Final Fantasy V – Game Notes

Looks familiar, no?
Looks familiar, no?

Some games practically require you to take notes to progress. Older RPGs are a great example of this. They can be vague when guiding the player and the NPCs generally aren’t any better. I’ve found it helpful to write down the directions I receive when playing them. That way, should I take a break from the game, I won’t be completely lost upon returning – forced to consult a FAQ or simply restart.

When I played through Final Fantasy V I went a step further. With my handy tablet nearb, I noted the directions and helpful suggestions, as well as the general narrative. This resulted in a lengthy set of notes that I thought I’d publish here. Enjoy.

Continue reading Final Fantasy V – Game Notes

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The Box Art of Final Fantasy V

Okay, Final Fantasy V hasn’t been released as much as its predecessor. In fact, the first time it was officially released outside of Japan was with the American release of Final Fantasy Anthology for the PlayStation. That was in late 1999 – basically seven years after it was originally released on the Super Famicom in late 1992. It took another two and a half years for the game to eventually be released in Europe. Since then, it has been released on the Game Boy Advance and on iOS and Android platforms.

Looks familiar, no?
Looks familiar, no?

As they did for the Super Famicom release of Final Fantasy IV, Square opted for a cutesy cover over the traditional usage of Yoshitaka Amano’s artwork. Again, he was relegated to the logo design. This cover hones in on the wanderer Bartz, and easily conveys this fact. The logo chosen for this game includes a dragon intertwined with the font. This is also apt as dragons play a significant role in the narrative.

Of the covers Final Fantasy V has been released with over the years, this is my favorite.
Of the covers Final Fantasy V has been released with over the years, this is my favorite.

The game was subsequently released on the PlayStation in 1996. This is my favorite cover that’s been used for one of the game’s releases. The cutesy character design again reigns supreme and this time it’s highlighting the many job classes. With the exception of two as there were twenty-two job classes in the original.

This is the version I have. It also includes Final Fantasy VI, which I will dive into soon.
This is the version I have. It also includes Final Fantasy VI, which I will dive into soon.

So this is the version of the game that I possess. I really dig the box art, but it pertains to Final Fantasy VI, so it’s not really comparable in this article. I will mention that I had difficulty  playing the disc on the PlayStation 3. There is a save screen glitch that the game freezes at. The glitch is still a factor when playing the disc on the PlayStation 2, but on that system, it’s only a graphical glitch. The menu can still be navigated and the game doesn’t freeze.

The European version includes Final Fantasy IV instead of Final Fantasy VI.
The European version includes Final Fantasy IV instead of Final Fantasy VI.

For the European release of Final Fantasy Anthology, this game received the honor of selling the game. If it’s successor was included in this package, I’m sure that wouldn’t have been the case. Still, this is prime Amano displaying the cast on one of the many ships.

The Japanese release of the GBA version.
The Japanese release of the GBA version.

For the Game Boy Advance release, a slew of extra content was added including extra job classes and an extra dungeon or two. I’d like to play these versions of the NES and SNES titles (excluding 3 which never saw an Advance release). The Japanese release included a lot of negative space, yet still left room for Amano’s character designs.

This cover was used for the American and European releases.
This cover was used for the American and European releases.

The cover used for the American and European releases however did away with that negative space and really zoomed in on the characters. Plus the large GBA banner on the left-hand side takes up much space.

Just as the case was with Broken Sword: The Shadow of the Templars, this game has been released on many digital platforms that don’t really have box art. As I mentioned above, I prefer the box art for the Japanese PlayStation release. It’s different enough from the rest to stand out, and the cutesy design works well when displaying the many job classes.

Final Fantasy V [PlayStation] – Review

Warning: the black label version of FFV has minor glitches when played on the PS2 and is nigh unplayable on the PS3.
Warning: the black label version of FFV has minor glitches when played on the PS2 and is nigh unplayable on the PS3.

When I began playing Final Fantasy V, the first ten or so hours got me down. Coming off of my completion of Final Fantasy IV, this game felt like a pause in progression for Square. The characters, protagonists and antagonists alike, felt one-dimensional. The narrative didn’t allow for a rotating party as the previous game did, and this kept the experience stale. During this early period, the combat system felt wholly similar to its predecessor too. It wasn’t until the job system was unlocked and given a few hours to come into its own, that I really began to enjoy the game.

The sky is dropping transporters.
The sky is dropping transporters.

With a traditional narrative revolving around elemental crystals and a maniacal evildoer, I didn’t get drawn into the story. After all, with a name like X-Death, there’s no questioning his motives. The protagonists were, slightly, more fleshed out though. Bartz was a wanderer who encountered the princess Reina and a stranger from another planet, Galuf, while investigating a meteorite. They joined together and set about to protect the four crystals after they witnessed one of them shattering and learned that collectively, the crystals protected a seal on X-Death.

Soon enough, the group bumped into the pirate Faris. Get this, Faris suffers from amnesia and is actually Reina’s long lost sister, Salsa. The group initially fails to protect the four crystals and X-Death is freed. With his freedom, X-Death returns to his original planet to begin conquering those who sealed him away. As the story plays out, the group learns that the two worlds were once one and in their quest to defeat X-Death, they reunite them. Galuf’s granddaughter Krile joins the fray eventually as the party composition changes partway through the game.

The battles got more interesting with more job classes to choose from.
The battles got more interesting with more job classes to choose from.

This game adapts the Active Time Battle system of its predecessor so battles played out nearly identically. This meant time continued to flow as I navigated the battle menus, etc. The differentiator for this game was the job system. Although Final Fantasy III had a job system, the one implemented here is structured differently – I found it more fun.

Each character had a personal level and a job level. Gaining a personal level improved stats while gaining a job level unlocked related abilities. An unlocked ability could be equipped regardless of what job any given character was at the time. This meant a white mage could also use black and time magic or a samurai could heal in the clutch. The abilities and benefits were plentiful and I had many favorite combinations at different points in the game. This gameplay system kept the game interesting when the narrative failed to do so. In my mind, that’s how I’ll remember the game.

Mode 7!!!
Mode 7!!!

Final Fantasy V was a slow starter. It was hard for me to get excited about the game when the story and characters weren’t doing it for me. This was concerning as I felt Square genuinely moved the genre forward with Final Fantasy IV. Eventually, the gameplay became the focal point of interest for me as the job system grew more robust and my party was earning the experience to unlock abilities. Mixing and matching the traits of different jobs and overcoming tough enemies were definitely the stars of the game.

The Box Art of Broken Sword: The Shadow of the Templars

I learn something new everyday. Sometimes the information is useful, other times its video game trivia like the fact that Broken Sword: The Shadow of the Templars was originally released as Circle of Blood in America.

Thanks to MobyGames for having the only moderate box art for the original American release. Too bad it has their watermark on it.
Thanks to MobyGames for having the only moderate box art for the original American release. Too bad it has their watermark on it.

The first time the game was released at all, it was released as Circle of Blood in America. I don’t care much for the stained glass box art. It doesn’t hint at the mystery as well as the European box art does. One could ascertain the game takes place in Europe thanks to the stained glass visage and the gargoyle, but it just doesn’t do it for me. Although, I would like to win a trip to Paris…

The most commonly used box art for the game.
The most commonly used box art for the game.

This box art was used for the European releases of the original PC version and the PlayStation and Game Boy Advance ports. As I mentioned earlier, I feel the collage used and the menacing man on the cover hint at the mystery of the narrative quite well.

The first good American box art for the game.
The first good American box art for the game.

For the American release of the PlayStation port, THQ (R.I.P.) chose to utilize a crucial in-game item. The Templar manuscript that George and Nicole locate fuels their journeys for the latter half of the game and uncovering what each section symbolizes was a major narrative driver.

Undoubtedly similar to the European box art.
Undoubtedly similar to the European box art.

When BAM! (R.I.P.) published the GBA version in America, they opted for a cover that had more in common with the European cover. And yes, I’m only saying that because of the leering eyes. Although, this is the only box art that features a broken sword. Not that it’s important or anything; it didn’t really factor into the narrative until very late in the game, and even then, in a minor way.

Umbrella Corporation?
Umbrella Corporation?

The first director’s cut of the game appeared on the Nintendo Wii and DS. The American releases of the games shared the same box art and featured an ancient looking symbol of the Knights Templar. I’ve always had a soft spot for this box art; perhaps because it was a notable “exclusive” for the Wii back in the day.

The more modern European box art.
The more modern European box art.

Finally, the European release of the director’s cut for the Wii and DS ventured away from the traditional European box art. Like it’s American counterpart, it uses color tones that hint at age, but in general it hints at the mystery of the game as it’s European predecessor had.

And of course, the game has since been released on countless digital since the director’s cut was debuted on the Wii and DS. There’s not really a suitable image to show for these as they lack proper box art. The icons they use generally seem to include a head shot of Nicole since she is featured more prominently in the director’s cut release. I like all of the covers well enough with the exception of Circle of Blood. The original European cover is my favorite at this point.

Broken Sword: The Shadow of the Templars – The Director’s Cut [Android] – Review

What a wonderful adventure game!
What a wonderful adventure game!

Originally released in the fall of 1996, Broken Sword: The Shadow of the Templars still holds up as a fantastic point-and-click adventure game. I came to it last month with virgin eyes when I was craving a game to play on my Google Nexus 7. The director’s cut of the game was released onto Google Play in 2012, although it has appeared on many platforms since 2009. The narrative and characters were impressively crafted and the puzzle-solving gameplay was well-paced. My only complaint was the hodgepodge nature of the audiovisual qualities of the director’s cut.

I found the user interface to be easy to use and understand.
I found the user interface to be easy to use and understand.

Vacationing in Europe, American tourist George Stobbart witnesses the murder of a French citizen and takes it upon himself to research the tragedy. George is a self-confident, joke-cracking Californian and his conversations usually put a smile on my face. He quickly bumps into Nicole Collard, a French journalist, also interested in the murder. They cooperate and unravel a plot to revive the Knights Templar. George’s involvement came about due to happenstance and self-motivation. For Nicole, the events were personal.

The director’s cut of the game apparently includes a lot of new content. Among the additions is a lengthy introduction that stars Nicole. This segment filled in Nicole’s motivations beyond simply being a journalist. As she prepares to conduct an interview, the French diplomat who personally requested her is murdered by a costumed killer. Investigating his premises before the police arrive, she discovers that the diplomat had mysterious ties to her beloved father. More research leads her to another individual who would soon be murdered and bring about a chance encounter with George.

George's introduction, shortly after a bomb blows up the cafe he was at.
George’s introduction, shortly after a bomb blows up the cafe he was at.

The ten or so hours of gameplay saw the duo explore Paris and a few nearby countries. Most of it was spent having conversations. These conversations were lengthy and necessary to digging up clues and leads. As I mentioned, the conversations George conducted with others were often humorous; if not because of his line of thought, because of people he spoke with. The other major time sink was the puzzle-solving. This entailed exploring each scene for objects to interact with and figuring out how to utilize the small inventory of items George had. Occasionally there were one-off puzzles that required translating a passage or completing a sliding puzzle as well.

George and Nicole’s journeys across Paris and the few neighboring countries they visited were conveyed solely through hand-drawn backgrounds and animations. Overall, it was an impressive-looking game. However, there were a few bits of animation that sequenced different scenes together and these were quite poor. The style calls to mind Don Bluth with shoddy animation. I feel the same about the voice-acting. In general, it’s great. Yet there are bits and pieces where the quality is noticeably worse. New to the director’s cut are hand-drawn character portraits during conversations. These were drawn by Dave Gibbons of Watchmen fame but hey, they’re just character portraits.

No, George isn't exploring the Amazon. This is an estate in Spain.
No, George isn’t exploring the Amazon. This is an estate in Spain.

Now that I’ve completed Broken Sword: The Shadow of the Templars, I’m sad I won’t get to experience anymore of it for the first time. I honestly found the narrative and characters enthralling. The lengthy exchanges George had with others only started to wear on me when I was in the homestretch, but they were always entertaining. I found this to be a perfect tablet game and the user interface for exploring and puzzle-solving was implemented wonderfully. Some of the illustrations and animation looked poor, but in a way, those were blemishes that endeared me to the game’s age. Fantastic game!