"Time flies when you're having fun" as the saying goes - and that statement couldn't resonate with us more. It's hard to comprehend how long 25 years really is until it's passed you. In 1987 the technological landscape was in its infancy (as were many of us!) and Nintendo was only just beginning its life as a household name. It's something that feels so far away - and yet reassuringly familiar and close to our hearts.
The Final Fantasy 25th Anniversary isn't just about adding another candle to the birthday cake; it's a shining beacon, a testament to what the games industry has done for the world. There are few game franchises that can claim to have done the same. For many of us Final Fantasy was a game we played in our youth, and we've grown up with it together. It's something we've lived to appreciate all our lives and now we get to watch a new generation of younger gamers explore this universe for the very first time.
At Square Enix, we wanted to celebrate this 25th Anniversary in a fashion that would reflect this momentous occasion. It was clear from the moment we conceived the idea of holding a celebratory event that it had to be for the community. Without the loyal support of fans from the beginning and the embracing warmth of fresh new gamers, we wouldn't be here today.
On November 2 we brought together members of the Royal Philharmonic Concert, Nobuo Uematsu and Arnie Roth for an intimate chamber music performance of Final Fantasy music. Accompanied with a meet and greet signing session, a Final Fantasy art gallery, an interactive games library, food, drink and friends, it was a true celebration of all things Final Fantasy.
We had a truly fantastic time talking to fans face-to-face and sharing that passion together. This is why we've invited two of our biggest fans to tell us about their time at the 25th Anniversary event and what Final Fantasy means to them. First up we hear from Rident.
To me, 25 years of Final Fantasy is like an ever-expanding journey. It’s been full of beautiful worlds, interesting characters, good friends, dark times, sadness, happiness, excitement, “hell yeah” moments, lots of crystals, Moogles - and not to forget those Chocobos. This journey of emotions has been felt through innovative video, music and adventure, from companionships with characters to real friendships with other fans. Whether it’s been grinding XP, dropping my jaw at cutscenes, epic boss fights or just sitting back listening to the musical masterpieces, it’s a journey that still goes on and will not be forgotten.
The event run by Square Enix Europe was held at the Royal Albert Hall and we were greeted in the lobby with some awesome event-themed lanyards and were interviewed by members of the Square Enix team on camera. Shortly after the interview we were guided to a very swanky-looking bar area and treated to cookies and coffee (or tea for those tea-lovers) which was the chance to meet up with a few friends and meet other fans - including a rather awesome Chocobo cosplayer with a very convincing “Kweh!”.
After a bit of indulging, we were directed upstairs to one of the upper floors and into the rather intimate Elgar room which had seats, a piano, keyboard and percussion all on stage ready for select members of the London Philharmonic Orchestra to perform an exclusive set to the 100 or so guests in the room.
When Nobuo Uematsu entered the room and walked straight past where we were seated, along with Arnie Roth and Masashi Hamauzu, it sent shivers down my spine. Nobuo-san was sitting two rows in front of me - so close - and I could see him bobbing away as the music pieces were performed.
I was so in awe at the whole performance I cannot remember the total order in which the songs were played, however one track that was truly amazing and stood out was Dark World from Final Fantasy VI which was the only piece of the day in which Nobuo Uematsu played on keyboards, while Arnie Roth took to the violin. Such an amazing experience, with a nice little Chocobo medley at the end of it all. I don’t even think I could put a price to what I witnessed or say words that could really do it the justice it deserves.
Following the mini performance, with my legs now feeling like jelly and really struggling to contain my excitement (thinking about it now still gives me anxiety shakes), we were directed back downstairs to where the day had begun and were treated to drinks (non-alcoholic), buffet, and plenty of Eton Mess.
In the room opposite from the bar area was a mini art gallery featuring some really amazing pieces of Final Fantasy art spanning the series including an oil painting from Final Fantasy XIII-3: Lightning Returns which hadn’t even dried. There were also playable versions of the Final Fantasy games on PlayStation 2 and 3 consoles to help relive those nostalgic moments.
After a couple of drinks, snacks and gawking at amazing images, Nobuo Uematsu, Arnie Roth and Masashi Hamauzu set themselves up in the bar area close to where some Final Fantasy merchandise was being sold and were doing some signings. Luckily I had thought ahead and brought my Final Fantasy VII soundtrack for Nobuo-san to add a squiggle to as well as picking up one of the stock prints for all three of their autographs.
It was such an honour to meet these amazing guys - especially the one who created some of the music that will forever be embedded in my mind - and accompanied by the visions of the scenes and emotions I experienced throughout out my journeys within the Final Fantasy series. I could barely speak and was shaking as I became star-struck meeting someone I have so much respect for.
And so ended the Final Fantasy 25th Anniversary event with huge thanks to Square Enix Europe for hosting such a spectacular and amazing opportunity for myself and all other guests in attendance.
You can read more of Rident's experience as well his thoughts on the Distant Worlds concert on his blog – and we'll feature another of our guests' stories soon.