When Final Fantasy VII Remake dropped on March 2020 (which feels like forever ago), it rapidly received praise for its presentation, gameplay, and story. Both the in-game and CGI graphics made the characters and environments look amazing. The battles were engaging and encouraged players to mess around with different combos and spells. The characters, even minor ones, were lovingly fleshed out with personality.
As the weeks wore on, the game’s unique take on the original story became hit-or-miss with some folks, but general feelings about it remained positive. It became a much-needed treat for new players and old fans during what would turn out to be a very stressful year.
With Final Fantasy VII Remake (FF7R) a contender on several “Game of the Year” lists, now is as good a time as any for a spoiler-free revisit to another title that came before the retelling–Final Fantasy VII: Advent Children.
Starting with the Sequel
First released in 2005, Final Fantasy VII: Advent Children (FF7:AC) is a fully computer-animated movie that runs about 101 minutes long. It’s a cinematic sequel to Final Fantasy VII (FF7), a video game released back in 1997 for the first PlayStation.
The game, developed by the Japanese company Square Enix (known as SquareSoft at the time), was such an enormous hit that fans clung to its shakily translated story and quirky quests for many years after its release. No one could forget the charming characters and the narrative’s surprising twists and turns. For some players, it also served as “baby’s first role-playing game,” which cemented it as a beloved game from their childhood.
This explains why a company would want to make a sequel to a game that was nearly a decade old by the time the film was released. There were plenty of fans still out there, ready to see their faves again battling against their enemies in glorious, fluid CGI.
Being a sequel, jumping right into FF7:AC might feel awkward since it assumes anyone watching has played the game. But it’s still an engrossing flick for folks who haven’t played FF7. The movie is easy to follow with a simple good vs. bad plot that centers on FF7’s main character, Cloud Strife, and his friends two years after the events of the game. Fights are flashy and completely unrealistic–gravity is more of a guideline than a rule in this fantasy–making it a fun, mindless movie for anyone to zone out and enjoy.
A “director’s cut” edition of the movie, called Final Fantasy VII: Advent Children Complete, was released four years later in 2009. It featured nearly 25 minutes of additional scenes, improved graphics, and more character details.
Year of the Remake or the Sequel?
Watching FF7: AC after playing FF7R is a weird trip to the past. When the movie was first released, I was in my last year of high school and my primitive teen brain was completely blown away by how awesome everyone looked. They went from blocky figures in the original game to cellphone-brandishing beauty models in the film. Everyone in Advent Children was so hot.
But now it’s the remake that’s blown me away, and it’s hard to look at AC again with the same level of high praise I had as a kid. Don’t get me wrong: the CGI still holds up well after 15 years, but it definitely looks aged compared to the crisp graphics in Remake. The film looks less sharp, less saturated with color, and more dreary in tone.
This doesn’t make it totally unwatchable, though. The somber, washed-out look fits the theme of the movie very well. The post-FF7 world is still rebuilding from near-catastrophic events that occurred at the end of the game. Cloud is struggling with some heavy guilt and stress from past and current problems that continue to haunt him. People around him are falling ill and dying from a mysterious, seemingly incurable disease.
It’s a complete contrast to FF7R, which is bursting with color and city chatter and so many things for characters to do. It accurately reflects the wide-eyed feeling of exploring a new place for the first time. There are lights everywhere, people working, neighbors taking care of each other, and animals and children running around.
If Remake were to represent life and new beginnings, then Advent Children would represent death and the struggle to move past it. The film goes over this theme with a straightforward plot: kids are orphaned and sick, they end up looking for help from the wrong people, and Cloud has to muster the courage to save them as he continues to doubt his ability to do so.
There’s a distinct lack of goofiness about the whole movie, which can feel like a tonal whiplash after playing the at-times silly FF7R. The consensus among many fans is that you’ll either be cool with it or really hate it.
But, honestly, that heel-turn in tone makes this the perfect time to rewatch Advent Children. Its themes, Cloud’s challenges, and his determination to overcome them go beyond the original or remade game. In a year when people are reexamining their lives by thinking about death, illness, friendships, families, and meaningful work, a movie like this can connect with us on a personal level–as well as hitting that sweet spot of nostalgia.
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