In 1997, Square Soft released arguably the best video game ever made: “Final Fantasy VII.” A turn-based role-playing game, “FFVII” not only perfected the RPG format, but also set the bar for gaming graphics and 3-D interaction. The series’ following is as devout as it is opinionated, but there is no doubt that the seventh installment stands as one of the Gospels of the RPG world. And it is because of this legion that the game required a follow up – albeit as a motion picture.
The game was revolutionary in several aspects. Its battles occurred in signature role-playing fashion, but it was how they progressed in tandem with the storyline that made “FFVII” remarkable. The use of magic (also known in the game as materia), the imaginative weapons system and the presence of “summons” (calling forth various creatures to your war effort) neither waxed obnoxious or became boring.
Even the game’s world was carefully planned out to ensure a near-limitless range of possibilities. Traveling through the constructed planet became not only fun and exciting, but also essential to success in the game. But all of this isn’t why “FFVII” became so influential and successful – what set it apart from all other games was its storyline, in particular its mythology.
Without diverging into a 3,000-word essay on the genius of the plot, “FFVII” is, on the most basic level, a story of good versus evil. In this case though, good is a part of evil. And unfortunately for evil, good always wins. The game explored the loss of a significant other, self-doubt and several philosophical concepts. What was most important for “FFVII” – the seventh in a series of unrelated games where characters and plots are only developed for 40 hours – was the perpetuation of the myth: the inability to destroy evil completely.
So how, after hours of engrossing plot development, could Square Soft continue the story that began in “FFVII” without destroying the legacy of the game? After several subsequent followups – none of which matched the excellence of “FFVII” – the sequel to their masterpiece was released (in CGI, movie format no less): “Final Fantasy VII: Advent Children.”
And now that the difficult task of creating a fantasy world and believable characters was finished in the game, director Tetsuya Nomura and the writers had open road ahead to create “Advent Children.”
The film is set two years after game leaves off, with the same principal and supporting characters. Cloud Strife finds himself with teammate Tifa Lockheart running a delivery service with a plague (called “geo-stigma”) spreading across the planet – Cloud being one of the many infected. With no cure in sight, Cloud has lost all hope and frequently ventures out on his own in typical rogue fashion. Not until news that his nemesis Sephiroth (the half-human he was cloned from) may return does Cloud reunite with his friends to fight the evil they thought they had destroyed. Needless to say, intense, high-paced, gravity-defying battle scenes ensue for the next hour.
“Advent Children” is beautifully directed with tight cinematography: features you wouldn’t imagine are important in a film made completely with computer-generated images. Cutting between flashbacks, previous scenes in the movie and real-time events, “Advent Children” changes rapidly enough to keep the viewer enthralled
But even though the cinematography doesn’t confuse, the continuation of the storyline is a little hard to follow. Fortunately, included on the DVD is a brief summary of the game, which helps to clear up any gray spots. “Advent Children” is a gorgeous piece of technological artwork and proves itself the only viable way to follow its landmark predecessor.
Final Fantasy VII: Advent Children
Film: 4 out of 4 stars
Special Features: 3 out of 4 stars