Final Fantasy 25th Anniversary Exhibition Tour
Rain and dark clouds accompanied me as I made my way by train to the Hikarie convention center in Shibuya. Upon arriving I was greeted by masses of people, all of which eagerly waited in line for the special Final Fantasy 25th Anniversary Exhibition that started yesterday and will come to a close today. Allocating two days for an event meant to celebrate the 25th Anniversary of such a beloved franchise as Final Fantasy ensured people would come en masse and I ended up standing in line for two and a half hours. No biggie; We were given free Final Fantasy Brigade tissues and a nice wallpaper for our smartphones so I soon forgot all about the line. I was told by an all-knowing friend of mine called the internet that the exhibition will be free, but when I reached the end of the line I was kindly guided to the reception table where I was kindly asked to buy the exhibition pamphlet for the nominal fee of 2000 yen if I want to enter. The pamphlet, as it turns out, is an art book, featuring many miniature versions of sketches and concept art that we were soon to feast our eyes on in the exhibition hall itself. The pamphlet (can you even call a 49 page full color bound book a pamphlet?) also contains pictures from the exhibition and was signed on the of the back of the cover by some famous Square Enix Personnel.
The exhibition was split into several rooms and we were given a set amount of time to enjoy what each room had to offer before having to move to the next room. The first room – Final Fantasy Works – showed life size replica of Final Fantasy memorabilia, such as Genesis’ red coat, Gabranth’s full body armor, some clothes and weapons from Final Fantasy XIV, a “genuine” crystal, a miniture of Sin and the two biggest attractions in the room: a full size replica of Cloud’s buster sword and a miniature (yet huge) replica of the city of Midgar. I seriously believe Square Enix should make an attempt at marketing these authentic buster sword and Midgar replicas. Owning such a piece of gaming history is almost irresistible.
After ogling these replicas we were rushed into the second room – Memories of Final Fantasy. Here we saw a short video featuring quick glimpses from all the older FF games (the same video Square Enix has been showing in their booth during the Tokyo Game Show for the last four years), the entire Agni’s Philosophy tech demo and a quick plug to buy the upcoming Distant Worlds – The Celebration audio CD (the release date of which will be announced soon). The next room – Final Fantasy Creatives – was filled from wall to wall with concept art, sketches, maps and landscape images from the numerical Final Fantasy games. One of the attendants briefly explained that what we are seeing in front of us is the priceless Final Fantasy heritage and as such photography is out of the picture. Some of those sketches and concept art images were available in the exhibit pamphlet, albeit in minute size (think museum pamphlet pictures). Each Final Fantasy game received its own mini exhibition space. There was even an exhibition of landscape art from the upcoming Final Fantasy XIV: A Realm Reborn. A woman alongside me looked at those XIV landscapes and ironically noted that “the landscapes look beautiful but they are empty of people”. Ouch.
The next room had a nice surprise in store for us. On our pamphlet it bore the name “the gimmick hallway” but once inside a big sign with the words “Analysis Process” welcomed us. We were to walk in turn across a huge TV screen. Each time a person walked across the screen a human sensitive camera caught his or her figure and magically transferred him or her into their suitable Final Fantasy Brigade character class. A gimmick it was but we were fascinated nonetheless to see ourselves magically transformed into tiny FF characters, which walked alongside us through the entire hallway. Almost all the people got a different character class from one another, but the crowd stopped to applaud as a couple who had walked together were both transformed into berserkers.
I ended up being a dark knight. Not too shabby if I may say so myself
The next, and last, exhibition room was the Yoshitaka Amano Works room, which was filled with picture frames showcasing his work throughout the years. After beholding the Creatives room and the Yoshitaka Amano room (which we also could not take pictures of) I now understand where Square Enix will find the art to fill their three upcoming 320 pages thick Final Fantasy 25th Memorial Ultimania art books.
Upon exiting the Yoshitaka Amano Works room we were given the opportunity to purchase FF merchandise, most of which is widely available on the Square Enix shop. However, the exhibition did feature a few new sound track releases, such as the Chips series (a series of sound tracks that downgrade the newer FF games’ music into retro FF music). There were also three event exclusive CDs: Music from Dear Friends, Music from More Friends and the Square Enix Sound Effect Collection. A whole section of the merchandise hall was devoted to a line of rumbling Final Fantasy Brigade capsule machines (gashapon). A little stall inappropriately named the Chocobo Café sold some FF themed cookie packs, Dissidia ramune and a cold Diamond Dust cocktail (I’m not sure if it really tastes like Shiva’s diamond dust but it didn’t taste half bad either).
Near the exit of the exhibition guest illustrations were hung up in a small gallery. These were placed “as is” on the wall and had some pretty bad reflective qualities, making it extremely hard to take good pictures. But I took some anyway.
As I left the exhibition hall I thought about the long and glorious history of the Final Fantasy franchise, and how fans keep worrying if it will soon fail them and tarnish their nostalgic memories. Whether this will be the case or not I cannot tell. But for now let me drink my diamond dust cocktail, reminiscent about all those great games Square and Square Enix have created for us in the last 25 years and wish to be back here yet again during the 50th anniversary of this formative JRPG franchise.