The Best Book About The Best Final Fantasy

final fantasy v book

What if one of the greatest additions to a beloved video game series, was also the most overlooked? Chris Kohler makes a compelling case for the most criminally neglected Final Fantasy V in his book of the same name. Final Fantasy V, published by Boss Fight Books, is equal parts macro and microscopic, sharing industry and game specific history, developer commentary through interviews, and glimpses into the authors own youth and growing fandom.

In many ways, the struggle to obtain, and ultimately develop an FAQ for Final Fantasy V, embodies the same challenge I, and many of my friends faced in the pre Internet world. The knowledge that out there, something amazing existed yet was all but impossible to obtain.

Chris writes with an engaging style that is both personable and instructional. I laughed, learned, and was transported back to a simpler time. A time when gamers had no idea what games were going to be released or when they would ever arrive in the US. A time when connecting with others who shared your passion for the obscure was no easy task.

There is a lot to love about this book and its compelling narrative of a personal journey for that which seems out of reach. Then again, Chris’ story resonates with me, as I too fondly recall a passion for Japanese Anime/Video Game culture in a time where finding and collecting was both rare and costly. Yes, I too rose early to watch Sailor Moon on TV, and paid in excess of $40 for bootleg fan subs of Dragon Ball Z on VHS – kids today have it so easy.

While Final Fantasy V is educational in its own right, what would a ClassicallyTrained.net blog post be, if I didn’t over-analyze and distill additional life lessons?

Lessons I walked away with:

Passion + Purpose can overcome almost any obstacle

Import a video game from the other side of the world, filled with text from a language you cannot read and challenges almost no one else with in 2,000 miles has ever faced. Sounds like a difficult task? Now imagine doing this before the Internet has become commonplace, and finding people who can help you is much more difficult. So what did Chris have in his favor? Passion and persistence.

As I read Chris’ account of his own adventure, it reminded me of the joys of discovering something new, something that was hidden or undiscovered by others, and the journey to experience its wonder and share it with others. This is the same type of sensation that many of us experience while playing a new video game, especially a “hidden gem.”

Whether importing a video game from Japan when you don’t speak Japanese, launching a podcast and website, or simply trying to learn a new skill, you will meet resistance. When taking on a new challenge, being clear on why you want to do something is essential to your success. If you have passion about a project, you don’t need advanced time management techniques. Most so-called “time management” techniques are just tools to help you focus when you don’t want to do something. Purpose and passion supersede technique and talent.

No experience in life is without value – you never know where it may take you

Another enjoyable aspect of The Final Fantasy V book, was tracing the impact the game had on one individual’s life, and the role the game played in influencing a career. The same passion and purpose that made possible the  completion of an imported game and creation of an English language FAQ, also led to a career trajectory that includes travel to Japan, writing professionally about video games, learning a new language, and even interviewing designers and creators of the Final Fantasy game series.

In addition to Chris’ own story, this book includes fascinating insights from many of the game developers, including behind the scenes looks shared from interviews, including Hironobu Sakaguchi, who directed Final Fantasy V. In 1987, Sakaguchi was prepared to leave his career in video games in the event that the original Final Fantasy was not a success. 30 years later, the Final Fantasy series has developed into 15 numbered titles and dozens of spin-offs, selling over 100 million copies worldwide. That insignificant thing you are doing today make take you somewhere great one day – the key is persistence.

Life imitates art, or sometimes people just steal without citing sources

Some stories are best told by the author. Let’s just say that if you ever bought a retail strategy guidebook for Final Fantasy V, you may have already benefited from Chris Kohler’s early playthroughs of the game and not even realized it.

In Summary

tl; dr –  I highly recommend Final Fantasy V by Chris Kohler and published by Boss Fight Books.

The mystery and allure of Japan, its art, culture, and video games during the dawn of the Internet dark ages where Anime was sold on bootleg VHS and a 56k modem was blazing fast, all serve as a fascinating backdrop to the story of a passion project and peek into a subculture in its adolescence.

About the author: Chris Kohler is the author of Power-Up: How Japanese Video Games Gave the World an Extra Life, and the founding editor of Game|Life, the Webby-nominated video game section of WIRED. He is currently Features Editor of Kotaku, and lives in the San Francisco Bay Area.

Disclaimer: I was provided with a pre-release copy by the author