Final Fantasy V’s working system is amazing, but its story and world-building are its soul


It’s been a while since I’ve shared the progress of my Final Fantasy Marathon – my task of playing every numbered entry in the series before XVI is released. I have some thoughts to share on Final Fantasy II-IV, of course, but something about Final Fantasy V, in particular, clicked with me. It is not only thanks to the excellent Job System.

The story and world-building of Final Fantasy V isn’t really brought up when people talk about Final Fantasy, I have found. I guess that makes sense – it’s sandwiched between two games that undoubtedly put a lot more emphasis on their characters and their story. Aside from my qualms with Final Fantasy IV, there’s a reason fans remember it for its beats and dialogue, and less for its gameplay. If you know a bit about Final Fantasy VI, I’d say it speaks more than itself – and, rest assured, I’ll share my thoughts on what makes FFVI’s story a masterpiece across the board. line.

The point is, when you see praise for Final Fantasy V, it’s usually about how it works. That’s more than fair, and FFV more than makes up for the concept’s lackluster introduction into Final Fantasy III. Job levels are less frustrating to tune, each level unlocks additional traits for the job in question, and the ability to equip traits between jobs means you can have absurdly broken combos like the iconic Dual Wield + Spellsword combination. + Rapid Fire. Players have a full reign to break the game, and you really get rewarded for taking the time to jump in and explore different jobs for each of your party members.

So the crowning glory of Final Fantasy V is the Job System, right? Well I think the story and the characters are short. The story of FFV feels like the culmination of what Square had been trying to do with Final Fantasy storytelling from the very beginning – encompassing the warmth, the sense of hope that lies at the heart and soul of a Final Fantasy story.

Compared to the Final Fantasy stories that came before it – namely II and IV – V exudes an entirely different aura. There is a Tenderness in the air, if you can forgive the pun. There is no immediate threat, no obvious doomsday calamity when you start Final Fantasy V. Bartz, Lenna, Galuf, and Faris don’t just embark on their journey because the world needs it. No, what drives the party forward are all purely personal reasons, even if they quickly take up arms in the name of saving the world. They grow up in their role as heroes, but from the start each character is given a personal reason to care about the journey.

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Lenna wants to find her father after his disappearance on the path of the Wind Crystal. Bartz had already decided to go on a trip and had pledged his sword to his cause after she and Galuf encountered problems on their way to the Wind Crystal. Galuf, without his memories, keeps pace with the desire to regain his lost knowledge – and all he remembers is that there was a reason for him to check out the crystals.

It’s not quite something Final Fantasy V kicked off in the series – after all, Final Fantasy IV offered much the same nuance almost two years ago. The difference here is that when the characters in IV had a personal reason to join the fight, it always boiled down to a personal tragedy. Many members of Group IV join the fight in the name of revenge or to avenge a loved one. Tella, after her daughter died – and Edward, for the same reason. Edge for his parents, and Yang for his country.

You would think that with a lighter tone, V’s story might not hit the same emotional rhythms as IV, but quite the opposite. From start to finish, you control the same party. No one dies; but you have the ability to learn more about your party members naturally, through small scenes like in the Ship Graveyard, Lenna’s hometown of Tycoon, and more. Most of V’s most memorable scenes are even completely messed up – you’ll never have to set foot in Bartz’s hometown, but if you do, you’ll be subjected to a truly touching scene that helps explain the reason. of his trip.

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Final Fantasy V takes its story and characters at a rapidly controlled pace, compared to Final Fantasy stories of the past. There is a restraint here that was totally absent from the series’ storytelling until this point. Players are allowed to breathe, and so the times when the game decides to take itself seriously hit that much harder. Aerith’s death in Final Fantasy VII is perhaps the most iconic death in the history of the series, but I’d bet Galuf’s sacrifice could have taken the throne if the West had the chance to replay Final. Fantasy V on the SNES. I really suffered for Bartz when I saw his reactions to his hometown sucked into the void; I feared for Lenna when Castle Tycoon suffered the same fate, especially after all the suffering she had endured before this point.

Lenna, perhaps more than any of the other members of the group, symbolizes everything I love most about the history and characters of Final Fantasy V. From the first moments of the story, we are shown her iron will, her propensity to sacrifice herself when she put herself in danger to save the last remaining Wind Drake. Throughout history, Lenna has always been the first to put herself in danger on purpose – it wasn’t Bartz who took it upon himself to begin the journey, but rather Lenna’s desire to search for her father, despite the obvious dangers. When the other shoe fell at the Phoenix Tower and I witnessed the reason for those values, that’s all I could manage to barely hold back my tears.

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While not to the same degree, we have a similar time for each member of the group to shine – for us to learn what really drives them to fight. For Galuf, it’s for his granddaughter Krile. For Bartz, it was in memory of his parents and the world they sought to protect. For Faris – the friends and family she had found, and the sister she had found. They are at the heart of the story, and despite all the desperation they may face, it is through these connections that they are able to move forward. I would be remiss if I talked about Final Fantasy V without praising our favorite swordsman Gilgamesh – despite being one of the game’s constant villains, at the end of the day he leaves the player as than friends, maybe even jumping to help you during the final dungeon.

Final Fantasy as a series has always been about hope that can exist even to the greatest of despair, and Final Fantasy V represents this principle stronger than any game that came before it. For every dark and serious moment, we’re greeted with something thoughtful, something heartwarming, or even just something downright wacky – if given the chance. No matter how difficult life’s challenges can become, there is always a silver lining; lit by the light of crystals …


About Johanna Gooding

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