Square Enix Europe set up an exclusive Final Fantasy event on the morning of the London Distant Worlds concert. This exclusive event was extremely limited with only 150 people in attendance. Tickets could only be won by entering their competition and being fortunate enough to win one of 75 pairs. I wanted to win so much but sadly I didn’t. I bugged SE on Twitter and Facebook but no luck. It turns out SE sent out a 2nd wave of emails where a small amount of people ended up on a waiting list so if people with tickets didn’t show up they’d be let in. Well, I didn’t win one of these either! …Though fortunately I knew someone who did and went as his +1. I thought an exclusive event like this would be absolutely rammed so I woke up at the crack of dawn (4:40 am) to get to the Royal Albert Hall at 7:30 am, giving us 2 and half hours queuing time. Well there was only two other people there! I couldn’t believe it! Even by 10:00 am when the event was supposed to start there wasn’t a great deal of people. There was 6 of us in the queue without tickets and me and my friend were the -only- people who attended with the waiting list email. The other 4 didn’t have tickets at all. Needless to say we all got in and there was space for at least another 20-30 people if I had to estimate (though my estimates are not the best so take that with a pinch of salt).
We socialised in a bar below the arena. Square Enix had a merch stall though fortunately for my bank balance I already owned the vast majority of it! Tea, coffee and homemade cookies were served. I didn’t check my watch during the whole event but I’d say we were here for a good 30 minutes? Perhaps longer. I was too buzzing to really notice the time!
We were next led up to the Elgar room on the circle level of the Royal Albert Hall for the intimate concert part of the event. A representative of Square Enix welcomed us before showing us a short movie. This movie contained many of the well known Square Enix members of staff. Each had a small speech in Japanese and basically thanked us for our support and asked us to continue to support them in future. A friend of mine recorded this.
Next up Nobuo Uematsu, Masashi Hamauzu and Arnie Roth entered the function room and took their seats at the front. Arnie noted to the small audience that this was the first 25th anniversary celebration which made everyone cheer. He explained that they’d be playing 5 songs with some members of the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra and to start us off was March of the Dreadnaughts from XIII. This was a piano solo and by god the pianist was amazing. I wish so much I had recorded this but sadly they asked us not to use cameras during the performance which is understandable. The second song was Fight with Seymour from X by string quartet and again, stunning performance! The third song was Dark World from VI. This included the string quartet with Arnie Roth on violin and Nobuo Uematsu on keyboard. I am a huge VI fan so this was a really special performance for me. Afterwards Arnie commented that it didn’t feel like a concert as such, it was like playing for a group of close friends! The forth song was Those Who Fight from VII – another gem! It was a piano solo and oh god that pianist…! Haha I was a little bit in love with him xD The final song was a new arrangement of the Chocobo Medley. It had the piano, string quartet and someone playing some sort of whistle? Either way it was a very unique performance and something I don’t think will ever be repeated.
It was sad when the music ended. The Square Enix representative came back on stage and wrapped things up. We headed back downstairs to the bar area. Another room opposite it was now open and an art gallery was set up and PS3’s lined one wall with FFV through to XIII playable. I played some IX as I absolutely love the intro to that game.
I did kick a piece of the canvas art over by accident! I stepped back and my foot hit the foot of the stand and it just tumbled. I was so embarrassed but now I look back it was pretty funny. I think I may have even broke part of the stand! I am such a fool…
Most of the art was printed onto canvas but there was a framed Lightning sketch and the official painting of Lightning as a tease for Lightning Returns. These were the real deal unlike the canvas prints.
Lunch was offered while we socialised down here too. They had sandwiches and salad, eton mess in cute glasses and also freshly squeezed orange juice and soda water.
During our socialising Nobuo Uematsu, Masashi Hamauzu and Arnie Roth were signing in the first room we were in (the one with the merchandise stall). Because I was so unprepared to attend this event I only had my XIII game with me so I just got them all to sign it, along with a 25th anniversary card they were giving away. I asked for a photograph but apparently they weren’t doing photos (although a few other lucky people managed to sneak some!). I wasn’t too upset though as it was an honour to meet them and I had a photo with them last year at the Distant Worlds concert. They only stayed for an hour at max. I’d even be inclined to say 45 minutes. After they left I went next door to pick up a 25th anniversary goodie bag. We had all eyed them earlier as they were sitting on the same table as the framed Lightning image. I didn’t expect them to be so good however…
To say they were stunning is an understatement. We each received a promotional 25th anniversary tshirt, a 25th anniversary chocobo plush toy and a pack of 25th anniversary playing cards as well as a 25th anniversary canvas bag to keep it all in! Square Enix were incredibly generous putting on this whole event. They didn’t hold back for even a second. The Square Enix Europe staff were so friendly that when they had extra goodie bags left over they even let people take extras for their friends. I was really impressed.
Overall it was a fantastic event – better than I could have ever imagined. Everything made it special from the intimate concert, meeting the legends, getting the freebies and ultimately making a ton of new friends with people who were as obsessed with the franchise as I am!
I attended the evening concert as well so I’ll blog about that soon. For a preview check out my YouTube channel – I recorded most of the show!
Special thanks to Zelu1984 for some of the photos and for the video.