MAKUHARI--Japan's Makuhari Messe Convention Center this weekend is once again the scene of Japanese publisher Square Enix's unique fan fest, the Square Enix Party. The showcase of the company's software lineup, present and future, marks the party's return after a one-year break. Much like the first event held in 2005, the party is a weekend-long gathering and celebration open to the public.
The centerpiece of the festivities is a showcase of Square Enix's wares, in playable and trailer form, although it also serves as a one-stop shop for anyone looking to buy game-related goods. The day started as all events like this do--with a massive line. While the party officially kicked off at 10 a.m., some lucky fans were able to get in an hour early and were even given a limited-edition DS case.
Much like last year's event, the party has a Tokyo Game Show vibe to it--complete with massive lines, stage shows, schwag at each of the game-specific booths, a variety of different stages and theaters showing trailers and hosting live events, and the always necessary dose of cosplay. This year's stage and theater layout features three key areas: the open mega theater (which doubles as an event stage), the closed mega theater, and a dedicated stage built into the Final Fantasy XI booth.
While all three areas featured massive lines, the closed mega theater shaped up to be the hot ticket of the day. The massive enclosed area featured a 40-minute showcase of trailers that included some of the most anticipated games in the company's portfolio as well as sneak peeks of brand-new titles. Given the theater's limited seating and once-an-hour showtimes, there seemed to be a perpetual line snaking around its entrance from the moment the show opened.
The next hotspot was the open mega theater, which was a combination event stage theater that alternated between 45-minute trailer blocks and hosting game-specific stage shows. Saturday's stage shows included presentations on the recently announced Star Ocean games that featured the voice actors, the DS title It's a Wonderful World, and a Dragon Quest Monster Battle Road card-based arcade game aimed at youngsters. The Final Fantasy XI stage, nestled inside the massive booth dedicated to the massively multiplayer online role-playing game, featured a mix of events that ranged from competitions to developer presentations and live piano music.
Besides the stage shows, the party offered plenty to occupy those in attendance. Attendees hankering to get their game on could head over to dedicated game booths that featured playable demos of released and upcoming games. Demo kiosks of unreleased games drew massive crowds to try out titles such as Dragon Quest Swords for the Wii, Final Fantasy Tactics Advanced 2 for the DS, Final Fantasy II for the PlayStation Portable, DS Style for the DS, Final Fantasy Crystal Chronicles: Ring of Fates for the DS, Final Fantasy XII International Zodiac Job System for the PS2, Crisis Core: FFVII for the PSP, Dragon Quest Monster Battle Road for arcades, and Itadaki Street featuring Super Mario for the DS.
At the same time, booths featuring recently released games such as Final Fantasy XII Revenant Wings for DS, the Final Fantasy Tactics remake on PSP, Final Fantasy XI for the PC, and Final Fantasy I for the PSP had surprisingly long lines as well. One of the reasons for some of the interest in the already-released titles was an exclusive gift being offered to attendees who made the rounds to play games. Those in attendance received a stamp booklet that contained slots for stamps that could be received after playing FF Tactics Advanced 2, FF Tactics on the PSP, FF XII Revenant Wings for the DS, and FFXII International. Those who managed to do so were rewarded for their efforts with a swanky LCD clock. In addition to the console, DS, and PSP game booths, Square had a large booth dedicated to its mobile offerings, which have a hefty following in Japan.
It wasn't all about games. The show floor also featured areas dedicated to magazines, comics, music CDs, and the always popular gift store. Fans were able to take home 111 items, which included pins, lighters, action figures, and plush toys. Finally, the floor also featured two booths that offered mini-museums on Star Ocean and the 20th anniversary of the Final Fantasy series.
All told, the first day of the show got the party off to a solid start. The mix of activities, playable demos, and stage shows seemed to be just what the fans wanted. The hall was packed throughout the entire day and stayed that way up until the 5 p.m. close, when a huge mob assembled in front of the FFXI stage for a piano concert that wound up the day.