So I was invited to go to Japan and preview the first demo of Final Fantasy XVI last Thursday. Top secret, I might add. I sat in a large movie theatre by Final Fantasy fans.
“I’m so glad you could join us for Final Fantasy XVI’s big demo premiere’ says Shinji Hashimoto (not pictured) ‘please be excited!”
Sakaguchi appears on-stage, lit by a dim spotlight.
“Hello. I’m Hironobu Sakaguchi. Father of Final Fantasy.”
The audience cheers!
Then, he speaks in Japanese:
“Once in a great while, we are privileged to experience a video game event so extraordinary, it becomes part of our shared heritage. 1987 – Final Fantasy was born. 1997 – Final Fantasy VII releases. Then, more games were made. But Square Enix was tasked with creating an experience. For thirty years, Final Fantasy has been known as merely video games. Until now. Behold the future of Final Fantasy: Final Fantasy XVI!!!”
They gave us VR headsets to put on. We clap and cheer as the demo starts. The lights dim and the screen grows brighter, with the Bulb version of the prelude music. Awesome! The words ‘Final Fantasy XVI’ explodes on screen in red, black and yellow. The screen cracks. Flowers bloom near the bottom left corner. Mist rises from the bottom of the screen and light shines from the upper corner. You can see Agni’s face, transparent, look up and open her eyes, staring straight at the viewer.
So far, looking good!
The screen fades to black. As it fades in, man and women drive in silence down a deserted road. We see platinum blonde Sky and light brown haired Argus, two imperial soldiers. They ride to investigate a disturbance at a factory owned by the Emperor. The car signs reading “Ma’agi Factory – 2 Miles”, “Ma’agi Factory – 1 Mile”, then “Ma’agi Factory – ½ Mile”. They then spot Agni at the side of the road, lost, dazed and confused.
Sky: “Look, Argus, it’s that woman from earlier.”
Argus: “It’s her, the summoner witch!”
They slow their car to a crawl, then stop to observe her. Suddenly, Agni flails her arms wildly as if her entire body were on fire. Then as if swatting away flies from her face. She runs towards the car. Sky shirks and slowly clutches her sword. Argus’ countenance drops to serious while focusing on the advancing woman. Both feel tense. The music builds to a one-note crescendo and stops as she approaches the car. She rests her hands on the car door and stares at them. Sky and Argus stare back. The camera zooms in on her face as she says…
Agni: “…’sup gaiz.”
Then she starts rapping without a beat while twerking.
Agni: Da name is Agni / I rock yo’ telly / I’m half Moe Camel / And a third Fonzarelli / Im’ma kung-fu hippie / From gangsta city / Im’ma real chill surfer / You da foo’ I pity.
Sky and Argus’ faces light up as they look at one another, thoroughly impressed by her freestyling skills.
Argus: “Ooooh! Agni is one outrageous summoner, mayne.”
Sky: “Yeah, brah! She’s sooo carefree and angsty, yet totally in my face!”
Agni puts shades on and plays air guitar with a moogle. She rocks back and forth while headbanging, wiggling her fingers in the process.
Agni: “Wiggity wiggity! Word up! Rock on! Parrr-taaaay!”
Next, she starts moonwalking while popping and locking, then she does an arm wave. The audience can hear her beatboxing. There’s still no music playing in the background.
Agni: “Check out mah booty, y’all!”
It is here that I start whining out of frustration. I don’t know when, if ever, they’re going to get to the Ma’agi factory. Can somebody please tell me what’s going on? Can somebody help me out here? Why aren’t they going straight to the factory? Why are open world games like this?
Agni dribbles a basketball while riding a bike on a skateboard. She rides up a skateboard ramp, and slam dunks over Gilgamesh’s head. Gilgamesh is wearing shades and playing air guitar. The backboard glass shatters and we can see a Malboro with shades playing air guitar through the hole. She lands in Sky’s car.
Agni: “Catch you on the flip side, doods.”
Agni holds out her hand for high five; Sky looks at it for a second and hesitantly extends her arm, while Agni quickly jerks hers back.
Agni: “PSYCHE! LMFAO! JK, SUCKA!”
Suddenly, a Chocobo and Moogle with sunglasses pop out from under the back seat and stare at the audience. They each take off their sunglasses slowly, and Agni has a heart to heart with the audience.
Agni: “Hey kids, war and destruction are bad…to the extreme!! Bust it, Boko!”
Agni drives off in the imperial car, extending her hands upward as if on a rollercoaster. Fireworks shoot from her fingertips as she shouts
Ultros, wearing sunglasses and playing air guitar, rides Bahamut. Bahamut flies overhead, screeching loudly and shooting flames from his mouth. Bahamut is also wearing shades and playing air guitar.
Suddenly, Agni stops and remembers the destruction of her hometown. She looks down and starts weeping loudly. As she cries, Boko the Chocobo drives (and glitches) past the Ma’agi factory. Their destination: a minigame called “Chocobo Hide ‘n’ Seek”. Boko lets out a husky “kweh” as the car rides into the sunset. There is still no music playing. The screen fades to black and all you can hear is Agni crying for ten seconds. Then the sound fades out and the demo ends.
An awkward silence follows in the arena.
Shinji Hashimoto laughs.
The crowd is so silent we can clearly hear him. We can’t see him as we still have our VR headset on, though.
I, and several others, promptly take off the VR headset. We get up to leave without saying a word.
Oh yeah, and Moe Camel is actual product placement. The End. AMA.