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Capsule Review - Final Fantasy V

Title Final Fantasy V
Developer Square
Year 1992
Platform SNES
Capsule Rating
Capsule Review: As the Internet expanded, so did its small cult of devoted Final Fantasy fans. For these people, Final Fantasy V was a sort of holy grail. Understandable - RPGs in the United States were once a rare thing, and thanks to Final Fantasy VI and Secret of Mana (as well as the fact that Enix gave up on the States at some point), Square was the biggest name around. And, with the vast amounts of information available online, those people soon found out that Final Fantasy III was actually the sixth game, and that there was one between "the one with Cecil" and "the one with Terra" that Square didn't release in America.

And so a cult following grew. Everyone knew who Gilgamesh, Butz and Exdeath were; people eagerly awaited the MOD rendition of the Gilgamesh theme to be made; and Andrew Vestal caused an uproar when he claimed to have obtained a translated beta version of the game. (It was a hoax.) And then the game was translated by a bunch of zealous ROM hackers, and then later other games came along, and eventually Final Fantasy V was translated by Square itself and released with the Final Fantasy Anthology. And now, after the fuss has died down, we can easily see that the game is emphatically not anywhere near as special as it was once believed.

As far as plot goes, there is only a shell of one. It's very insipid and only there to give you excuses to go through dungeons - actually reusing the "the four crystals are gone...but wait! There are four MORE crystals!" device from Final Fantasy IV. Except Final Fantasy IV's cast had at the very least two dimensions, as opposed to the five heroes of Final Fantasy V, who range from zero to one - so it seems far less forgivable here than there. In fact, plot devices aren't the only thing taken from Final Fantasy IV - the graphics are fundamentally extremely similar to those in Final Fantasy IV, with some sprites from that game actually being reused. The sound will bring back memories of those good old NES beeps, and is just about as forgettable as almost everything else (with a few intriguing exceptions that number no more than five).

The game's one highlight is its gameplay system. The Job system is complicated and admittedly innovative. It builds on the system in Final Fantasy III (the one for the NES) while expanding it and adding all sorts of different things to learn and combinations to think of. This would be good, if it wasn't for two things. One, most of the skills and jobs are unnecessary - learn three or four high-level skills and you're basically set. (There are two optional bosses, but neither is anywhere near as hard as, say, Emerald WEAPON, and both can be defeated in two turns with a small amount of strategic thought.) Two, it takes quite a bit of time to learn even those (even with the emulator's fast-forward key), and the way to learn 'em is the same old tedious level-building we've seen everywhere else. And with the large amount of skill-building required contrasted with the utter fatuousness of the "plot," very little reason remains to see Final Fantasy V through to its boring, pointless end. In fact, Final Fantasy VIII, all its flaws aside, boasted a better system in the Junction system - so if you really want to learn pointless skills, why not do it there?

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