FFIV Advance wasn’t particularly remarkable.The same cannot be said of FFV Advance. The best service it could have rendered its original was to put an emphasis on dialogue and character interaction, and that’s precisely what it did. The retranslation work is so good that I’ve developed a newfound liking for Galuf, whom I used to find just as bland as the rest, Faris excepted. Now he has a distinctive, goofball personality and is all the better for it. Bartz’s everyman cluelessness has also been emphasised, to the point that he has now become something like the resident comic relief. Not often you get that with the hero of an FF game (FFXII’s Vaan is the closest example I can think of, but I have such a hard time seeing him as the hero of that game…).
Graphically, not much has changed. If there’s been an upgrade, it’s minor at best, and mostly concerns the menus (font and colours). Character portraits have been added to dialogue boxes, just like in FFIV Advance, but a) they’re all based on the characters’ Amano art, so they don’t look anything like their sprites and b) Bartz, Galuf and Faris look somewhat odd. Many items, abilities, places and NPCs have seen their names updated, as is now customary. The mandatory bestiary and jukebox have also been added, although I haven’t noticed much difference in musical arrangements this time around. Or maybe I just find FFV’s music too bland to notice.
Apart from the dialogue brush-up, the other selling point of this remake is the additional material. The existing jobs and their abilities have been kept as-was, but a whopping four new jobs have been added, as well as a very large optional dungeon containing no less than three new superbosses. The vestibule of the dungeon unlocks when the Interdimensional Rift becomes accessible. Inside are three of the new jobs, but the rest of the dungeon and the last new job (obtained after defeating the last superboss) only become accessible after you clear the game.
Cannoneer: This is certainly an original take on gun-based jobs, with outfits that are reminiscent of XVIIIth-XIXth century French army uniforms. The Cannoneer has no innate abilities, and grants small boosts to strength and magic, with a small penalty to defence and speed. It can use its Open Fire job command to fire a cannon: this deals heavy damage irrespective of the enemy’s row, but may also inflict a random status effect. Its final ability, Combine, is reminiscent of a Chemist, as it allows it to mix special ammo (which becomes available for purchase once the job is unlocked) with various items. The resulting shot either deals elemental damage or inflicts negative status effects, and, if you have a recipe list, can be pretty devastating. The Cannoneer also learns the Exp Up ability, which raises EXP gain by 1.5. This would’ve been handy a LOT earlier, but hey, it makes levelling in the optional dungeon a breeze. The job can use light armour, swords, daggers and shields.
Oracle: This is a variation on the gambler-type job, which hadn’t yet appeared in the series back when FFV first came out. The Oracle has no innate abilities, but trumps even the Summoner in terms of magic power. Conversely, it takes small penalties in every other stat. Its job command is Condemn: curative abilities affecting the entire party, or attack and status spells affecting all enemies. They cost no MP, but are executed after a countdown (like the Blue spell Condemn) and aren’t especially powerful. The Oracle also learns the Predict ability, which is similar…but worse. There are three levels: the first is the most powerful and costs only 1MP, but takes a while to execute, the second is weaker, costs more MP, but executes quicker, etc. Moreover, the results are completely random, and some of them can damage the party. The real selling point of the job, though, are its ABP Up and Read Ahead abilities. The former is the counterpart of Exp Up, raising ABP gain by 1.5, while the latter dramatically decreases the rate of random encounters. Ideal for when you’re trying to quickly cross an area containing annoying enemies. In short, interesting abilities, great for magic stat growth, terrible in combat. The Oracle can equip robes and staves.
Gladiator: The melee job par excellence. Each character’s outfit is based on a different summon: Bartz’s on Odin (horned helmet), Lenna’s on Shiva (snowflake on her mask), Faris’ on Syldra (purple and spiky), and Krile’s on Carbuncle (ruby, long ears and tail). The Gladiator grants a hefty boost to strength (as much as the Monk), a significant boost to speed (as much as the Ninja or Mystic Knight), a small boost to defence and a moderate penalty to magic. Its innate ability is Lure, which increases the random encounter rate. Its job command is Finisher, which either deals a critical hit or an elemental attack for 9,999 damage. In accordance with each character’s elemental affinity, Bartz’s attack is wind-elemental, Lenna’s water, Faris’ fire and Krile’s earth. Of course, if the enemy absorbs an element, the corresponding Finisher will simply heal it. Krile’s will also miss any flying enemies. Finisher can also miss altogether, but the probability lessens as the job levels up. The Gladiator also learns Long Range, which makes melee attacks deal full damage from the back row and can therefore be used to protect weaker characters without drawbacks. No need to go further, since the final ability is the same as the Monk’s Kick and, as it serves to master the job, will transfer Lure as an innate to the Freelancer. And you probably don’t want that. The Gladiator can equip heavy armour, shields, swords, daggers, katana, axes, spears and bows.
Necromancer: This is like an evil version of the Blue Mage, as signalled by the skulls and horned headdresses. Faris notably appears to have nicked hers from Emperor Mateus of FFII. The Necromancer grants large boosts to magic and defence, and small ones to strength and speed. Its innate ability is Undead, which means that curative items and spells will hurt it in combat (but not in the field). Its job command is Dark Arts, which consists of six tiers of spells learned by killing specific enemies. Some of those can only be found in one of the optional dungeons, but they deal some serious damage. It also has the Oath ability, which is the same as the Ranger’s Animals (with less variety), except with demons. I.e. it sucks. All in all, considering how late you get the job, it distinctly feels like a waste: Dark Arts is great…but there’s not much left to use it on by the time you can. The Necromancer can equip robes, rods and daggers.
The optional dungeon is called the Sealed Temple. It’s situated under the ocean floor and is pretty damn huge. It contains lots of goodies, as well as the aforementioned superbosses. Except that two of them…are Omega Mk.II and Neo Shinryu, and they simply look like palette swaps of their predecessors. So much for originality. Omega Mk.II does come with a surprise, though: in order to get to it, the party has to fight through a roomful of regular Omegas. That’s right, the exact same ones as the original superboss. Now, this may sound scary, but trust me when I say that your party’s levels will skyrocket as soon as they enter the Sealed Temple, especially with Exp Up on. You’ll be surprised by how much easier those regular Omegas will have become once you get to them.
Omega Mk.II should be feasible at around level 60. Neo Shinryu, on the other hand, lives up to its forebear’s reputation of being a mean killing machine, so level 70 is more realistic for taking it on. The third optional boss is none other than Enuo, the one who created the Void contained within the Interdimensional Rift, but, compared to the other two, he doesn’t present much of a challenge.
Once Enuo is defeated, a door in the first room of the Sealed Temple opens, granting access to the Cloister of the Dead, which is essentially a boss gauntlet. There are six rooms in a row, and each room pits the party against five bosses from the main game in consecutive battles. Needless to say that, if you’ve fully cleared the Sealed Temple, this shouldn’t pose any problem whatsoever. The only drawback is that you can’t save once inside, although the party can rest and heal in between each room.
Overall, I can only recommend this remake. It capitalises on the game’s strengths (character interaction and the job system) and just generally gives you more bang for your buck. Definitely superior to the original.