Final Fantasy V Advance - Reader Retroview  

How to Succeed in the Job Market
by JuMeSyn

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20-35 Hours
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   Final Fantasy V gets short shrift in discussions revolving around the franchise, possibly because the title was initially overlooked (BAD Square!) for translation. This had nothing to do with the game’s quality and everything to do with a tiny localization staff in the SNES era, sadly condemning the game to relative obscurity (as a Final Fantasy title) until a PS1 reissue. Though I have never touched the PS1 edition of Final Fantasy V, the Advance edition of the title comfortably outdoes it thanks to a lack of load times and a few extras. Such things are not necessary to make Final Fantasy V a very worthy title in the GBA’s library, but they certainly assist.

   Story is not the chief drive behind players seeking this title out, nor should it be. This is not to say that the tale told within is horrible, simply unimpressive and made moreso with the passage of time. Enclosed in FFV will be found: a seemingly unexceptional hero with a heritage of glory, an amnesiac man, a dangerous power sealed by champions of the past, a woman who the cast perceives a man, and more highly unoriginal elements. A good translation helps the familiarity be a bit less blatant, and the tale of Bartz, Leena, Galuf and Faris embarking on an unlikely quest to stop the doom of the crystals is never truly dull – just not the centerpiece of the game.

   Said centerpiece lies within the combat. In and of itself, the combat is more-or-less identical to what went on in Final Fantasy IV. Random battles are triggered in dungeons and around the landscape, sending the party into combat with opponents under the dictates of timing. Characters and enemies must each wait a little while in real time between actions, with the wait time for characters visible in the form of a small bar onscreen. This can be paused to allow more leisurely contemplation of the situation by the player. Options once a character’s turn is ready generally include attacking and item usage, with quite a bit of additional variety. Defeating enemies nets experience and gil (aka money).

Moments later, the party is sent to replenish the vital liquor supply. Moments later, the party is sent to replenish the vital liquor supply.

   Defeating enemies also nets a few Ability Points. Ability Points are the key to why combat is not nearly so boring as it could have been, a function of the Jobs present. Quite soon after beginning the player will be able to switch the basic Freelancer (what the characters naturally are) to a number of variants that increases as the game continues. Samurai have good physical statistics and a surprisingly effective Zeninage attack that throws damaging money at enemies, White Mages are (amazingly enough) potent healers with poor physical assets, Thieves have high agility and useful stealing talents with unimpressive other statistics, Summoners can call upon whatever spirits are currently available to damage enemies, Geomancers use the inherent abilities of the environment to deal damage – the Jobs available are not infinite but certainly allow for great customization on the player’s part, and whatever Jobs are currently known can be switched to at any time save in battle.

   This is one part of the interesting combat of Final Fantasy V: the other part lies in the abilities Jobs possess. These come in two variants: some abilities are usable by choice in combat (such as Black or White magic), and others are always in effect if the player chooses such (Dual Wield, for instance). Ability points are awarded after battles along with money and experience, and enough ability points allows a character to learn an ability. Introductory abilities tend to be quite cheap to learn: 10 or 15 AP usually. Mastering a Job takes quite a bit more, and when ability points are almost always awarded in single-digit amounts Job mastery will not be instantaneous. Job mastery is desirable not only because the final ability learned is often quite useful, but also because when reverting to Freelancer status the inherent abilities of mastered Jobs are retained.

   At any time the player can alter the secondary command of a character based upon the abilities known to that character. One battle command is always available when using a certain Job (Aim is always known to a Ranger, for instance) but a second battle command is up to the player to choose. The effect of this is to make a highly mutable playing experience, with the additional benefit of generally letting challenge never be insurmountable.

   The Job portion of the game is well managed, with no ability points being lost by the player’s switching between Jobs at will. Other aspects are fairly well managed also. Magic is not learned but bought, with all characters possessing the necessary Job levels being able to cast it. Shops are well-ordered as well, with the effects of equipment being plainly visible prior to purchase. The unfortunate downside of having Job changes available at any time is that certain equipment may be unusable by anyone at the moment and the shop window will reflect this; a little extra cash may be desired for investment at these moments. The major impediment to interaction resides in the game having a default setting to re-equip characters with what the computer deems optimum equipment not only at every Job change, but every time an ability is altered. This may need alteration as the computer’s judgement is hardly impeccable.

These dragons have terrible posture – no wonder they never move! These dragons have terrible posture – no wonder they never move!

   Final Fantasy V is not a cakewalk, but neither is it insurmountably difficult. The ability to freely alter Jobs and abilities is key to this, as an improper party setup will usually assure prompt destruction. The game can probably be completed by experienced players in around 20 hours, though more time can certainly be allotted towards the location of various optional goodies. The Advance version of the game not only throws in three new Jobs toward the game’s end (that are worth exploring the intricacies of) but another Job after the game is technically over and a bonus dungeon to investigate. Plenty of replay value from the freewheeling party system is extant also, in addition to numerous hidden items and optional areas in the game.

   Audio fares quite well in FFV. Nobuo Uematsu’s finest score will not be found here, but even if the music is not quite at the peak of his output it certainly achieves superior results consistently and will not grate on the player’s ears. On the visual side, the game shows its roots on the Super Famicom in 1992 but not horribly. By 1992 standards the visuals are top-notch, and the port certainly preserves this. Character animations in particular look good and are the more prevalent for being different when performed by each character with each Job.

   The only detriment to Final Fantasy V Advance in comparison to the other two versions of this game lies in an odd tendency for battles to freeze. This does not affect play, as the freezing always ends a few seconds later, it is simply strange. Taking this odd flaw into account does not subtract from the game as a whole, which is a superior example of coercing players into seeking out random battles for great benefit. Final Fantasy V is not the finest Final Fantasy to exist, but succeeds in providing a fine title to wile the time away for any GBA player.

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