[Anime Culture Monday] Honey's Anime Hot Spot – Final Fantasy at Universal Studios Japan

Every spring at Universal Studios Japan (USJ), a section of the park is changed into an area called Cool Japan. This special area features rides, food, movies, and merchandise that is all based on parts of Japanese pop culture. Last year, USJ showcased Evangelion and Shingeki no Kyojin with exclusive rides, merchandise, photo ops and more. This year, Cool Japan has changed to feature a bit of Sailor Moon, and more predominantly, Final Fantasy!

Another part of the celebration throughout Japan for Final Fantasy’s 30th Anniversary, USJ has between January and June of 2018 has let an entire piece of the theme park be totally overrun with Final Fantasy. Celebrating the series as a whole and not just one game, there is a ride along with a large amount of special merchandise - and themed food, too! Even for people that aren’t super fans of the series, the Final Fantasy part of USJ is a fun and exciting limited edition to the amusement park.


Final Fantasy at Universal Studios Japan Info

Location Access – 2 Chome-1-33 Sakurajima, Konohana Ward, Osaka, Osaka Prefecture 554-0031
Train Lines –
Sakurajima Line (Yumesaki Line) "Universal City” Station 5-mins. from exit
Cost One day pass - 7,315 yen (7,900 yen with tax)
Two-day pass - 12,408 yen (13,400 yen with tax)
Hours of Operation
Varies by day; typically 8:30 – 21:00, January 19 (Fri) – June 24 (Sun) 2018

Official Website - https://www.usj.co.jp/e/universal-cool-japan2018/


The Experience

The main attraction for Final Fantasy at USJ is the XR Ride. Using a virtual reality overlay on the ride Space Fantasy that always exists at USJ, the FF XR Ride lets fans feel like they’re really in a Final Fantasy game! It’s an indoor roller coaster attraction, but what really makes it special is the VR element. Upon entering the “mog ship,” which is your ride car, you’re given a special VR headset. After a quick adjustment with help from the friendly staff, it’s time for your adventure. The ride takes you through beautiful Final Fantasy landscapes and eventually into the city of Midgar from FFVII. You encounter cactuars, chocobos, moogles, marlboros, and more along the way.

The adventure culminates in an epic chase with Cloud in his motorcycle and an exciting fight against Sephiroth in the sky! All the while you’re wearing the fully immersive VR headset and riding a roller coaster, so there are dips, twists turns and more all happening without any way to predict them. It really does feel like you’re flying in the moogle airship because it’s impossible to see the tracks! Looking around you only shows you the inside of the airship - you can’t even see your riding companion. For thrill seekers and FF fans, it’s an unbelievably cool experience. It’s definitely not great for anyone with a fear of heights or flying or is prone to motion sickness.

In addition to the ride, there is also exclusive Final Fantasy goods and food to buy. Just outside the entrance to the ride, there is a stand selling special cactuar churros and a chocobo popcorn bucket. The churros are covered in green and white sprinkles to represent the needles, and also feature a cactuar printed cookie. They are lightly apple flavoured which was a nice surprise! Much like Tokyo Disney if you have ever visited, USJ sells themed limited edition popcorn buckets that can be brought back on future visits to be refilled with popcorn again. For Final Fantasy, the available popcorn bucket is a cute chocobo that makes the iconic “kweh” sound when you open its beak. It’s full of caramel popcorn you can enjoy throughout the day!

As for merchandise, there is a small outdoor stand near the ride selling goods and also the big Cool Japan has a wider selection inside. The goods are about half and half themed for the event and ride itself, and half just general Final Fantasy merchandise. The most marketed games are FFVII and FFX, both of which feature on t-shirts, small bags, pens, and more. There is a wide range of merchandise made especially for the XR Ride as well, including clothes, pass cases, notebooks, and phone cases.

Finally there are also a lot of keychains and smaller items that have chocobos, moogles, and cactuars that are wearing the costumes seen in the ride to give them a special USJ touch. If you’ve got a lot of cash to burn, there’s some expensive jewellery to check out, but the rest of the merchandise is an average price for video game memorabilia in Japan.


Additional info

USJ tends to be crowded with long queues on weekends and holidays, and that is extra true for the Cool Japan area. When we arrived right at the park’s opening time and heads straight for the XR Ride, it already had nearly two-hour wait. When we finished, it was over three hours and remained as such for the rest of the day. It’s definitely worth it for fans that want to experience a totally immersive Final Fantasy experience, but it’s something to keep in mind when planning out your day. We also waited nearly an hour for the churros and popcorn bucket even in the morning time, so just plan ahead! If you can visit on a regular weekday you might have more luck.

Another thing to keep in mind for the XR Ride is that you cannot take anything with you onto the ride or even into the queue. There are rows of lockers to us before queuing up where you need to leave your bags, jackets, and anything you might have bought during the day. The smallest lockers start at ¥100 and go up from there depending on the size you need. You won’t be able to have your bag or popcorn bucket in a possible three-hour queue with you, so it’s best to know that ahead of time and make sure you have a full stomach before you line up! And the less you have, the easier it will be to store.

After you finish up with the Final Fantasy stuff, be sure to check out the rest of Cool Japan as well! This includes a newly opened 4D Sailor Moon film, a walkthrough adventure themed after Monster Hunter, and a Detective Conan puzzle that takes you around the park to solve it (in Japanese). All of these franchises also have some food and merchandise themed after them as well that you can enjoy and check out! So if you like these other titles don’t miss them after you finish up with getting your fill of Final Fantasy.

And don’t forget that Universal Studios Japan is home to a lot of other exciting rides and attractions from Western media as well, including Harry Potter, Jurassic Park, Jaws, and Spiderman!


Final Thoughts

Whether you love Final Fantasy or are just looking for a modern thrill ride, the FF section of Cool Japan at Universal Studios Japan this year is something you won’t want to miss. Everything down to the small details like FF music being played throughout the park and the staff in the area being dressed like moogles helps to heighten the experience even further. If you thought that your Final Fantasy experience had to end at just playing a game, you’re going to be pleasantly surprised. Let the FF experience at USJ be a part of your celebration of Final Fantasy’s 30th Anniversary and get as immersed in the world as you can!

Just make sure you go before June 24th or you’ll have missed this limited chance.

Have you been to USJ this spring to see the FF instalment? What did you think? Are you making plans to visit when you can? What part of the instalment do you wish you could experience for yourself? Share the love and hype in the comments below!

Jet Nebula

Writer

Author: Jet Nebula

Living the dream in Tokyo, where you can find me working at a theme café catered towards women. When I’m not writing for Honey’s, I’m working on original dystopian science fiction or blogging about Tokyo’s trendy coffee scene. I spend my free time in Harajuku and Shibuya wearing alternative Japanese street fashion. I love video games, J-rock, tattoos, and Star Wars.

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