Vanacon Report!

On 11/11/11, Square Enix held Vanacon in the Mozart Hall of Katsushika Symphony Hills to celebrate the musical legacy of Final Fantasy XI, once again proving its unquestionable worthiness to be a true numbered entry in this epic series of RPGs. ZAM was in attendance and we have some pictures and reactions to share with you.

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Katsushika Symphony Hills is situated about a five-minute walk from Aoto station, near central Tokyo.  It was a pretty dreary day, but that did not dampen the spirits of fans as they formed a cloud of umbrellas outside the main entrance.  There was actually a little smoking area set up outside of the rain, but it went largely unused.

Katsushika Symphony Hills is slightly out of the way compared to past venues for Square Enix events, but it can match them all pound-for-pound in its size and splendor.  The concert was held in the Mozart Hall, named for the famous Hume Bard.  Once inside, attendees were guided through the doors and past some tables to pick up their goods.  Presents this time included a program, mandragora clear file, and a code for the Maestro Wand.  Press received the same package, in addition to badges and armbands.  Photos were only allowed in designated areas depending on your seat.  I was up in the rear balconey and shared the spot with several others.  Photography during certain songs was restricted as well.

The concert itself was magnificent.  I first set foot into Vana'diel in January 2004, and the song list was like a trip down memory lane.  City themes, field tracks and epic boss battles echoed through the hall in all their symphonic glory as in-game videos played back classic adventures from expansions past.  A complete playlist is included below, but here are some highlights:

Fighters of the Crystal - One of my all-time favorites, and the orchestration by Yoshihisa Hirano did not disappoint.  This song is from Divine Might, and so on the video screen they showed the introduction for each Ark Angel and then some actual battle footage.  This led into the song Ragnarok, from the battle with Alexander.   A stirring track to be sure, though it was a little bittersweet seeing footage from those final Aht Urghan mission I had never managed to complete.

Awakening - This theme from the first battle with the Shadow Lord opened the second half of the show.  The amazing orchestrated version was put together by Hayato Matsuo, and it felt as if it could have easily been the intro to a major motion picture.  It was a perfect choice to get the audience back into the action after intermission.  On screen, a party struggled against the Shadow Lord as the music raged.  One of the earliest missions, easily defeatable by today's standards, felt imposing once again.

Sanctuary of Zi'tah - What would a FFXI concert be without a piano solo from Kumi Tanioka?  With Zi'tah, Tanioka left another audience in silence and awe as her hauntingly beautiful performance drew forth memories of the first walk through the mysterious, crystal-strewn forest.  When the full orchestra returned, A New Horizon ~ Tavnazian Archipelago recalled the tranquility of Lufaise Meadows.  Stepping out of Promyvion, battle-worn and completely on edge, the soothing melody of the meadows was just as much a reward as access to a new continent.  It was a wonderful addition to the concert lineup.

The final piece, as if to bring us to the present day, was Melodies Errant from Abyssea.  It was a fast-paced, intense battle theme, with its insanity matched only by the images on the screen.  A trio of massive slimes, ginormous horned beasts, hordes of chigoes -- it's no wonder why players loved these add-ons so much.

After the finale, there was one last piece for the encore.  The classic Final Fantasy theme.  I first heard this when while playing Final Fantasy IV back in middle school.  Judging by all the Cain Highwind knockoffs out there, I know a bunch of you did as well.  A Dark Knight and a Dragoon step out into the unknown on a quest.  Two friends setting off on an adventure -- it's the essence of what makes FFXI great.  For ten years, hundreds of thousands of us around the world have taken our first steps outside Bastok, Windurst and San d'Oria to join each other in completing quests, defeating monsters and seeking treasure.  As the concert closed, the Final Fantasy theme played triumphantly as if to announce another first step, for players, fans and developers alike, into a new decade of adventure.

1. Procession of Heroes ~ Vana'diel March Medley

2. Ronfaure

3. Griffons Never Die

4. Fighters of the Crystal

5. Ragnarok

6. Distant Worlds

7. Awakening

8. The Sanctuary of Zi'tah

9. Gustaberg

10. Four Nations, One Sky ~ A Tribute to Cities

11. A New Horizon - Tavnazian Archipelago

12. Sword Songs ~ Battle Medley

13. Melodies Errant

14. Main Theme - FINAL FANTASY XI Version 


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