As I sit here in a Seattle hotel room, day one of PAX Prime 2012 has ended and day two will start pretty soon. While I met some people, got some swag to shove into my suitcase, and got to enjoy a few panels like the PAX Game Show Night, there was another video game event happening around the same time. Square Enix decided to celebrate Final Fantasy‘s 25th anniversary with a small event about a block or two away away from the Washington State Trade and Convention Center, which is the central PAX Hub. Unlike PAX which required a badge, attendance was free in this one. So I met with a few local Washington friends and high-tailed it to the event at the ACT Theatre.
Disclaimer: My experience with Final Fantasy is pretty much little to nil. Platformers and first-person shooters have always been my jam, so my JRPG experience is pretty limited to about a few games, which include Chrono Trigger, Kingdom Hearts and a few Pokemon games. I did play part of Final Fantasy VI on an emulator ten years ago, but I don’t think that counts. Despite my inexperience with the famous Square franchise, I had to go check it out.
First of all, the event was in a tiny room that’s used for small private concerts or something, as it was packed the whole time we were there. It was a celebration of Final Fantasy alright, as all the mainline titles were playable on the main stage. None of the Final Fantasy spinoff games were there, just the main 13 games plus Final Fantasy XIII-2 which came out recently. Sorry, Final Fantasy: Crystal Chronicles fans. All six of you.
The other gimmick was that each of the games were squared off into a small space that resembled a living room from the era, complete with CRT TVs everywhere. Now, you’re probably asking, “Wait, we didn’t officially get Final Fantasy II, III and V until they came out much later!” Well, I’m gonna blow your mind: They were playable. They were the original versions released for the Famicom and Super Famicom respectively. This was an absolute treat, in spite of the small venue. Here’s a picture of FFII just to prove it.
At one point some of the TVs glitched out and some of the older NES and Famicom games weren’t completely working, resulting in my friend to yell to “Blow the cartridge!” Even in 2012 that’s still suggested as a way to fix busted NES games. Alas, FFII, III and V were in their original Japanese, so I didn’t attempt playing them. I’m surprised they didn’t contact the guy who was selling the Final Fantasy II US Prototype recently, that would’ve been an interesting item at the show.
While this was going on, we had music blared by a couple of DJs while we roaming around looking at the PS1 and PS2 era Final Fantasy games. This DJ sucked, mainly because he was just some dude blaring dubstep and Pac-Man techno remixes (Wrong publisher, buddy!). Honestly me and others would’ve preferred to just hear a sampling of the many tunes throughout the series, but there probably would’ve been a massive well of tears once Aria di Mezzo Carattere came on, so I guess I’ll settle with the awful dubstep instead. Thankfully those who would rather hear the game had headphones available to put on in every station, which probably makes the experience all the better.
Also featured there was a tech demo for the upcoming Final Fantasy XIV. While I’m skeptical of its statement of being “real time footage” — this is Square-Enix after all, king of FMVs — It looked pretty nice and I hope we get to see it in an upcoming game in the near future. One other observation: Final Fantasy XIII and XIII-2 were played on Xbox 360s as opposed to the PlayStation 3, which is weird considering Square-Enix’s heritage.
The last things at the tiny event were little table games like “Moogle Hop” and Cactuar Ring Toss. Alas, the line to get into them was too long and probably not worth it for the prizes. After that, we high-tailed it out of there, with my friends grabbing a 25th Anniversary poster designed by original Final Fantasy character designer Yoshitaka Amano featuring all the main characters drawn. Most of them look pretty effeminate but it’s better than Tetsuya “belts, zippers and Gackt lookalikes everywhere” Nomura, so it’s a nice touch. The same design was also on all the cards advertising the event, so I’m not saddened that I didn’t get the poster. Besides, it probably would’ve gone in the same place my Kevin Butler PlayStation Move poster and my GFW Radio poster are: Rolled up in my bedroom, waiting to be sold or thrown away.
I will say that despite the tiny-ass venue, Square Enix did a fine job with this event. For diehard Final Fantasy players, it was likely a treat to play Final Fantasy III on an actual Famicom rather than emulators or the DS port, and there was stuff for the average congoer anyhow. Maybe I need to pick up one of these games and start playing them already, I’ve had enough time to get them…