FINAL FANTASY VII: ADVENT CHILDREN
For ten installments, each Final Fantasy game remained as a standalone. Then came Final Fantasy X-2, which effectively broke the no-sequel rule, giving gamers hope for a sequel to Final Fantasy VII, the game which kicked off the explosion of RPGs on the PlayStation. Fans' prayers were answered in a very unconventional and quite innovative way.
Called a "true sequel" to Final Fantasy VII, Final Fantasy VII: Advent Children was announced in September 2003 at the Tokyo Game Show. However, Final Fantasy VII: Advent Children wasn't a game; it was to be a fully-animated CG movie. It would prove to be Square Enix's first return to CG filmmaking since the motion picture Final Fantasy: The Spirits Within flopped at the box-office and forced them into a merger with Enix.
Although Internet speculation ran wild, it wasn't until February 2004 that gamers finally got a first proper look at Square Enix's most ambitious project to date. Tucked away in the Japanese-only release of Final Fantasy X-2 International was a trailer featuring Cloud, Sephiroth and other beloved characters from the original game. It offered a taste of things to come, with exceptional CGI and amazing fight scenes.
Originally slated for a 2004 release, Final Fantasy VII: Advent Children was eventually released on DVD in September 2005, although an edited twenty-five minute version was shown at the Venice Film Festival in 2004. This cut contained some of the best fight scenes and alternative ending credits, but much of the plot was removed. It served to whet appetites for the final version, which runs at just over an hour and forty minutes. It was received to universal acclaim at the Venice Film Festival, but fans still had to wait another year before being able to get their hands on the final version.
Beginning with the ending of Final Fantasy VII and the sight of Red XIII standing over the ruins of Midgar, Final Fantasy VII: Advent Children opens with a prologue that recaps the climatic events of Final Fantasy VII. For the first time, famous scenes much beloved by fans of the original game were recreated in stunning three-dimensions, such as Sephiroth standing amid flames, Cloud laying Aerith to rest, and the planet rising up to destroy the meteor that threatened to wipe out all life.
Two years have passed since the events of Final Fantasy VII, and the world is slowly rebuilding. Parts of Midgar are still in ruins, but the city is bustling with people, and it appears to be thriving. However, a sickness known as Geostigma has begun to spread, killing adults and children. Tifa's bar, Seventh Heaven, is now a home for orphans suffering from the disease, as well as for Marlene Wallace, the film's young narrator and Barret's adopted daughter.
Cloud, infected with the disease, has been living at the church where Aerith's spirit once tended to lilies. However, trouble is on the horizon with arrival of Kadaj and his silver-haired cohorts. All three of them are related to Sephiroth and Cloud; they all had Jenova's genes implanted in them, and Kadaj is searching for their 'mother' -- the remains of Jenova herself -- in order to bring about the Reunion and complete Sephiroth's plan for the planet's destruction.
This insane scheme eventually leads to the summoning of Bahamut Sin in the center of Midgar, but the monster is defeated by Cloud's Limit Break. This paves the way for a final, climactic showdown with Kadaj, who absorbs Jenova's remains into himself and transforms into the Masamune-wielding fallen angel, Sephiroth.
One of the most intriguing aspects of the film is Aerith, given a voice for the first time by Maaya Sakamoto. Although she does not appear 'in the flesh,' so to speak, her presence is vital to the plot; it is she who helps Cloud on his quest for forgiveness by acting as his conscience, Aerith who helps him to defeat Bahamut Sin, and she who creates the holy water which ultimately cures Geostigma. Now a part of the Lifestream, it is because of her heritage as a Cetra that Aerith's consciousness remains intact and she is able to watch over those that she loves.
Aerith's actual appearance, aside from her trademark pink dress and jacket, was a closely guarded secret, and her face is not fully revealed until the last few moments of the film. During Advent Children, Square Enix were careful to ensure that all shots featuring the game's beloved flower-girl tended to end at her chin. Prior to its release, the Internet was filled with pictures claiming to represent Aerith's true appearance.
Aerith is featured in the film's extra set of ending credits, which depict Cloud riding Fenrir past green fields, where Aerith is standing amid yellow flowers, watching as he passes her by. This segment also contains hidden information -- in the form of phone calls between Cloud, Vincent, Barret, Cid and Yuffie -- only revealed in the Reminiscence of FFVII featurette, giving viewers a clue of what happens after the movie ends.
Final Fantasy VII: Advent Children was released in Japan on September 14, 2005 in three different DVD editions, as well as a UMD with extra features. In the first week, Final Fantasy VII: Advent Children sold around 420,000 copies -- ninety-two percent of the copies in production.
The first DVD release was a standard, somewhat bare-bones disc, which contained trailers for Final Fantasy VII: Advent Children, Before Crisis: Final Fantasy VII, the new PlayStation 2 game Dirge of Cerberus: Final Fantasy VII, and Crisis Core: Final Fantasy VII, as well as a commentary by the director, and a documentary called Reminiscence of FFVII, which provided background story for anyone who had not played the game. The second edition merely had a limited edition cover, while the PlayStation Portable UMD release contained the film, and battle music not included in the official soundtrack.
For the true collector, the most important release is the limited edition Advent Pieces. Aimed at hard-core Japanese otaku and retailing at around $300, only 77,777 sets were produced, and Advent Pieces sold out months in advance of its release date.
Packaged in a deluxe suitcase, the Advent Pieces boxset contains an exclusive figurine of Cloud on his new bike, Fenrir, a baseball cap in a container, a keychain inscribed with Cloud's wolf motif, and a copy of the script. One of the more stunning items, however, was a special pressing of Final Fantasy VII International for the PSOne, with the three game discs contained inside an impressive display stand. A special CD-edition of the strategy guide is included for gamers as well.
FINAL FANTASY VII: LAST ORDER
Aside from the movie DVD included in the standard and limited editions, a special second disc is included in the Advent Pieces limited edition box which includes extras not found anywhere else. As well as the Venice Film Festival cut of the film, various deleted scenes, a making-of documentary and almost every promotional trailer ever produced for the film, the disc also contains an animated OVA called Final Fantasy VII: Last Order, which forms the basis for the PSP title Core Crisis: Final Fantasy VII, due to be released in 2006.
Animated by acclaimed Madhouse Studios, Final Fantasy VII: Last Order comprises of the two flashbacks which form the foundation of the central plot of Final Fantasy VII. The first takes place five years before the game, covering the experiences of Zack, Tifa and Cloud as they recall Sephiroth's descent into insanity and the fiery destruction of Nibelheim. The second covers Cloud and Zack's escape from Shin-Ra. The two flashbacks are connected by the reflections of the Turk's leader, Tseng as he rereads a case file on Sephiroth and Cloud.
THE MOVIE SOUNDTRACK
Shortly after the release of Final Fantasy VII: Advent Children, a special two-disc soundtrack was released, containing music from the movie as well as several classic Final Fantasy VII tracks -- such as "Aerith's Theme" and the infamous "One Winged Angel" -- rewritten for Final Fantasy VII: Advent Children as "Sairin: Kata Tsubasa no Tenshi" ("Advent: One-Winged Angel.")
The soundtrack itself was released in two versions, with a normal edition and a limited edition with a different cover and a special silver slipcase featuring Cloud. However, this limited edition was sold out weeks before its official release.
The music contained on the CD comprises of a multitude of different styles, from the chanting chorals of "Yakusoku no Chi ~The Promised Land" to the hard-rock tracks of "J-E-N-O-V-A (FFVII AC Version)" and "Sairin: Kata Tsubasa no Tenshi."
While much of the music -- such as "Black Water" -- has a darker, solemn tone, as befits the film itself, some tracks do give hope. "Aerith's Theme (Piano Version)" is a peaceful, contemplative solo which captures the character of the beloved flower girl perfectly, while "Water" is tinged with an ethereal melody that captures the magic and mystery of some of the more spiritual concepts in the film. "Calling" is the bonus ending theme. Although it is J-Rock, it goes well with the credits and the sight of Cloud speeding through the countryside, now at peace with the world and able to begin to live again.
NORTH AMERICAN RELEASE
The North American release of Final Fantasy VII: Advent Children was originally supposed to coincide with the Japanese date in what was termed a "simultaneous worldwide release." This date has since been pushed back several times, but as of November 30, the official release date is March 28, 2006. No reason has been yet given for the continual change in its release date. We can only hope that the delay will lend itself to a high quality domestic release.
One of the more interesting items released in conjunction with Final Fantasy VII: Advent Children is a phone manufactured by Panasonic. The FOMA P900iV was released sometime prior to the movie, but it is identical to the model used by Cloud in the film. The phone, however, features some interesting features related to Final Fantasy VII: Advent Children, with wallpapers, ringtones, sound effects and the ability to make video calls as Aerith, Cloud and Tifa.