Pretty much anybody who is at all familiar with Square-Enix knows that they love to remake things. I have lost track of the number of ports and re-releases they have put out over the years, but it would be a shame for Final Fantasy V: Advance to get lost in the shuffle. As an “updated” port, FFV: Advance is, at its core, the same game included in the Playstation release of Final Fantasy Anthology. However, Advance features better graphics, extra material (such as additional job classes and a bonus dungeon), and a drastically improved translation. All of these contribute to make this version the one to own.
Gameplay-wise, FFV: Advance is a traditional RPG. You control a team of four heroes out to save the world from evil, get into fights with random monsters, and use a plethora of weapons and magic spells to defeat your foes. Where the game differs from most other 90’s era RPGs is the Job System. By assigning each character an occupation, such as Thief, Knight, White/Black Mage, Ninja, and even Dancer or Mime, you gain access to various abilities in and outside of battle. It is these abilities, and the strengths and weaknesses of the many Jobs that make the game stand out. A given Job may be more or less suited to a particular enemy or boss, and experimenting with different combinations is key to your success.
Graphically, the Game Boy Advance version boasts a couple improvements over previous iterations. The battle screen sports higher quality backgrounds. The main characters, as well as several NPCs, possess new portraits. This is still a Game Boy Advance game, based on a Super Nintendo game, so don’t expect a whole lot of eye candy. The graphics are bright and colorful, and won’t offend eyes used to more modern games.
The sound is standard fare. Nobuo Uematsu’s scores are almost always excellent, but in this case few tracks stand out. It lacks the catchiness of later sequels (excepting, of course, Battle on the Big Bridge, the iconic theme of Gilgamesh), but the score is always appropriate to the events at hand. The sound quality is about as good as can be expected from the Game Boy Advance’s limited sound chip and speaker.
The story is probably the weakest aspect of them game. While the new translation does wonders for what is there, there just isn’t all that much to it in the first place. You won’t find earth-shaking plot twists or scads of technobabble. What you will find is a basic, standard tale of good vs. evil that serves to move you through different environments and keep things fresh. For the most part, the battles are fun enough to overlook the lack of a gripping narrative.
To wrap things up, Final Fantasy V: Advance is an extremely solid game. You’ll get a deep and surprisingly challenging battle system, charming graphics and sound, and a relatively simple story that doesn’t get in the way of the fighting. And really, the battles are what this game is about. If you are looking for a lengthy role-playing game (we’re talking 30-40 hours) and want to experience an early entry in the long-running Final Fantasy series, give this a shot.