Review by Omniscient
Unplayed by the Masses, Loved by the Rest
Stunning graphics, orchestral music, and a following of a million fanboys are not exactly the most talked-about aspects of Final Fantasy V. Instead, people who haved played this spectacular game sing the praises of an amazing battle system, in-depth customization, and enemies that will last more than three minutes. While these should be expected in games, they no longer are included in many of the modern masterpieces released today. However, Final Fantasy V is certainly preferrable to the later Final Fantasies, because these elements are more important than super amazing stupendous graphics.
Graphics - Seeing as I began saying that Final Fantasy V does not need amazing graphics, I shall begin my critique with a discussion of its graphics. In perspective, FFV's graphics are certainly wonderful considering the power of the system it was on. The graphics at times are extremely good, and the graphics are never sub-par nor do they decline rapidly. However, one qualm with the graphics is there was no major jump from Final Fantasy IV in terms of graphics. This was lazy and definitely deserves some chastisement. However, even though the graphics seem about the same in terms of level of technology, FFIV's graphics are nothing to complain about, even for a first generation game. Final Fantasy V's graphics are quite nice and enhance the game rather than definite it- they're not actually intruding.
Music - The music is memorable and not irritating. Like many other games, you will find yourself humming some of the themes subconsciously. Especially notable is the Chocobo theme, which is just wonderfully done and surprisingly catchy.
Story - The story is not the focus of the game, and as such it remains uncovoluted and unintrusive. While it is not as fully developed as more modern games, it is still an interesting story. It is, however, like most of the early Final Fantasies, an archetypal crystal story...for the first third of the game. A mysterious force has destroyed the wind crystal, which makes the wind stop at Tycoon Castle. Leaving to investigate, King Tycoon parts with his daughter, Reina (or any of her name variations). We then see the traveler Bartz (or Butz, which was obviously not an arbitrary name change on the part of the localizers), with his chocobo, Boco. A meteor slams into the land, and the inquiring Bartz finds out what happened by going there. While there, he finds Reina, who he saves from Goblins, and an amnesiac old man named Galuf. From there they work to find the cause of the destruction of the crystals, fighting monsters, pirates, ghosts, and various others creatures of lore. Eventually you will face the malevolent tree (yes, tree) X-Death, and in stopping him you shall save the universe from nothingness. Grandiose indeed, but not so much that you forget about the gameplay.
Individual characters are not very developed, and the story is more of an us vs. him thing, where us the collective whole of your party. They do not change over time, with the rare exception which is Gilgamesh. X-Death as a villain is undefined and his motivation is not fully explained. Still, he does commit genocide and changes the universe.
Gameplay - The gameplay is simply incredible, and what separates this game from most. There are two areas of gameplay that I will review - character customization and battles (difficulty, spells, etc.).
Character Customization - The job system is my favorite of all the systems of Final Fantasy. It allows extreme customization while eventually limiting effective characters to specific kind of jobs. Each job is like a different character, allowing you to make each battle different. Each and every job has something useful, even Bard, so you will not find yourself skipping over jobs to the most powerful and cheap combinations. Along with jobs come a secondary ability that was already learned from another job. A third or fourth ability slot may also be open, depending on the job that you choose. This adds depth to your characters and requires thought in preparation. Limiting your characters to a select few abilities ensures that your strategy will never go to waste, and that you cannot prepare by simply using everything, such as in, again, later Final Fantasies.
Battle System - The battle system is truly the area where Final Fantasy V shines. Battles are interesting and each one is unique. This game uses the Active Time Battle system, which displays a meter that fills over time. When filled, your character may take their turn attacking, using a special ability, using an item, or defending. A party may also run if they feel the battle is one they cannot win. Also, in this game, the enemies actually have the power to overwhelm you, so you cannot just repeatedly tap one button until victory. Bosses are always challenging and inventive, such as Gogo or Atomos. Using the abilities and jobs that you have chosen, you must intelligently attack. Also included are two optional super-bosses, Omega and Shinryuu, which require high levels and well-thought equipment and jobs to conquer. Defeating each gives a sense of satisfaction unlike most optional bosses.
Length, Replayability, and Other Odds and Ends - Final Fantasy V is a long game sans the sidequests, and with is even longer. In fact, the entire third world is comprised of sidequests and optional areas of exploration. The replay value is high, because there are many areas in each part of the game that one may miss on their first time through.
Overall, FFV is a game that should be bought and enjoyed. While it may be lopsided towards amazing gameplay, that is not necessarily a bad thing. It is not perfect, but it contains addictive and exciting gameplay, and an intelligent customization system that will encourage you to experiment. Play this game and be dumbfounded at what you have been missing.
Rating: 4.5 - Outstanding
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