It's been a few years since it was originally released on DVD here in the States, but Final Fantasy VII: Advent Children has hit store shelves once more. Rather than upgrade the already available standard definition release Sony and Square Enix have put together a Blu-ray release fans may find worth celebrating. The original film is here, and it's every bit as entertaining as ever, but Final Fantasy VII: Advent Children Complete has the added bonus of a sharper presentation, touched up scenes, and roughly 30 minutes of new content. If you own a Blu-ray player and you love Final Fantasy VII picking up this release is a no-brainer.
Coming from the viewpoint of someone who thoroughly enjoyed Advent Children and has watched it many times I was quite anxious to see what was added or changed for Complete. Did it really change the experience? Did it enhance the film at all? The bottom line is they do make the film better and some things are explained a little more, but ultimately it's not that big of a difference. In case you're unfamiliar with Advent Children here's a brief look at the film prior to a discussion about what's been redone for Complete. For more details about the film you can check out my reviews for the previous editions here: Regular and Limited Edition.
Advent Children takes place two years after the events of Final Fantasy VII for the PlayStation 2. It features a world where Sephiroth no longer exists though his shadow plagues the land in the form of an illness known as Geostigma. People are getting sick all across the globe and not much is known about the disease. There seems to be no cure for Geostigma and it appears as though the lifestream itself is killing these people. This disease has decimated the once thriving capital of Midgar and due to events from the game Shin-Ra is no more.
With this set up in place it's time for Advent Children to show us some familiar faces. Tifa appears here and she runs a business with Cloud, but those details really aren't important. They still have a deep friendship and they take care of some kids in Midgar, such as Barret's daughter Marlene and a kid named Denzel. The film wastes little time here and quickly introduces us to the trio of bad guys named Kadaj, Yazoo, and Loz. These guys regard Cloud as a brother and seek to find their "mother", otherwise known as Jenova.
The film plays off their likeliness to Sephiroth and they seem to possess a lot of the same powers that Cloud does. They can summon shadow creatures, use materia, and even match the spiky-haired hero in melee combat. Granted they seem to get the upper hand in many of their confrontations here due largely in part to Cloud being infected by the Geostigma as well. This becomes a large part of the plot in Advent Children and soon enough we see Cloud and Tifa getting wrapped up in events that extend back to Shin-Ra and the resurrection of Sephiroth. From start to finish Advent Children is still a rock-solid movie with a plot that really works if you were a fan of the game. There are so many subtle nods to the Final Fantasy VII universe that only people who enjoyed the game will pick up on, so much of it will be lost on you if you haven't played it. Complete doesn't change that fact either, though it does add quite a bit of content and fleshes some things out.
So what's different about this version of the film? Well, Final Fantasy: Crisis Core fans will appreciate the scene that features a conversation between Cloud and Zack that has been added. Zack's presence in the original cut of the film was rather obscure, but this time around there's some nice exposition regarding their relationship and he plays a bigger role. Another character that receives some fleshing out in the film is Denzel. In the original version of Advent Children Denzel played a big part in Cloud's motivation, but it was never quite clear what his relationship with Cloud and Tifa was. Not only do we get some glimpses of the kid in the current timeline, but there are also some nice flashbacks with him and Cloud.
The other touches to the film are fairly minor. At the beginning there is a little more dialogue with Tseng, Elena, and Reno in the crater, but it's nothing major. There is a nice conversation between Rufus Shinra and Kadaj that helps set the stage and explain some things early on. Aside from these you can expect some small details come through such as some additional bits with Midgar's citizens, some new fights that weren't in the original cut, and an all around enhancement of some special effects. Despite these additions one of the coolest has to be the revved up fight between Cloud and Sephiroth. It's much more visceral than before and there are a load of nice touchups that expand their battle and make it more dramatic.
All in all Final Fantasy VII: Advent Children Complete is a worthy upgrade for fans of the original film who want to see more. It's not different enough to make it accessible for viewers who haven't played the game, but it has been altered enough to be noticeably different by those who loved the movie. It can still be a little hard to follow at times if you're not paying attention, the fighting is still nonsensical, and whole affair reeks of fan service, but it's still a lot of fun. This is the best version of the film, hands down, and it's clear that the two years since its last release has been well spent. Despite its exclusive nature this film is still highly recommended.
The standard definition release for Advent Children was pretty sexy, so naturally I was looking forward to seeing what Sony did with the Blu-ray release. For the most part the image is noticeably improved upon, and you can see subtle details that were changed here and there. The higher resolution of the Blu-ray brings this film ever closer to perfection and you'd be hard-pressed to find a disc that is more suitable for showing off your home theater. The higher out does allow for some minor aliasing to show up now and then, but those moments are fleeting at best and hardly worth mentioning when looking at the image as a whole. This is a gorgeous experience from start to finish and it's about as close to reference material as you're going to get.
Final Fantasy VII: Advent Children Complete is presented on Blu-ray in 1080p high definition with AVC MPEG-4 encoding. The original 1.78:1 aspect ratio has been kept intact and as you'd expect the whole affair is still in anamorphic widescreen. Throughout this picture the clarity of the image is one of the most impressive aspects, and in all honesty it should be considering this release comes straight from the original master. Like Pixar movies and other 3D computer productions there should be no loss in quality going from the original source to Blu-ray and thankfully that's pretty much the case here. Flesh tones remain eerily realistic, black levels contain quite a lot of depth, textures look photo-realistic, and all around there are many details which ring through loud and clear.
This is simply one of the better looking Blu-ray releases I have seen and the transfer hardly skips a beat. There are so many breathtaking moments in this film and some of the battles simply have to be seen to be believed.
The standard definition DVD releases contained Dolby Digital tracks for English and Japanese, and it's safe to say that the film made an impression with a fantastic sense of immersion and a fine level of clarity. I'm pleased to report that the Dolby Digital TrueHD 5.1 selections for the Blu-ray release maintain that same level of quality and raise the bar every so slightly.
Whether you're watching Advent Children with the English or Japanese (or French) language tracks the quality is fairly equal all around. I will say that the original Japanese track packs a little more punch with atmospheric sounds that are more defined, music that carries more oomph, and dialogue that feels more at home on the soundstage. That doesn't mean the English track is a slouch either, but it just doesn't quite maintain the level of perfection that the Japanese track does. Both tracks are quite good and a cut above many other Blu-ray releases, but man, the Japanese track here is simply amazing. Expect your home theater to get a workout and use this as a showing piece to convince your friends to buy into Blu-ray. It simply doesn't get much better.
There is a 2.0 Japanese stereo track offered as well, but there's little point in that track when you have the potency of the TrueHD 5.1.
The Blu-ray release for Advent Children comes with some familiar bonus features, but some new stuff has been added for good measure. Before we get to what's on the disc, let's talk about what is not. With the Japanese release for Advent Children there was a demo for the upcoming Final Fantasy XIII. Regretfully I have to report that demo has not made it to the US release. Instead we get a sexy seven minute sneak peak with clips and such from the game that will merely make you wish you had the demo.
Some trailers make their way onto this disc as well as the familiar feature, "Reminiscence of Final Fantasy VII", which has appeared on other releases of the film. It's basically a video montage of events from the original game and will more or less make you wish Square Enix would just remake the title with updated graphics. Unfortunately that's the only feature to make its way from the DVD releases, so if you were hoping for some of the supplemental content from the Limited Edition you're going to be disappointed.
Fortunately, despite the fact that some material is missing, there is some new content that's exclusive to the Blu-ray release. The most notable feature is "On the Way to a Smile - Episode: Denzel". This is an animated short that clocks in at over twenty minutes and it looks at the character of Denzel. Who he is, where he came from, and where he goes after the events of the film are all looked at here. The new scenes in the film helped flesh out his character a little, but this feature accomplishes a little more. "Legacy of Final Fantasy VII" is a short piece that more or less looks at the game franchise and how FFVII changed it. The final feature here is an updated version of the "Reminiscence" one and it more or less brings together bits of the story that were assembled after the US release of the movie. Basically this "compilation" of "Reminiscence" helps to make the story more complete.
Ultimately, whether or not you buy into the Blu-ray edition of Final Fantasy VII: Advent Children depends largely on where you stand with the game. If you've played FF VII and you loved it, then you'll most assuredly enjoy Advent Children. The film itself is very entertaining and despite the fact that it can be a little hard to follow at times, and nonsensical at others, it's still a spectacle befitting the franchise. I personally love the movie and have watched it several times, though I will acknowledge that it's not for everyone.
As far as the Blu-ray edition is concerned, this is arguably the best version of the film. The additional scenes bring a lot more depth to the story and characters, and what's not to love about a longer, more brutal fight between Cloud and Sephiroth? The quality of this disc speaks for itself with outstanding audio and a near perfect picture. The bonus features are a tad disappointing, though the inclusion of the FF XIII sneak peak and Denzel episodes are welcome additions. Even so I can't help but wonder why you'd call something "complete" if it doesn't contain supplemental features that are already available. This basically means fans of the film will have to double dip in order to get the whole experience.
That double dip is okay in my book though. This release is solid all around regardless of what it lacks. Consider it highly recommended!
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