Final Fantasy V Review: Overrated job system, underrated story

Final Fantasy V Review: Overrated job system, underrated story

Final Fantasy V is a game that has left a mark on history through its revolutionary job system and lovable characters. It's a game where crystals shimmer with an untold and foreboding power, where warriors from different walks of life unite against a cosmic threat. While generally underrated and overlooked, Final Fantasy V isn't perfect, and this review will reveal the good, the bad, and the ugly of this timeless SNES classic. Without further ado, RPG Ranked presents… a Final Fantasy V Review: Overrated job system, underrated story.

Battle System - 6

As you saw in the title and will later see in this article, I’m not a big fan of the job system in Final Fantasy V, so I can’t exactly say I love this battle system either. However, I can’t complain about my good ol’ ATB system, and I certainly can’t complain about this game’s extraordinary boss roster. Bosses like the Soul Cannon, Azulmagia, Gilgamesh, Exdeath, Atomos, Gogo, Omega, Shinryu, and the Liquid Flame are all super exciting and well-designed boss fights. I’d argue that this game has some of the best bosses in the series and quite possibly my favorite final boss fight. However, as much as I want to love this battle system for its awesome bosses and fundamental design, I can’t because, well, I don’t love the job system. But I’ll get there soon. Let’s move on to the story.

Story - 8

The story in Final Fantasy V is not well-loved, but honestly? Final Fantasy V has more memorable moments than people give it credit for. At its core, Final Fantasy V weaves a narrative that captures players’ hearts not through its overarching narrative but through its individual moments. Each character has a deep connection to their world and feels like real people who have lived real lives before the adventure begins! While I will talk about each character individually in the “Characters” section, each character has a pretty well-done backstory and has a motive to join this adventure. While the main narrative isn’t exactly too remarkable outside of the dimensional insanity, the lore and character stories are intricately written and strike an incredible balance between light-hearted, whimsical humor and earnest storytelling. If nothing else, the plot of Final Fantasy V might just be one of the most entertaining of the series… I’d give it second behind Final Fantasy X because, quite honestly, I love the cringy insanity of Tidus. But I digress. I loved plot moments relating to Cid and the Airship. I loved the Library of the Ancients and the Ronka Ruins lore. I love plot beats like Lenna and Krile’s relationships with wyverns and the absurdity that Bartz and Galuf thought Faris was a man. And best of all? Galuf’s story with the Warriors of Dawn and the noble sacrifices they all made were some of my favorite moments in this game and the Final Fantasy series. While Final Fantasy V’s main narrative isn’t groundbreaking, the game’s characters and tone are charming and balanced between the serious and the silly! And for that, I have to say that Final Fantasy V has a story I will not forget and that I believe should not be overlooked by anyone else.

Music - 7

I adore the music in this game… It is so atmospheric and immersive, perfect for the world of Final Fantasy V. So what holds this back from a 9 or a 10? The instrumentation. I don’t jive very well with these instruments. Everything sounds a little wonky or muted to my ears. Why? I literally can’t explain it. Giving this a score of 8 for this reason is rather stupid, but I don’t think this work is as good as the majority of Uematsu’s, as good as it may be. And it isn’t just me. Looking at online polls for this game’s soundtrack, it consistently ranks lower than every other Final Fantasy game outside of the NES trilogy. I like the bounciness and energy found in this soundtrack, and it is objectively pretty awesome, but I don’t love it all that much.

Art & Graphics - 8

I’ve always thought this game was the best-looking of the three SNES titles in terms of its original artwork. They still look fantastic to this day! Also, I know this is incredibly controversial, but I thought the graphics in the Steam version were gorgeous (outside of the 2.5D dungeons, those looked ugly), and I think the Pixel Remaster graphics are pretty great. The Steam version had sleek and great-looking sprites outside the bizarre character artwork. I know some people hate this version, but I love it. However, while I don’t think this game has the best graphics or the best in the series, I believe this is an excellent game that deserves an 8 in the graphical department.

Characters - 7

While this game doesn’t have a large character cast, it sure has a bold one. This close-knit cast is one of the most underrated of the series, and while I will admit that games like Final Fantasy IV and Final Fantasy VI have just as good of characters as this game while having more of them, the characters in this entry are still fantastic. The main protagonist is Bartz, a likable and quirky character who adds a touch of relatability to this grandiose story. His personality contributes to Final Fantasy V’s whimsical and adventurous tone, and Bartz set the scene for an era of “dumb, yet lovable” JRPG protagonists that was very common at the time. Lenna, the second character in the game, is a kind and loving princess, selfless and lovable in every way. Faris is a strong-willed female pirate with a fiery personality and a well-developed backstory, making her one of the most fabulous party members in the Final Fantasy series. Krile, with a vibrant and kind nature, is similar to Lenna but different enough to make her stand out from the rest of the cast. And of course, my favorite, Galuf, with a fantastic backstory, character relationships, and the reason behind most of the game’s greatest moments, is a character that is poignant and well-written in basically every way.

Customization System - 5

While the story in this game is criminally underrated, the customization system is incredibly overrated. I’ve never really been the biggest fan of this system, and one of my more controversial Final Fantasy opinions is that I believe Final Fantasy III has a better job system than this game. I love games with subclasses like Blue Dragon, Final Fantasy Dimensions, Octopath Traveler, and others. It isn’t that I inherently like fixed job systems better or anything… I wouldn’t say I like the job system in Final Fantasy V. The balancing is all over the place, most of the jobs are unnecessary, and in the end, your characters will either be Mimes or Freelancers—quite frankly, this wasn’t that fun for me. I’m okay with games with completely broken systems; the battle system in Paper Mario: The Thousand-Year Door is one of my favorites of all time, as the badges can make you so broken it is hilarious. But in the end, I don’t have much fun with how broken this job system can become. I loved experimenting with different jobs in Final Fantasy III because, in the end, they all only got 1-2 balanced abilities, but in Final Fantasy V, some jobs are just superior to others in every single way. Even jobs people hate in Final Fantasy III, like the Evoker or Scholar, have insane strengths if you learn how to use them. But Berserkers? Dragoons? Beastmasters? Dancers? Oracles? Necromancers? These are all such niche jobs that have no use when abilities like Rapid Fire and Zenigage exist. Outside of the balancing, I didn’t particularly appreciate how the skill slots worked in this game. If you are going to have a subclass system, you’ve got to commit like in Blue Dragon or Final Fantasy Dimensions. How does a singular skill slot give this “depth” of customization that everybody else loves about this game? How much depth can genuinely be provided in a game where only Mimes and Freelancers actually have a chance to customize their abilities? I will admit that I love how innate skills carry over to the Mime and Freelancer classes. But if I am a White Mage, wouldn’t it be so interesting to be able to Equip Swords and have Rapid Fire as well? Become the ultimate Paladin? Oh, wait, you only get 1 extra job slot. If I am a Ninja and I want Cover and Shirahadori so that I can become the ultimate defensive Ninja? Oh, wait. We only get 1 skill slot. If I want to be a Dancer who has spears and is Berserk? Oh wait, I only have 1 job slot. This was not fun, and I didn’t truly enjoy the job system until the game’s closing hours. If I ever want to play a game with a superb job system, you’ll find me replaying Blue Dragon because the implementation of the Generalist class made that a phenomenal job system with so much depth. If I want to see the antics of Bartz, Faris, and Galuf again, I might want to replay this game, but not for this entirely overrated job system. I hate to sound cynical, but I want complete customization over my characters or complete restrictiveness… not this awkward middle child in between. I desperately wish I could love this job system as much as everybody else does… I’m jealous, to be honest. Overall, I don’t enjoy the job system in Final Fantasy V, and quite frankly, I feel rather stupid for having this opinion. But reviews are supposed to be genuine and authentic, and that’s what my goal is here on this site. I understand the love for this system, but I don’t feel that love. It’s disheartening, but it is the honest truth. Still annoyed at me? Consider checking out my Final Fantasy III review for more information about why I’m not too fond of the Final Fantasy V job system and why I like the Final Fantasy III job system better.

Sidequests - 7

Final Fantasy V has some epic sidequests. From getting the 12 legendary weapons to getting five secret job classes, from getting all the ultimate magic spells to playing all of the game’s pianos, from finding the isolated Phantom Village to slaying Omega and Shinryu, from collecting all the summons to the Sealed Temple, this game has some of the most fun and iconic sidequests in the whole series. While they aren’t my favorite RPG sidequests of all time, it’d be stupid to give them any lower score than a 7 because there is just so much here, and this part of the game really rectifies the issues I have with the job system. These sidequests make the gameplay much more bearable for me, and that’s really saying something. Don’t get me wrong, I love what this game does. I admire it so much, but it just isn’t for me in many categories of this game. It’s not you, Final Fantasy V, it’s me (proceeds to cry). However, the sidequests? Heck yeah, these were made with me in mind. I wish there were a couple more of them. Then I’d give it a full 10/10.

Dungeons - 9

There are some banger dungeons in Final Fantasy V, but there are also some incredibly mediocre ones. I always like to save the best for last, so let’s discuss the boring dungeons first. From Jachol Cave and Gil Cave, two almost meaningless dungeons that I barely remember, to the Torna Canal, an excuse to have the Ship Graveyard exist; the Underground River, a forgettable location with an even more forgettable boss fight, to the Phoenix Tower, an incredibly annoying dungeon that lasts much too long. Take all those dungeons, and then triple that… that’s how many mediocre dungeons there are in this game. More than half of the dungeons in Final Fantasy V are either forgettable or frustrating, which isn’t exactly an excellent reputation to have. If the other dungeons in this game weren’t phenomenal, they’d maybe get a 5. However, this game has the Forest of Moore, an incredible dungeon with amazing cutscenes. It has the Sealed Temple and the Interdimensional Rift, both fantastic endgame dungeons with tons of unique floors and sidequests. Library of the Ancients and Ronka Ruins are two enjoyable and lore-filled dungeons that are, quite frankly, two of the most impressive in the series. The Barrier, Walse, and Fork Towers are three different towers that somehow make climbing tons of floors into fun-filled areas with dramatic cutscenes, hidden secrets, and endgame magic, respectively. There’s the Big Bridge, an iconic area with even more iconic music, and the Pyramid of Moore, a Zelda-like dungeon with tons of combat and high-stakes battles. Last but certainly not least are the Fire-Powered Ship, a plot-relevant and incredibly unique dungeon with fun gameplay, and the Ship Graveyard, an eerie and atmospheric dungeon that starts the game with a bang. While I found many of the dungeons to be a slog in Final Fantasy V, I think the good still outweighs the bad pretty heavily, so I am actually going to give this game a higher score than I expected!

Quality of Life - 5

This game loses a lot of points because of the following categories: 1) unbalanced jobs and 2) some pacing issues in both the gameplay and the story. I already covered the imbalance, but Final Fantasy V slows to a halt during the Merged World, and the pacing of when you get new jobs (especially the four unique jobs in more recent releases) is not great. However, Final Fantasy V is a polished game outside of these issues. While older versions of the game had game-breaking glitches (like landing the Airship on Ghido's Cave hard-locking you out of the game), said issues have been fully patched for later releases, so this fact is essentially negligible. This is a well-optimized game, but it is not perfect.

The Verdict

Fun Factor: 5
Overall Score: 67%
Letter Score: B

In conclusion, Final Fantasy V is a game that elicits a wide range of emotions and opinions, much like the diverse job system it features. It's a mixed title—you love it or are indifferent about it depending on your priorities and for me? It's caught awkwardly in the middle as a middling (albeit solid) Final Fantasy title. This game may not be universally loved, but its unique charm and strengths make it worth a playthrough for any RPG enthusiast. Its blend of quirky characters, epic boss fights, and rich lore create a memorable journey that leaves a lasting impression on many. I would recommend this game to anyone interested, but I warn you—it'll either be one of your favorite RPGs of all time or one of the more mediocre ones you've played. And as much as I hate to say it, I fall into the latter category.

My personal favorite version of this game is the GBA version, but you can't go wrong with any of them!

Final Fantasy V (PS1)
Final Fantasy V (GBA)
Final Fantasy V (Pixel Remaster)
Final Fantasy (Pixel Remaster)

Primary Version: Final Fantasy V (GBA)