saving the game, there are a couple of options: On the save screen, you have 3 choices: 1) MEM FILE, 2&3) MEMORY CARD 1&2, respectively. The MEM FILE option is an interesting one. This allows you to save your game quickly in RAM, without having to access the memory card (and thus, saving about 5-6 seconds of loading time per save). This option does NOT actually save the game onto a memory card, and is only good until you turn the power on the Playstation off, but if you save the game frequently, you can use the MEM FILE option to "save" quickly--in the case of an unexpected death, you can just restore from the MEM FILE quickly... and if you are about to call it quits for the evening, THEN you can save to a memory card. I'm not sure if this option was on the FF4 rerelease, but it is an interesting option... each save takes one block, and the save icon is a portrait of a various character (at least I think... my save icon is a portrait of GoGo, I would assume that other character icons are chosen randomly)

Lastly, being an import, almost all of the text in the game is in Japanese (not too much Kanji compared to FF6, FF7, and esp. Xenogears... that game went Kanji-crazy, if you ask me... although I'm sure that was necessary due to the deep plotlines)... the only thing in english is the names during the opening credits (as well as the ending credits)... EVERYTHING is in Japanese, however, there are FULL translations available (and I do mean a FULL translation--EVERYTHING, almost EVERY line of text in the game) on the net (see address/link below), so if you wanna play this game, it is very plausible.

Well... to sum it up in a couple of lines, the port is very direct, nothing you haven't seen before if you've played the SFC version (other than the CG movies at the intro and the end), and the biggest difference I can name is the poor music quality, which is VERY disappointing to me. However, FFV is FFV, and is personally my favorite in the entire series, gameplay-story wise (minus the graphics of course), even topping FFVII in my eyes.

My ratings:


Graphics
6

* SFC graphics... nothing more, but nothing less...

Music/Sound
5

* I would give the original soundtrack about a 7, but the quality in the port is absolutely miserable. Also, normally, I would rate music and sounds separately, but they both suffered similarly miserable downgrades in the port.

Story
8.5

* GREAT story, although perhaps not as developed and definitely not as mature as FF6 and 7, contains a lot of elements that made FF what it was in the beginning--a DragonQuest killer--that were missing in 6 and 7.

Gameplay
9

* The job system created possibly the best battle system in the series, as many people will attest to... customizability (is that a word?) opened up by the job/ability system is astounding.

Final note: As my ratings indicate, FF5 was high on story and gameplay... as many seem to believe, Square has greatly enhanced the graphics (and maybe to a certain degree, the music) for a more theatrical effect, while sacrificing story and gameplay... that seems to be the direction that Square is headed in with the FF series, and most of their RPG's--Xenogears is definitely an exception. FF5 delivers the "classic Square" feel that made them so famous in the first place.

If you are interested for the translations, go to here and look under "Information"...

 

 
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