Final Fantasy V Review
- Developer/Publisher: Square Enix
- Platforms: PC/PS3/PS Vita/Android/iOS
- PC version tested. Review copy provided by Square Enix.
There's an immediate sense of urgency that fills the air when you begin any Final Fantasy game, an overt sense of doom from something that threatens the very sanctity of existence if you don't take up your chosen position to stop this impending evil. And it mostly works, because this is precisely the classic game that tugged at our heart strings as we struggled, likely for the first time, with the reality (within a game) of what a tragedy was.
Nostalgia reigns supreme in a fantastic masterpiece of a JRPG.
Final Fantasy V perhaps helped to start that trend, building off of the successful predecessors to make for a mechanic that's at once frustrating yet exciting. The pace of the game is, as always, decided by you in the end, but that sense of dread seems to persist, helping to urge you on a little faster than you might otherwise, lending to a hectic experience to say the least.
In 1992 it was the inclusion of a job system and the refinement of the Active Time Battle system that broke the mold for the RPG, a genre that was birthed on the console only a few short years before. The job system is very much akin to any of the modern class systems in RPG's. All your characters have their assigned class which defines the abilities they can learn later on. In Final Fantasy V, though, those aren't static. You can change it at any time to add different skill-sets. Once you set a class, either Monk, Knight, Thief, Black Mage, White Mage or Blue Mage, you can earn skill points from every battle that are spent on those abilities.
The best part of it is being able to customize your characters ability trees with the most potent from all of the classes, combining them for a character that seems almost unstoppable force for good. The job system is well implemented, and very few changes that were needed to make it a relevant and good system on the PC. Despite what you might necessarily think, the jobs system is a good fit for any RPG, and definitely it's been well preserved in a museum like quality here.
The graphics, then, also appear to have been mostly untouched except for obviously increasing the resolution of textures in a great way. The artwork retains the same classic feel, something I honestly felt was missing from the reboot of Final Fantasy IV. Part of the draw is also the fantastic pixel art and quintessential 2D animations that have been a staple of the early series. It was gorgeous in it's own right, and the decision to update the art to match the higher resolutions available on the PC is a smart move. In fact, one of the original artists was brought back in to help!
But is it fun?
The storyline is where the magic is at for many Final Fantasy games, and with Final Fantasy V, that still rings true. Though it's a very wild and perhaps far-fetched eccentric story-line that follows the typically chosen one cliche, it still works well here. Because, on a level that's deeply ingrained in the series itself (and nostalgia), this is Final Fantasy. If it's viewed as anything but, then you're doing it a great disservice.
Navigating the world as it falls apart around you, dealing with the tragic loss of people and even trying to help an old man (yet still in fighting trim) with amnesia who joins your party all adds to a great spectacle. It's more than just fun, and that's without rose-colored nostalgia glasses on. Final Fantasy V gives an open world RPG before the concept truly existed, with a lot of choice, in ways that are old, yet refined.
Issues with resolution
And not story resolution. For some reason it was difficult to play in full-screen mode. It wouldn't center the game properly in view, so I had to play in windowed mode. It didn't affect performance, nor was it particularly distracting, though it is an issue that shouldn't be present.
Also, my controls, for both an Xbox One controller and the keyboard and mouse, were occasionally reset to be blank, which was very odd. The fix was as easy as clicking 'reset', though again, this shouldn't be an issue. But these are all minor. The game itself is splendid to actually play.
Certainly Square Enix is likely trying to play upon the excitement surrounding the impending Final Fantasy XV launch, but there's more here than meets the eye. Re-releasing the classics that are actually enjoyable is a good move. We loved them in the past, we and they're mostly timeless, still spectacles of enjoyment many years later. This is not just to speed along the hype machine, but is instead a gift to those who want to enjoy the entire series on their PC, easily.
Final Fantasy V is still a great game, and a better RPG than some that have released recently. Sure, the graphics could be considered dated, or the small grammar mistakes (kept for posterity) might be a bit odd, but overall it's a polished and exceptional RPG. If you actually enjoy playing games, and like a well thought out story with extensive customization and great character depth, then Final Fantasy V is a fine RPG, still.