One of my least favorite questions to be asked is the deceptively benign "Which Final Fantasy game should I play?"
In theory, this question should be an awesome conversation starter: someone is approaching me about a topic that I'm quite knowledgable about and one that helps me afford rent, utilities, new clothing. But in practice, the question is remarkably difficult to answer.
With 14 official numerical entries, two direct sequels, and legions of spin-offs to choose from, answering this question is like trying to summarize a person's interests, tastes, and general being into a simple three-word response. It's all but impossible to do.
...at least it was, until Square Enix dropped its iOS version of Final Fantasy V onto the App Store last week.
The above sentence (fragment) pains me to write since FFV has a pretty lackluster story and an almost complete lack of character development. In the game, you play as a generic band of starry-eyed youngsters chosen to protect the crystals of the world from an eeeeeeevil force intent on their destruction and you can change your character classes freely along the way. It's essentially a rehash of Final Fantasy III, with a better soundtrack and a slightly more gripping storyline.
While the new iOS version does little to improve on the plot of the game, it repackages Final Fantasy V into an eye-catching and casual-friendly RPG while retaining everything about the original that made it
The choppy translation from the PlayStation Network version has been reworked into something entertaining and readable, for example, and the grainy character portraits from the original 16-bit version have been replaced with Yoshitaka Amano's amazing artwork.
But it's really the combat system and general speed of the game that make it an easy recommendation for Final Fantasy veterans and newcomers alike.
Like many iOS ports of classic Final Fantasy games, FFV features an Auto battle mode that allows you to power through battles without selecting "Attack, Magic -> Fire, Attack, Jump" every single time. Better still, this Auto mode isn't a simple auto-attack: it remembers your last four input commands and will re-run them in all subsequent battles until canceled.
Add to this slick menus that you can click through without a second of load time, and Final Fantasy V actually becomes somewhat... fun... to play through. The added Quicksave also makes it quite friendly for quick play sessions on the go when you only have a few minutes to spare.
Sure, its pricetag is a bit steep for the App Store ($15.99 for the Universal App), but it's a game that franchise veterans will find enjoyable and newcomers will find accessible. In short, it's probably the Final Fantasy game you should play.
...even if it's inferior to Final Fantasy VI - XIII in almost every other way.