TOKYO--Square Enix has finally released its carefully crafted gift to fandom, Final Fantasy: Advent Children, to stores across Japan. The film is available both on DVD and in the PSP's UMD format, and we were able to snag copies of the movie off the shelf fairly readily in Tokyo. Final Fantasy VII's long-awaited sequel brings the game's cast back to life vividly with some of the best-looking computer-generated art to date, and it finally gives fans a chance to catch up with old friends. We'll avoid discussing any major plot spoilers here, but even the plot seems almost a secondary point to seeing the original cast in action again. Nostalgia abounds in this film.
We've seen a good chunk of the cast appear in trailers already, and while the movie revolves most strongly around Cloud and Tifa, just about all the major characters from the game make some kind of appearance. The movie features the pale-haired trio of all-new antagonists, led by Kadaj, who are the sinister bunch fermenting discord in what seems to be the last human settlement that remains among the ruins of Midgard. Between their activities and a mysterious disease assailing the populace, it seems the world still hasn't managed to find peace.
The images of the world that you'll glimpse run the gamut from largely barren, open landscapes to the broken skeleton of Midgard itself, though you'll see plenty of specific areas that you'll remember from the game. The old chapel with Aerith's carefully tended patch of flowers is still here, though stewardship of her precious blossoms seems to have fallen to Cloud. Likewise, the haunting lake where Aerith's lifeless body was laid to rest remains a poignant site, surrounded by glistening white trees--and it seems that the area continues to channel potent energies, as well. Even the very opening sequence of the movie is pulled not too subtly from the game, showing Red XIII and his brethren loping across a dusty stretch of land to howl at the overgrown, crumbled remains of what once was one of the mightiest cities on the planet.
These images are often accompanied by some format of the appropriate original music. Much of the game's music, composed by Nobuo Uematsu, features snatches of themes from the original work or remixes. Fans will readily recognize character-specific themes, like Aerith's, as well as the opening music, and even a number of battle themes. The music often comes up in interesting places, short snatches that are slipped in somewhere as a further nod to fans. There are touches like this all throughout the film, like a little girl who dangles around a favorite stuffed moogle most everywhere she goes. If you pick up the UMD version of this game, you'll have access to the entire soundtrack independently from the film.
As beautiful as the movie looks, a lot of it is due not merely to the level of detail and artistry that went into molding the characters, but to the over-the-top action sequences the characters are so often thrown into. These scenes are well choreographed and feature the usual separation from the forces of gravity that make such acrobatics all the more fun to watch, with nearly blindingly fast movement, a lot of epic leaps, and a flurry of weaponry of all sorts. There's at least one limit-break attack thrown in there as well, along with a summoned monster, just in case you forgot for a second that this is a Final Fantasy movie.
Many of you might be wondering at this point how import-friendly this movie is, and the answer is…not very. You'd need a Japanese PSP or DVD player for that region to play the movie at all, and there aren't any English subtitle options to help you follow along with the story, so you'd be left with an awful lot of pretty CG, and that's about it. An English release isn't too far off, though, so Final Fantasy VII fans outside of Japan will soon be able to get that long-delayed sequel fix. Those fans shouldn't feel neglected anymore, either, because Advent Children is the forerunner of a number of Final Fantasy VII products to come, including Dirge of Cerberus for the PlayStation 2 and Crisis Core for mobile phones. From Yuffie to the Turks, from Vincent to Cait Sith, the classic crew is making its return in force. Final Fantasy: Advent Children serves to remind us how vibrant those characters yet remain, even years after the game that gave their world life.