Final Fantasy V

There's a question of value inherently associated with this re-issue of a re-release. Final Fantasy V on the PS1 was bundled with FFIV as part of an 'Anthology' collection and never available separately on Sony's first home platform.

Square Enix has split these two games, selling them off individually on PSN - and though both are easily forty hours long, it's a cynical move to provide users with half a release.

Random battle!

That said, Final Fantasy V is still sure to please less jaded JRPG fans. This is second wave FF through and through, made from the same template as its predecessor and boasting a design ethos that would culminate in series high point FFVI.

It tells the story of protagonist Bartz, an adventurer in a world in turmoil after a series of meteorite impacts. Bartz is joined by a motley crew of a pirate woman, a rebellious princess, an old man with no memory, and later his grand daughter.

Unlike its sequel, Final Fantasy V is conservative in its number of player characters. But it offers variety by revelling in the job systems of the first three games, albeit further expanding on the ideas set down by the original trilogy's Fighters, Mages, Thieves, and so on.

The Job System levels up through battles, and increasing this facet of a character unlocks extra skills to use. Jobs can be switched outside of combat and players are left to find a combination that works best for their style of play.

Once abilities have been learned and a Job Class is changed for another, these special powers can supplement the new Class, effectively meaning that a White Mage's access to white magic can go to bolster a Monk's more combat-focused abilities and vice versa.

Random battle!

For a game that's 19 years old, its visuals have held up surprisingly well.

There are some embarrassing attempts at Mode 7-style 3D and the amount of animation is minimal, requiring players to use their own imagination to fill in the blanks, but character design is full of life and enemies look appropriately grotesque and imposing.

The universe is mediaeval high fantasy in tone: the series of dungeons, towns, and castles you'll visit meshing well together, producing evocative environments and an overworld that feels credible.

The battles are rather stilted to look at, with characters stepping forward to slash the air; numbers flying off their opponents; and magic, summons, and abilities lacking the flair of later Final Fantasy games.

This shouldn't be a massive drawback for most players, the production coming in just a step below the modern Pokemon games in terms of dramatic presentation, though potential players should be aware that the bombast of other games in the series simply isn't here during combat.

Another big problem for today's gamers will stem from the implementation of the fracas themselves. They're random.

When a game contains a rich environment filled with secret treasures and hidden areas, the urge is to explore it. Random battles dampen a lot of the impetus to investigate, as one unlucky encounter can wipe out a party, or cripple it, forcing a limp back to a save point to recuperate.

These save points are sensibly spaced, but it's still irritating to veer off the main path to look inside a chest twenty metres away and enter three rounds of fighting in the process.

Random battle!

When head to head with the enemy it's a semi-turn based affair with the Active Battle system, in which the player waits for their characters to be allowed to strike, trading courteous blows with the AI.

You can get through average scrapes by selecting the Fight option, though bosses are miniature puzzles and have weaknesses and patterns that need to be identified.

Like most games of the time, FFV isn't great at informing its audience which strategies need to be used, leading to repeat attempts at these guardians, slowing the pace of the narrative.

Nobuo Uematsu's composition for the title manages to defy the technical shortcomings of the era's hardware and produces a solid range of styles to suit the mood, from classical focused numbers to more driving beats with a retro electronic edge to simple melodies of heartache and regret.

Random battle!

If you've enjoyed any of the other main entries in the Final Fantasy series, this is worth a crack.

For better or worse, FFV doesn't feel a million miles away from last and current console generation efforts for Square Enix, but Random Battles and aged presentation will keep the title from appealing to a wider audience.

For those able to look past these shortcomings, Final Fantasy V will reward your patience with an approachable combat system, a decent story, and superb music.

Final Fantasy V

Its adherence to Final Fantasy tradition won't appeal to everyone, its random battles are as frustrating as ever and much of the grandeur has been lost to the ether, but FF hardcore will lap up this re-release
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