A devoted fan saved a Final Fantasy game over three years before its closure.

The final day of operation for Dissidia Final Fantasy Opera Omnia, a mobile game based on Square Enix’s Final Fantasy combat game series, was February 29th. After its launch in the US in 2018, the game has accumulated over 170 characters from throughout 30 years of Final Fantasy history, spread across four acts comprising of various chapters and side stories representing hundreds of hours of a game that can no longer be experienced. Even though Opera Omnia has been officially discontinued, one individual has taken on the responsibility to make sure the game doesn’t completely vanish.

Hatok, a video editor and self-professed video game enthusiast, shared, “On June 6th, 2021, I embarked on a mission to record and produce every Dissidia Final Fantasy Opera Omnia cutscene and publish them on YouTube. Now, 7 hours before the end of service, I have completed this extensive project.”

Hatok went through the entirety of Opera Omnia, capturing all that the game had to present. Beyond just recording raw footage, Hatok made sure that the cutscenes he preserved showcased characters with their authentic weapons and that combat scenes were not filled with random characters — a process that consumed a significant amount of time as it entailed watching each cutscene twice.

After an interview with The Verge, Hatok shared, “With the combat scenes, I also aimed to ensure they aligned with the narrative and did not just have [a] random group of characters. I would view them once, note down any characters who spoke, and then refer to the preceding or subsequent scene to determine which characters should be in the battle and where they should be positioned.”

The outcome was two terabytes of data amounting to over 100 hours, gathered intermittently over three years.

Hatok mentioned that he discovered the Final Fantasy series belatedly and that Opera Omnia was the sole mobile game that genuinely resonated with him. He expressed, “[The game] possessed a plethora of mechanical complexity and enjoyable design, and it was relatively straightforward to construct the characters you desired.”

The engaging gameplay, coupled with the ambitious narrative, catapulted the game above the standard mobile gacha game. Opera Omnia delved into Final Fantasy lore, crafting narratives that provided deeper insights into characters and their motivations like Lightning from Final Fantasy XIII.

“In a similar vein, Lightning Returns predominantly involves undertaking side quests, and they delve into what propels her to assist individuals,” Hatok remarked.

He also discussed how the game intertwined characters throughout the series, resembling the quintessential Final Fantasy crossover fanfiction, pairing up Quina, the frog-eating chef from FF9, and Noctis, the frog-catching protagonist from FF15. The game “utilized the characters brilliantly,” creating interactions impossible in canon, such as hearing more from Vaan’s deceased brother in FF12 and Yuna’s deceased father from FF10. It’s this depth that impelled Hatok towards this undertaking.

“I commenced recording the scenes with the awareness that the game would eventually be discontinued, and there was no certainty regarding how [Square Enix] would handle the game post-shutdown.”

The act of “rescuing” mobile games slated for shutdown by uploading cutscenes to YouTube is not unprecedented, and enthusiasts have taken on comparable initiatives for games like Dragalia Lost. In fact, Square Enix has done likewise for Opera Omnia. However, as per Hatok, Square Enix’s uploads are incomplete. Hatok stated, “[Square Enix] did precisely what I had feared they might do — they failed to preserve any of the cutscenes occurring in battle.”

He emphasized the significance of battle cutscenes, referring to them as “connective tissue.” Without them, he elucidated, the discrete story cutscenes could lose coherence, and crucial context could be forfeited. In Square Enix’s official release, cutscenes would make direct references to events that occurred in the absent battle scenes, resulting in a gap in the storytelling as characters flit in and out of the narrative without rationale.

As an instance, one of Sephiroth’s side stories showcases him teaming up with Ultimecia, the antagonist from Final Fantasy VIII. However, minus the battle scene bridging one cutscene to another, she simply materializes.

“It’s oversights like that motivated me to attempt to safeguard things independently,” he remarked, noting that he also recorded exclusive voice lines solely available in the game’s cooperative mode and character biographies to paint the most comprehensive picture of the game feasible.

Within the broader discourse on video game preservation, mobile titles frequently get left behind, despite being among the most susceptible sorts of games. Unlike many console and PC games, which typically remain available for purchase and play after their life cycles conclude, when a publisher opts to cease supporting a mobile game, it is frequently delisted from platforms, prohibiting new players from discovering it, while current players anticipate the day the game evaporates from their devices completely.

These closures affect games of all magnitudes, even from the most prominent publishers in the field. Flappy Bird surged as an overnight mobile gaming sensation, amassing $50,000 daily in ad revenue at its zenith before its creator, Dong Nguyen, withdrew it from mobile distribution platforms. In 2018, Epic Games pulled the plug on the Infinity Blade games; in 2022, Nintendo closed down Dragalia Lost. More recently, EA announced its intention to sunset some of its licensed mobile games, including Kim Karashian: Hollywood, which had been operational for a decade.

With studios either incapable or disinclined to conserve their own creations, the responsibility has devolved upon enthusiasts to keep these projects alive in some manner. Hatok had never undertaken a preservation endeavor like this previously but noted that the notion of Opera Omnia simply vanishing impelled him to act.

“The imminent unplayability of the game saddened me since it meant that there would be [no] chance for people to try it out and witness something extraordinary done with their beloved characters,” he expressed.

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