Not the best (Final Fantasy IV), and not the worst (Final Fantasy VIII). Up until Final Fantasy VII, Squaresoft seemed to alternate between class-based: I, III, V; and character-based games: II, IV, VI. This was the last class-based game, and probably the second best at it to the original Final Fantasy.

Final Fantasy V has a whopping 21 different classes, ranging from the cool: Dragoon, Ninja, Summoner, Mimic; to the stupid: Mediator, Chemist; to the absolutely useless: Berserker, Dancer, Bard. Unique animation frames had to be made for each different class for each different character. The result is that this game has the lowest number of playable characters of all the later Final Fantasies: five (pun unintentional).

This is only half of the inherent problem of class-based Final Fantasies. The next is that all of the characters are almost exactly the same. Not only do you have so few characters to fool around with, but they all have the potential to be identical. If you change your whole party into Knights and make them all attack the same enemy, they will each hit within a few points of each other, assuming they are at approximately the same level with the same equipment. You've got no Dragoon Kain, Samurai Cyan, or Thief Locke. Just five (well, four at a time) generic, cookie-cutter pseudoclasses that you can change anywhere, anytime, at will. One second you can have a party of competent mages, and the next a party of equally-competent warriors. You don't have to try to find ways to compensate for your party's weaknesses, which is the beauty of any rpg. All you've got to do is change their classes instantly to deal with the new situation. Fucking boring, and too easy.

Now, the story. It's not stupid like Final Fantasy VIII, but it's a step down from Final Fantasy IV. Cool things:

Uncool things: first and foremost, the villain. His name is Exdeath (ooh, clever). He is a tree. But he is an angry tree! And he's got no fucking motive! Just a tree with an attitude. Next, the dragon-like Hiryuu and serpent-like Slydra. These have the potential to be really neat, especially Syldra, but instead they're just stupid. The Hiryuu seem to perish at the lightest touch, and with Syldra it's always: "Oh no, she's dead. Oh good, she's alive! Crap, she just sacrificied herself to save us! Wait, she's still kicking! Nope, my mistake, she's dead. But here comes her spirit to help us out!" Jesus, how about a new plot device?

To continue, rapid fire suckage:

  • Cara (okay, we fucking get it, she's cute. Enough with the bows and ribbons),
  • Boco the Chocobo,
  • Guido the Turtle

Next, the music. Nobuo Uematsu kicked serious ass with Final Fantasy IV and Final Fantasy VI (undoubtedly his best). Here, there are about four really quality themes, but the rest are pretty much filler. All the same, it's way better than Final Fantasy VIII, Final Fantasy IX, and most of Final Fantasy VII. A soundtrack album was released after the game, and you can find out more about it at Final Fantasy V: Dear Friends. Cool title. In addition, several of the themes in the game are orchestrated by the Tokyo City Philharmonic Orchestra in the very awesome Orchestral Game Concert 2. Definitely worth a listen.

Two more things to talk about. I mentioned before that there were a few useless classes in the game, and there really are. To be completely honest, I'd say a good half of the classes add nothing, and would have been better left out. What's the use of a feature if it's never used? Did anyone actually play as a bard who didn't have the purpose of mastering all the classes?

Lastly, the experience system in this game is very skewed. From about the beginning of the third half of the game until the end, the enemies all give the same number of experience points. There's no reason to raise levels on the later monsters, since you could do just as well with the earlier ones. This might sound like nitpicking, but it's noticeable.

I may have made Final Fantasy V sound worse than it actually is. It's not a bad game, and if you like rpgs you'll enjoy it. It is overrated, however, so keep that in mind. One last noteable: This is the only game of the series in which most of the playable characters are female.