One fan spent three years saving a Final Fantasy game before it shut down

February 29th was the last day of service for Dissidia Final Fantasy Opera Omnia, a mobile game based on Square Enix’s Final Fantasy fighting game series. Since launching in the US in 2018, the game has amassed over 170 characters from across 30 years of Final Fantasy history, scattered throughout four acts composed of multiple chapters and side stories representing hundreds of hours of a game that can no longer be played. Though Opera Omnia is officially gone, one person has shouldered the task to ensure the game hasn’t completely disappeared.

“On June 6th 2021 I began to work towards my goal of recording and rendering every Dissidia Final Fantasy Opera Omnia cutscene and upload[ing] them to YouTube,” wrote Hatok, a video editor and self-described video game enthusiast. “And now, 7 hours from the end of service, I’ve reached the end of this massive project.”

Hatok replayed through the entirety of Opera Omnia, recording everything the game had to offer. More than simply capturing raw footage, Hatok ensured the cutscenes he preserved featured characters with their canon weapons and that battle scenes weren’t populated with random characters — an effort that added a significant amount of time to the project because it required watching every cutscene twice.

“With the battle scenes, I also wanted to ensure they matched the story and weren’t just full of [a] random party of characters,” Hatok says in an interview with The Verge. “So I’d watch through them once, make a note of any characters who spoke, and then reference the scene directly before or after to determine which characters should be in the fight and where they should be positioned.”

The result was two terabytes of data worth over 100 hours, collected on and off over three years.

Hatok explains that he arrived late to the Final Fantasy series and that Opera Omnia was the only mobile game that really “stuck” for him. “[The game] had a lot of mechanical depth and fun design, and it was fairly easy to build the characters you wanted,” he says.

That gameplay, combined with the ambitious story, are what elevated the game beyond the typical mobile gacha game. Opera Omnia reached across Final Fantasy history, crafting stories that offered greater insights into characters and their motivations like Lightning from Final Fantasy XIII.

Lightning Returns is heavily focused on doing side quests, and they take that and explore what it is about her that drives her to help people,” Hatok says.

He also spoke about how the game connected characters across the series, like the ultimate Final Fantasy crossover fanfiction, pairing up Quina, the frog-eating chef from FF9, and Noctis, the frog-catching protagonist from FF15. The game “made incredible use of the characters,” creating interactions impossible in canon, like hearing more from Vaan’s deceased brother in FF12 and Yuna’s deceased father from FF10. It’s that depth that drove Hatok to this project.

“I started recording the scenes knowing the game would be shut down one day, and there was no way of knowing how [Square Enix] would handle the game afterward.”

“Saving” mobile games due to go offline by uploading cutscenes to YouTube isn’t new, and fans have tackled similar projects for games like Dragalia Lost. In fact, Square Enix has done it for Opera Omnia. But according to Hatok, Square Enix’s uploads are incomplete. “[Square Enix] did something I was worried they’d do,” Hatok says. “They didn’t preserve any of the cutscenes that happen in battle.”

He stressed the importance of battle cutscenes, calling them “connective tissue.” Without them, he explains, the discrete story cutscenes can lose cohesion and valuable context gets lost. In Square Enix’s official upload, cutscenes will directly reference events that happened in the absent battle scenes, creating a hole in the storytelling while characters pop in and out of the narrative without explanation.

In one example, one of Sephiroth’s side stories features him teaming up with Ultimecia, the villain from Final Fantasy VIII. But without the battle scene to bridge one cutscene to the next, she just appears.


Without battle cutscenes like the one above, characters like Ultimecia pop in and out of Opera Omnia’s story without explanation.
Image: Square Enix

“It’s oversights like that that made me want to try to preserve things on my own,” he says, explaining that he also recorded special voice lines only available in the game’s co-op mode and characters bios to create the most complete picture of the game possible.

In the larger conversation surrounding video game preservation, mobile titles typically get left behind despite being one the most vulnerable types of game. Unlike most console and PC games, which tend to remain available for purchase and play after their life cycles end, when a publisher decides to stop supporting a mobile game, it’s often removed from storefronts, preventing new players from discovering it, while current players await the day the game vanishes from their devices entirely.

These shutdowns impact games of all sizes, even from the biggest publishers in the industry. Flappy Bird became an overnight mobile game sensation, racking up $50,000 a day in ad revenue at the height of its popularity before its creator, Dong Nguyen, removed it from mobile storefronts. In 2018, Epic Games took down the Infinity Blade games; in 2022, Nintendo shut down Dragalia Lost. More recently, EA said that it would sunset some of its licensed mobile games including Kim Karashian: Hollywood which had been around for a decade.

With studios unable or unwilling to preserve their own works, the responsibility has come down to fans to keep these projects alive in some form. Hatok had never done a preservation project like this before, but says the prospect of Opera Omina just disappearing spurred him to action. 

“The fact that the game would one day be unplayable made me sad because then there’d be [no] chance of people giving it a shot and seeing something cool done with their favorite characters.”

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