Few things identify a hardcore Final Fantasy fan like their feelings toward Final Fantasy V. Beloved in Japan, the fifth installment of then-Squaresoft’s seminal RPG franchise never amassed a large fanbase in the west. The recent iOS release is poised to change all of that.
And it’s not because of its story – because, Shinryu knows, it’s still nothing to write home about.
The crystals of some world are being threatened by a malevolent force, the warriors of light appear to stop said evil force, they unlock a rich and engrossing job system along the way that lets them swap fantasy classes (Knight, White Mage, Bard, etc) on the fly, and hilarity ensues.
What really makes the iOS version shine, however, is the fact that it’s actually a cleaned up version of the 2006 release of Final Fantasy V Advance. On the aesthetic side, this means that it prominently features Yoshitaka Amano’s gorgeous character portraits and offers a fresh text translation along with tidied up sprites and background art.
In terms of mechanics, it also means four new jobs (Cannoneer, Gladiator, Necromancer, and Oracle) are available, along with a new dungeon and a punishing – but thankfully optional – superboss.
Final Fantasy V plays like an absolute treat on an iPad, and it’s clearly aimed at perfecting the mobile JRPG experience. You’re able to quicksave the game almost anywhere, and the addition of an “auto” option in battles makes random encounters easier to slog through.
Once you find your feet with the game’s basic mechanics (a touch-anywhere virtual joystick) you’ll want to dive into the job system. A reprisal of Final Fantasy III’s gameplay that was later revived in Final Fantasy XI (and XIV), this innovative approach to character customization allows you to freely change your character’s classes.
Moreover, once a character learns a useful skill – like White Magic or Time Magic – they can use it as a subskill for a new job. This allows you to create healers with support magic, knights who can wield two-swords simultaneously, or high-flying Dragoons that can also serenade foes with a soulful song from their lutes.
All of this is easily managed through game menus that are easy to navigate through, and the lack of any load time between screens makes progressing through the game an easy task.
Sure, there’s still things to dislike about Final Fantasy V (it’s aforementioned lack of plot and generally loose narrative), but the updated translation positively sparkles and Nobuo Uematsu’s soundtrack shines brilliantly from Four Hearts to the pulse-pounding Clash on the Big Bridge.
While Final Fantasy V’s price of $15.99 / £10.99 might seem steep for the App Store, the deep and rewarding JRPG experience it delivers is worth every gil and then some.