I mentioned a few times that I would be playing (and attempting to beat) the Final Fantasy games that I haven't finished before Final Fantasy XIII comes out in March 2010. This Final Fantasy Challenge has kind of inspired me to get back into the habit of writing reviews for some of the games I finish. So I think I am going to write some reviews for the Final Fantasy games.
I recently finished Final Fantasy V Advance and this is what I will be reviewing first. (I might write a few more on FFVI and VIII onwards, but they might not happen for a while, since I must beat them first.)
Final Fantasy V Advance (GBA)
This is not the original form of the game, this remake was released in Japan in 2006. The original version was released on the Super Famicom in 1992, then the PS1 in 1998-2002. I haven't played the original versions, but from what I hear, there are only minor differences. I had a look back at some of the older reviews on the blog and they seem to have way too many unnecessary categories, so I will be condensing this one a fair bit, into the following areas: Gameplay, Story, Characters, Graphics and Audio.
This is where the game shines in my opinion, FFV has an extensive job system, with a total of 26 jobs to choose from in the FFV Advance version. If you liked FFIII's or Tactics' system, this is very similar, with each character able to choose 1 job and gain points towards mastering the job. Abilities are gained as progress is made, and can be put in a 2nd slot, so customisable characters are very easy to make. For example, you could have a Black Mage with a White Mage ability in the 2nd skill slot, meaning they could cast Black Magic and whatever level of White Magic they had got to as a White Mage. This was one aspect of the game that definitely kept me interested, there is definitely a lot of scope here for people to replay the game, or just put a lot of time into the game before they beat it.
The battle system is the ATB-type Turn based battles that are in quite a few other Final Fantasy games(IV, VII etc.) It is fairly good, but a few of the minor flaws in the game became apparent to me fairly quickly. In battle, you can only see your current HP as a number, you can't see your maximum HP for each character, or the MP your characters are on unless you go into the spellcasting menus, then you can see the more detailed stats you might want. This is only really an annoyance, as you eventually get used to the game and you are able to judge the flow of things if you pay attention. So I mean, aesthetically, I would have preferred these things to be present, but this is only a minor flaw really. Otherwise, pretty solid gameplay overall. If you like Job systems, you have to play this, as it is surely one of the stronger job based rpgs, particularly FF games.
Gameplay ~ 9/10
The story is kind of cliched and thin at times, with the whole idea of the crystals at it's center. I don't want to say too much in the way of spoilers, but your party begins by searching for the crystals to protect them from being destroyed as this leads to the world seeing some negative effects, like the winds dying down etc. You are searching for Exdeath, who for the most part of the game seems to not have much motive for being evil, but later on at least some reasons become apparent. The game as a whole has quite an unusual style, which I guess could be a good thing, or a bad thing depending on your opinion. It is quite light hearted at times and funny at times, but what I liked about it was that it had an underlying dark tone, which became important towards the end. I guess the humourous bits are hit or miss, but I did like some of the quotes, definitely. I would say it makes it stand out from the other Final Fantasy games.
"Galuf: That lobster just got served!
Bartz: With cheese biscuits and mashed potatoes!"
"Gilgamesh: Enough expository banter. It's time we fight like men. And ladies. And ladies who dress like men. For Gilgamesh...IT IS MORPHING TIME!"
Story ~ 7/10
For the most part, there isn't a lot of character development in this game and some more back story and history for the characters would be better. There is some in the form of flashbacks etc, but the game would have benefited from further development I think. At times the characters are quite thinly developed and bland, for example Exdeath, who seems to be a cliched, stereotypical villian with no motive. He even has that ridiculous 'bad guy laugh' "mwhahahaha" ... By the end though, I did become a bit attached to them, the playable characters are likeable due to their quirkyness.
Characters ~ 6/10
I usually find it hard to judge the graphics in older games as I sometimes forget a lot of the games I played for that console and therefore find it harder to get a good idea of what to compare the game to. (If that makes any sense) Anyway, the graphics in this are fairly good, the battles are in the same vein as Final Fantasy I, II, III and IV (at least the original versions of each), where most stuff in battle is viewed in a side-on 2D view. The battle animations and spell effects are pretty good, with some nice spell and summon effects. Nice sprites as in other oldschool(ish) RPGs, which is one thing I always loved about them.
Graphics ~ 8/10
There are some awesome songs in this game, from the famous Battle on the Big Bridge song played during one of the many battles with Gilgamesh right through to the final battle. Overall I liked the soundtrack, it gives the game some atmosphere, the sound effects aren't too shabby either, for a Game Boy Advance game, they seem good. Its not the best soundtrack I've ever heard, but then again I can't really fault it much either.
Audio ~ 7/10
Other than that, there seemed to be a few glitches(which strangely enough were only on my SP and DS phat) and annoyances, but overall, its quite a fun game with a lighthearted storyline and engaging job system.
Overall ~ 7/10