luke kalamar debuts a new series …
Greetings and welcome to the very first installemnt of “Remembering the Classics”! If you’re a gaming fanatic like I am, chances are that you too have a very long and detailed history with the video games of days past. With so many amazing titles coming out month after month, sometimes it can get difficult to look back at those titles that enthralled us so many years ago. It is this exact look back that I hope to bring to you with “Remembering the Classics.” In this brand new recurring segment, I will talk about old video games that are either in the news now for whatever reason or are just on my mind and deserve a good old nostalgia trip. I’ll even share some personal experiences! So without further delay, I will jump right into the past and maybe even spur you to dust off your game and do the same.
The first game I will focus on is Squaresoft’s relatively overshadowed title Final Fantasy V, in honor of its recent IOS release on March 28th. FFV first came out for the Super Famicom in Japan only on December 13, 1992. The game’s main character is a wanderer named Bartz Klauser who sets off an adventure to save the world from ultimate destruction. The main villain Exdeath hopes to accomplish the world’s demise by destroying all four Crystals that hold his powers at bay. It took a full 7 years for the game to come to North America, and even later for countries in the PAL region, in 1999’s Final Fantasy Anthology with Final Fantasy VI.
Now, the reason I called FFV a relatively overshadowed title is the simple reason that it is rarely, if ever, included in any top RPG’s list. Final Fantasy IV, VI, and VII always are, but never the one right in the middle. Its several year delay getting released outside Japan didn’t help either, but it certainly spurred the idea of fan translations! In fact, there’s a solid chance that if I never played Final Fantasy VII, I would have never even bothered with FFV. FFV came to the States at the perfect time though as I was still riding my wave of love for FFVII which came out a year earlier. Actually, I’m reasonably certain that the popularity of FFVII is what brought FFV to North America. It was how much I enjoyed FFVII that made getting the Final Fantasy Anthology a complete no brianer, and since I’m naturally OCD, I jumped right into FFV first.
What really stands out about FFV is its Job System. This is something I haven’t forgotten since the day I first played the game. The Job System basically means that you can assign a particular job to a single character and they will learn the abilities associated with that job until mastery. The jobs ranged from Thieves, Monks, and Knights to Time Mages, Black Mages, and Summoners. Even though FFV wasn’t the first game to have a Job System (Final Fantasy III in 1990 had it and the spin-off Final Fantasy Tactics in 1997 had it as well), it was the first main series game to feature it outside Japan. This makes it the first non-tactical RPG I ever played where I could change my characters jobs around and decide which abilities they could learn, and it completely blew me away. I was very familiar with having a wide cast of characters with set job classes, but I never experienced a limited cast of five characters with over 20 different class options. It’s really a whole new level of strategy!
If it wasn’t for the Job System, the game would probably be better known for its relatively straight forward story. Most of the Final Fantasy games have really complex plots with twists and turns around every corner. Some titles like Final Fantasy XIII have such a complex story that it’s almost impossible to follow. FFV was not one of these games however. Its story is so cliché and straightforward that there are no big surprises that are such a staple to the franchise. Evil characters are pure evil, good characters are always good, big bad guy wants to destroy the world, good guys have to stop him. The characters are pretty flat as well and don’t boast the same detailed back stories like almost every other main installment. While some might view this as a huge deterrent from the title, none of these really stop the game from being an incredibly fun adventure that can bring the same level of excitement as every other option.
I’m going to be honest; I occasionally used the fact that I owned FFV as a source of pride amongst some of my friends. Sure, now the game is readily available on multiple systems, but back when it came out internationally it was still a relatively unknown title. It’s so obscure that many people didn’t even bother to check it out, regardless of how massively popular FFVII was (and still is). FFIV and FFVI had already come to North America as FFII and FFIII on the Super Nintendo (those were very confusing times), and they cast a massive shadow over FFV. It’s really hard for a game to standout when it’s sandwiched between two of the best.
I’m really glad that that shadow has lifted over the years because this is a title that deserves the attention of RPG fans everywhere. If you never played FFV before, now is the perfect time to do so. Weak story aside, the intricate job class system and all around fun is what keeps this game going. Trust me, you won’t regret it!