Final Fantasy V – The Missing RPG Link

RGB is back in action with yet another review! This time I chose to review the often mysterious Final Fantasy V for the SNES. I hope you enjoy reading this review as much as I enjoyed making it!

  1. Foreword
  2. Story
  3. Gameplay
  4. Review
    1. The Good
    2. The Bad
    3. The Ugly
  5. Final Thoughts


As I eluded to in my post regarding Final Fantasy II/IV, there were actually 3 Final Fantasy games created for the SNES but due to some continuity issues, Final Fantasy IV was released as FF2 in America, the real FF5 was skipped and then FF3 was released even though it was technically FF6. So, FF5 is the only SNES Final Fantasy that never made it to America until emulation made it happen.

Let’s get visual here to understand where this fits:

fftimeSo what we have here is basically a great game that Square didn’t publish in the USA. Why is that? Well, it is very simple. The original game was designed to be a direct sequel of FF4 (FF2 USA) – and you can tell – but it also featured  the job system introduced in FF3 (the actual one, not FF6).  For whatever reason, Square felt that the game would be too jarring for the US gamer and the inclusion of the job system would be too confusing for people who were expecting a game that played very similar to what they knew as FF2. In the end, the game was never released to America on the SNES.

However, as the emulation world began to explode in the USA in the early 2000’s, a team of fans created the first ever fan-subbed version of a video game. Later on, the game was re-released in many different formats – Playstation saw it released with the Final Fantasy Anthology, GBA saw it released as ‘Final Fantasy V Advance’, it was even released for iOS. But for my intents and purposes, I played the ‘De-Jap’ translation of the game on my SNES emulator. I am, however, going to use the names and styles of both English translations rather than strictly the De-Jap (for instance, I refuse to call the main character Butz as he was improperly called in the translation but I don’t want to call Cara Krile as that just sounds weird).

Now! Without further ado! I bring you the RGB review of the classic RPG: Final Fantasy V!


The Story

(( WARNING! Some Spoilers Ahead!))

The game opens rather abruptly with a young girl, Princess Lenna of Tycoon, pleading with her father not to leave without her. King Tycoon mounts a dragon (called Hiryuu) and tells his daughter that the wind is getting very weak and he is worried about the wind crystal. After some discussion, King T flies off into the distance and Lenna cries before going back inside. Next, the king arrives at the wind palace where the crystal is stored and tries to calm the people stationed at the palace. The King goes in to the Crystal Room and watches with horror as the crystal shatters into shards. Next the story returns to Castle Tycoon and Lenna realizes that the wind has fully stopped now and she is very worried when Hiryuu returns to Castle Tycoon without her father on its back. She resolves that she will take the Hiryuu to the palace and check on her father even though the Chancellor requests her to wait. However, the Hiryuu appears to have been badly injured and Lenna sets out on foot.

Now we are taken to a boy and his Chocobo – the main character Bartz is a wandering adventurer who tends to explore the world on the back of Boko, his yellow chocobo. As he is resting in the woods near Tycoon, a huge meteor strikes the ground nearby and he goes to investigate. Upon arriving, Bartz finds Lenna unconscious at the meteor impact site and wakes her. Just as she is coming around, a guy with partial amnesia named Galuf stumbles out of the meteor. Galuf remembers that he was supposed to go to the Wind Shrine as well and decides to go along with Lenna. Bartz, however, decides that he doesn’t want to get mixed up in that mess and bids them farewell. However, Bartz begins to feel guilty leaving a young girl and amnesiac man to fend for themselves but just as he begins debating whether or not to go back for them, an earthquake strikes him and traps him in a valley. Soon, he meets back up with Lenna and Galuf and decides to help them. The team ends up finding their way into a pirate’s headquarters and convinces the pirate captain, Faris, to sail them to the wind shrine using his pet hydra as an engine. Unfortunately, the boat is shipwrecked after battling a monster in a valley. The group of 4 makes their way through the ship graveyard and arrives at the Wind Shrine.

ff5shatterUpon arriving at the crystal room, the party realizes that the Wind Crystal is gone but the shards begin to shine and declares the four party members to be the “Warriors of Dawn”. King Tycoon appears as a vapor and warns them that the other three crystals are in danger  and the party must save them or the world will be destroyed (sounds familiar eh?). The team attempts to save the Water crystal by climbing its tower. Upon reaching the top, they face an enemy and this crystal shatters, giving its powers to the Warriors of Dawn. The team rushes to Karn to attempt to save the Fire crystal and find that the brilliant engineer Cid (sounds familiar, too, eh?) created a machine that uses the power of the crystal to make a ship that runs without wind and powers many machines. The team rushes to stop the machine with Cid’s help only to find that the machine has been cranked up to its highest power level and it has overloaded the crystal. As soon as the team arrives to the crystal, it is destroyed and the same reaction occurs. With Cid’s help, the team attempts to save the Earth Crystal but find that its temple is actually a machine in of itself that is designed to activate a flying weapon system when it sensed it was in danger – yup – now it is in danger. So the team must battle a flying fortress after Cid makes the airship capable of flying high enough to reach it. Just as you might have guessed, the team battles through the fortress only to witness – a shattering crystal that reacts to the heroes – oh and then the whole thing falls out of the sky.

Finally, Galuf meets up with Cara, his granddaughter, when she arrives in a meteor after the fortress falls and she restores his memory. Turns out that Galuf is actually from another world. He and 3 other warriors sealed a monster named Exdeath and sent the crystals to THIS planet when he was unable to be destroyed. However, the 4 crystals sealed his power. Now that they are broken, he has been reborn on Galuf’s world and Cara is freaking out! Galuf confirms that he must now go back home and save the planet. He and Cara hop back on a meteor and return back to Galuf’s homeworld while the other teammates are left behind.

Bartz and crew are now stuck with a moral quandary – their world is about to fall into nothingness since all of the crystals have been destroyed. But Galuf told them that he had to fight alone and he took the last working meteor back to his homeland. But that won’t stop Cid! He and his grandson, Mid, work together to create a power source that can allow the team to warp and save the world. The team warps to Galuf’s world and land on an abandoned island. When they attempt to sleep, a monster captures them and takes them prisoner to Exdeath’s fortress. Meanwhile, Galuf and his team have staged an attack on Exdeath’s fortress via the ‘Big Bridge’. Exdeath shows Galuf that he has captured his friends and warns him to cease his attack or he will kill them. Galuf storms the castle himself and saves the other three teammates. But just as he does so, Exdeath activates a barrier around his whole area and the force blows the team to a distant island.

The team finds out that this world is actually a twin world to their own and that when Exdeath was sealed, the warriors split the crystals into two pieces, creating two worlds. But if the crystals in this world are destroyed, then the two worlds will be reunited into one so Exdeath must be beaten before that can happen. The crew begins making their way to each crystal in this world only to find that Exdeath is already one step ahead of them. They find out Exdeath is actually a spirit that is stored in a tree in an Ancient Forest and the key to maintaining that seal is embedded in the eldest tree. The team attempts to reach the tree to destroy the key only to have Exdeath torch the forest and make it impossible to speak to the Guardian tree. The team faces Exdeath at the tree and are promptly beaten while Cara attempts to save them. At one point, all of the characters are blown back by Exdeath, Galuf stands up and takes Exdeath himself. He manages to weaken Exdeath enough to send him back to his castle at the cost of his own life. Cara wakes up and finds her grandfather is dead but his spirit returns and grants Cara all his powers.

ff5voidOnce the rest of the team awakes and get word of Galuf’s demise and final gift. Newly impassioned, Bartz, Lenna, Faris and Cara try to take Exdeath’s castle. They get help from Zeza, the last remaining of the original warriors. Zeza and his team destroy the power on one of Exdeath’s barrier towers, costing Zeza his life but allowing the team to attack the castle. The team climbs Exdeath’s tower and he appears to fade away but the crystals are already shattered and the two worlds have merged. The team seeks out a sage who says he has important news about Exdeath. Upon reaching the sage, Exdeath appears as a splinter that had lodged itself in Faris’ hand. He beats the sage and now is restored to full power. He also shows them the power of the Void which was unlocked when the final  crystal broke. This power allows him to banish entire cities to the “Cleft of Dimensions’ which is basically a hole in the fabric of time and space. He banishes Tycoon castle, the Ancient Library, Bartz’ hometown of Rikks, and a few other places.

With the help of Mid, Cid’s grandson, the heroes find that there are 4 tablets in this world that seal the power of the weapons used to banish Exdeath and some of the strongest powers in the world. Only by collecting these weapons and magic can they hope to beat him. Of course, the team collects the weapons as well as the ultimate spells (Meteo, Flare, and Holy), summons (Bahamut, Leviathan and Odin) and powers. They storm the Cleft of Dimension and take him on once and for all. Upon beating Exdeath, he loses control of the Void and it engulfs him. The new, Void controlled, Neo-Exdeath faces the Four Warriors of Dawn and is defeated. The crystals are restored. The land returns to normal (as a merged land) and the credits roll… end of story.


ff5menuThis game plays almost identical to its predecessor, FF4. In fact, the world map and the character ‘status’ screen look very similar to that of FF4 except that the characters’ faces are replaced by their sprite. This is likely because of the Job system (which I will discuss next)  in that when you assign a character a new job, their appearance (clothes, headgear, etc) changes. This game features the good ol’ Active Time Battle System (ATB) that I cheered about in other posts. However, this one is truly the next evolutionary step. See, in FF4, the game had an ATB but you really had no way of knowing when the character would be ready to act until their sprite became highlighted on the battle screen. In this game, the developers wisely installed an ‘Action Bar’ which builds on the right side of each character’s HP on the battle screen. When it fills completely, it is that character’s attack! This same bar appears in FF6, 7 and most others in the FF series for many generations (I don’t know if it is in modern FF games because I have not played them). This is the first of many evolutions you will see happening in this game.

ff5jobThe next element of interest in the gameplay is the use of the “Job” system. You remember all those times I mentioned in the story (see above) where the crystals shattered and reacted to the team? Each time you get a crystal shard, it gives your characters more “Jobs” they can take. This includes some common things like Black Mage, White Mage, Summoner (Caller), Monk, Knight, etc. There are also some other, stranger classes, such as the Berserker (he literally just goes berserk), the Trainer (think Pokemon), and even the scientist (he makes potions). This is also the first game to show Blue Mages (think Gau the wild boy from FF6), Time Mages (spells such as Demi, Slow, Haste, Stop, etc.), Magic Knights (enchant swords) etc. Basically, when you assign a character a Job, their appearance changes to match their job as well as their equipment must be modified to match. With each battle, you gain a certain amount of Ability Points (ABP) that help you earn levels in your job. So, if you keep someone as a Black Mage until they have reached Master (Job Level 7 in that case), they now have full access to the Black spells in the game even if you make them a monk! This is because each character has a primary and secondary skill. The primary is assigned by default from the Job (say BlkMagic for Black Mage) and then you can select a second skill even if the character has not reached full Master in that Job. For example, I made Cara my mage most of the time and I started her as a White Mage (or rather started Galuf as a white mage and she got his powers) and she eventually maxed out the White Mage. So then, I made her Job Black Mage but assigned a secondary skill of WhtMgc. The end result? A mage who can use the most powerful BLACK and WHITE spells! Likewise, I made Lenna my Summoner early in the game and then later needed a Time Mage so I changed her job to Time Mage. Eventually she became a Master of the Time Mage job so I made her a Summoner and then assigned a second skill of TMagic – the result? A bad-ass Summoner who could also stop you, haste the team or drop Meteo on you (Meteo is the strongest Time Mage spell). It was this job system that made the game ‘unusual’ for the American Market but I have no idea why.  In fact, the Job system was the ULTIMATE core for the Final Fantasy Tactics Series which later on became huge in America.

Now, I will admit that when I first started using the job system, I was confused. I couldn’t figure out what jobs I wanted the people to do and what benefits/drawbacks each job provided. However, after a few hours of game time, you start to see areas where certain jobs would be very helpful and certain jobs would be useless. For instance, in one particular area there were several monsters which took no damage from Magic but if I turned two of my teammates into Monks, the most powerful physical class, I could destroy the enemies easily. Admittedly, I didn’t get REALLY good at bouncing people from class to class until about halfway through the game but by then I had extensive time giving people different classes and I was able to figure out the best mixture for them all. It is certainly something that isn’t natural to a player of SNES RPG’s at the time but it takes very little time to get really good at using the Job System.

Outside of the standard RPG gameplay elements, FF5 offered only one more notable difference – climbing. Now, don’t misunderstand me, it is pretty common to have your characters climb stairs or ladders in almost any SNES RPG of the era but what about climbing walls or climbing vines? There were many times that you could not advance in a particular area of the game if you didn’t happen to figure out that you could climb vines or walls. Granted, you may look silly at times having your characters walk mindlessly against the wall and pressing the action button but if I didn’t do that alot, I would never have known that Odin’s temple (where you get the summon Odin) was reached by climbing a wall in this rather uninteresting cave. This is also the first RPG (especially in the Final Fantasy series) that featured the ability to ‘fall’. Yes, I know games like Zelda and later games like Chrono Trigger allowed you to ‘fall’ through holes in the floor to get to other places but I don’t think your standard RPG’s of the time did that. In fact, I can’t think of one time that you could fall into a hole in FF4. But in FF5, holes are EVERYWHERE! In fact, there is even a job class (Geomancer I believe) that helped you detect holes in the floor so you don’t fall in. Weird but interesting nonetheless.

ff5subBeyond that, the game offers you many methods of travel that you are quite used to with the old FF games. You start the game riding the Chocobo Boko (and yes the music is almost the same as it is in FF4). There is a point in time where you get to take off and ride a Black Chocobo (flying) and it has a similar crazy music to that of FF4. One unique ride that you get to take from time to time is the Hiryuu. Granted, IT flies you more often than you actually get to fly it but there are various times in the game where you can just hop on the Hiryuu and go somewhere as the story requires. You get a few opportunities to drive Faris’ pirate boat with her Hydra pulling you. After Cid’s creation ‘the steam ship’ destroys the Fire Crystal, he modifies it to use standard steam and you can drive it around the waterways. Later, the ship is modified to become an airship (which of course is my preferred transportation) that can be transformed into a boat for the sea or uses special equipment to climb to higher altitude (only used to fight the Earth Crystal’s palace when it becomes a fortress). However, there is one new transportation item that is highly unusual for games of the time – a submarine! At one point in the game, Cid and Mid transform your boat/airship into a submarine as well so you can go underwater, ride on the sea as a boat and later fly an airship. It seems trivial but the inclusion of submarine capability makes certain areas completely accessible only when using that format, it opens a whole layer of the world that was previously not available. I can’t think of any RPG at the time that included a submarine and even in the rest of the RPG stock for SNES, I can’t recall seeing a true submarine (though Earthbound uses ones briefly). Another thing that makes the transportation unique in FF5 is the fact that ALL of the ships you get are actually the same one. in FF4, you got to a point where the crew had a hovercraft, an airship for the overworld, an airship for the underworld, an airship with a drill and the Big Whale airship for space. That sure is an awful lot of vehicles just laying around, it almost seems wasteful. In FF6, you get all kinds of different airships, etc. But not in FF5, you just keep the same one and they modify it as needed which is a nice nuance.

What about the other elements of gameplay? Well, the music in the game is FANTASTIC and I think that the music really fits the environments you are in. The game still features the classic “Song of the Crystals” (aka the rising and falling harp music) in various crystal rooms. It features the Main Theme of Final Fantasy which is found in FF4 as well, you would remember this music playing in FF4 when Cecil and Kain depart Baron for the first time and you see the prophecy scroll on the screen, it is the same song that is played when the FF4 crew battles Zeromus and all of the people on Earth send their “Wishes” from the Tower of Wishes in Mysidia (*cough* house of prayer *cough*). Also, the music for scenes involving Exdeath is horrifying for SNES games, it is this heavy dramatic music with, suspenseful harps,  electric guitars and this chilling music that sounds like a twisted monster laughing as part of the melody line… you just have to hear it. By and large, you will find many of the music pieces you heard in FF4 appear in FF5 even if they are slightly different.

One final gameplay element that deserves some recognition is the enhanced amount of sprite movement. In the other RPGs of the time, the sprites did very little aside from walking and occasionally jumping or bowing their head. Not so in FF5! Granted these are still 16-bit sprites so the amount of functionality they have is limited but this game features a few interesting sprite motions that I didn’t see before now. You will see the first obvious use of the ‘hand wave’ that the sprites in FF6 did enough to make you nauseous, it features many instances where the sprites literally knock each other over, in one comical storyline, the hero, Bartz, is kicked by a sheep into a pasture, etc. There are scenes where Exdeath blasts your party with magic beams that look like Darth Vader blasting people with the Force. When I think of the way sprites moved in FF4 and the way they moved in FF6, I can clearly see how FF5 was the evolutionary stage of this feature.

I could go on and on about this but I am sure that you would like the actual review, yes? Well, now that I have gone over the main focus of the game, it is time for the review!  Enjoy!


All in all, I was very pleased with FF5. The game features a solid storyline, it reminds me fondly of my favorite RPG, FF4, and shows itself to be a true classic in the Retro RPG space. The game easily bridges the gap between FF4 and FF6 and it’s a shame that it never made it to the US during the SNES era. I suppose that if all things are created equal, I could see why the job system proved to be unusual to the American RPG playing population but I am glad that it made its mark in the future. Those expecting a standard issue SNES RPG of the era will be dissatisfied but if you want something new and interesting that still reminds you of your old friends, then this is the game for you. In my standard fashion, I will review the Good, the Bad and the Ugly for Final Fantasy 5!

The Good

First and foremost, the storyline for Final Fantasy 5 is an enjoyable and fresh one that kept me wondering well into the final stages. I have read a few other reviews that say that the story was lame and predictable but I am not exactly sure what these folks are comparing it too. The story features many of the common core elements of any good RPG storyline – world in peril, hero rises, team of heroes forms, heroes fight, evil looses, world returns to peace. But all of these things are the stuff of almost any good legend and they are not carried out in stereotypical ways most of the time. As explained earlier, the game is a direct sequel to Final Fantasy 4 and you can certainly see many of the same things – the four elemental crystals, the four crystals in another world, the ultimate danger being released when the crystals are damaged/taken, etc. But that is where the similarities end. The elements will actually stop functioning when the crystals are destroyed (as far as I know the story of FF4 didn’t point to any dire problems if they are taken other than the evil seal), the world has been literally cleaved in half and neither world truly knows about the other. Overall, I was quite confused about what was happening when the game began and even after the story was revealed, I didn’t know what to expect. Once they actually released the bad guy, the game makes you FEAR HIM (more on that later). The story did have some stale points such as leaning on the prophecy of old for hope and such but the game didn’t live and die by these items. When the game finally reaches its conclusion, you really cared about the world and you really were drawn into the personal lives of all the people that the game parades in front of you. I felt a great sense of accomplishment and success when I completed the game and restored the world and I think that is very important! Also, unlike the mute Crono from Chrono Trigger, the hero of FF5, Bartz, speaks a lot and you can see how his internal moral compass forced him to make the decisions he needed to make and drove him to be the hero.

Another thing that I really like about FF5 was the thing that made it what it is – the job system. Yes, it is a major switch from what was expected at the time the game was released but it was orchestrated well. In an RPG, it is common to see characters fall into ‘archetypes’. There is the brash main hero with his sword and special power, there is the support girl who likely becomes the love interest later on, there is the mysterious ninja/fighter, there is even the mystery girl who is her own person and quite brash. Your support characters likely end up being white magic users (Think Rosa in FF4, Merle in Chrono Trigger, Nina in Breath of Fire, etc.) then your mysterious ninja/fighter usually has a love interest for the mystery girl (Think Edge and Rydia in FF2, Locke and Terra in FF6, etc.) In this game, you can literally make the characters do exactly what you want them to do and then mix and match the functions that you like. For instance, Bartz worked as a Knight, a Monk, a Samurai and even a Dragoon. When the last battle came, he was able to use the Gill Toss skill (Samurai) that allows you to throw your money and do 9999 damage each time, he also had the ability to do the Jump technique like a Dragoon (allowing him to be safely off screen during many of the mega spells ExDeath uses), and his time as a knight made him able to hold the Excalibur sword in Both hands to double the damage (Knight) so he could also do 9999 damage with each sword slash. I also talked about how I turned Cara into a Black and White Mage capable of using either of the most powerful spells in those fields. Now, I didn’t make Faris do much  besides thief job and time mage because I really liked the ability for thieves to move fast (allow me to run in the dungeons/buildings) and see hidden doors and hallways but the fact remains that I could have had her do whatever skill I wanted. Basically if you wanted to make your characters as specialized as possible, the game allowed for that and you saw many benefits in doing so. Few other games of the time allowed as much specialization as this and it meant that every person who played the game could pretty much build the party in whatever way they see fit. I am sure many people could even add some levels of difficulty by changing the party to all blue mages or something of the sort and attempting to beat the game. Whatever way you like to play your game, FF5 allowed you to do so.

ff5exdeathThe last thing I want to point out about the great things offered in FF5 is the amazing evilness of the final boss – Exdeath. You might recall from my discussion of Chrono Trigger that I really disliked it’s final boss. I felt that the game hyped him up so much only to let us down in the final battle (remember the dumb dancing robot of doom). In the case of FF4, the main baddy for most of the game was Golbez and you certainly feel the chill when the echoing minor chords that signified his theme began playing but he later becomes a good guy (of sorts) and you have only a short time to really develop the anger and passion to really battle the true boss – Zeromus. Neither of these was the case with FF5! You don’t even really meet the ultimate bad guy, Exdeath, until halfway through the game but when you do… oh my goodness… what a monster! Everything that Exdeath does reeks of pure evil! From the first moment that you meet him, he strikes fear into your heart and he continues to incite fear and anger with each interaction. You start to feel somewhat like a tiny fish in a fishbowl at the liberty of this monstrous thing that can strike with little or no warning. While it could be said that the recycling of the old ‘ultimate and historic evil’ adage to explain Exdeath, that entire mentality is pushed to the curb when you learn that he is essentially an ancient tree that collected the souls of all the evil and badness in the world (although it is kind of a weird story). With everything that Exdeath does, you see no sign of humanity within him, he truly is a monster that you cannot help but be scared of (the music doesn’t help). I am further reminded of the evilness he is capable of when he hijacks himself as a SPLINTER into a whole new world to destroy. Then, when he starts using the Void to literally erase entire areas of the map, you not only fear him but you hate him in a personal and indignant sort of way. When you finally face him and he becomes ‘one with the Void’ (aka Neo-Exdeath), not only is all trace of humanity gone but now he even says that all he wants is to turn the whole world into the Void for no other reason except so that everything will cease to exist. Holy shit Batman! After beating him and knowing that this monster of Hades can no longer do any harm, there is definitely a sense of catharsis that you don’t get with vanquishing many other RPG ‘ultimate evils’. The only time I have been moved as much by killing a monster is when I took out Kefka in FF6 (Yes, Sephiroth was worse but I was so damn tired of fighting him the 50th regeneration that I didn’t care anymore). As I expressed in my discussion on CT, I really want to feel like I want to be the hero of the RPG and beat the bad guy. I got both of these when I played FF5 and you will too.

I want to go on and on about the many good things this game offers including some of the great moments (such as finding out the Faris is a girl), watching Bartz attempt to communicate with a Moogle (yes they are in here) and ending up feeling like a medieval knight trying to talk to the minions from Despicable Me. Or about the totally crazy dungeons the game puts you through including the deadly library of doom, the underwater tower of Walz where you actually can’t breathe and so on. However, you can play the game to get those things. So we’ll move on to the bad parts of the game.

The Bad

Despite all the good things this game offers, there are a few things in it that I didn’t care for. Granted, some of the things that I dislike are due to the fact that I played the game on the fan-translated SNES port as opposed to the GBA version or various others but we’ll get to that. The game has a few things that are just annoying.

First, as I mentioned before, I chose to download the De-Jap fan translation of the SNES console which means regular people just like me were in charge of translation As a result there are some things that were translated very badly. First, the main character in the standard translation is actually named ‘Butz” (think Bah-tzu in romanji) instead of Bartz. I am sorry, but I refuse to refer to the good guy as someone’s bum! There were some sections of the story where I actually had to go “excuse me?” such as the time that I was told that the only way to save the Hiryuu is to fly the Hiryuu to the Valley of Hiryuu and kill the Dragon Hiryuu dragon killer (that actually is the Dragon-Killer plant). Or the mystical pot (freaky enemy that you can’t beat) who is referred to as ‘PotHead’ among others. At times, the translators literally just quit trying to translate things – for instance – in the 3rd (or 4th) tablet dungeon where you have to go to the sea trench, the enemies are weird and fugly but you never knew what you were fighting because ALL of the enemies’ names on the battle screen were simply ‘Unknown’ even though I know they had names. Sure, I picked up a few “There” instead of “their” grammatical things but I can overlook those since there aren’t instances like those in Tales of Phantasia’s Fan translation where you would see this extremely important plot point simply replaced with ‘(complete later)’ REALLY? So yes, I can download one of the many actual translations of this game but it might not technically be ‘retro’ by then.

The second thing I noticed that I disliked about the game is that it is TOO SIMILAR to FF4. Yes, I know… FF4 is my favorite game and it seems only sensible that I would be excited to live there again. There was some of that in the game but when it comes down to it, I am trying to review the game on its own merits but if you count the number of times I typed “FF4” when describing the game (Go ahead… I’ll wait while you use CTRL+F) it becomes painfully apparent that the developers on FF5 REALLY wanted to make FF4-2 (hey they made FFX-2 later, right). For instance, the sprite for Bartz when he’s a Dragoon… dude – it’s freaking Kain from FF4, don’t believe me? Download the game, you’ll see! Or what about the crystals? They seem to get in more trouble than Princess Toadstool in the Mario world. When I was trying to find the crystals in FF5, I uttered the phrase ‘I am sorry Bartz but your crystal is in another castle!’ at least 4 times. Oh yeah… later on you meet some dwarves in the depths of the earth… there are 5 of them and they look IDENTICAL to the sprites for the dwarves in FF4 – they even say “Lalli-Ho” and jump up. You can easily see that these guys might have been intended to show that the Dwarves lived on after FF4 but began to die out. They don’t do anything in the game, they are just there – digging a hole for no apparent reason. Guess who the ultimate summons in the game is? Bahamut! Guess what happens when you try to get Odin as a summons in FF5? You have 1 minute to do as much damage as possible before he does his death slice and bifurcates the entire team JUST LIKE FF4. The list goes on. I think that if the game had been released in the USA just behind FF2, it would have had enough similarities that it would have done well but c’est la vie.

Lastly, although I enjoyed the fact that the game had many ways to travel, I found that travel was much more difficult than I had expected. Sure, when you are in the early stages of the game, it makes sense that you can only travel to certain areas until you are ready to go to others but when you are in the endgame, it really should not be that difficult to get around but it WAS! For instance, you can only get to one area if you fly the airship to this place, get your yellow Chocobo and then walk him through this tiny area of the map, make your way to the desert, and run like a madman with your head on fire…etc. And as much of a novel invention as the game’s use of the submarine was, that sucker was hard to use correctly. When you travel underwater, you really can’t tell where you are without looking at the map repeatedly and even then you may only see points of interest on the sub map even if they don’t necessarily line up with ‘upper world’ map points. It is also quite difficult to use landmarks to figure out where you are. Since you essentially travel around in 3 different worlds (the first world, Galuf’s world, the merged world) which have many similarities to each other, it is really hard to figure out where you are and the world doesn’t look very different from place to place. I can’t count the number of times that I flew to Castle Surrogate when I was trying to fly to Castle Kuzar for instance (Trust me, if you have played this game, you are nodding your head like a bobblehead on a washboard road right now). Plus, there are certain places that you can’t get to without the submarine even though it would be much easier to fly there. Furthermore, when Exdeath starts opening Void holes all over the place, it is REALLY easy to accidentally fly into them which causes a seemingly useless cutscene where you lose control of the airship because you are in the Void and then suddenly the game goes back to normal. The only Void entrance you actually want to use is the one over Tycoon Castle as that takes you to the ‘Cleft of Dimensions’ where you do the final stages of the game but I don’t even think you can go through the Void until you actually complete all four of the Tablet dungeons…. of course it would sure suck to be transported to the Void when you were not completely ready because you can’t really leave.

Okay, these items mentioned are just the bad stuff… there are still some things that really make me cringe. For the final portion of the review, I want to discuss the UGLY things in FF5. You have to just suck these up if you want to enjoy the game.

The Ugly

So there are lots of awesome things about Final Fantasy 5 and there are lots of annoying things about them. Among those annoying things, there are a few that are downright horrible. I can give you many reasons to enjoy this game but you will have to accept a few things that may be hard to swallow.

ff5memeFirst of all zOMG Random Encounters! The random encounters in FF5 S U C K ! Now I am aware that the random encounter has long been the staple for RPGs. I mean… come on! Who didn’t do the famous RPG technique where they walked circles around a city fighting as many baddies as they could fight to gain levels? That’s all good and well,  as those encounters occurred every… eh… 10 seconds or so? In FF5, they occur almost every 5 seconds. In some areas it is WORSE! For instance, in the Deep Sea Trench Dungeon where you get the third tablet (or fourth depending on what order you choose) there is a random encounter every 2 map squares.I AM NOT KIDDING. It has been many years since I have felt the urge to hurl my game controller into a wall but I almost did that with this game. Several times, I was walking through a dungeon and I would actually shout “really?” and occasionally a curse word. In the submerged Walz Tower (where you get the final crystal shard for the Mime job) you have 7 minutes to climb to the top, beat the guardian boss (Gogo… remember him?), and then run back out or you will all die (that’s what sucks about underwater places with no air). No big deal, right? SURE! It would not be a big deal IF FF5 didn’t have random encounters cranked up to HOLYCRAPYOUWILLDIE but they do! By the time I went through that dungeon, and got out, I had 30 seconds remaining. If I didn’t have a thief with the run ability and characters already leveled to 99, I probably would not have made it through on my first try. But it gets worse! When you finally reach the inner sanctum of the Cleft of Dimensions, the dungeon where you finally face Exdeath for the final fight – not only are there random encounters every 3-4 squares – they are HARD! Many of those monsters can deal 4500 a pop to you characters. But the way that I really determined that the developers of FF5 are truly sadistic sociopaths is in the final floor before you get to Exdeath. Do you recall those monsters dealing 4500 damage I mentioned?  So you have been through 4 floors of this madness without a save point. You have to beat a REALLY hard monster to make the last save point appear. By this point, your characters are probably down to under 1000 HP and almost no MP, one of them might even be dead. You survive this monster guarding the save point and you are screaming in agony. Well… you finally use one of the TWO cabins you have left (a tent won’t restore all HP/MP at this stage in the game) and you are excited because you might actually have the energy to face Exdeath. Now you have a problem…. you have to RUN through the last…oh…250 squares to get to the door that takes you to Exdeath. This little area is CRAWLING with monsters that do lots of damage. Ok.. no big deal! You can run away from most battles to save your MP/HP, right? WRONG! At least 65% of the monsters in that little stretch between you and the final boss WILL NOT LET YOU RUN AWAY! One of them has an attack that deals about 6,000 damage. So what happens if you are beaten up bad? Sure… you can run back to the save point, sleep in a cabin and restore back but that will be your LAST cabin EVER and you STILL have to run BACK THROUGH HELL to reach the last boss and you MAY NOT GET AWAY from battles. Even with the use of those handy ‘save state’ options in my emulator, I still didn’t make it to Exdeath without being dropped to around half my max HP. Developers for FF5? You guys are twisted and evil people! Yes, I know the games are harder in Japan but just… ugh.

The first ugly item I mentioned is a great transition to the second one. The game has a very limited supply of good items to keep your characters alive. Sure, there is the standard fair of potions and hi-potions, ether (for MP), elixirs (later on) and the various things you need to recover from status ailments. But once you reach the higher levels, there are not a lot of items to help you out. For instance, there are NO stronger HP restoring potions than Hi-Potions and those only restore about 200 HP. Are you kidding me? Bartz alone would have to quaff…like… 40 of those to reach full HP. Sure, you can use Elixirs but you can’t BUY them anywhere and in the entire play-through, I collected about 40 Elixirs total. There are also no other MP restoring items beyond the standard Ether… do you KNOW how many Ethers it takes to restore 999 MP? Like… 30… and when you have to restore 999 MP for 4 characters… 120. Wow! now, this wouldn’t be a big deal if the game offered you the ability to buy Cabins. In FF4, I remember that if I went to the Namingway Village on the Moon I could buy Cabins. Sure, the cabins cost around 10000 GP a piece but at least you had the option. NOT in FF5! Just like the Elixirs, I never found a place that I could buy the cabins and throughout the whole game I think I found about 25 cabins and that was IT. The game is clearly designed to make things much harder as you reach the higher levels and I get that. However, there needs to be a certain amount of checks and balances to keep the game reasonable and FF5 pretty much throws that out the window when you reach about level 60. Furthermore, there are some messed up items in this game that you are likely to encounter. The first one is the Bone Mail that I discovered in a pile of Dragon Bones in the Hiryuu Valley in Galuf’s world. They offered some of the best defense for armor-capable character jobs until you get some of the special armor in the merged world. Yeah… but if you use ANY healing things (spells or items) on someone wearing this armor, it HURTS them. Okay, I thought the  game was playing with my head so I decided to try casting Fire on my character wearing the Bone Armor (thinking that since undead are usually hurt by fire and curative items, it might backfire) unfortunately it makes the damage 4X higher… that is great to know AFTER I killed Bartz during a hard battle. Don’t get me started on the Cursed Ring… it also offers you high defense but slowly drains your HP as you go and if someone casts a death spell on you it WILL work… EVERY TIME. Developers? Did you not get held enough when you were children? You have some warped minds! So let’s recap… the game has lots of baddies that hurt you pretty badly and the random encounters are set to psycho so you are likely to take more damage overall. Then, you have the lack of good items and the presence of many evil items and you have a bad mixture. Sure, I know that if you train the scientist class high enough they can make Elixirs but they can’t make cabins…

This brings us to my final ugly thought about Final Fantasy 5. The job system makes it easy to cheat. Now, considering that the game is harder than most RPGs of the era, the fact that you can cheat doesn’t necessarily count as a bad thing since you almost HAVE to cheat if you are going to survive. But I found that the way that the job system is built is good in theory – make several things available that would not otherwise be available and let the character pick and choose. Well, here’s this thing with that. Even after you reach Level 99 for all of your characters (which I did right before I started the side quests but prior to entering the Cleft of Dimensions) you still get Ability Points (ABP) after every battle. The harder the enemies you beat, generally the higher the amount of ABP you will receive after battle (one monster of death in the final stage of the Cleft of Dimensions gives 199 ABP each time) . When  you consider that most of the job levels only require between 20 and 100 ABP per level (obviously the higher the level of a job, the more ABP it takes) you can see how taking a person with zero levels in a particular job to a harder area in the game (maybe the Deep Sea Trench with its ridiculous random encounter rate) and beat a few battles, you can max out almost EVERY job class. Furthermore, classes such as the Monk class are kind of unbalanced because they can do ridiculous amounts of physical damage and they usually hit twice per combat round. If you get a Lvl. 99 monk character, he can do almost 9999 damage (Split across two hits) to a single enemy and if you do the Kick technique (think of Yang from FF4), you can easily do about 4500 damage per enemy which is enough to kill almost anything. All this is to say that if I took a character through Deep Sea Trench twice, they could build up to almost master level  for say a black mage and a monk – this means that they could use the Monk’s kick attack as well as cast the most horrific Black Magic spells in the game which makes them a killing machine. If you repeated this process for all characters in your party but maybe had two people max out black mage and two max out white mage, you could have an unstoppable killing party – well, until you run out of MP (see item two above). Especially in the magic using jobs, it is pitifully easy to have someone master an entire field of magic and then shortly thereafter max out another field and then you have situations like the one I mentioned with Cara in my game, I made her able to cast the strongest black magic and white magic in the game so as long as she could keep her MP up, she could decimate almost anything. So this is the rub… the game makes things very hard but it also makes it easy to cheat if you know how to use the class system and don’t mind some elbow grease (or grinding as the MMORPG’ers like to say).. is that a bad thing or not? I leave you to decide. Personally I think that anything that can so sharply polarize a game is not a good thing.

Final Thoughts

So now we come to the end of my review for Final Fantasy 5 and my what a wild ride it has been. This game is most definitely a game that serves as a good connector between FF4 and FF6. If you liked FF4, odds are you will also like this game but if you hated FF4, I doubt you will like this game. But since I loved FF4, this game is a very good game in my mind. The game features all of the ingredients to make it a great RPG. It has a good story that draws you in quickly but also keeps you guessing until the end. It features a great use of the ATB but includes the first ever use of the ATB bar. FF5 is one of the first in the FF franchise to establish several elements that became staples of the future games including Espers, Moogles, Blue Magic, and various other elements. Yet is also the only entry in the franchise (that I am aware of) which features a world tree like the Secret of Mana series and the only RPG of the time that features a submarine. The ability to change between jobs makes the game more interesting but also can make it too easy in some respects. As always, the music of the game is terrific and shows the great variety of sounds that 32bit consoles were capable of at the time. The final boss is one of the best final bosses I have fought in the SNES RPG world and I was greatly satisfied when I finally beat him.

Unfortunately, the greatness of the game is a little overshadowed by a few items. If you want a good translation of this game, do yourself a favor and get either the GBA version of the game or the Playstation version (not sure about the iOS version) because you will likely enjoy the story more. Also, be forewarned that the game will look graphically very similar to FF4 and you will see a great deal of things that remind you of the it when you play FF5. Don’t kid yourself, learning to get around in this game is not going to be easy. You will have 3 totally different worlds to travel through and many locations are extremely difficult to find if you are not paying attention to the entire layout of the world map. Prepare yourself to spend a lot of game time just traveling from point A to point B.

This game is H A R D! It is obvious from the get-go that Japanese games are naturally harder than their American cousins. The random encounters make this game exceedingly challenging, especially as you climb to the higher levels. Be prepared for murderous dungeons with encounters frequently and an overall lack of curative items that will make the game insanely difficult. In fact, there are two bosses in the final dungeon, Omega and Shinryuu that are designed to be impossible to beat. Those that have actually beaten them have expressed that it took everything they had to survive the incident and most FAQ writers specifically avoid encountering these monsters. You will find that although the Job system is a unique element to the game, it is possible to use it to achieve results that seem like cheating even though it serves to balance out the gameplay. If you are not ready for a very hard game, you will not like this game one bit.

In the end, the game is a great RPG with many elements that make it terrific. Those that love FF4 or Final Fantasy Tactics will enjoy this game very much and it is an obvious evolutionary milestone between FF4 and FF6. If you are ready for a challenging RPG that was often forgotten by the Final Fantasy world, you need to check this one out. The game may be very challenging but I think that the story and the end sequence actually make it worth the try, not to mention the joy you get out of beating a REALLY evil final boss. Give this one a try but don’t say you weren’t warned! That’s it for now!


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