Final Fantasy titles sure like to leak themselves early these days, don't they? Reckon this thread will get a bit more face-time come next month, but to speak of the Japanese version of Final Fantasy V Advance, well.... what little I've played seems pretty darned fantastic. The script is irrelevant here, as it appears to have been directly lifted from the original Super Famicom version, so let's instead speak of the technical aspects of the port.
First, the very best news: no lag time or slowdown. At least, none that I've seen so far; I just came out of the Wind Shrine, with the full four member party, and the first set of job classes. I test-ran the on-field menus extensively, and engaged in a good number of battles in varying situations with lots of menu sifting, and it all runs as smooth as you remember them from the SFC/SNES version. Glory be, this time we've got perfect programming.
Actually, I shouldn't say it's completely perfect. Now mind you, this is coming from an absolute diehard FFV fan, but there are some brief (VERY brief) instances where movement hic-ups ever so slightly when walking or running around So far, I noticed this in the pirate base and the Town of Tule. Again, I must emphasize that this is so absolutely slight that it's likely only the most hardcore purists will ever truly notice.
My other micro nit-pick is when changing job classes. After you've changed your class, the pauses when it changes to your 'choose your abilities' and 'equip your new class equipment' screens seem about a second or two longer than the original. Again, something a lot of people won't notice, but as someone who's swapped maybe a million classes in her lifetime with this game, it is there.
And this one isn't a terribly big issue, but the game did tear something terrible after touching the HP/MP rejuvenation pot at the entrance of the Wind Shrine, and then immediately start moving about during the healing blue light. A brief but major bit of slowdown there.
Graphically, the overworld and on-field character sprites seem completely unchanged from the original SFC/SNES version. The choppy scrolling as you're walking on the fields that plagued FF4 Advance isn't evident here, and things look and move very fluidly. Also, the Mode 7 seems to have been handled competently, with the first meteorite crash looking pound for pound faithful to the original. Battle character sprites -- heroes and enemies alike -- are largely untouched too, but it's the battle backrounds that got the most notable graphical remake treatment. They've been greatly spruced up to Dawn of Souls caliber, and they look positively GORGEOUS.
Maybe it's the new LCD screen technology of Nintendo's latest portables, but most everything about the game just looks brighter, sharper, and more vibrant.
Battles themselves feel properly balanced too, and basically the way they should be. Unlike FFIV, your characters won't be attacking two or three times for every enemy's turn. Enemies dissipate a lot faster after being defeated, which to me is a good thing. It tends to make the game even more briskly paced than it was, and thankfully, the trademark FF5 quick-text boxes were brought back as well. And for those wondering, yes, the auto-dash feature was retained, and you don't even need the Thief ability to do it. Equipping the dash ability with the thief makes you run two times as fast.
People will have their opinions on the new facial portraits (and Amano detractors will have a field day), but I rather like them. They are radical at first glance, but they do contribute to adding that touch of personality. Butz and Lenna look nice, Galuf is kinda old man kooky looking, and Faris.... well, let's just say she came out the worst of the bunch. Oh, and Boko is totally adorable. ^_~ I only wish they went that extra mile, and added varying facial expressions to any given situation.
The sound effects have a new set of their own, where they attempt to replicate the original, but are still noticeably different - some for the better, some for the not so better. Compromises obviously had to made to the music, but like FFIV, I feel that it's more than serviceable and a stellar feat, given the GBA's sound capabilities. "Four Valiant Hearts" took a bit of a hit, but the richness of the opening theme "A Premonition" is surprisingly retained, and sounds great. The softer songs, like "Lenna's Theme" and "Tenderness In The Air" are wonderful, and there's enough power in the instrumentation for the "Battle Theme" and "Pirates Ahoy!" to leave its faithful mark. Strangely enough, "Sealed Away" got sped up in tempo considerably, and the "Fanfare" sounds like it was completely redone.
So far, this is looking like a great port. There's just the feeling that SE put in a lot more effort this time around, which should also give people hope for FF6. I can't wait to pick up the domestic version next month, so I can put some serious play time in.