Mushroom Soup For The Pixelated Soul
Well, it finally happened. My Xbox 360 just experienced the coveted Red Ring of Death.
I’ve been a 360 owner for about 2 years, so I was well aware of the RRoD issue, but I still believed that I would be the exception to the rule.
But it seems that it’s an inevitable fate that all 360 owners will go through. Amazing that Microsoft has yet to address such a ridiculous flaw, or perhaps it’s cheaper for them to just receive bricked consoles and apply the quick repair patch. Even so, it’s still pretty silly that no other console carries such a flaw.
And I hadn’t even received my data transfer cable in the mail yet, to transfer the data from my paltry 20gb HDD to my recently purchased 120gb one. Why won’t they just include the cables with the hard drives?
That was just one of several strings of bad luck that have happened to me this week, but hopefully the worst is over. In the meantime, I’ve been quit overdue in my report on Advent Children: Complete.
So let’s get started on that. This particular review hasn’t been made for any specific website, and is just a personal write-up that I’m doing.
When I had first learned about the announcement that Final Fantasy VII would finally get a sequel, via a CG movie, I literally went nuts. The original game remains one of my all-time favorite RPGs, with what is quite possibly my favorite story, setting, and characters.
Which is why I despised the ending so very much. Sure, lots of people applaud the game for taking a “unique” and “open-ended” approach, leaving the fate of Cloud and friends to our own interpretation, but I’m one of the few who saw it as an indication that the developers had run out of time and money; After spending 50 some hours with FFVII’s main characters, journeying with them, laughing with them, crying with them, the lack of a proper epilogue to assure us that they made it out okay felt like a real slap in the face. No amount of fanfiction or fan speculation would fill this void, and considering how Final Fantasy VII remained consistently popular and consistently debated many years afterward, I wasn’t alone in my hopes that Square would one day revist FFVII’s world.
So, once again, I was overcome with joy when I learned about Advent Children, and that hype only increased more and more with every new trailer, the revamped character designs for Tifa, Yuffie and the other party members, and the myseterious but seriously cool looking new villains.
Like all Square-related titles, however, Advent Children soon brought out the anger out of people along with the joy. The movie had been criticized as a mindless action flick, devoid of story or character interaction in favor of glorified fanservice action.
Well, that wasn’t necessarily a bad thing. Advent Children was never meant to be the epilogue that many people wished for, but rather a re-introduction. With three more spinoffs already planned, it looked like the world of Final Fantasy VII would finally continue, and an action-packed CG movie wasn’t a bad way to start.
But with the release of Advent Children: Complete on Blu Ray, we now have a film with stylish action and an engaging story. That’s right, while most “director’s cuts” of movies merely focus on adding more action scenes, Nomura and his team decided to use their return to the drawing board to take their time and tell a story, rather than fast forward right to the action.
“Fast Forward” is precisely the term I would use for the original movie, and it only takes the first 15 minutes of Complete to see what an improvement the new footage makes. The city of Edge is no longer a backdrop that viewers only have ten seconds to take in, but is now a sprawling city that is constantly under construction, full of citizens who no longer live on upper or lower plates, but must all live together as one unified class. Geostigma is no longer an unexplainable disease that looks like charcoal that got smeared on the kids, but is now a deadly, often graphic illness that looks like something out of Resident Evil, and we are now shown what happens to people who are on their last stages of infection. Kadaj and his brothers are no longer a trio of Sephiroth cosplayers who showed up out of nowhere, but now have additional dialog and motivations that explain why they’re attacking one person or raiding another place.
I think the one scene that easily shows the difference between the two cuts is the conversation between Cloud and Rufus; the original conversation barely lasted two minutes, and mainly consisted of “Hey Cloud, there’s a guy named Kadaj doing bad stuff. Please stop him”. Now, the conversation lasts much longer, bringing people up to speed on the last two years, as well as potentially stating the stage for future entries in the Compilation.
But it isn’t just dialog that carries these new scenes, but the facial expressions as well. AC’s CG work is still gorgeous, and now the tech is being used to convey a variety of emotions, from anger to sadness, and the tears resulting from both. The best new moment, in my opinion, is Denzel’s flashback to when he first meets Cloud. Even though this scene is already covered in the standalone anime (more on that below), the AC:C version is still powerful, using a haunting version of FFVII’s main theme, as well as the aforementioned facial expressions that elevate Denzel beyond “some kid that came out of nowhere” and turns him into someone you might genuinely care about, especially since he brings about a tender side of Cloud that was thought to be lost.
Indeed, the theme of “moving on” that was the basis of the original movie is much more prominent in this cut. Cloud’s inner pain is further explained through his interactions as well as some additional flashbacks, and coupled with the existing footage, leads to an ending that may tug at fans’ heartstrings, even if the original cut already succeeded in doing so.
But it isn’t just the new scenes that make up AC:C. The original scenes have been touched up as well, with some new details including physical damage (Tifa is now covered in dirt and bruises after her famous battle with Loz, and other characters share similar damaged features including blood), newly sampled or added music (including Anxious Heart and Crazy Motorcycle Chase), and even some redubbed dialog (Marlene and Denzel have been recast from scratch, and both do an admittedly better job than their previous voices. New lines have been squeezed into existing scenes as well). The new scenes merge with the original moments so fluidly, you might not notice the changes without having watched the original numerous times.
Nomura had mentioned that Advent Children: Complete is staying true to its name, as he has now added everything that he wanted to in the film. That said, there are still a few scenes here and there that could have used some further expanding, but remain untouched; Cloud’s conversation with Vincent, for instance, still sounds a bit ackward and is paced rather slowly, while even more unfortunate is that Yuffie, Red XIII, and the other party members aren’t given any new scenes or dialog whatsoever, with the exception of a new introduction for Cid and a quick scene with Cait Sith. Tifa, meanwhile, does have some new scenes and dialog, including another brief but satisfying demonstration of her awesome martial art abilities, but for fans of her and Cloud’s relationship (myself included), nothing new is added. Well, there is one brief moment that I felt was a terrific touch, and further expands on some of the messages conveyed in the original game’s ending as well as Advent Children’s main theme, but I don’t want to give it away.
As for the final showdown between Cloud and you-know-who, you may have read comments over how the battle has been extended, and is even more intense than before. While this is indeed true, the additions to the already chaotic battle only occur near the end. However, it certainly does expand the battle to new levels of brutality (again, no spoilers), and has more than a few added fanservice moments that will become immediately obvious to fans.
Special Features are mostly paltry carryovers from the DVD cut of AC, but the most notable extra is Episode: Denzel. An anime adaption of the Case of Denzel short story, this feature focuses on Denzel during specific moments in FFVII’s story (namely, the attack on Sector 7, the final day of the Meteor’s arrival, and the events following after), showcasing the many perils of his life that leads to his eventual adoption by Cloud and Tifa. The feature is a talkie, which might upset those who preferred Last Order’s fast paced action, but it does an effective job on showing the struggles that Midgar’s residents had to endure, from salvaging the remains of their city as well as putting aside the tensions between the upper and lower plate citizens. The animation is done by a different studio than Last Order, and while the latter did a flawless job of adapting Nomura’s artwork, the style used for Episode: Denzel is still great as well, offering a different but acceptable look for mainstay characters (despite their brief screentime) as well as Midgar’s citizens and architecture. It’s a very well done feature, and as an anime fan I can only hope that there will be more FFVII-related works in the future, including adaptions of the other short stories.
While it might not immediately change everyone’s perspective of the feature as a whole, there is no doubt that the changes and additions to Advent Children have greatly improved the movie. No longer is the film a guilty pleasure full of action, but is now a competent tale that balances its over the top action along with its emotional weight. It’s something that should be experienced by every Final Fantasy VII fan, and is a great sendoff for the beloved series.
Except the story isn’t over yet. We can only hope the next entry can carry on the high note established by this film along with the recent Crisis Core game on PSP.