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Blu-ray Review

DVD cover

Final Fantasy VII
Advent Children


Starring (voice): Takahiro Sakurai, Showtaro Morikubo, Maaya Sakamoto and Ayumi Ito
Sony Pictures Home Entertainment
RRP: £19.99
Certificate: PG
Available 27 July 2009

Two years have passed since Cloud and Avalanche averted a catastrophe which would have destroyed the planet, a catastrophe engineered by former soldier, Sephiroth. The survivors of the city of Midgard have started to rebuild a new city, Edge, but things have improved little and the children have started to suffer from a new disease, Geostigma. On his way back to the home that he shares with Tifa, Marlene and the orphaned Denzel, Cloud is attacked by a trio of hype powerful warriors, Kadaj, Loz, and Yazoo, who demand to know where their ‘Mother’ is...

Final Fantasy VII: Advent Children (2005 - 2 hrs, 06 min, 33 sec) is a full CGI animated film, based on the Final Fantasy VII game, directed by Takeshi Nozue (who has directed many of the latter Final Fantasy games) and Tetsuya Nomura (the original character designer for the game), from a script by Kazushige Nojima (director of many of the latter games). The musical score was by Nobuo Uematsu, who has provided evocative scores for many games. If you’re wondering about the film’s title it comes from Square's original game. When the company thought that they would probably go into liquidation they threw all their talent into one last game, hence Final Fantasy. As it turned out they created a new kind of game which has gone from strength to strength, however the general opinion of most gamers is that FFVII, because of its storyline and immersive game play, remains the best of the titles, even ten years after it was first released.

The story follows Cloud as he discovers that the brothers are after their ‘Mother’, the remaining existing cells of the creature Jenova, a powerful being, which nearly destroyed the planet and the source of Sephiroth’s power. Rufus and the Turks try to enlist Cloud's help in stopping the trio, an offer he rejects until the trio start to take children to initiate the ‘reunion’ an event which potentially could resurrect Clouds old nemesis Sephiroth. Cloud enlists his old friends in this final confrontation.

Square had tried previously to create a fully CGI animated film with Final Fantasy: The Spirits Within (2001), though the film was visually impressive and boasted a good cast its script failed to exploit the possibilities of this new medium. Some of the character movements were clunky, something which has been improved immensely in FFVII. Its lack of commercial success could have spelt the end, except for the millions of Final Fantasy VII fans, which created an eager audience, who have clamoured for more since the game was first released in 1997.

The first iteration of the film, although constructed to be a fully fledged feature, made few concessions to non-fans of the game, leading to a story which was invariably confusing. For fans of the game the film had pretty much everything one could have put on a wish list, so all of the main characters return, even a dead one, as do many of the locations from the game. The new version of the film has gone one step further with nearly an extra thirty minutes of footage and some improvements in the scene selection which should open up the story line to even the uninitiated. The story creates a real emotional resonance, a factor missing in a lot of CGI films, which engages the audience in the plight of the characters, plus it has some well choreographed, pulse pounding, action sequences.

Looked at today, the film's photo-realistic visuals remain stunning to watch, personally this is the best CGI film made so far. Although stylised it goes to great efforts to make its characters believable. There are even moments when you forget you're watching a bunch of pixels. This time around, the changes that have been made to the film have created a more coherent script with better character development. Although the film has been given a makeover, the new scenes are a little sharper than the originals which still maintain their slightly soft look. That said the film as a whole is pin-sharp, with a great deal of detail and scenes which will take your breath away.

The disc comes with a number of extras; The Legacy of Final Fantasy VII (6 min, 38 sec) takes a look at the game series' development and its spread into almost every media. Reminiscence of Final Fantasy VII (23 min, 55 sec) presents the original game as a story and is the same as the version which first appeared on the DVD. Reminiscence of Final Fantasy VII: Compilation (29 min, 43 sec) is an updated version of the former extra, this time using newer footage including Crisis Core. On the Way to a Smile: Episode Denzel (28 min, 07 sec) is an animated episode, in Japanese, with English subs, which gives the background to the Denzel character, something which was sorely missing in the original film. I would suggest that you watch at least this extra before launching into the feature. Lastly there is a Sneak Peek at Final Fantasy XIII (7 min, 12 sec) which is not the playable version that was released with the Japanese release, but a rather impressive promo for the upcoming game, that’s been in development for years. The disc wraps up with a bunch of trailers, Jump Festa 2009 (2 min, 45 sec), Tokyo Game Show 2008 (2 min, 14 sec), DKE3713 (1 min, 57 sec), Tokyo Game Show 2007 (1 min, 47 sec) and Square Enix Party 2007 (1 min, 47 sec). Most of the extras are in 480p except for the animated Denzel episode and the Sneak Peek.

The film is presented with two audio tracks, an English Dolby TrueHD 5.1 track and a Japanese Dolby TrueHD 5.1, with optional subtitles. Both tracks have a good dynamic range, excellent separation and bass tones, but the Japanese version has a slightly better sound mix. The picture is good enough to be a reference disc for your system and should certainly be an impressive introduction to Blu-ray.

It’s difficult to find fault with this release of the film, the story has been improved, both the audio and visual experience are of reference quality, it’s a pity that some of the extras which appeared on the special edition DVD didn’t make it to the Blu-ray and a seamless branching option to watch the film in its original incarnation would have been nice, but hey, you can’t have everything. All things considered it’s still an impressive addition to your collection.


Charles Packer

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