Square-Enix’s Final Fantasy V has long felt like an afterthought to North American role-playing fans. That’s not a reflection of its quality: It just speaks of how long it took for the title to finally find an identity outside of Japan. By the time Final Fantasy V (officially) received an English translation, it was 1999, Final Fantasy VIII had already been released, and Final Fantasy V’s sprite graphics didn’t excite RPG fans who’d long since immersed themselves in Final Fantasy VII’s polygon-based battles and cutscenes.
But ignoring Final Fantasy V or dismissing it as dated isn’t recommended, especially if you grew up in Square-Enix’s golden age of 16-bit RPGs. Final Fantasy V is light-hearted, heavy on nostalgia, and its gameplay has enormous depth thanks to a “job” system that keeps you tinkering with your characters’ specialties long after the last boss has been put down. The Android port will provide you with several hours of fun – as long as the game’s high price tag doesn’t send you in the other direction.
Final Fantasy V’s story revolves around three young’uns (and one old’un) who are involuntarily drawn into a mission to save the planet. When the world’s crystals begin shattering, the elements die in turn. If all the crystals were to break, the world would essentially become inhabitable. The main cast admits things are in a pretty poor state, and they accept the shattered crystals’ powers as they strike out to make things better again.
Final Fantasy V is light on story, which may be another reason why it never found mainstream popularity in North America. Final Fantasy IV is more dramatic, Final Fantasy VI has a more compelling cast, and Final Fantasy VII feels more epic overall. Final Fantasy V’s story isn’t bad by any means, though. There’s certainly enough intrigue to keep you going from MacGuffin to MacGuffin, and the characters’ light banter is amusing to read. In fact, if you feel like video game stories have become a bit bloated and self-important, Final Fantasy V may provide a detox. It’s certainly refreshing to sit through story scenes that take three minutes, tops.
Get a Job
But Final Fantasy V’s job system is where the game really shines. As you progress through the game, the ability to change your characters’ classes opens up to you. There are a wide variety of jobs available, including Knight (tank tank tank), White Mage (healing magic), Dragoon (jump attacks), Ranger (attack with long-range weapons), Summoner (get the dragon Bahamut on the floor to do your bidding) and many more.
Your jobs are leveled up through fights, and eventually new abilities open up to you. Some of these abilities can be used to mix-and-match strengths. For instance, you can try being a White Mage for a little while, switch your profession to Summoner, and select your learned “White Magic” ability in the job menu to become a Summoner who can cast healing magic. You’re limited in how many abilities you can tack on to your character at one time, but Final Fantasy V’s job system keeps things simple while still letting you nitpick over skills and specialties.
Back to the ’90s
If you’ve been pining for your boxed-up SNES RPG collection, Final Fantasy V will scratch your itch for retro fun. The price tag may scare you initially, but there’s enough content to justify the price. Besides, we used to pay close to a hundred dollars for these games back in the ‘90s.