Even if you choose it over the clearly superior Game Boy Advance version, Final Fantasy V on the PSone is a JRPG worth playing.
Each Final Fantasy game from the main series added something new from a gameplay perspective: some games included the active time battle system, others changed the way in which you leveled up your characters, others were multiplayer-focused and so on. Final Fantasy III might have introduced the incredibly job system, but Final Fantasy V improves upon that idea in some creative new ways. That’s but one of the changes that makes Final Fantasy V a joy to play, but unfortunately, the PlayStation version isn’t the definitive one and the game suffers from repetition and some incredibly challenging battles that will only satisfy fans of the series.
The party of characters you control include what you’d expect from a medieval-themed JRPG, including a princess, an unnamed character who’s on a quest to save the world, an amnesic old man and a female pirate. They all join forces after the crystals that are keeping the world balanced start shattering and leave the kingdoms unprotected from the forces of evil. So you need to locate those elemental crystals and find out why they are destroyed.
In terms of gameplay, there’s the Active Time Battle system which means that you need to take turns to perform actions and there are still random battles. But the main change comes in the form of a revised job system from Final Fantasy III. As you progress through the game, you unlock new jobs (these include black, white, red and time mages, bare, summoner, geomancer and knight, to name a few.) The best part about the job system is that any character can switch to the job you want. Basically, this determines the basic statistics of that character, as well as the abilities they can use and the equipment they can carry. Apart from leveling up a character, you also level up jobs and the higher the level, the better abilities you have access to. But lets say you like a specific ability of a white mage, but for whatever reason, you want to switch to another job without getting rid of said ability. You can carry an ability from a specific job to another one which adds flexibility to the combat.
The job system has appeared in other games in the series (including Final Fantasy III, Tactics and X-2) and that’s because it’s both malleable and entertaining to use. Being able to change jobs on the fly to adjust your strategy is great because you no longer have to spend hours grinding to overcome a tough boss fight. You can change your jobs, abilities, weapons and try a completely new strategy in a matter of minutes.
Final Fantasy V is a terrific game, but the PlayStation version shouldn’t be your first option. The menus are sluggish, there’s an annoying glitch whenever you try to save, there isn’t as much extra content as in the Game Boy Advance version and finally, the CGI custcenes don’t look as you’d expect from Square Enix.
Sadly, that’s not the only issue with the game. One of the problems with NES and SNES era Final Fantasy titles is that it’s easy to get lost and since the games have random encounters, exploring freely is seldom an option unless you want to process interrupted by enemies. So a strategy guide is needed if you want to know exactly where to go or how defeat some bosses more effectively. Maybe this says more about me than it does about the game, but when you encounter a boss at the end of a long dungeon and you lose the battle and all the progress you made just because you didn’t know you had to use a specific item or switch to a job, the game becomes disheartening and frustrating.
The again, when you do conquer some of the challenges the game puts in front of you, Final Fantasy V can be extremely gratifying. There are some incredibly challenging bosses and when you beat them after restarting again and again, the feeling of reward you get out of that is something that few games are able to match.
And that’s without mentioning some of the side-missions, extra bosses, hidden dungeons and all the bonus content that’s waiting for you to uncover. Beating Final Fantasy V can easily take you around 30 hours and even more if you’re willing to put some extra time in the bonus content or leveling up your party to master most jobs.
Regardless of how you choose to play this classic JRPG, Final Fantasy V is a classic Final Fantasy game thanks to a flexible job system, a tried and true formula, gratifying boss battles and epic story. The PlayStation version isn’t the one to get due to some annoying glitches, long loading times, poor translation, the repetitive nature of the content and dated cutscenes. But even if you choose it over the clearly superior Game Boy Advance version, Final Fantasy V is a JRPG worth playing.