You might have noticed I’ve been absent on the delivery of my weekly Square Enix column these past two weeks. I recently had the opportunity to travel to Japan for a really good price, so I decided to take a field trip to Shinjuku — the home of the Square Enix headquarters.
Square Enix HQ is exactly what you’d expect from a multimedia behemoth: gorgeous office space in a ritzy neighbourhood, lots of amenities and a whole lot of secrecy. But Square Enix also does something different than other media companies: it uses the space as a shrine for its fans.
Outside of the Square Enix HQ exists a building with a really tiny logo. To a passerby, it just looks like a spherical, concrete building, but to the dedicated fan it has a strange resemblance to a Slime from Dragon Quest.
That’s Artnia, one of three Square Enix cafés that blend video game culture with the real world. When I was in Tokyo I had the privilege of visiting two of the cafés, and Artnia was my first stop.
Artnia stands above other themed cafés because, as the name suggests, it focuses on treating video games like modern art. The building is divided into three sections: museum, gift shop, and café.
While the museum is small, it does display some of Square Enix’s most impressive design work. It houses limited edition Play Arts Kai figurines designed by Tetsuya Nomura, such as the Hatsune Miku figure, Gears of War figures, and some of Nomura’s Batman work.
It also houses jewelry, apparel, and high quality items from popular video games. The jewelry is probably the most impressive set of items available for purchase, as fans can purchase classic items such as the Ring of the Lucii from Final Fantasy XV or a ring containing the Wayfinders from Kingdom Hearts: Birth By Sleep.
The most impressive feature in the museum is the materia fountain, which is set up as a mystifying memorial from Final Fantasy VII. What makes the material fountain so mesmerizing isn’t only what it represents, but Square Enix uses lighting to make the water look like it’s floating upward into the ceiling.
Outside of the museum, Artnia includes many exclusive items from some of its biggest franchises, such as Final Fantasy, Dragon Quest, Chrono Trigger and even Bravely Default. But before leaving, I suggest checking out the café for some fun food and drinks that aren’t only nostalgic, but also delicious.
Final Fantasy XIV Eorzea Café
Located in Akihabara, the Final Fantasy XIV café is a dedication to the biggest fans of Square’s hit MMORPG.
Where Artnia focuses on an environment that can be enjoyed by everybody, the Eorzea Café feels like it was ripped directly out of the game. The whole experience is designed after one of the Adventurer’s Guilds from within the game, but that’s just the tip of the iceberg.
LAN stations are set up so gamers can play while waiting for their food, classic weapons and items hang on the wall, and menu items reflect the seasonal events happening within the game. I happened to be there during Valentione’s Day, and branding was in place to make me feel like people were actually celebrating the event.
The menu items were also far more plentiful than Artnia, as there was a drink for every class, character, and raid boss from the game. The more memorable characters and bosses from the game even had their own food items.
The Eorzea Café demonstrates Square’s attention to detail in creating an experience for its fans, which is suitable because Final Fantasy XIV often feels like Square Enix is still apologizing for its initial launch debacle.
Square Enix Saturdays is a weekly column exploring the many worlds created by Square Enix over Square and Enix’s 42-year history. If you’d like to see us cover any specific Square Enix topics, please leave us a comment below or connect with us on Twitter or Facebook.