Final Fantasy V: To The Old School
by Pitchfork

   



Might as well get it out of the way early on: why the hell didn't this game come out in the States? And don't talk to me about Final Fantasy Anthology or Final Fantasy V Advance. By the time those hit North America in 1999 and 2006, 2D RPGs were already retro. A comparable imaginary case would be if a few decision makers at Geffen Records had decided in '92 that they'd be better off not pressing Nirvana's Incesticide, since they knew it probably wouldn't sell as many copies as Nevermind. Eight years later, when grunge has long been the day before yesterday's news, they finally go ahead and release it, but with inexplicably awful mastering. Then, another seven years after that, they put out a remastered version with a couple of bonus tracks, but by then the only consumers who give a crap are a small demographic of fanatical Nirvana fans who'd already heard it all on the "Outcesticide" bootlegs a decade ago. (This has been the single most elaborate and best simile I've ever come up with. Thank you.)

Good music and video games should both be timeless, but they are also representative the period in which they were created and are at the height of their relevance right then. Recently, a drunk woman on a boat in the Hudson River (don't ask) heckled me about my wearing a Misfits T-shirt even though I hadn't even been two months old when the original band broke up. "You're too young," she told me. "I saw them play when Danzig was still around. I listened to the Misfits."

Just because she was soused and obnoxious didn't mean she didn't have a point. The Misfits would mean something totally different to me had I had actually been a participant in the horrorpunk scene during the late 70s and early 80s. I can download all the .mp3's and memorize all the lyrics I want, but it's still a very a distilled experience compared to being a nineteen-year-old in 1981, moshing to the Misfits in a murky, run down club and pumping my fist as Danzig belts out the chorus to "London Dungeon." Likewise, you can't play a video game two to three console generations after its release and not expect the impact to be diminished. All I'm saying is Square did its North American fanbase and its product (the significance of this particular word choice will be elaborated upon in a future article) a great disservice by not giving it an English SNES release back in '92. (And don't even get me started on Seiken Densetsu 3.)

Final Fantasy V is a somewhat engimatic title to series outsiders. Older fans who played Final Fantasy "2" and "III" on the SNES and then lost track of the series might not even know it exists. A lot of newer fans I've met take one look at it, think ANTIQUE, and get back to speculating about Kingdom Hearts III or swooning over Balthier. Among the more hardcore series fans who have played it -- whether they were patient enough to wait for the PSOne and GBA ports or were sufficiently emulation-savvy to play the RPGe fan translation beforehand -- the reactions are remarkably polarized. People tend to either adore Final Fantasy V or abhor it.

More than one person I've spoken to has been under the mistaken impression that Final Fantasy V is just a 16-bit remake of III. This isn't the case at all. Here's the story: four people are chosen by the four elemental Crystals to defend the world against evil. "You must go out and find the other Crystals!" the first Crystal says, giving them the power to transform into super-powered warriors. So off they go, into a world of pirates, sea monsters, and dragons. They meet an old man named Cid, fly around in an airship, and explore the ruins of an advanced lost civilization. Then they wind up on a second world map and go on more adventures. As the evil wizard antagonist's scheme to unleash a dark primordial force nears fruition, the heroes find a submarine and uncover a set of ancient forbidden weapons and spells to help them even the odds with the villain. Then they get sucked into an alternate dimension and the four warriors who saved the world during a previous crisis appear to help the heroes defeat an avatar of the Void.

Huh. I honestly can't remember whether I was trying to sum up Final Fantasy III or Final Fantasy V's plot just now.

So Final Fantasy V's plot is derivative and silly, even for a JRPG. In the first ten minutes of the game, the king rides off on a dragon, the princess gets knocked cold by a meteor crash, and a passing adventurer riding a big yellow ostrich saves her from getting dragged off by gobins. The princess and the adventurer discover an amnesiac old man lying around nearby, and then all three narrowly escape and earthquake and get captured by pirates. The leader of the pirates plans on holding them for ransom, but changes her mind when she discovers that the princess wears a pendant identical to the one she herself has worn since childhood...

Unless DMT is involved, no ten minutes are ever this eventful. Whereas Final Fantasy IV's implausible scenario is redeemed by the diverse and colorful cast to which it takes a backseat, Final Fantasy V is full of Sunday morning cartoon characters who get tossed around by an even more ridiculous plot. This seems to be the main reason a lot of fans aren't too fond of the fifth installment.

A week or so I was talking about this with Polly, who belongs to the "Final Fantasy V sucks" camp. "So what if the plot is silly," I told her. "It's still a pretty fun game."

"Pat," she answered. "A little kid running around with a cereal bowl on his head is silly. FFV's story is just retarded."

"WHAT?" I asked. "WHAT WAS THAT? I'M SORRY, I CAN'T HEAR YOU OVER ALL THIS JOB SYSTEM."

Even if my snappy comebacks need work, I think I'm right about this. Final Fantasy V isn't a game you play for its plot. While Final Fantasy IV was designed with a focus on trying to tell a dramatic story, V was about taking the standard-issue JRPG battle system into third gear. The ATB system is back, and now comes with a time gauge that takes the guesswork out of the game. The Job system is back, expanded and vastly improved. Not only there are more character classes, fewer duplicates, and (slightly) more balance between them, but now party members can switch Jobs at no JP/AP cost, learn new abilities by increasing Job levels, and mix and match skills between classes. Final Fantasy IV experiemented with tougher, trickier boss fights; Final Fantasy V has twice as many boss battles as IV, and pretty much all of them have some sort of trick to them. In light of such great battle and character progression systems, a lack of a serious, sensical story isn't all that much of a setback.

In defense of the plot, V is the first Final Fantasy installment with a consistent sense of humor. Each character has a goofy "surprise" sprite and a two-frame "laughing" animation. The other characters make fun of Butz for being afraid of heights, which is the result of a traumatic childhood hide-and-seek incident. Before Faris reveals herself as a woman, Butz and Galuf are flabbergasted and concerned about why the handsome young pirate captain seems so inexplicably appealing to them. The fourth wall is broken at least once. Then there's Gilgamesh -- everything he says and does is ridiculous, and he's the game's second most recurring antagonist. If Final Fantasy V's plot has a single redeeming factor, it's how rarely it takes itself seriously.

   



CHARACTERS


The Light Warriors


BUTZ/BATZ/BARTZ

Nobody can make up their minds about this guy's name. The RPGe fan translation that circulated the Internet years before the official North American release calls him Butz, which is evidently the romanization Square Japan uses. The English releases on the PlayStation and Gameboy Advance call him Bartz, because don't you dare lie to me and say you didn't look at his name and immediately think "heh...butts" somewhere in the back of your mind. He's also mentioned in the Legend of the Crystals anime as "Batz," which saw an overseas release years before Final Fantasy V. Anyway, Butz (or whatever you'd like to call him) is the son of Dorgan, one of the four Warriors of Dawn. Ever since his father's death three years ago, Butz has been aimlessly wandering the world with his Chocobo, Boko. He is the de-facto leader of the Light Warriors and personifies the adventuresome spirit sacred to the Wind Crystal.



LENNA/REINA

Called Reina in Final Fantasy Anthology but is named Lenna in virtually everything else. She is the Princess of Tycoon, renowned for her selfless nature. Not long after her father leaves the castle to investigate a disturbing incident at the Wind Temple, the wind abruptly stops. Fearing the worst, Lenna sneaks out of Tycoon by herself to make sure her father is safe. There's not much to say about Lenna -- she's more or less exactly the same person as Maria and Rosa. She has been blessed by the Water Crystal, whose affinity is kindness.








GALUF

Butz and Lenna discover this spy old man at a meteor crash site just outside Tycoon. Galuf can't remember anything about his past, but has a strong feeling that he is supposed to head towards the Wind Temple. Galuf later regains his memories and realizes he is one of the original four Warriors of Dawn who defeated and sealed away the Dark Mage Exdeath thirty years ago. He embodies the Earth Crystal's principle of hope.








FARIS

A female pirate who began disguising herself as a male at an early age to command more respect. Faris now has her own ship, a fiercely loyal pirate crew, and the aid of a water drake named Syldra. When Butz, Lenna, and Galuf fall into her hands after a failed attempt to hijack her ship, Faris plans to ransom them, but then decides to help them after noticing that Lenna wears a pendant exactly identical to hers. (If you haven't already guessed what this signifies, you're hopeless.) Faris's courage represents the spirit of the Fire Crystal.






KRILE/CARA

Helloooo loli. The RPGe translation calls her Cara, but it looks like the "Krile" romanization in the official titles is more accurate. She is Galuf's granddaughter and something of a child prodigy. Not only is she unusually mature for her age and a gifted magician, she's also stronger than Butz, brave as Faris, better with animals than Lenna, and has all of her grandfather's abilities to boot. All the other characters secretly hate Krile, but Final Fantasy V skimpy characterization just doesn't make it clear.








Allies


BOKO & KOKO

   

Boko is Butz's trusty chocobo companion. During Butz's unexpectedly prolonged absence, he elopes with Koko and starts a family. Butz then garrotes Boko for not waiting at the entrance to the pirate cave like he was told.


THE HIRYUU

   

Final Fantasy II's friendly flying dragon returns. Once again we find the species on the verge of extiction, with only two members remaining. Both live in the service of Tycoon and Val's royal family, and take turns serving as the Light Warriors' main mode of transportation for a significant portion of the game.


SYLDRA

   

According to Faris, she and this water drake were raised together like siblings. Syldra ("Hydra" in Final Fantasy Anthology) pulls Faris's pirate ship across the sea like a yoked ox, allowing her and her crew to set sail even after the wind stops across the world. Later on, Syldra assists the party in battle as a summon spell.


MOOGLES

   

Oh hell yes. This breed of Moogle is the most similar that appears in Secret of Mana, and still predates the species' evolution into gimmicky mascots.


CID & MID

   

Final Fantasy V has a really smart old guy named Cid who's good with machines and helps maintain the party's airship. Bet you didn't see that one coming. This time, however, he brings a sidekick: an eccentric and brilliant grandson named Mid who helps him out with his engineering projects. According to the Legends of the Crystals anime, both of them end up dying not long after the game's events come to a conclusion. Depressing, huh.


THE WARRIORS OF DAWN

   

The four nobles who defeated Exdeath thirty years ago and sealed him with the energy field of the four Crystals. Among them were King Galuf, the werewolf Kelgar, the swordsman Zeza, and Butz's father, Dorgan. Although age has weakened them, the Dawn Warriors remain a force to be reckoned with.


Villains


BOSSES, BOSSES, BOSSES

   

   

Final Fantasy V has a great many antagonists and villains, but the majority of them are monsters of the minute and not recurring characters. Fortunately, the game's parade of bosses is anything but tedious. Gone are the days when major foes were just like regular enemies with better spells and more HP; Final Fantasy V's rogues gallery is made up tricksters and juggernauts requring observation, strategy, and practical knowledge of the job system to overcome.


ATOMOS & MINOTAUR

   

Before Atomos filled Diabolos's vacated role as the gravity elemental summon in Final Fantasy IX, he debuted here as one of the most difficult bosses and biggest jerks in Final Fantasy V. He pelts your party with Comet spells while gradually draws downed members towards the black hole in his mouth. Minotaur, on the other hand, is one of the two bosses of the Fork Tower, assigned to guard the forbidden Holy spell. Only physical attacks and abilities can be used in the battle against him -- a fact he himself forgets when he tries casting Holy on your team as a final attack, only to keel over once it fizzles out. He's just as much of a doofus when Final Fantasy VIII recasts him as its earth elemental du jour.


MONSTERS OF THE CLEFT OF DIMENSION

   

Some of the most evil bastards the world has ever known. They have been imprisoned in the Cleft of Dimension for ages, but Exdeath breaches the dimensional seal and releases them. In exchange, they agree to serve Exdeath and assist him in his plan to unleash the power of the Void upon the world. They serve as this installment's traditional gauntlet of final dungeon bosses.

   

The roster: there's the barrier-changing Mellusion, the elusive Stalker, the undead pig triplets Phobis, Triton, and Neregeid, the wimpy wood sprite Calofisteri, the pallete-swapped Apprehender, the expert blue mage Apocalypse, the volatile Catastrophe, the deceitful Harlicarnassus, the prodigious Twin Tania, and the diabolical Necrophobia. There's also some red lizard thing with no name that gets itself flattened by Leviathan.


SHINRYUU & OMEGA

   

The first pair of optional super bosses in the Final Fantasy series, and precursors to the "Weapons" found in later installments. Not even the warriors who defeated the necromancer Enuo and locked away the Void a thousand years ago had any idea how to handle them. Good thing it's Exdeath running the show and not these two, or the world would be doomed. I actually planned on trying to beat them this time around, and spent several mastering five job classes for every character in preparation and leveling up to the point where even the boss of the game was a breeze. Even then, Omega and Shinryuu both kicked my ass within two minutes. At that point I decided I should find a more constructive use of my time instead, like rereading old issues of TV Guide or learning to masturbate with my left hand.


GILGAMESH

   

Exdeath's right hand man defies categorization. He's a one-man army, an incompetent buffoon, a chivalrous warrior, and a childish twit all at the same time. A recurring "gag" villain throughout Final Fantasy V, Gilgamesh is the archetype of Ultros and the Turks from Final Fantasy VI and VII, and has garnered enough popularity to make regular cameos as a visiting clown in later installments. True to his borrowed namesake, Gilgamesh has a buddy named Enkidu whom the Light Warriors kill off when Gilgamesh isn't even around.


EXDEATH

   

More name confusion. The RPGe and Gameboy Advance translations call him Exdeath. Final Fantasy Anthology calls him X-Death. Surprisngly enough, I think the Legend of the Crystals anime gets it right by referring to him as "Exodus." (Don't tell me that doesn't make a hell of a lot more sense.)

Exdeath is Final Fantasy V's primary antagonist, and a rather blatant attempt on Square's part to engineer a Golbez 2.0. His origins are murky: he is referred to as a Dark Mage, but he's actually...well, a tree. His ultimate goal is to unleash and control the power of the Void because he's an evil tree. Most of his time onscreen is spent gloating, blowing stuff up, tying moogles to train tracks, and twirling his long, black mustache while demanding the poor sobbing heroine PAY THE RENT. Yeah, he's pretty one-dimensional.

   

Right before the final showdown with the Light Warriors, Exdeath reverts from his humanoid shape to his true form. After the heroes cut him down to size, Exdeath loses his control over the Void and gets devoured by it. But it's not over yet: he reemerges as Neo Exdeath, an avatar of the Void itself whose purpose is to erase all life, creation, memory, and then itself as well, effectively eradicating existence. For those of you keeping track, he's the first Final Fantasy endboss that must be fought in multiple stages (Zeromus doesn't count), the first to appear as a set of multiple targets, and the first to bring the dreaded Grand Cross spell into battle.


JOBS

As mentioned earlier, Final Fantasy V's improved version of the job system introduced in III is the game's most prominent and best feature, but it should also be said that it has the potential to absolutely bork the game once you start exploiting it. Final Fantasy V isn't precisely a walk in the park -- not like VI or VIII -- but the difficulty level is noticably lower than it was in III and IV, a pair of games that didn't let you augment your dual-wielding ninja with the Rapidfire and Spellblade abilities, or give your magic user Doublecast and have him use Bahamut, Quick, Meteor, Bahamut, Meteor, Bahamut, Quick, and keep continuously hurling spells until he runs out of MP. Final Fantasy V is the first really unbalanced game in the series, though abusing the system requires a lot of time, effort, and homework.




BEST JOBS:
Hunter/Ninja/Red Mage/Time Mage


This one is sort of tricky, since Final Fantasy V is all about mixing jobs and abilities rather than relying on single ueber classes. Therefore, the best jobs are the ones whose abilities have the highest potential for abuse. Let's go down the list:
Hunter: Learns Rapidfire.
Ninja: Holds a weapon in each hand.
Red Mage: (Eventually) learns Doublecast.
Time Mage: Time Magic is indispensible in Final Fantasy V.


WORST JOB:
Geomancer


Severely low abuse possibilities. Even Bards and Dancers can be used cheaply in Final Fantasy V, but the Geomancer's usefulness peaks at a very early point.



COOLEST JOBS:
Hunter/Time Mage/Mystic Knight


Too many fun classes to choose from. The Hunter is cool because he/she uses bows and arrows and summons forest critters to help out in battle. The Time Mage is cool because of all the neat spells he has access to. (It's a shame the Reset spell never appeared in another Final Fantasy game, though it isn't very surprising.) And the Mystic Knight's got stylish exotic digs and the Spellblade ability. Sweet.


LAMEST JOB:
Knight


With Ninjas, Mystic Knights, Monks, Dragoons, Samurai, and Berserkers to choose from in the melee class department, the Knight seems rather borning in comparison -- especially since most of the abilities it learns are filler like "Equip Shield" and "Equip Sword." Lackluster.


BEST DRESSED JOB:
Berseker (Lenna)/White Mage (Krile)


I believe Lenna's tiger bikini speaks for itself, and the Shaman hood is as cute as it was in Final Fantasy III.



WORST DRESSED JOB:
Blue Mage (everybody)


Seriously Blue Mage, what are you supposed to be? It looks like Square stole a nixed costume design sketch from a dumpster behind the DC Comics building.



MOST SUPRISINGLY DECENT JOB:
Bard


It's still by no means top tier, but the fact that the bard is useful at all comes as surprise, especially after its pathetic performances in Final Fantasy III and IV. Its capabilities have been significantly improved, and it even boasts the power to freeze the mighty Omega dead in its tracks with its songs.


MOST SUPRISINGLY CRUDDY JOB:
Monk


You'd think to expect a lot more from these guys. The HP bonuses are useful, but Monks really have little else going for them. Their fighting power pales in comparison to a dual-wielding Berserker or a Samurai with double-grip, the Dragoon's Jump ability makes Build-Up obsolete, and their Kick technique peters out halfway through the game.


   



GO FORTH, LIGHT WARRIORS! SAVE THE CRYSTALS!

Aside from its long being the "lost" Final Fantasy in the NA and PAL territories and the job system shennanigans, Final Fantasy V's most important claim to fame is that it was the final installment directed by series creator Hironobu Sakaguchi. (He's still credited in later installments as a producer, but from what I understand that is a far less direct role in the development process.) As far as I'm concerned, this makes it the last of the old school Final Fantasy games. (VI and VII represent sort of a transitional phase, and everything from VIII onward is new school Final Fantasy.)

So. Let's step back for a second and put ourselves in Sakaguchi's shoes for a moment. It's Saturday morning, and Friday night was spent engaging in no fewer than three nomihodai sessions with other Square employees. (A rough English translation of nomihodai would be something like "depraved orgy of binge drinking.") Now Sakaguchi rolls out of bed, throws water in his face, and squints in the mirror as his reflection gradually comes into focus. Shadows of fact begin surfacing through the mental haze. Today he's supposed to think over a few early proposals for the next Final Fantasy game. Wait, he thinks, what's Final Fantasy?

Oh, right, he remembers. That Famicom RPG me and some other guys threw together back when we thought SquareSoft was already doomed. That was a damn long time ago. Which one are we on now? Five? Six? How many copies are these things selling? How many guys we got working on them now? Holy hell.

He pops open a bottle of asprin and pours himself a glass of water, then takes a sip of the water and pours all the asprin down his throat. Final Fantasy, he thinks, watching his pupils dilate. What does it all mean?

I'm going to remain silent on the video games: art? issue; that's a dogpile I have no intention of diving into. But it's incontrovertible that they have become much more substantive since the glory days of the arcade -- that the medium might someday possess narrative capabilities is an idea that may not even occurred to the creators and players of Pac-Man, Missile Command, and Q*bert. But Sakaguchi saw this potential. After all, he has been quoted (however accurately) as stating that his reason for wanting to try his hand at RPG design was because he thought he'd be good at telling a story.

Final Fantasy told a story. Each successive sequel told more of a story, and this became a sturdy pillar of the series' success.

The vestiges of my old English undegraduate student-self feel an obligation, then, to have a look at the Final Fantasy games produced during Sakaguchi's time as series director and try to spot a pattern. If Sakaguchi wanted to tell a story or get a message out there, let's see if we can't get some idea of what he was trying to say?


Fifteen themes, concepts, and motifs represented and established by old school Final Fantasy:


1.) The mythology of elemental Crystals: the world is composed and governed by the elements of Earth, Wind, Fire, and Water. (Fitting that a series of Western fantasy pastiches should be at least partially grounded in classical Western natural philosophy.) Each element is represented by a Crystal. When bad things happen to the crystals, bad things happen to the world.

2.) Beyond this, there are the opposing forces of Light and Darkness. Final Fantasy III makes the case that while they are opposite forces, neither is inherently good or bad -- that it's a matter of perception. The Crystals and the elements have Light and Dark sides, as well. Final Fantasy III and IV have dual sets of Light and Dark crystals. It's not uncommon for each element to be represented by both a Light Warrior and a Fiend.

3.) Instead of Light/Good vs. Dark/Evil, Final Fantasy's struggles often come down to existence against non-existence. Most of its villains are grumpy bastards who just aren't cool with the fact that things are alive and stuff exists. When confronted with the threat of Void, Light and Dark forces will often work together to defend creation.

4.) More Final Fantasy mythology: Bahamut first appeared in Final Fantasy, Leviathan was introduced in Final Fantasy II, and Odin followed in Final Fantasy III. These three round off the top tiers of mainstay deities in the Final Fantasy universe. Beneath them are the elemental dieties Ramuh, Shiva, Ifrit, and Titan. (Though Ramuh gets phased out every now and then and Titan regularly gets the shaft in later installments.) None of these are totally original figures, of course -- they have been borrowed from the myths and relgions of cultures outside Japan. Bahamut is from Arabic myth (but his dragon god form was stolen directly from Advanced Dungeons & Dragons); Leviathan is mentioned in the Old Testament; Odin is from Norse mythology; Shiva (and probably Ramuh) are Hindu figures; Ifrit is from Arabic folklore; Titan appears in Greek myth. Despite not being wholly original creations, Final Fantasy has done a remarkable job at reinventing them as its distinctive figureheads.

5.) Youth-centrism. The younger and less experienced you are, the more ass you kick. This especially rings true with preteen characters, as all of them are child geniuses. Conversely, if you are old, battle-hardened and hirsute, there is a much greater chance of bad things happening to you. (This isn't a concept invented by Final Fantasy: Japanese culture and myth have a very salient fetish for the young and beautiful.)

6.) Expansionism and war are inherently evil. Rebellions and insurrections against a domineering power are usually okay, though. The only reason one should ever fight is to stop all fighting forever.

7.) A concept which has as good a chance of having been borrowed from Star Wars as resulting from the psychic side effects of industrialization on the Japanese cultural psyche: the ideal society lives in harmony with nature. Ones which rely too heavily upon technology or abuse the natural word are doomed to collapse.

8.) On a similar note: the hubris of a civilization always leads to its downfall. When someone in Final Fantasy makes a statement like the one to the right, you can be assured they're screwed.

9.) On the subject of the Japanese cultural psyche, Final Fantasy is rife with references to great fallen civilizations and bygone golden ages. The greatest orders of warriors and mages are always on their last legs; the Hiryuu is always on the verge of extinction; the best weapons in the game are always ancient relics wielded by some legendary heroes thousands of years before. Either this is a subconscious expression of Japanese nostalgia for the times before industrialization, westernization, and 9/2/1945, or Little Boy has taught me nothing.

10.) All of Final Fantasy's heroes are orphans, amnesiacs, or otherwise estranged from their family's past. Could this signify contemporary Japan's severance from its past and a perceived weakening of its national and cultural indentity, or is this too much of a stretch?

11.) Acting as a group is of tremendous importance. Party members who go off on their own will suffer terrible consequences. Also, there is nothing more noble than sacrificing oneself for the good of one's friends/people. (The kamikaze ethos still lives.)

12.) Let's talk about Final Fantasy gender roles. Men are virile and capable warriors, sages, and airship building geniuses. Women are dainty magic users whose purpose is to back up the men and try their best to avoid getting kidnapped or poisoned so as not to inconvenience the males, whose responsibility it will be to rescue them. This changes if the woman in question is a tomboy or a crossdresser. In such a case, they will be outshone by the stronger male heroes and the better-looking female heroes and doomed to the slow, lonely death of a spinster.

13.) Mankind's greatest breakthroughs always occur before mankind is ready for them. Is Pat talking about the products of Cid's engineering genius being used to destroy the Fire Crystal or Einstein's Theory of Relativity and the atomic bomb? ARE THEY REALLY THAT FAR APART, I ASK YOU?

14.) The ultimate goal of the Final Fantasy series, as I have more than adequately demonstrated, is to turn you into as gigantic a fecking nerd as possible.

15.) Every ending is also a beginning -- unless everything gets devoured by the Void or whichever force of non-existence the villain is serving. Perhaps this should be amended to "every ending is also a beginning...except for when all creation gets erased. Then it's really just an ending." This is only in danger of ocurring, however, when the Power Of Love And Friendship fails to pull through, which is never.


   


CONCLUSION!

If the preceding section struck you as being sort of irrelevant and perfunctory, it probably was. Final Fantasy V is a hard game to approach. Unlike the previous four titles, it breaks very little new ground. Enumerating its lasting influences, quirks, and innovations would make for a short read, unless this thing became a dissertation of job system and battle mechanics -- which, if you wanted to read that, would be at GameFAQs instead of here. And with Final Fantasy V's loose, recycled story and simple characters, there's really not much interesting material to poke through there. Hence the amateur cultural analysis.

But this in itself illustrates why Final Fantasy V represents such a significant stage in the evolution of the series. Final Fantasy V isn't designed to blow apart the foundations of the genre, blur the lines between cinema and gaming, convey (explicit) social commentary or philosophize, inspire wet dreams and doujin fantasies with a fashionably-dressed dreamboat hero and his lithe and fashionably-dressed princess, serve as a 200-hour K-hole for compulsive completionists, or act as a multimillion dollar CGI tech demo. Neither, for that matter, were any of its predecessors, but they all had novelty on their side -- the kind of novelty that a fourth sequel would be hard-pressed to match. Final Fantasy V is where it became clear that SquareSoft would have to think bigger in order to keep up the series' momentum. It is also the very last Final Fantasy installment that is totally content with just being a game.

Note of historical interest: incidentally, the last game Sakaguchi directed also marked the SquareSoft debut of a certain illustrator (credited as the game's monster designer) by the name of Tetsuya Nomura.


   


So much for the old school. Farewell Light Warriors and crystals; hello steampunk, evil empires, and the end of the world. Hey, is that cyberpunk and metaphysical angst I perceive on the horizon...?









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