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Saturday, June 10, 2017

Song of the Week! 10 June 2017

Last year, we've been asked to handle an event-exclusive Game Music track whose later-released, limited Oni mode went completely undocumented on the Internet.

While we turned down this inquiry due to the lack of information concerning its hardest difficulty setting, there's no denial that it's highly unlikely for us to be given extra data with the song never being featured anywhere else after its last outing, so we might as well fill in the time with what it's currently known, in the hopes for completing the picture in the future...

 The Navel Extreme (極タイタン討滅戦) Final Fantasy XIV: A Realm Reborn
Taiko 0 Kx3 (???)x4 (???)x8 (697)
Taiko 0 Mux3 (???)x4 (???)x8 (697)x10 (???)
 Taiko 0 K (promo only), 0 Mu (promo only)

While songs in Taiko no Tatsujin games are usually backed up by some sort of legacy and/or popularity-driven background behind them, sometimes they might also be part of media projects that have received massively huge backlashes to the related brand instead. It's thus more endearing for me to write about a track whose source material has seen both soaring peaks and staggering blows in its life span!

Under the title of 'The Navel Extreme' lies a medley of songs that are all featured in one of the many quests of the Massively-Multiplayer Online Role-playing Game Final Fantasy XIV: A Realm Reborn (ファイナルファンタジーXIV: 新生エオルゼア), released worldwide on August 27th, 2013 for both PC and PlayStation 3 platforms. The game was conceived as a "Version 2.0" of the original Final Fantasy XIV online game, which was in development since 2005 under the codename 'Rapture'. The former PC-exclusive release, published on September 30th, 2010, put its players in the shoes of a customizable avatar character traveling in the fantasy realm of Eorzea, where the hostile Garlean Empire attempts to unify the entire world under their iron fist and all the sentient populations are also threatened by the deities of the aboriginal Beastmen tribes: the Primals. The original FFXIV was made as a means to create a new MMORPG title for the long-lasting series that could build on from the formula started in the 12th main installment, but it ultimately managed to garner a huge backlash from both the public and gaming critics, resulting into a huge financial loss.

The FFXIV incident was so staggering for the company that not only made its original staff members issue several public apologies -both at Tokyo Game Show '11 and on the game's website (screencap reference clip)- but it also resonated with the almost complete destruction of the former world of Eorzea actually becoming the starting plot point of the later-released A Realm Reborn! With FFXIV ending by one of Eorzea's moons colliding on the planet in an apocalyptic event dubbed the Seventh Umbral Calamity, the player's avatar has received a blessing from the world's gods to time-travel five years into the future, avoiding certain death and going on adventuring in the rebuilt world, always with the menace of the Garlean Empire looming from the North. Being handled by a different director, A Ream Reborn managed to make its publishing company profitable again, counting over 6 million active (paying) players worldwide and additional ports for the game that were released on April 2014 (PlayStation 4) and June 2015 (Mas OS systems). A Realm Reborn also received several expansions, the latest of which -June 2017's Stormblood- being set to terminate the support of the PlayStation 3 version.

As mentioned in the earlier paragraphs, FFXIV's 'The Navel Extreme' is the title given to a compilation of BGM tracks being featured in the namesake Trial quest, The Navel (Extreme). The hardest difficulty setting of this particular Trial pits a party of 8 players against the Titan, whose might is underlined by the five tension-increasing tracks that are played during its boss fight: Weight of a Whisper, Weight of His Will, Weight of the World, Heartless and Under the Weight. The Navel Extreme (the medley) features bits of those tracks in the same order, closing with one of the ARR arrangements of the iconic Victory Fanfare theme that can be heard across the entire Final Fantasy series. All six tracks were composed/arranged by Masayoshi Soken (祖堅正慶), one of FFXIV's main composers.

The Navel Extreme has fared into Taiko gaming in two selected occasions, the first of which being the end-of-the-year "New Year's Eve Final Quest" of December 2014. On this Internet broadcast, current Taiko Team leader Etou has been challenged by several game developers/Let's Players to beat them in Taiko handicap matches starring songs from event-linked videogames; for the A Realm Reborn segment, he had to play a quite aggressive Muzukashii challenge with his hands tied on, made of short clusters of increasing BPM speeds and 3-note cluster portions that might as well give a nod or two to publicly-released challenges such as Ikenai Taiyou's Oni mode. It's also worth mentioning that this is the first song in official Taiko no Tatsujin gaming to feature special markers that overlap on other currently-active special notes (specifically drumrolls appearing during a 333-hit (or 666-hit in 2P) Kusudama note)! Comments by Etou post-play reveal that this portion was made as to represent the 'heart of the Titan', the boss of the original "The Navel" trial.

The quirky idea was set in motion once more to the attenders of Niconico Chokaigi '15 edition, where the attenders of the Super F.A.T.E IN TOKYO stand were called out to beat the infamous Heart of the Titan by themselves in order to win limited merchandise starring the Taiko brothers with the Titan itself! User reports from the event have also documented that all four modes were individually-charted outside from Muzukashii; nothing else, however, has been documented...

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