Final Fantasy V Pixel Remaster Review – The Return of an Overlooked Classic

    Title: Final Fantasy V
    Developer: Square Enix
    Release Date: November 10, 2021
    Reviewed On: PC
    Publisher: Square Enix
    Genre: RPG

Though the Final Fantasy franchise can be considered the JRPG powerhouse worldwide, not all titles were born equal. Final Fantasy V had a troublesome history being left as a Japanese-only release back when then-Squaresoft didn’t keep the western series numbers consistent with Japan.

It wasn’t until seven years later that the game would come to the west on PlayStation and then several other platforms over the years since. However, every release had some problems, be it slow loadings, sound quality loss, or egregious changes to the art style.

A new Final Fantasy V release could have been the definitive edition of the game. In the case of the Pixel Remaster, I’d honestly say it comes close to being one. Unfortunately, though it faithfully recreates the original’s magical journey, it feels like the bare minimum such a classic deserves rather than the quality new release that should entice modern audiences to give it a try.

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Final Fantasy V tells the story of a young traveler called Bartz whose life ends up changing forever after a meteorite falls close to where he and his Chocobo friend Boko are. When he investigates, he meets a young girl named Lenna, who happens to be the princess of Tycoon. Besides them, the group also includes old man Galuf, the pirate Faris, who end up on a journey to save the world’s crystals.

One interesting aspect of the story is how it tends to be lighthearted. That’s not to say the game doesn’t have a serious side, but even when there’s adversity and peril, it manages to alleviate matters with a joke or two. There’s a particular charm in its antics, a comfortable atmosphere that may feel simple and nostalgic even if you haven’t played it before.

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Final Fantasy V saw the return of Final Fantasy III’s job system while improving significantly, giving players some experimentation opportunities. All characters are flexible, assuming any role you’d like in battle as you assign specific jobs to them, such as warrior, red mage, samurai, or mime. Besides money and experience, combat rewards include ability points necessary to raise the job level and unlock new skills.

You can only equip one ability, but it can be from any job you’ve used. Make a summoner who can use white magic spells, a bard who can punch hard, or something else; it’s up to you. Battles follow an ATB style. It does wait for picking spells from the list if you select “wait,” and some animations stop time flow, but that’s as much leeway as you get.

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When it comes to the Pixel Remaster, the game goes the extra mile to be closer to the original Final Fantasy V than previous entries. First of all, it’s important to note none of the content added in the GBA release is available here. This means missing four jobs (Oracle, Cannoneer, Gladiator, and Necromancer) as well as a whole dungeon. It’s always sad to see a newer release cut content previously established.

Character sprites are lighter and more flat in their color disposition than the original game. However, it’s consistent with their design with only a weirdly bushy eyebrow. The one thing that changed considerably is the battle backgrounds, which are much more detailed than any previous version.

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The combat is seen from a more distant view, putting both players and enemies in the center of the background with some room behind them which makes it feel more spacious. It’s also noticeable that the visual effects used are modern, with some quality choices that would not be possible back in the day.

Compared to the latest releases, dialogue boxes don’t use character arts anymore. I don’t find this a bad change because back in the day, the team made a lot of modifications to the sprite art compared to their original illustrations. As such, it’s glaring how the Yoshitaka Amano portraits made little sense to what’s actually in the game, no matter how nice it was.

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You’d expect this version to be the best for quality-of-life resources then, but it’s not that simple. On the good side, we have a way to control how fast the ATB charges through one of the menu’s options. In addition, you can repeat your previous actions using the game’s auto button, which forces battles to max speed. This means faster grinding and the chance to adjust the experience to your personal preferences.

Outside battles, the map system now includes minimaps for all areas. Once you get the world map, you can also see how many treasures there are in an area, so you have the chance to not miss anything. But there are also some negatives, such as the fact the bestiary isn’t accessible in-game. Instead, you have to go back to the title screen to access it (as well as the gallery and soundtrack), making it a lot less useful than it should have been.

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Compared to the original, it’s impossible to change the menu background color, which is set as the default blue. The font from the other Pixel Remasters is here again, and I’m sure some people will have difficulty reading texts because the game doesn’t offer other options. It didn’t bother me when I played since I use a big screen, though it does leave humongous blank spaces in the interface for no good reason.

However, as with the other Pixel Remasters, the soundtrack features new arrangements that are very nice to listen to. The battle background illustrations and visual effects are the only real significant addition to the game.

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If you have never had the chance to play Final Fantasy V before, the Pixel Remaster offers great value. This is a good version of a great game that shows clearly why Square is highly regarded for their expertise in RPGs. However, as a long-time fan of the game and the series, I sincerely wish they had gone the extra mile into making this version the most comprehensive and definitive edition it deserves.

Score:
7.5/10
A review copy of the title was provided by the publisher for review purposes

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Ivanir Ignacchitti

Random Japanese games are my jam. Handhelds, RPGs, VNs and PC banzai.