Final Fantasy V Advance
by Polly

Ahhh, good ol' Final Fantasy... Where would the RPG genre be without you today? Perhaps if it hadn't been for your seventh installment's out-of-nowhere, runaway success, the Japanese RPG market wouldn't be as saturated and boring as it is today.

I pine for the days when RPGs were part of a very niche genre of gaming. I'm not angry or some shit that other people are playing them... but I guess in a way I am. Makers of these games, now having to satiate the "casual" gamer with pretty graphics and 800 hours of oftentimes horrendous voice acting, don't really have much of a budget anymore to create solid stories and gameplay after the bill for all those fancy schmancy graphics comes in. Sure, there are quite a few diamonds in the rough. The "Tales of" series has somehow always managed to stay fresh and Dragon Warrior VIII was absolutely fantastic. But for every Tales of Symphonia and Dragon Warrior VIII, we get about 30 Xenosagas and Kingdom Hearts that would rather pummel the player with cutscene after cutscene, rather than providing ANY type of fun RPG gaming experience.

Square-Enix's re-releases of classic Final Fantasy games on the GameBoy Advance are almost a match made in heaven. Final Fantasy IV Advance was an excellent showing. The new script, updated graphics, and bug fixes for problems in earlier releases of the game certainly made for quite an enjoyable new showing for my favorite game in the series. Actually using the original Japanese version as their base was great too, cause I like a little bit of challenge. A few flaws here and there kept it from being perfect, but it was a damn good update that didn't fuck with the formula and stayed as true as it could to the original. Final Fantasy VI Advance was just released in Japan and is due here March of next year, which I'm pretty excited about. What I wasn't so excited about (and I honestly didn't even know it was getting an Advance makeover) was Final Fantasy V Advance.

I stood in the store a good 10 minutes holding the box asking myself whether I should buy it or not, but by the time I looked back down the cashier was already giving me change back for a purchase I had no fucking clue I'd even made. It was at that moment, that I realized Square-Enix still has me fucking brainwashed into just giving them my fucking money. I fucking hate you, Square. Fuckers.

Here We Go Again
I'll get it out of the way now: I never liked Final Fantasy V. My first encounter was a translated ROM and I never got past the 4 hour mark. My second encounter was the first "official" release on the PSOne's Final Fantasy Anthology (which I rushed out and bought day fucking one, because I was an idiot fangirl). I made it about 10 hours in and gave up again, not only due to the shitty load times, but just because I honestly couldn't stand the game. Third time's a charm, right? Right guys? RIGHT?

Not exactly...

My God, How Fucking Plain You Are!
Final Fantasy V may have the most boring, uninspired, and pointless story in a Final Fantasy ever. I don't think a plot and set of characters have ever bored me so much as the ones that inhabit this world. We meet up with Bartz (or Butz if you're a Japatard... huh huh Butz...), and hit butt buddy chocobo inventively named Boko. A meteorite falls from the sky one day and he's all, "Hey! I'mma go check that shit out!" So he does, and there he finds two other people. A crusty old man with amnesia (HO, HO, HO, RPG CLICHE #298379) named Galuf and a sexy piece of pixellated ass princess named Lenna (Reina, Rena, Rina...whatever the fuck!). Lenna needs help getting to the Wind Shrine to find her daddy, so it's a perfectly logical decision to ask two complete strangers she's just met to accompany her. Along the way, they decide it's also a logical and GREAT idea to try and commandeer a pirate ship without having any knowledge of how to sail. At this point we meet Faris, the Pirate! Oh and get this...even though the sprite and face graphic are clearly too ugly for anyone to believe it...


Yeah, so what. Major spoilers, huh? As if Faris isn't stupid enough, you'll also quickly find out through "subtle as a nuclear bomb" hints that Faris is Lenna's estranged sister. They really try and milk this for as much "emotional" bullshit as they can, but it's so fucking contrived and stupid that it ends up just plain laughable.

From then on the game's story just kinda rolls around on the ground like a fat, squealing, angry piggy never really going anywhere. The events that push the story forward are just mind-numbingly boring and contrived and always so easily explained away and you just have to accept it all "as is." It feels completely sloppy.

Though, the story is bad, I guess the only bright side is that they replaced the god-awful script from the PSOne version and character dialog can be somewhat humorous at times. Doesn't save an incredibly shitty story though.

Bloo Mage License
Even if the story's incredibly shitty, all is not lost. Final Fantasy V did bring some new elements to the series, which would prove to become staples of the franchise even today. Final Fantasy V introduced the ATB gauge and greatly expanded upon the series' various Job Systems.

The Job System is great in this game. In fact, it's so great that you could say it almost completely breaks the game's balance. As you progress through the game, you'll gain a number of crystal shards which allow your characters to change to different jobs at will. All the familiar jobs are here: Knight, Black Mage, White Mage, Monk, Thief, etc. All Jobs have their own specific skills that you can learn as you fight and gain ABP. You can then, mix and match Jobs with skills from other classes allowing for a really cool sense of customization among your party members. There really are a great number of ways you can set up your characters, and finding that right ass kicking combo of Job and skills is always a nice sense of accomplishment.

But, as stated, the Job System easily breaks the game if you know what you're doing. It's actually quite easy to run away from almost all normal random encounters, learn a few specific Blue Magics, and annihilate almost every boss in your way in 1-2 rounds. I've seen proof of people reaching the game's 2nd world in a little over an hour and only being level 9. It's hard for me to really decide whether that's really good use of the system, or a really broken game. Probably a bit of Column A and B.

Everything else plays out just like you'd expect a Final Fantasy to. You'll explore dungeon after dungeon, fight random battle after random battle, and then be faced with a boss monster that's probably either too easy or too hard. There's not a lot of balance in this game.

And All The Rest
The graphics and sounds you remember (or not) from the original are all re-touched here. The graphics have some subtle updating, but not likely enough to notice. They're somewhat more detailed than the SNES version, but that's really about it.

Final Fantasy V's soundtrack is probably the least memorable of the entire series as well. But it's all represented here as closely to the SNES originals as possible, with a little of that typical GBA "Fuzz" you should be used to hearing in your GBA games by now.

Hey, it's a remake of an SNES-era RPG... The graphics and sound aren't prize pigs. What else can I say? If this were say, a Chrono Trigger or Final Fantasy III, then I'd have a pixelgasm, but until then...whatever.

Thankfully, all menu lag has been completely removed. Final Fantasy IV Advance had some really awful menu lag that made battle and equipping characters a chore at times, but the issue is addressed here and zipping through menus is snappy and efficient.

And that's really all I have to say about that. I've tried really hard to like this game over the years, but the only entertaining thing about it is the job system, which ends up breaking it in the end. I can't see this as being a Final Fantasy even Japan would have been excited receiving, especially after the landmark Final Fantasy IV. You could easily skip this one and never feel guilty. I wish I would have!

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