There’s no denying the popularity of Final Fantasy. It’s a brand and a name that is known worldwide. In some circles, it is venerated at an almost religious level.
No place is this more apparent than Japan. Home of Square Enix and Final Fantasy.
It’s here, in Japan’s capital city, Tokyo, that I found myself at the very centre of Final Fantasy fandom; attending the Final Fantasy 14 Fan Festival.
Final Fantasy 14 Fan Festival
The mood is palpable as I’m seated, waiting for Producer and Director Naoki Yoshida to take the stage. It’s unlike anything I’ve witnessed before in the world of gaming. It’s like the crowd is waiting for the world’s biggest rock band.
Every now and again, the quiet murmuring of the crowd is punctuated by cheers as the music softens and everybody prepares for the event to begin. However, like all good showmen, Yoshida makes his fans wait.
By the time he makes his entrance, the crowd is unbearably excited, though since we’re in Japan, they remain quite restrained. It’s an odd sensation to be a part of a crowd that is clearly incredibly excited, yet at the same time seated and mostly quiet.
They don’t stay that way though.
As Yoshida-san takes centre stage and takes us through what’s coming in Shadowbringers, the Final Fantasy Fan Festival finds its voice. A huge roar goes up from the crowd when the gorgeous trailer is played. It’s here that fans learn they’ll be travelling to another dimension — the First World — for the very first time in the game’s history.
But of course, they don’t stand.
This is Japan after all…
Yoshida-san seems in his element on the stage. Confident, comfortable and happy, he cracks jokes with the audience and genuinely looks like he’s enjoying himself. The more he talks about the expansion, the happier he seems. And it’s then that I realise that Final Fantasy isn’t just adored by the fans, the creators love it too.
Sharing the Love
Final Fantasy 14 Fan Festival is a chance for these people to show off what they’ve been working on. More than that though, it’s a place where these developers get to communicate directly with the players and fans. There are no barriers in between. No press, no PR, just a man on stage, sharing his vision.
Everything Yoshida-san announces the crowd loves. And while reaction online to the Dancer being DPS rather than a healer has been mixed, at the event it’s nothing but positive. When the video of the dancer is shown, the audience applauds wildly.
And when it’s shown a second time, they are even more excited.
Yoshida-san teases the crowd at one point. Shouts come from audience members saying “Viera! Viera!” and it’s clear Yoshida-san has something up his sleeve. Fans have been waiting for more information on the Viera since the Final Fantasy 14 Fan Festival in Paris.
A Game for Everyone
However, something unexpected occurs when Yoshida-san announces a second playable race for Shadowbringers. Instead of just the Viera, players will also be able to play as the Hrothgar. This gives fans both a female only and a male-only choice and brings in two races from classic Final Fantasy titles.
Like the fans in the audience, Yoshida-san is celebrating Final Fantasy 14 at the Fan Festival in Tokyo. He’s also celebrating the fans. Of which, he is one of the biggest.
Near the end of the keynote, Yoshida-san invites members of the development team on stage; flanked by cosplayers. The devs on stage or mostly men, though there are two women amongst them. Those concerned about diversity shouldn’t be alarmed though.
Square Enix tells me that there are a number of women on the Final Fantasy 14 team including the story writer, producer, costume designer and more. Further, by simply looking around the crowd, it’s clear that Final Fantasy 14 fans are split 50/50 between men and women.
Warriors of Darkness
With the keynote wrapped up and fans learning they’ll become Warriors of Darkness to save Norvrandt, the mood is jubilant. The future of Final Fantasy 14 and it’s 14 million+ players looks bright; no pun intended.
There’s still plenty to see and do at Final Fantasy 14 Fan Festival Tokyo and the fans aren’t going anywhere. They’re here for the long haul. Both at the festival and in playing the game.
Final Fantasy 14 fans are devoted and this includes the developers, especially Yoshida-san.
I’m just honoured to be here, amongst the fandom and it’s not hard to get swept away by the hype. In fact, I’ve just downloaded Final Fantasy 14 and have been playing it non-stop.
I’ll need to be level 60 if I want to be a Dancer after all.
Leo Stevenson travelled to Final Fantasy 14 Fan Festival as a guest of Square Enix. Flights and accommodation were provided by Square Enix.