News from November 2012
I couldn't help it, ok? Ahem. In exciting news, Final Fantasy Airborne Brigade has finally been announced for the US and Canada. The game, for Android and iOS mobile devices, is a free-to-play social RPG where players interact with each other and team up to defeat enemies. Airsihps and chocobos, unsurprisingly, feature prominently. The title has been successful in both Korea and Japan for about a year now, so the announcement, which came earlier today, was anticipated.
The game's art style is notable (read: cute), and has been featured in the Kingdom Hearts mobile series as well as Theatrhythm Final Fantasy.
Characters from throughout the Final Fantasy series (including Tactics, Type-0, sequels and spinoffs) appear in the game as 'Legends' who can be used like summons/espers for a special attack. A 'free 3-month exclusive Cloud Strife in-game card' will be given to anyone who pre-registers, allowing players to summon the FFVII-favorite to their aid. There are 52 Legends thus far, including all main heroes/heroines and most of the series' iconic villains. The game also uses a class system featuring 29 jobs, most of which are found in FFV.
The second source is also the page for pre-registration, for anyone who is interested.
Source: Square Enix, Official Airborne Brigade site
Strike that - now we do! At their Open Conference in Tokyo this past weekend, Square Enix presented a list of the five qualities that make a Final Fantasy game a Final Fantasy game:
- Gorgeous Beauty
- Change and Challenge
At the same conference, Square Enix gave a look at an extended version of Agni's Philosophy, the real-time tech demo for Square Enix's new Luminous Engine. Since this extended version is still unavailable to the public (though the original is included in the second link below), I quote from kotaku: "Not only is every individual hair on their bodies being rendered in real-time but also the hairs are moving in accordance with the wind and movement of the animal. More than that, you can see the animal's refection in a pool of water-an image that is a real-time copy of what the animal is doing-that is distorted due to the depth and clarity as well as the movement of the water. But what's truly amazing about this is not only that it is being rendered in this way but also that it can be changed drastically with a click of the mouse."
Finally, a bit of old news that didn't quite warrant its own post. Two weeks ago, Final Fantasy XIV servers were officially shut down, to be rebooted with the launch of A Realm Reborn: Final Fantasy XIV, which we reported earlier this summer (release date sometime this winter). Square Enix scheduled a major 'final' battle and cinematic sequence, but many players weren't able to actually participate due to server disconnections. Looks like Square Enix will have one more thing to add to the "to do" list.
Source: Kotaku, Kotaku, Kotaku
As you may or may not be aware, 2012 is the 25th anniversary of the birth of Final Fantasy. Square Enix have been pulling out all of the stops in celebration of this milestone, and one of the many ways of marking the date is a series of 'Distant Worlds: Music from the Final Fantasy series' concerts. There are only a few of these 'Celebration' edition concerts taking place - one in Chicago on 7 December 2012, a couple in Tokyo and Osaka at the end of December; and the first one was in London on 2 November, for which this lucky writer was fortunate enough to have a ticket.
This was the second Distant Worlds concert that I have had the pleasure of attending. My first was in November of 2011, and was also at the Royal Albert Hall in London. As such, I was in a reasonable position to notice the differences between a 'standard' concert and the Celebration event. The Celebration event certainly does provide some special moments to commemorate the series' anniversary; but it comes with a catch - the promoters know they have a cash cow in hand and are taking advantage of it. Ticket prices had an (arguably justifiable) 25% price increase, and a programme cost £25 (in comparison to £5 the year before). This was somewhat harder to justify, no matter how glossy the paper is (which, if you're interested, is very glossy).
Digressions aside, the concert itself was very impressive, and a fitting tribute to the 25th anniversary. The Royal Albert Hall is an imposing and grand venue which contributes greatly to the feeling of being part of a prestigious evening. Slightly surreal additions to such a classical venue were the incredible cosplayers in attendance (various Turks, mages, Clouds and Squalls were visible, as well as the occasional Zack, Sephiroth, Yuna, and a very detailed Lulu), but they certainly helped to create a memorable atmosphere. Guest appearances were made by notable figures such as composers Nobuo Uematsu, Masashi Hamauzu, although Uematsu did not treat us to an instrumental solo - which he did at the previous London concert. There was also a very special appearance by Hironobu Sakaguchi - the father of Final Fantasy. All three of these esteemed guests were seated in amongst the audience. Performing guests included soprano Susan Calloway and J-Pop's Crystal Kay; while the main performance came from the musicians of the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra and conductor Arnie Roth.
The evening kicked off with a medley from the first three Final Fantasy games, before touring its way through the main series in chronological order, each piece accompanied by a specially edited mixture of game footage and relevant cut-scenes. Each instalment in the series was represented by a single track - some which had been played before, some not. Some choices were surprisingly abstract (Phantom Forest from VI, anybody?), and a few of the selections were obvious and inevitable. No prizes for guessing that VII was represented by One Winged Angel - which Arnie Roth attempted to liven up with a karaoke style sing-along; the words being provided in subtitles upon the video screens. Unfortunately, most of the audience seemed too unwilling or uncomfortable to join in with the Latin incantation, resulting in less than stellar participation and leaving the work to the experts of the London Voices choir.
After performances reflecting the first ten entries of the series, the audience was guided into the intermission by a specially re-imagined Chocobo Medley. This was performed to the backdrop of an endearing montage depicting the Chocobo (large, small, and even Fat) throughout the ages - which drew many an "awwww" from the viewers! Particular mention during the piece has to go to the choristers and their intermittent chant of "HA!", which was perfectly and hilariously synchronised with footage of Sazh's little chicobo (one of the few positive contributions to the series made by XIII, in my opinion) chirping from atop his afro-nest.
After the interlude, the chronological tour was completed with pieces from Final Fantasy XI through XIV (the theme of XIV being performed by Susan Calloway), before the audience was treated to four additional performances: Final Fantasy VI's Theme of Love; Eyes on Me (Final Fantasy VIII), performed by Crystal Kay in a version which was at times both startlingly similar and staggeringly different to Faye Wong's original; an extended version of Maria & Draco (the opera from Final Fantasy VI), complete with newly composed battle music to complement the narrative and operatic performers playing out the parts of Draco, Maria and Ralse; and a medley of battle themes, which culminated in a rather familiar 9-note fanfare. The evening was finally (sorry, couldn't resist) completed with a standing-ovation-induced encore performance of the haunting Final Fantasy opening theme - a piece of music which positively shimmers when performed on string instruments and accompanied by a choral overlay. With that, the concertgoers stumbled back out of Uematsu's realm and into the reality of a cold London night - probably off to play the nearest Final Fantasy game they could find!
Many of the pieces throughout the concert were suitably emotive, although I must confess to feeling less moved by the music than at my inaugural concert where I had goose bumps for over an hour without reprieve. But perhaps that distinction should be chalked up to novelty. It was also noteworthy that many of the arrangements played were reworked and remastered especially for the series of Celebration concerts. In summary, then, the Celebration events are worth attending if you can. Shameless profiteering aside, they provide a memorable experience for any devout Final Fantasy fan. It is admittedly questionable how much more the Celebration event provides when compared on paper to a 'standard' Distant Worlds concert; but the overall effect of the components results in a very enjoyable experience.