I had to skip back through the 1001 list to double check I hadn't missed any, but no, it turns out that the first Final Fantasy title worth playing in the series is Final Fantasy V, and I know absolutely nothing about it.
I know about the series, but I've watched far, far more than I've played, and no matter what my views are playing them now, that's probably not going to change - but who knows?
Let's crack on with Final Fantasy V, where we're going to gather up a load of crystals, get real life jobs and kick anything that doesn't belong in this world out of it.
The SNES original is a Japanese only title, and while it was so popular that it got an English fan translation before an official one, I'm going to stick with an officially released version of Final Fantasy V, in a perhaps unexpected form for me, that of the Game Boy Advance.
While there are differences, Final Fantasy V Advance will still take me on a journey from one random battle to the next that I've not seen before. It kicks off with a scientifically inaccurate asteroid impact, meaning we - naturally - hop onto a giant chicken and run towards it.
Unfortunately, we don't have a choice in ignoring what we find at the crash site and are swept into a much more important way of life - that of protecting the world and everything in it.
Final Fantasy V starts with a lot of plot, as you might expect, but it was a lot friendlier than I thought it would be, meaning that I wasn't lost as soon as I had control of my character. When I'm not lost, I'm able to sit back and enjoy what's unfolding in front of me, and bit by bit the scene is set.
There are two notable features about Final Fantasy V that seem to get mentioned often, and they are the Active Time Battle and Job systems. The ATB system is the method of waiting for a character's gauge to fill up before being able to use them in battle, to make an attack, for example, after which their gauge resets and you play the waiting game again.
You can sort of tailor this system to your preferences, including whether time progresses when you're in menu's and so on, but by default it means you can see at a glance which of your characters will act next, allowing you to get an idea of what action you'll be doing with them based on - insert nice segue here - their Job.
Characters can have Jobs in Final Fantasy V, from Knight to Thief to Mage and more - 22 in the original, expanding to 26 in this GBA version. Jobs can be thought of as Classes, in that different jobs will give a character different abilities, and these abilities can be mixed and matched when a character switches jobs - something you'll be doing a lot of to tailor your party to your preferences.
Abilities include magic attacks and buffs, or the ability to run around the overworld or to steal items from your opponents. There are hundreds of combinations you can make, and each of your party members has their own custom sprites depending on their job.
I'm never going to be exploring the very depths of the Job system here, merely scratching the surface, but it's clear that as soon as you get access to it, a players party make-up can vary wildly from the make-up of their mates, just as your party make up will vary from mine.
Yours, for example, will probably have something really useful in it, because you've chosen Jobs wisely, based on abilities, rather than on what sounds cool. You'll do this because you'll have had the time to learn the differences of the Jobs, and can maximise their use and impact on your game.
I've not seen very much of Final Fantasy V first hand. I got to a sunken ship graveyard dungeon thing and considered it my stopping point for the day. I've been in plenty of random battles and have run away from just as many - how many random battles do you ever actually want to be in?
There is so much that you ought to know before you can get the most out of this game, otherwise you are just grinding away, and I don't have time for that. Especially with sluggish movement controls here and there, and the odd incorrect selection in the menus mid-battle - something you'd probably get used to, of course.
Further Fun Times
Watching it being played and having a look back over these screenshots really do allow you to sit back and assess the game as a whole, rather than following a pointer in a menu or a single character on screen.
You're able to really pay attention to the characters, and while I can't remember their names, I can remember how they interacted with each other, often in unexpected, somewhat humourous ways. I fully expect later Final Fantasy titles to have even better interaction and plot and whatnot, but what's on show here is more than enough to give the game a shot.
And it looks great, especially those backgrounds. But that's a GBA thing, unfortunately.
|Obligatory Mode 7 mention|
I don't know where Final Fantasy V ranks when it comes to the best Final Fantasy game in the fans' eyes, but I think there's enough here to sink your teeth into - if you wanted to sink a fair bit of time into it too.
It feels a little Final Fantasy-lite, but that's probably because I'm comparing it to the later titles that I do know. In any case, it's an early Final Fantasy title, but one that introduced features that continue to this day - probably a big reason why it's on the 1001 list.
I've watched it, I've played very little of it, and I could see myself coming back to it, but only to see how far I'd get before being completely lost or utterly defeated. There was the odd battle where I was close to wiping out, not knowing how best to care for my party and minimise the incoming damage, but I survived and kept going. I know that run would come to an end at some point, and it wouldn't be near the end of the game...
It's probably not going to rank high on my list, but Final Fantasy V is easily worth a try - even if only an afternoon to get an idea of what the series was like, way back when,
If you believe the Internet, the Japanese government urged Square to not release this game on a school day, for fear of kids skipping school to play it.
Final Fantasy V, developed by Square, first released in 1992.
Version played: Final Fantasy V Advanced, Game Boy Advance, 2006, via emulation.
Version watched: SNES, 1992 (puwexil608)