When I saw Square Enix’s video teasing a rejiggered version of Final Fantasy V, the first thought that popped into my head was “Where’s the PS Vita version?” Poor PS Vita.
In the meantime, FFV for iOS should be comin’ round the mountain later today with significantly reworked graphics by no less than Kazuko Shibuya, a character illustrator with Square Enix since before the company picked up the “Enix.” Shibuya handled the character images for the original 1992 Super Nintendo version of FFV, and she’s basically upped the pixel count here to complement higher-definition smartphone and tablet screens. I think it looks pretty smart, actually, but what do I know? It’s apparently not sitting well with, umm, forum-goers.
The chief complaints — that is, nonspecific grousing peppered with pitchfork-wavers wishing for the company’s demise — seem to pivot around this shot of a town (see just below). I don’t get it. What’s so garish about any of that? The character sprites? Because they’re slightly taller, violating some law of time and super-deformed space? That the whole thing’s still 2D? Because it doesn’t look like Advent Children? Are we really that shallow?
My only quibble, and it’s minor, is with the generic font used in the menu overlays and configuration screens, but that’s been an issue since the company’s ports of Final Fantasy I and II. I guess I’m used to it at this point.
What do you actually do in FFV? The grand plot isn’t much to write home about: something something draining crystals upsetting nature’s balance disrupting the planet something something. And FFV‘s battle system was just Final Fantasy IV‘s active combat approach transplanted (not that I’m one of these sorts that needs a game to radically change what it’s doing every installment). But most would probably agree that FFV‘s most memorable contribution to the series was its refinement of Final Fantasy III‘s job system, where you’re basically shuffling classes (all 26 from the Game Boy Advance remake), but where those classes can also be upgraded, providing unprecedented (well, for a console RPG) character customization options.
So what’s new about the iOS version? The visual polish of course, plus: the touch-screen controls (love ‘em or leave ‘em — I’ll probably find them more tolerable now that I have an iPad Mini) and Game Center support (96 achievements!). The iOS version includes “The Sealed Temple” dungeon from the 2006 Game Boy Advance version, as well as designer Tetsuya Nomura’s optional super-boss, Enuo.
The other factor here that’d be easy to gripe about is the price: $16. That may seem a lot to ask of an iOS gamer, you know, if you haven’t been paying attention to history. FFIV currently goes for $16. So does FFIII. FFI and II go for $9 each (I’m pretty sure they used to cost more). Final Fantasy Tactics currently runs $20 itself. These are sprawling games that originally sold — in some cases with fewer features, and in all cases with lower-res graphics — for twice as much.
Bear that in mind before you howl. Also: I’m only half-defending Square Enix’s decision to launch at $16. I’d rather it be a buck or five bucks or whatever, too. I’m just not sold on the notion that the App Store’s “Everything’s a dollar!” mentality need apply to everything, or that comparing one game’s price to another’s, when we’re in the realm of pure value subjectivity, is tenable. FFV sinks or swims at $16. I think Microsoft‘s been gouging its customers for years on hard drive and USB Wi-Fi component pricing as well as how it structures what’s behind Xbox LIVE’s paywall, and yet the company’s selling hard drives and Xbox LIVE subscriptions hand over fist. Like I said, what do I know?
So way-obvious prediction time: FFV is back with us roughly 20 years following its Japanese release in 1992. Final Fantasy VI, the installment I know some of you still swear is the series’ apotheosis, originally arrived in 1994. It’s been updated twice since — once for the PlayStation in 1999 and again, more significantly, for the Game Boy Advance in 2006. Next year marks the game’s 20th anniversary. Anyone care to bet we won’t see it next year? Anyone else want to pre-gripe about the likelihood that it’ll “merely” be a higher-definition port of the Game Boy Advance version?