Developed by: Square
Published by: Square
Platforms: SNES, Playstation, Game Boy Advance
Feeling Like: Part Time Job
It’s early. And cold. But I’m there at 6:30am, a few hours before classes begin.
Dobbo is already there.
He’s sitting down in the GNS Computer Lab and he’s playing Final Fantasy V on one of the Macs by some wizardry…I think a Zip Disk and an emulator was involved.
The reason we show up while it’s still dark is easy to justify; it’s a quick way to get a mini-LAN party going before school, every single day. The multiplayer options were limited, so it usually meant crowding around a single monitor and watch whoever was furthest in their old school, obscure game nobody had seen before.
For a good while, it was Final Fantasy 5.
Hey, the first mainline Final Fantasy on the 500! You’ll be seeing at least *counts on fingers* nine more before we’re at the top, and for very good reason; it’s one of my favorite franchises. It’s the most well known export from Japan in the genre (sorry, Dragon Quest fans) due to its grand storytelling, pushing console hardware, sweeping soundtracks, classic gameplay and unforgettable characters. I’m certainly a fanboy, so you’ll have to take every Final Fantasy entry with a giant grain of salt. I love them. All of them.
Well…maybe not all of them. The first 3 won’t find real estate on the list. They may have been revolutionary at the time, but they’ve aged like milk and aren’t fun to play by modern standards. But beyond that, Final Fantasies are fair game and will always be a mainstay on the 500. It’s just a matter of how high they can jump.
Even though Final Fantasy 5 is the “worst” main entry one the 500, it’s still great. Certainly worth asking dad to drive me to school on his way to work so I can get in a few hours in before Social Studies. I don’t think our computer science teacher was amused that games were being played when there was homework due, but the computer science teacher didn’t care to wake up at 6am to stop us either. I’m not sure why the door wasn’t just locked in the first place.
No question about it, the combat customization is the star of the show and fans still long for the depth of choice when it comes to selecting fighting styles. No single character is locked in place with a specific role, but rather they can switch “Jobs” at any point outside of battle. Anybody can be a healer, or equip a certain weapon, or gain a defensive prowess, or learn enemy spells. Throughout the game, you learn additional jobs, and the possibilities of party composition are nearly endless. By mastering a particular job, you can choose to acquire their abilities while donning another cap, adding to the ridiculous amount of variety Final Fantasy 5 offers its players.
It’s a double edged sword. While you’ll get a crazy amount of options for your adventurers, I felt they lost a bit of uniqueness since anybody could be anybody. It doesn’t help that the four warriors all share the same, upbeat personality. Galuf, the token old man, has the closest thing to a personality but beyond that, there aren’t many memorable story or character moments.
Oddly enough, the most popular character is a sub-boss that you fight over, and over again. Gilagmesh, the King fighting out of Sumeria, frequently crosses paths with you with an increased amount of strength each time. Accompanied by one of the best battle themes in the series, it was a highly anticipated confrontation and usually met with a small cheer upon the realization that you’d be going toe to toe with him once more.
It doesn’t have the clout, or the reputation of other behemoths in the franchise. Partly due to how the series didn’t make its way stateside until six years after its initial release, and partly due to the oddness of the whole package. It doesn’t have as classic a feel as Final Fantasy 4, nor the diverse cast of Final Fantasy 6. Aside from Gilgamesh, the antagonists are forgettable and predictable. You stick with (mostly) the same, small group of characters throughout the journey. It’s weird and strange, by design.
Grinding can be a major source of contention among gamers. It’s present here in Final Fantasy 5, it’s present in the majority of JRPGs. Some are OK with it; maybe the battle system is so refined, and progression is set at a fair pace that it doesn’t feel like homework. Others see is as an unnecessary barrier to moving on with the story. Battles are usually over with quickly, or without much strategic thought in place, so why force the player to endure hundreds, if not thousands of fights? What’s the point, aside from artificially padding the length? That’s a heavy question, one that’s not unique to Final Fantasy 5, but you should know grinding is here and if you don’t like the idea of experimenting with a dozen different job titles, or listening to the battle theme every 17 seconds, it’s not for you.
I’m more forgiving, but mostly because I’m the kind of guy who will forgo sleep to get access to a JRPG, particularly when I was 14. I typically like grinding, mostly when it’s proactive and on my terms. Since I’ve had a good amount of experience with these types of games, I typically go out of my way to get lost as to soak up more experience points than a normal player would. Largely because I’m not as adept at fighting enemies as a normal player. It’s relaxing; I can throw on a Podcast and learn about Macro-Economics or some horrible murder that happened in New Orleans while slowly gaining more levels and learning new abilities. Then, come boss time, they’re usually a pushover. What can I say, I like feeling prepared and overpowered.