When it comes to a series as near and dear to my heart as Final Fantasy, trying to pick my favorite is a very difficult task. It’s also a bit of a ridiculous task, as there is no particular need to pick a favorite. You can play them all! But it is a question that tends to come up when RPG fans gather, and thus it is one that I have reluctantly answered many times. The answer isn’t always the same, but certainly one of my more common replies is Final Fantasy V. And now, it’s this game’s turn to get its second chance on mobile in the form of Final Fantasy V Pixel Remaster ($17.99).
There’s something of a theme with these rereleases so far, but I’ll quickly run through the details for those who just want the Pixel Remaster-specific information. First, the game’s visuals have been redone in a style far closer to the 16-bit original. That is not to say that they are the same, however. There’s a lot of extra detail here that is immediately apparent if you compare screens directly. But it does mean that the contentious appearance of the previous mobile release of Final Fantasy V is no more. The large, high res character sprites have been banished. The weirdly mismatched tiles are out of here. The 3D objects popping awkwardly out of the map have gone to the void. While I didn’t completely hate the character sprites from the previous version, I can’t argue that as a whole the game was a mish-mash of conflicting styles that looked very poorly put-together.
As with the other Pixel Remaster games, there’s a whole new orchestral arrangement of the soundtrack in Final Fantasy V and it is completely mind-blowing. It is easily the most luxurious part of this remake, making the already excellent compositions sound like a million bucks. In terms of returning extra features, there’s a quick save feature, cloud saves, and auto-battle. The bestiary and music player also return, joined by an art gallery with most of Yoshitaka Amano’s works included. The UI has been redesigned and the game is in theory a little bit easier to play as a result.
It’s not all good news, unfortunately. The same narrow, small font used in the other Pixel Remasters has been used here and it’s just as unpleasant as ever. There is also no support for external controllers, in spite of the fact that this version simultaneously released on Steam. Additionally, the extra content added in the Game Boy Advance version of the game and carried forward to the original mobile release is not included. That includes an extra dungeon with an ultra-tough bonus boss, and four additional late-game jobs. I don’t feel the cut content is a tremendous loss in this case, but you may feel differently. Even taking those minor issues into account, this is handily the best version of Final Fantasy V released so far.
So how about that game, then? In the West, it has tended to be the least-celebrated of the three 16-bit Final Fantasy games. It’s not hard to see why. It’s the one game of the three that wasn’t localized in its own time, instead getting a somewhat unceremonious release as part of a PlayStation collection. The lack of an official localized version of the Super Famicom original has meant that it could not be included in Western Virtual Console services or Mini plug-and-play consoles. It got another Western release on the Game Boy Advance in 2006 about a week before the high-profile remake of Final Fantasy III hit the Nintendo DS. An iOS release in 2013 in the wake of the disastrous Final Fantasy: All The Bravest proved controversial due to its dramatic visual changes, and that version was ported to Android and computers to the chagrin of many.
Final Fantasy V just can’t seem to catch a break, it seems. It doesn’t help that it’s a more gameplay-focused entry sandwiched between two bombastic story-focused games. There’s no massive cast of playable characters with rich back-stories and noble sacrifices, instead homing in on a tighter cast of five. While they have their share of drama to deal with, there’s no immediate hook to pull you in. In gameplay terms, these characters are virtually interchangeable. They are what you make of them. And it is in this aspect where Final Fantasy V shows its true power.
There are many Final Fantasy games with a job system. They tend to be the crunchier entries in the franchise, with plenty of ways to exploit the various options to crack open the games. Some of the games are more lenient with the job system than others, with many of them needing you to change your jobs frequently to handle particular situations with very little wiggle room. Final Fantasy V isn’t that strict. The game is actually beatable by virtually any combination of jobs, a fact that has been proven time and again by the yearly Final Fantasy Four Job Fiesta charity event. If you opt to play it naturally, you’ll find it rather easy to assemble a team of tiny gods who can disassemble even the final boss with ease.
The job system and the variety it offers is the core of the Final Fantasy V experience, but it has many other good qualities. While there is a healthy amount of drama, there’s also quite a bit of humor and slapstick that keeps the adventure from getting too grim. You’ll travel multiple worlds, fight terrifying bosses that sometimes have a puzzle-like quality to them, and navigate labyrinthine dungeons and towers. The soundtrack is great, and while the big bad of the game isn’t as hands-on hammy as the ones that came before and after him, he certainly has a presence. This, more than any other game in the series, represents a turning point for Final Fantasy. One foot planted firmly in the Sakaguchi era of corny pen-and-paper fantasy adventure, the other in the Yoshinori Kitase era of formally-trained drama.
If for some reason you haven’t played Final Fantasy V yet, you really should. Luckily, this is an outstanding way to do so. Give it a little time to sink its teeth into you, and you’ll find a compelling RPG that can easily hold its own against its more famous siblings. If you have played it before, then you probably know that this is one of the more replayable games in the series. What better excuse to play it again than this lovely version of the game? It’s worth another trip just to hear the new soundtrack, and you know you’ll have a good time along the way.