8.2

A rare but excellent Final Fantasy.

As Square began releasing old Final Fantasies in portable form, it became an inevitability that sooner or later every single game that was capable of being released on the Game Boy Advance would find it's way there. And so comes Final Fantasy V Advance, a slightly enhanced version of an RPG that had previously only been seen as part of a compilation on the original PlayStation. Now it's available all on it's own, and the timing really couldn't be much better, given the decline in the number of quality GBA releases since the launch of the Nintendo DS.

The game's story begins as a young traveler named Bartz and his Chocobo companion bear witness to a meteor crashing into the Earth. Going over to see it up close, he ends up rescuing a girl named Lenna and meeting a strange old man named Galuf who appears to have amnesia. Traveling farther, they encounter a female pirate named Faris after trying to make off with her ship. Together they discover that they must prevent the destruction of the four elemental crystals to prevent evil from being released on their world.

Like almost any RPG from the 16-bit era, Final Fantasy V is played from an overhead perspective, as you explore a large overworld in search of various towns and points of interest to further the game's story. In most areas outside of towns and villages, your party is at risk of running into random turn-based battles with groups of monsters. Final Fantasy V features a real-time battle system however, which means that enemies will attack your characters in battle if you don't move quickly enough in selecting your own actions. Monster encounters seem to come almost absurdly often in this game, which can be a real pain in traveling through some of the game's larger dungeons. Many areas can be stretched out to a painful degree due to the sheer number of monster encounters that occur, and this in turn makes exploring a drag and can often feel disorienting.

Final Fantasy V introduces it's own spin on the class system that's found in many games in the series. Here, you're allowed to assign any character any of the available classes that you wish when outside of combat. Each different class has it's own abilities and is able to learn more through experience in combat. Classes also affect what kind of equipment a character is able to equip and how their stats improve as they level up. Most classes are able to assign themselves two different abilities at any time, although most also require to use one ability at all times. In being able to change job classes at any time, you're also able to assign different abilities learned in one job class to another one. This gives you the opportunity to combine the effects of different abilities and create characters with interesting new ways of handling battles and other challenges. Messing around with different abilities and seeing how they affect each other is one of the game's biggest selling points, as it can become very absorbing to find out just what can be done with this system and how it can affect your experiences in the game. It is a bit annoying to have to spend the time in combat to gain the experience to actually use these abilities, but that's just a part of most RPGs.

As this is a rerelease, some new content has been added to this version of the game. Three new job classes have been created. These are the Cannoneer, Oracle, and Gladiator classes. In addition, an entirely new dungeon is available after the game has been completed once. This new area contains many difficult boss characters and random enemies and should challenge even those who feel they've already mastered this game. It's not a major addition of course, but it's still nice.

The game's graphics have been tuned up a bit from the original 16-bit release. They all have a bit more detail in them than most games from that time, especially in the battle screens. Everything looks very colorful and well-drawn. It is a bit disappointing that a few enemies are just pallet-swaps of each other, but that issue doesn't arise very often. The game's map does lack a zoom feature, which can make it difficult to read on the GBA screen given the map's size and how tough it can be to make out many details.

The game's sound is up to the series' high standards. There's no voice acting, given that this game was released before that practice became the norm. The music is of the epic orchestral variety, just like in any of the other entries in the series. Many songs that are considered staples of the series can be found here, including the normal victory fanfare. Sound effects seem rather limited as they usually only play during battle or story scenes.

Final Fantasy V Advance is a very strong RPG for the Game Boy Advance. It can last most people several dozen hours, and the new content will give anyone capable of finishing the main quest plenty more to play with. The game's story does feel slightly thin at times, although it's sufficient enough given the game's strengths. Anyone with a love of role-playing games and a GBA should definitely consider this game.

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