Written by  :  The Fabulous King (1333)
Written on  :  May 27, 2014
Platform  :  SNES
Rating  :  4.2 Stars4.2 Stars4.2 Stars4.2 Stars4.2 Stars

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This game is worthy!

The Good

JRPG's and I have had this sort of intrigued-disgusted relationship going on.

I would often proclaim my disgust of something I viewed to be the lesser of the rpg races. "These are savage rpg's, perverse creations," I would say while I drank my Earl Grey with pomp.

"They offer no character customization, no choice, no freedom, and exploration in these games means just going around the corner to find that extra chest."

And yet I was intrigued by them. Something constantly kept attracting me.

I was like a british colonial officer who gazed upon the savages and didn't know whether to admire or despise them.

"No civilized man should be seen playing a savage rpg! These stories are banal, unbearably naive and disgustingly sexualized!"

And yet at night times I would sneak away to indulge myself in my perverse attractions....

I was a sick and perverted man, believing in the superiority of my race, and yet being seduced by this.... oriental she-demon. Oh, how I struggled.

And then I discovered Final Fantasy 5, which is a marvelous and wonderful game. A game which also does a lot of things differently than most jrpg's.

A game that made me realize that deep down, we're not that different.

I used to bring up the very restrictive character customization of jrpgs to prove their inherent inferiority. "In civilized rpg cultures, we can build whatever character we want," I said, while holding my cup of Earl Gray with a pointy finger.

And then Final Fantasy 5 gives me 4 characters and a dozen of different classes and says: "So go ahead, you can build whatever character you want."

"Can this truly be? That there is no savage or civilized - there is just the game?" I was humbled.

Surprisingly, Final Fantasy 5 was also the game that the degenerate race-traitors told me to avoid.

"It doesn't have any story or characters. It lacks powerful emotional scenes. It's not true to the spirit of the series. Go play Final Fantasy 8 if you want to see a true masterpiece."

But that is a lie. FF5 is full of typical Final Fantasy moments - tragic deaths, heroic self-sacrifice, secret histories. It just doesn't focus on them, because the main focus is on the game. And it does give you enough drama that you can care about these characters. There is character drama in this game.

It is just not a storytelling piece of work like the later Final Fantasies are. It's not like the 6th or the 7th. You always have freedom to explore. The plot restricts you only so much that the area you can explore has it's limitations. But you can always explore and always discover secrets. And you have 3 different worlds to explore.

And to be honest, even with it's spartan presentation, it has a better storytelling than even some of the later FF games. It never wanders of into bullshit territory.

I remember this one game, where late in the game everyone discovered that they were childhood friends who were separated by amnesia. :)

It is a heroic save the world tale, which is just an excuse to give us this awesome game to explore and have fun with.

And as a game, it's much more fun that the future FF's. It is unbelievable how much such a little thing like character customization can add to the game. It works like this. Your basic character has no skills. Sure he can hit stuff, but he is just like that. Nothing unique. So you apply a class to the character. Make him into a Black Mage. He now can do destructive magic. You level up all the levels in the class (usually the max is 4), and then your normal status can use black magic without needing to be a black mage. And then you apply a different class. Let's say a knight. Now you have a Double-Grip Sword wielding Knight who can do Black Magic. Once you level up all the levels inside the class, the attributes of the class become part of that character. But you don't need to even go that far. Each leveling inside the class grants you class-specific skills. You can combine different classes with different skills. And you can do this any time you want.

So let's say, there is this boss. You fought that boss, You failed miserably. Normally, you load and grind some levels. In FF5, you might want to try out applying different classes to your characters to see what then happens.

FF5 is not a difficult game. But it is challenging. Not to your patience, but to your creativity and strategic thinking. That's the best kind of challenge. That's what I enjoyed the most about this game. This complete freedom in building your characters.

I fail with a boss. I don't go grind with anger and frustration. I just try something else. Eventually you will figure out what works and what not. What gives more damage and what less. Some builds and combinations are more powerful.

I had a White Mage with a constitution of a Berserker and a double-grip ability of a Knight. I was really proud of the damage that little girl could do.

The Bad

This was the last game Hironobu Sakaguchi directed. Different people took over the franchise. First delivering the most loved and famous games of the series. Later also, the most hated. The franchise took a different direction. A good direction too I would say. While a fun game, the Nintendo Crystal Fantasy type of setting is an acquired taste. It just lacks a certain... grit.

As a wrpg player, which means I have an extra refined taste in settings, and I can say that one of the problems I've had with jrpg settings is that they all lack that certain grit and realism, but this Nintendo Crystal Fantasy setting is one of the more superficial ones. Light on substance, feels artificial. Too many crystals.

Considering it's a game from 1992, meaning that you need to come out of your comfort zone anyway to adjust your gaming sensibilities a bit... I found it to be pretty easy to get into this game. That it's style of fantasy needs a bit of adjusting to is the only thing I can find fault in.

The Bottom Line

FF5 was a true pleasure to play. It's a logical game, it's fun to build characters, it rewards exploration with powerful items and even story sequences. It has amazing gameplay. It is not as memorable and evocative as some later FF games, but it is one of the better Final Fantasy games, and dare I say it, one of the better jrpg's. It's Nintendo Crystal Fantasy setting needs to get used to, but all in all, I had fun. And I'm happy to say - this game is worthy!