People love to initiate conversations about Final Fantasy V by labeling it “underrated.” For the longest time, I agreed with that assessment. It’s a great game that has always existed in the shadow of its SNES-era brethren, Final Fantasy IV and Final Fantasy VI. Cecil, Kain, Rydia? Hot topics. Terra, Celes, Shadow? Hot topics. Bartz, Galuf, Faris? It’s telling, perhaps, when the most frequent comment on the internet regarding FFV‘s protagonist is that his Japanese name is “Butz.” It’s not about his spirit of adventure and kindhearted ways. It’s about butts.
That may hold true to this day. But several years ago, something started to change. An annual celebration in Final Fantasy V‘s fandom ballooned in size, and the broader Square Enix fandom took notice. That celebration is called “Final Fantasy V Four Job Fiesta.” It’s cool. You can read about it over at our sister site. What matters, in the context of this review, is that it turned a lot of heads.
And thus, when Final Fantasy V Pixel Remaster launched a few weeks back on Steam and mobile devices, there was notably more interest in a return trip to the world of butts than there would have been a decade ago, or even five or six years ago. The NES Pixel Remasters were fun retreads, but many of us were more excited for what was to come. Final Fantasy IV Pixel Remaster, well, I reviewed that one myself here, and aside from some unfortunate technical hiccups, it holds up quite nicely.
But Final Fantasy V? It’s the reigning monarch of old-school FF gameplay. It’s the king of creativity, the queen of classy jobs and quirky tactics. Diehards like me savored the notion of revisiting the in-depth Job Class system, the almost ridiculous number of viable battle strategies, the epic fights with optional series staples like Shiva, Odin, and Ifrit. This is a game that eschews the nonstop action of FFIV and the melodramatic glory of FFVI in favor of something brighter, not bolder. This is Final Fantasy at its most adventurous in tone and eclectic in gameplay.
In short, the quality of Final Fantasy V Pixel Remaster was always going to come down to port-specific aspects rather than grievances with the base product. If you’re the type of player who isn’t interested in JRPGs unless they’re crying their hearts out every five minutes — and don’t get me wrong, I’m a big fan of those as well — you’ll probably find FFV too narratively safe, too staid and unambitious. On the flip side, if a (mostly) cheery tale of friends versus nefarious fiends and a stellar suite of character customization sounds like a grand time, this is your video game.
Now we’re at the heart of the review. Or, perhaps more accurately, the part of the review that most of you clicked here for, to begin with. Is Final Fantasy V Pixel Remaster good on its own merits, not merely the merits of past ports? Yes. Yes, it is.
You might be tempted to stop reading after that lightning-quick assessment. By all means, follow your heart; if you were only barely on the fence, and an internet stranger’s nod is all you really needed, go on. Click that purchase button. Indulge. But if you’re inclined to continue, let me break down why exactly this is one of the best entries in the Pixel Remaster project, and almost the unarguably definitive version of a wonderful RPG.
When the Pixel Remasters were first revealed, there was… let’s be delicate and say “some consternation among fans.” To be blunt, it wasn’t a good first showing. Visuals looked fine. Terra’s hair in FFVI looked bizarre. (In fact, I live in fear it will still look bizarre at launch, but that’s a vain and niche concern for another review to handle.) What really stung, of course, was the utter lack of console announcements. That’s still stinging for folks like me, who prefer to jam on their dedicated gaming systems, even now.
Something that I noticed at the time, and I saw this echoed by many of my fellow fans, is that the overarching art style seemed perfectly poised for FFV in particular. It’s vivid and well-defined enough to work for each of the first six Final Fantasy titles. But its tonal nuances, which are poppy to the point of scintillating at times, almost feel like they were designed with FFV in mind. It’s not that the fourth entry looks bad by any stretch — it’s that the art style works decently in Rydia’s realm but slots terrifically into Gilgamesh’s.
And speaking of Gilgamesh, he is just as funny as he was in older versions of Final Fantasy V. But I suppose that’s neither here nor there. If you’ve played Final Fantasy V Advance for the GBA, you’re already aware of how much richer this game’s localization is from 2006 onward – belly laughs at nearly every turn. It’s perfect for this quest. And if you’re only familiar with one of the old translations, strap yourself in. This is so much better than what you’ve been subjected to in the past.
The music has been a hit four games in a row. Final Fantasy V Pixel Remaster makes it five. Iconic tracks like “Unknown Lands” are given an extra layer of depth that doesn’t detract from the original at all. More fiddled-with musical tunes aren’t the dime-a-dozen variety that don’t feel like they belong in re-release. Instead, they’re spectacular. Sound effects in battle can be a bit muffled at times, but at least that’s nothing new.
Controls are tight and responsive. Auto-save is a serious life-saver, especially on mobile. These are basics; critics have more or less said the same thing about each Pixel Remaster this year. Still, it’s good to know Square Enix hasn’t tripped on its shoelaces near the finish line.
Have you played any of the previous remasters in this contemporary catalog? If so, then you know not to expect the bonus content from the Game Boy Advance port. I’m of the opinion that little of value was lost with the first through fourth games taking this route, but if there’s one thing I do have against FFV, it’s this. The GBA version had a lovely post-game dungeon and a whopping four additional Job Classes.
In case you’re a newcomer to this game and I hadn’t made it clear earlier in this review, the intricate Job Class system is where it’s at. It’s fantastic. Those four endgame Jobs were broken to the point of near-absurdity, yes, but frankly, the more the merrier. Not to mention, you’re going to encounter the name “Enuo” enough times throughout the story to feel enticed by the prospect of beating him up. Final Fantasy V Advance understood that. Final Fantasy V Pixel Remaster does not.
And yet, even if a big fan of that former optional content can get over the fact that it’s missing in lieu of the splendid audiovisual experience, then anyone who was ho-hum on that post-game dungeon (and is kosher with playing on PC, iOS, or Android) has no good reason not to pick this up. It’s an incredible edition of an outstanding game.
Whether you want to casually engage in the chipper and charming story, dig deep into the many-splendored permutations available for party lineup, or even check out the Final Fantasy V Four Job Fiesta with a fresh coat of paint, Final Fantasy V Pixel Remaster has you covered.