The best Final Fantasy you likely haven’t played on a Nintendo platform comes back home.
It took a while for me to reach this point, but I love Final Fantasy V. If I were to break out my all-time Final Fantasy rankings, it’d sit right behind Final Fantasy VI, and the gap between the two is not as wide as you might think. However, the relative inaccessibility of Final Fantasy V in the west cut down on the lasting impact of this excellent game. Thanks to the console release of the Final Fantasy Pixel Remasters, this 1992 Super Famicom game is the most readily accessible it has ever been (legally). And for the most part, this is a fantastic version of an incredible game.
Final Fantasy V is most notable for its job system, which builds off of Final Fantasy III’s similar mechanic. You don’t have a vast party like the Super Nintendo games before and after, but you do have 22 different jobs to switch your primary party of four between over the course of the adventure. It deepens the complexity of strategy (and might remind modern players of similar systems in Bravely Default and Octopath Traveler) as your heroes Bartz, Lenna, Galuf, and Faris level up in the traditional sense and also earn ability points for whatever job they have equipped. Leveling up jobs opens up new abilities and options, most of which can then be used as a secondary option when they’re in a new job. There are definitely optimal job paths for different characters, with some more viable for mage roles than others, but the beauty of the job system is that it’s so flexible. Once you start getting jobs, the only limit is your ingenuity for breaking the system (and maybe grinding).
Thankfully if you do just want to play around with jobs, the Pixel Remaster includes a variety of boost options that let you earn up to four times the experience points and ability points so you can power-level without as much grinding. You can also turn off encounters at any moment. The malleability is glorious, as you can play it more or less like it was back in the day, or customize it to your preference.
While this release of Final Fantasy V includes a slew of enhancements, updates, and tweaks that all come from the Game Boy Advance, mobile, and PC releases over the years, it does not contain the Sealed Temple and the four new jobs from those releases. This is a recurring theme with the Pixel Remasters as virtually all six of these games have had novel additions in the 30+ years since they first came out, but not all of that is worked into these nearly definitive releases.
The story in Final Fantasy V is one that I enjoy and has its fair share of wonderful moments, it’s not quite at the level of Final Fantasy IV or VI. The music is naturally stellar, with delightful new arrangements as well as the superb original soundtrack. Like with every Pixel Remaster on console, the font issue from the PC and mobile releases is better but not truly fixed. It contributes to a recurring theme that this is so close to being the best version of a classic but it’s just not all the way there.
Still, if you’ve never played Final Fantasy V and have an affinity for RPGs, I suggest you drop everything and play this video game. I truly believe it stands tall among the best of the entire Final Fantasy series, carving its own distinct path with the refined job system. The Pixel Remaster is as close to a definitive release as we’ve had of Final Fantasy V in the west so far. I do wish I didn’t have to offer a handful of caveats, but this is still a good version of an all-time great.