Final Fantasy 5 is often viewed as the overlooked "middle child" of the seminal franchise's fabled SNES era. By the time FF5 finally arrived in North America and Europe, most folks were firmly focused on Final Fantasy 7 and beyond.
However, time has been kind to Final Fantasy 5. Its intricate class-based combat system allows for thousands of potential battle lineups, presenting a very different experience from the more linear character growth systems of Final Fantasy 6 and 4. And while its story and cast are somewhat simpler in presentation, FF5's spirit of adventure is one of the strongest and purest in the series and more fun than ever in its Pixel Remaster rendition.
To accommodate such a rich customization suite, Squaresoft has made certain that FF5 is no walk in the park. Many of the game's bosses hit hard and fast, and even wandering the overworld, you may occasionally bite off more than you can chew. Here are some tips and tricks that will bring you through Bartz's heroic quest without breaking a sweat.
Never Stop Experimenting With Job Classes
Knights, Monks, Black Mages, and Ninjas. All those fantasy staples and so many more, are here in Final Fantasy 5. And while it might be tempting to never switch one of your characters out from their role as a healing White Mage, the truth is that no single party combination is going to handle everything the game throws at you. This isn't a "one size fits all" RPG.
Instead, certain job classes are of paramount importance during various points in the game. That's not to say that you'll need specific lineups or you can kiss victory goodbye. The beauty of Final Fantasy 5 is that so many combos can be successful so long as you find what works best for you. Sometimes, a Geomancer's nature-affecting magical abilities can take advantage of the terrain. At other spots, a particular Samurai strike is super-effective. Some foes will laugh at any and all physical attacks, but their defense against spells like Firaga is middling at best.
Find your rhythm, but keep training the entire party in multiple classes, because FF5 has a rhythm of its own. It rewards those who adapt and punishes those who refuse.
Character Levels Are Less Important Than Job Levels
In Final Fantasy 5, there are character levels as well as job levels. Raising the former boosts a character's base stats, whilst upping the latter grants new class-based abilities. One ultimately matters more than the other.
Solid base stats are an important part of the equation, behind how well your party performs in battle, but even a high-level Knight at a low job level cannot hope to achieve what they're meant to do. In the Knight's case, that means holding the line by guarding other party members and smacking things with a sword. If abilities like Cover have yet to be learned, then all the Knight's really doing is bludgeoning and bludgeoning alone isn't always enough to be successful in this game.
Find And Exploit Your Foe's Elemental Weaknesses
You're going to find that many monsters aren't inclined to fall to axe and dagger alone. Armored combatants and similar strains of villainy litter the game, prompting players to find their elemental weaknesses and act accordingly.
How best can this be done? The old trial and error approach is frequently enough in small-scale battles, but if you're headed into a tough boss fight or even an unexpectedly stubborn overworld encounter, you're going to want to come as prepared as possible.
One way to immediately become familiar with what you're up against is to use the Blue Mage's first-level job command called Check. It offers you some basic information, with more of that precious info on tap via Scan once your Blue Mage(s) reach job level four. Once you know that tough dragon barring your path is weak to Thundara, a burden shall be lifted.
Status Effects Actually Work Sometimes
The reliability of status effect spells in the Final Fantasy series is something of a mixed bag. Depending on the game in question, players may find themselves frustrated that none of these nifty-sounding debuffs are ever functional except against all that small fry you're better off bashing and dashing.
Final Fantasy 5 is pretty good about this. In fact, much of the game is a contest of buffs and debuffs, with bosses loving nothing more than to weaken your characters with status ailments like Paralyze, Old, and Poison before moving in for the kill. Give them a taste of their own medicine.
Never be afraid to spend someone's turn attempting to cast spells like Blind and Stop. There are even multiple bosses who are weak enough to Poison that you can kick back and relax (for the most part) as they slowly but surely perish before your eyes.
Rods Are for More Than Just Casting
Rods probably shouldn't be looked upon as "boomsticks," but they are absolutely boomsticks. While it's savvy to equip your magic-leaning characters with this weapon type, different rods boost different elemental affinities, and that can be quite helpful. It's also good to stock up on a few of each type early on in the game. Rods, you see, can be brutal if used as items.
Indeed, during battle, you can scroll through your inventory and select weapons like Rods. The weapon will shatter, never to be used again, but that's OK. The damage that they can deal in FF5's early and middle parts with late-game spells like Thundaga is frankly a bit ridiculous. An otherwise unflinching monster can be cut to size in this manner. Just make sure you've got some spare gil left over for other important purchases as well.
Freelancers Are Late-Game Powerhouses
You might think the Freelancer job class is pretty useless, seeing as it's your party's starting class and all. To be sure, for the majority of Final Fantasy 5 there's no good reason to have anybody turn into one again but Freelancers have two incredible tricks up their sleeves.
For starters, they gain every innate support ability from every job a character has mastered, including such gems as Dual-Wield, Barehanded, Pharmacology, and Shirahadori. They also benefit from every stat boost a mastered job has to offer - but not the stat penalties. A Black Mage, for example, ordinarily gets a boost to their magic power at the expense of strength; a Freelancer who has mastered Black Mage gets the magic boost without the downside.
Freelancers are essentially Final Fantasy 5's bookends. They're an obligatory throwaway class in the beginning, but a totally viable endgame setup.
War. War sometimes changes.