The Day I Met My Heroes
I almost missed the chance to meet Yuji Abe and Yoshinori Kitase, two legendary Final Fantasy creators
I would like to share a very personal story with you. It’s the story of how I had a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to meet one of my heroes; a creative mind who shaped some of my favourite video game experiences.
I was job hunting in London back in 2014 for a couple of weeks. I kept my eye on the calendar, because Lightning Returns: Final Fantasy XIII was due to be released on February 14th. I wanted to keep the date open because I knew that the game’s developer, Square Enix, typically hosted major release events in London. I didn’t want to miss out! After all, this was the franchise I’d grown up with. As anticipated, Square Enix announced that there was going to be a launch event featuring Yuji Abe (a Final Fantasy legend) and Yoshinori Kitase (producer of Final Fantasy VII, VIII, X, X-2, XIII, XIII-2, Lightning Returns: Final Fantasy XIII, X/X-2 HD, and more recently, Final Fantasy VII Remake). Phew. Both of these game industry legends were due to sign autographs and discuss the latest release. The event was scheduled to be held at a GAME retail store.
So far, so good. But I was troubled by the fact that I’d never seen a GAME store during my walks around central London (I’d even been to Regent Street numerous times, but I only remember seeing the five-story toy store called Hamleys). Where was I supposed to go? I decided I’d just worry about it when the time came. Besides, I had the address: what could go wrong?
February 13th arrived and it was 1pm (13:00…get it?) I made sure to set out early just in case I couldn’t find the store. Sure enough, I arrived at the designated address with no GAME store to be found. All I saw was Hamleys! I kept thinking I’d written down the incorrect address, and that the shop must have been closer to Piccadilly Circus. I went all the way down to Piccadilly, but still no sign of a GAME store. I followed Regent Street until I came to the BBC building. I ended up wandering back and forth along Regent Street, all the time noticing a growing crowd outside Hamleys. I didn’t think much of it at the time. I was getting so frustrated that I figured I’d probably just go home.
And then, just as I’d lost all hope, I saw a young man walking carelessly down the street, admiring his copy of Lightning Returns: Final Fantasy XIII, with a prominent signature on the case. I almost jumped on him, asking him where he got it. After recovering from the momentary shock, he explained that he’d been to Hamleys — it turned out that there was a GAME located on the bottom floor. I ran back to Hamleys as fast as my legs could carry me, and flew down the stairs.
I’d hit the motherlode; stumbling into a major gaming event just like the ones I usually read or wrote about. IGN was there doing interviews, and both Abe-san and Kitase-san were diligently signing copies of games for hundreds of Final Fantasy fans. I felt right at home in this crowd, even though I didn’t know anyone in the room. I immediately jumped into the line, and ended up having some truly pleasant conversations with other fans about our favourite franchise.
Finally, it was my turn to meet with two heroes of gaming. The two Final Fantasy legends smiled as I approached and signed my copy of the game. When I asked if I could get a photo with them, they gracefully obliged. They were even prepared to take a second snap when the first didn’t come out properly. I thanked them in tidbits of the Japanese that I speak, and then continued to watch them from afar.
I reflected on the fact that these men are probably quite well-off. They don’t really need to be at these events. Heck, they could probably stop making games entirely and still have enough money to feed their grandchildren. And yet, they continue to strive and work on this franchise. As I watched them, I got the sense that their smiles were not contrived; here were two people who genuinely enjoyed what they do. This is their passion. And they are thankful to us, the players, for sharing that passion.
This is what happens when people actually like getting up for work in the morning.
After that meeting, it was obvious to me that Final Fantasy is in good hands. Sure, people might have differing opinions on the merits of individual games, but at least these developers put their heart and soul into what they do. That’s why Final Fantasy will carry on strong.
どうもありがとうございました Abe-san and Kitase-san!