As I sit here in a Seattle hotel room writing this, day one of PAX Prime 2012 is over. While I met some people, got some swag to shove into my suitcase after the con, 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 available to everyone. I met with a few friends local to the area and hightailed it to the ACT Theatre.
I should post a disclaimer here: My experience with Final Fantasy is pretty much little to nil. Platformers and first-person shooters have always been my preferred genres, and my JRPG experience is pretty limited to about a few games such as Chrono Trigger, Kingdom Hearts and a few Pokemon games. I did play part of Final Fantasy VI on an emulator a long time ago, but I don’t think that really counts. Despite my inexperience with the famous franchise, I was curious what this little shindig would be about.
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 as of this post. No spinoff games, so no chances of seeing Final Fantasy: Crystal Chronicles recreated with four Gamecubes and Game Boy Advances hooked together.
Now, you’re probably asking, “Wait, we didn’t officially get Final Fantasy II, III and V until they came out much later, are they being represented by their American rereleases?” Actually, no. They were the original Famicom and Super Famicom releases of these games.
I am not at all fluent in Japanese language, so I didn’t attempt to play them. Despite the language barrier, this was an absolute treat to see, as it feels like a combination between both American and Japanese households. Also because I hadn’t really seen a Famicom up this close until now.
At one point some of the TVs were glitching out and some of the older NES and Famicom games weren’t completely working, resulting in one of my friends to yell out “Blow the cartridge!” Even despite how that’s been debunked in the years since, it’s still suggested as a way to fix busted NES games. I seriously hope no one tried that.
While the whole ordeal was more a dedication to the classics, the more recent stuff was being featured, such as a tech demo for the upcoming Final Fantasy XIV. While I was skeptical of the trailer being real time footage — this is Square-Enix after all, once the king of full motion video — it looked pretty nice. I’m not big on MMOs these days, but I bet there will be some people interested.
One last observation: Final Fantasy XIII and XIII-2 were feature on the Xbox 360 as opposed to the PlayStation 3, which is weird considering Square-Enix’s dedication to Sony’s platform for so long. Granted, the 360 is more popular over here in the States, so it probably made more sense. there.
While this was going on, we had music blared by some DJs while we were roaming around looking at the PS1 and PS2 era Final Fantasy games. This DJ was… not that good, mainly because he must’ve been brought in just to get paid as he blared dubstep and Pac-Man techno remixes.
Honestly I would’ve preferred to just hear some remixes of the many iconic themes throughout the series, but I guess the guy didn’t have a soundtrack handy, so I’ll settle with the awful dubstep. Thankfully those who would rather hear the game had headphones available to wear at every station, which cancels out the DJ’s off-putting music.
The last things I saw at the event were these little table games themed after iconic characters from the series, such as Moogle Hop and Cactuar Ring Toss. Unfortunately the line to play these were too long and probably not worth it for the prizes, so the pictures are about as best as I got. I bet they gave away some decent stuff.
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 protagonists. The same design was also on all the promotional 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 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 even stuff for the average PAX attendee.
One of these days I need to get over my hangups with JRPGs as a whole — their crushing length, their grindyness, the excessive amounts of anime — and just play some of the classics. I think I ended up buying Final Fantasy VI for the PS1 through the PS3 a long while back. Maybe now is the time to experience that.
Updated 4/16/2020 for grammar and image adjustments.