Final Fantasy V Advance «

Final Fantasy V Advance will seem instantly familiar to you if you’ve put in time with Final Fantasy XI or XII, and those familiar points are the best and worst parts of this excellent title. As a party of (for most of the game) four characters — an amnesiac old man, a pirate captain, a young princess, and a freedom-loving wanderer — you’ll spend easily 30 to 40 hours trying to save the four elemental crystals and explore the worlds that the game offers. Before I get into the plot, let’s look at why the game’s character development system is so special.

None of the characters have a set class, unlike the (also excellent) Final Fantasy IV Advance. Instead, each character can choose from a wide variety of jobs. Some are available almost immediately, but many more are unlocked as you proceed through the game. As you go through combat the group gains both experience points to level up the characters and ability points which level up jobs. A job grants a primary ability, such as the Blue Mage’s “Learn” ability, or the White Mage’s “White” ability. These are the defining powers of the job, letting Blue Mages gain access to monsters’ powers and White Mages grow increasingly powerful as healers. You can also set a secondary ability (oddly called “ability”), which is what really sets the job system apart from other games.

Essentially, the set ability can be any unlocked ability from any job that character has pursued. Like the similar job/sub-job setup in Final Fantasy XI, only your primary job advances as you win combats. A Blue Mage with “White” as their secondary ability won’t become a better White Mage as they earn ability points, for example. Using this system, you can mix and match the abilities of any of the jobs to create just the right characters for your party.


If that sounds a little complex, it doesn’t compare to the depth that starts to materialize when you have dozens of abilities unlocked on each character. Higher-level abilities tend to trump lower-level ones, and if you aren’t in combat you can swap out abilities and jobs for any of your characters on the fly. The system will even automatically select the best possible gear for the new combination of powers, because job choices also determine access to weapons and armor.

The entire effect is a dazzling ability to create just the party you want, but a dizzying aftershock of confusion as you try to do so. It’s incredibly time-consuming to level up job after job to see what they’re capable of, so the only real choices are to make random guesses as to the best jobs to sink your time into or be prepared to spend truly absurd amounts of time on the game. If you’re looking for a title to help whittle away your commutes or lunch breaks for some time to come, this is the one.

 

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