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  1. Kingsglaive: Final Fantasy XV, a movie that parallels the Final Fantasy XV game, promised to bring photorealistic visuals and an understandable Final Fantasy story to fans of the games and newcomers alike. In the film, the kingdom of Lucis has waged war with the enemy empire Niflheim for many years. Regis, King of Lucis, possesses the Divine Crystal and the Ring of the Lucii, powerful magical objects that Niflheim wants. To protect them, Lucis raised an impenetrable wall around the crown city of Insomnia, using the power of the crystal. Despite Lucis’ great magic and the king’s mighty warriors known as the Kingsglaive, Niflheim seems poised to win the war with its unsurpassed military force. Unexpectedly, Niflheim proposes a peace treaty that specifies Regis relinquish all territories outside Insomnia and marry his son Prince Noctis to Princess Lunafreya of Tenebrae. Twelve years previously, Tenebrae, a former ally of Lucis, fell under Niflheim rule when Regis abandoned it to save himself and Noctis. Regis decides to accept Niflheim’s treaty, but sends his son away to a safe location outside Insomnia, creating enemies among his own people and the Kingsglaive. Despite its superficially sufficient story, beautiful visuals, and action-packed fight scenes, many critics describe Kingsglaive as a gorgeous mess. Many complain about the difficulty of following its convoluted and political plot. Others point out its weak characters: helpless and useless females, a throwaway protagonist, and stereotypical kings attempting to outmaneuver one another. Still others equate it to a long video game cut scene or trailer. Criticisms about its weird lip syncing, mixed voice acting, and poorly written dialog abound. As for me, I feel a sense of déjà vu. The description sounds awfully familiar: a Final Fantasy movie promising to bring photorealistic graphics and an accessible story to a new audience only to produce a lukewarm story disguised with impressive visuals. It bears a striking resemblance to Final Fantasy: The Spirits Within. I even recognize the complaints critics have in that I don’t think they reveal the source of Kingsglaive’s problems. I’ve argued before that Spirits Within contains a fatal flaw in the obstacles that the protagonist faces in the pursuit of her goal to save her life and the world. Kingsglaive similarly has a flaw with its conflicts. This time, however, the problem is that conflicts are almost non-existent. In most stories, characters have problems to solve. Simple stories often have one major, overarching conflict that the characters must resolve and many smaller obstacles that hinder them along the way. Conflicts not only add excitement and purpose, but also help define the world and its characters. Of course, obstacles work best when the characters have a good reason to overcome them no matter what. For example, a major conflict could be that a hero must free her village from a king’s tyrannical rule. In order to do this, she decides to kill the king and take his throne. The obstacles in her way include traveling to the king’s crown city, sneaking in through his walls, breaking into his castle, and fighting through his guards. She also has a clumsy, obnoxious wizard for a sidekick, who she tolerates because of his useful magical powers. Failure means her death and the destruction of her village. High stakes, big obstacles, and a variety of conflicts usually make stories exciting and engaging. The heroes of Kingsglaive seem to fight for “the future” against characters who fight for “their homes.” These vague ideals rarely conflict with one another though nor do significant obstacles arise from other sources. Most of the main characters can’t fail to achieve their goals, and the consequences for failure are never defined and logically don’t seem that bad. Consequently, pointless violence, duty, and death fills the film, but one person could have given meaning to everything. Prince Noctis produces everyone’s problems and gives everyone purpose, but alas, he doesn’t appear in the film to bring this to light. No amount of action-packed fight scenes fill the void of meaninglessness that Noctis’ absence creates. As is, Kingsglaive suggests that the conflict between King Regis and his people comes from differences in beliefs as to what the kingdom should protect: the people’s “homelands” or the “future.” The film doesn’t define what these terms mean, but in general, “fighting for home” seems to refer to a desire for a just king who keeps his people safe. “Fighting for the future” seems equivalent to protecting Noctis so he can fulfill his destiny as the future king and world’s savior. While many of the characters fall into one camp or the other, each character seems to define what they fight for and how they will fight for it in a different way. King Regis fights for the future, which involves protecting both Lunafreya and Noctis. To make up for the fall of Tenebrae, he wants to free Luna from Niflheim’s grasp and reunite her with her beloved Noctis. Luna also protects the future, but she believes that she must stay away from Noctis to keep him safe and that her survival doesn’t matter. The protagonist, a member of the Kingsglaive named Nyx, fights for the future by serving King Regis. After Regis gives away his hometown Galahd to Niflheim, Nyx’s friend and former Kingsglaive Libertus fights to overthrow Regis. The antagonist General Glauca appears to fight for both empires to keep his hometown safe. Ultimately, he sides with Niflheim to overthrow Regis in exchange for his home’s freedom. On closer inspection, however, little stands in the way of the characters and their goals. Sometimes comically weak obstacles stumble them, sometimes the consequences of catastrophic events go unnoticed, and sometimes nothing can stop the characters from succeeding. Luna and Regis’ goals appear to be in conflict with one another, but really, nothing can stop Luna from keeping Noctis safe by staying away from him. In the beginning of the movie, she briefly goes along with Regis’ plan to escort her to a safe location to rendezvous with Noctis, but when his plan fails almost immediately, she staunchly refuses to indulge in Regis’ next plot to bring them together. Regis agrees easily, and because Noctis is already safely outside Insomnia, Luna can literally do nothing and still succeed. Regis can’t reach his goal to protect Noctis and Luna so easily. Many superficial obstacles keep Luna in constant peril, but the horrific sacrifices that Regis makes to save her go entirely unnoticed when they really should produce significant moral dilemmas. Soon after Luna arrives at Regis’ castle, General Glauca kidnaps her and locks her on an airship with a surprise octopus monster on board. Nyx, the first to discover her absence, rushes through easily-parted guards and verbal threats to warn Regis. Regis permits him to deploy the Glaives to save her. Without the Kingsglaive’s captain, also mysteriously absent, Nyx commands his teammates himself. While on their mission, the peace treaty signing ceremony proceeds in Insomnia, but ends with Niflheim attacking the castle and the city. At the same time, Nyx discovers that he led his team into a trap. Amid all the excitement of Nyx fighting a giant octopus, killing traitorous Kingsglaive members, and maneuvering Luna out of two crashing airships while she threatens to kill herself by jumping out of them, the movie fails to emphasize the responsibility Nyx, Regis, and Luna bare for killing the Kingsglaive and destroying Insomnia. With Regis’ permission, Nyx led the Kingsglaive into a trap that killed almost all of them and left the king and the crystal open to attack to a save a woman with questionable importance. As a result, Regis dies, Insomnia’s wall falls, and Niflheim steals the crystal. This leads to the destruction of Insomnia and hundreds of thousands of its civilians. Nyx has little reason to believe that Luna is more important than any of this or that Insomnia’s destruction was inevitable, but he feels no remorse for the role he played and barely questions his loyalty to Regis. By sending the Kingsglaive to save Luna, Regis sacrificed his citizens to save a woman who seems content to remain a prisoner. His internal struggle, if he even has one, never shows. Luna doesn’t value her own life, and yet Regis sacrificing his most powerful warriors, himself, and his citizens for her doesn’t horrify her. These terrible acts of violence don’t make anyone examine their steadfast beliefs when they really should. Nyx, already a nearly unstoppable super protagonist, has such a fluid definition of “the future” and how he protects it that nothing can stand in his way. When King Regis gives Galahd, Nyx’s hometown, away as part of the peace treaty, Nyx doesn’t care because at least Regis and Insomnia are safe. When Insomnia’s magical wall falls, Nyx doesn’t care because at least Regis lives. When Niflheim steals the crystal, King Regis dies, Insomnia falls, and Nyx faces certain death, he still doesn’t care because at least Luna lives and she possesses the Ring of the Lucii. Even if General Glauca took the ring or killed Luna, Nyx probably still wouldn’t care because at least Noctis lives and doesn’t seem to be in danger. Like Luna, Nyx doesn’t have to do anything to save an already safe future. Not even Nyx’s friend Libertus can give him a significant personal or physical conflict. Libertus betrays Lucis to join the rebellion, presumably an organization that wishes to overthrow Regis and replace him with a more people-oriented government. The rebellion doesn’t do anything though. In one scene, Libertus gives them some unspecified information. The next scene related to the rebellion features their leader getting shot in the streets by Niflheim’s army. The film suggests that the rebellion and Libertus help the empire somehow, but Niflheim conquers Insomnia by themselves. Plus, General Glauca, who doubles as captain of the Kingsglaive, already works for Niflheim and likely knows all the information possessed by Libertus and the rebellion. Not even the radio broadcast that Nyx listens to while driving Luna out of the city says what the rebellion did. Nyx pounds the steering wheel angrily at the discovery of Libertus’ betrayal, but when they meet next, Nyx forgives him immediately. Kingsglaive also never defines what makes its obstacles problematic or why the characters must overcome them. Regis, Luna, and Nyx all seem to want to keep Noctis, the future, safe, but he’s outside Insomnia where Regis says it’s safe. Technically, nothing is stopping Niflheim from hunting Noctis down and killing him, but no one threatens to do this. Niflheim doesn’t even seem to care that he’s not in the city even though they specified in the treaty that he marry Luna. We also don’t know Noctis. If he’s anything like his father or ancestors though, he has super powers and doesn’t care about anyone except his next of kin. Why should we want another tyrant to rule the people of Lucis? The film implies that Niflheim is so evil that they can’t be allowed to rule, but honestly, Lucis seems pretty horrible, too. It’s not automatically bad when one kingdom loses power against the military might of another. Would it really be much different or worse if Niflheim ruled? The Kings of Lucis, as revealed by wearing the Ring of the Lucii, seem even more uncaring about their own people than Regis does. The old magic that defends Insomnia even includes destroying the city and killing its citizens. Unlike Lucis, which forces its people to fight a losing war to protect a crystal, a ring, and the next heir to the throne, Niflheim gives people territories in exchange for their help and treats the survivors of Tenebrae decently. A lot of people seem to agree that Niflheim coming into power wouldn’t be so bad. Speaking of the ring, why is it important? Part of the conflict in the final fight scene deals with Nyx and Luna trying to keep the Ring of the Lucii safe from General Glauca. Surrendering it seems to symbolize Lucis’ defeat, but Regis himself doesn’t seem to place much importance in it. Before he dies, he begs Nyx to keep Luna safe. Then, he gives her the ring almost as an afterthought. It doesn’t seem that powerful either. Regis and Nyx use the ring to fight General Glauca. Regis dies, and Nyx barely defeats Glauca before he dies himself. In fact, everyone who uses the ring besides Regis either dies or receives a grievous injury from its power. In death, Regis determines who the ring serves with his fellow prior kings, so of course, a Niflheim ruler will never wield it. Really. Why is it important? Another conflict in the final fight scene as well as most of the conflict throughout the movie deals with keeping Luna safe for equally unspecified reasons. Why is Luna important? Luna suggests that she has some dutiful destiny related to Noctis, but she also says that her life doesn’t matter. Saving Luna just seems like Regis’ vain attempt to make up for letting her home burn while he ran away with his son. Regis kills thousands of people to save Luna and Noctis though, which seems less like making up for the past and more like making an even bigger mistake. This isn’t flattering, considering that Luna’s mother died last time he did this. Luna clearly loves Noctis, and under different circumstances that’d be reason enough for them to be together, but again, we don’t know Noctis. All signs indicate that he’s terrible. Many conflicts in the movie seem like an attempt to create problems that don’t exist and make characters do things when they have nothing to do. The future that half the characters seem so desperate to save, Noctis, seems safe already. Simply placing Noctis in the film, and thus in danger, creates a big problem that can color the characters and the story. For example, Kingsglaive could tell the following tale with Noctis in it, ignoring the events that occur in the game and other media: On his way out of the city, Noctis hears from a traitorous Glaive that Luna didn’t safely escape Tenebrae to meet him and is on her way to Insomnia. Noctis doesn’t understand his father’s blind faith in his destiny nor does he agree with his decision to abandon Luna and Tenebrae twelve years ago. He decides to stay in the city to see Luna to safety himself and meet Niflheim’s terms for peace despite his father’s wishes. He reasons that surely his life doesn’t matter to Niflheim. If they want anything else, it would be the ring and the Crystal, and they can have them as long as the war ends. Unable to convince Noctis that he doesn’t understand and needs to leave, Regis assigns Nyx to be Noctis’ bodyguard. Noctis continues to defy his father by picking Luna up from her Niflheim escort himself (in a sports car of course) with Nyx. The rebellion within Insomnia makes a minor attempt on Noctis’ and Luna’s lives, but they make it back to the castle safely. Unimpressed with Noctis’ show of bravery, Luna reprimands him for remaining in the city and endangering himself. She refuses his affection when Noctis reiterates that he won’t leave and abandon her or his people. On the day of the signing ceremony, traitorous Kingsglaive serving Niflheim kidnap Luna and blame the rebellion, making sure that Noctis and Nyx know about it first. Noctis demands that his father send the Kingsglaive to rescue her, but Regis refuses, wanting to keep the Glaives close to protect his son. In frustration, Noctis runs off to save Luna himself, leaving Regis no choice but to send the Glaives after him. In turn, he leaves himself, the crystal, and the ring vulnerable to attack. He proceeds with the signing ceremony as planned, prepared to sacrifice everything for his son’s safety. Meanwhile, Noctis, Nyx, and the Glaives fight a giant octopus that they find on a ship that looks suspiciously like a Niflheim aircraft to rescue Luna. Members of the Kingsglaive turn on Noctis, and when he and Nyx reach Luna, she warns them of a trap. Noctis realizes that Niflheim tricked him specifically to try to kill him. His father was right, and his hope for peace is naive. The situation gets even worse when Luna, Noctis, and Nyx see Insomnia’s wall falling, enemy ships closing in on the city, and the crystal stolen. They rush back to the castle in time to witness Regis’ death. General Glauca pursues them next to finish the job of crushing Lucis’ last hope. Nyx distracts him while Luna and Noctis escape. Along the way, they are separated. Looking over the ruins of Insomnia, Noctis vows to avenge his father and his people, reclaim his throne, and find Luna. While he still doesn’t understand his own importance, he must ensure that his father’s sacrifice wasn’t in vain. The events of Final Fantasy XV begin. This retelling basically follows Kingsglaive’s existing story, but creates more conflict by adding Prince Noctis. The presence of the prince heightens the potential costs of failure, and the characters’ actions have a greater sense of purpose. Niflheim can destroy or capture every hope that Lucis has, the ring, the crystal, Luna, and Noctis. Lucis could lose all hope for the future instead of some unspecified amount of it. Nyx’s actions and extravagant battles directly relate to protecting Noctis, a character that we can see and understand as opposed to an abstract concept. For fun, the rebellion adds more obstacles and distracts Noctis from his true enemies. To create even more conflicts that help define the characters and the world, Noctis has differing beliefs from his father and Luna. He’s also easier to relate to because he doesn’t fully understand his destiny and all these magical objects either. The greatest losses and violent acts show Noctis his mistakes and motivate him to correct them, which gives them more meaning. They also highlight Niflheim’s cruelty. On Noctis’ insistence, Lucis acts in accordance with Niflheim’s treaty and still the empire destroys Insomnia and attempts to kill Noctis and Luna. The existing story highlights Regis’ cruelty when he defies the peace treaty from the start, sacrifices his people, and doesn’t seem to care. Fifteen years after The Spirits Within, Final Fantasy looks better than ever, but the quality of its storytelling remains about the same. It could have been different though, if only Noctis had stayed. Even if he only plays a minor role, Noctis’ very presence creates a problem that the characters must solve at all costs. He’s the object of his people’s hatred, the son that his father protected over his allies and kingdom. He’s the hope that Niflheim wants to destroy and Regis, Nyx, and Luna must protect. Without him, the characters can only fight over objects and people that may or may not be important and make horrendous sacrifices in pursuit of a nebulous future that may or may not already be safe and may or may not be good. For all of Kingsglaive’s action-packed fight scenes, no one has a battle worth fighting. --- Any other Extra Lifers out there with some writing skills and a good idea? Read about how to become a community contributor and start submitting today!
  2. Kingsglaive: Final Fantasy XV, a movie that parallels the Final Fantasy XV game, promised to bring photorealistic visuals and an understandable Final Fantasy story to fans of the games and newcomers alike. In the film, the kingdom of Lucis has waged war with the enemy empire Niflheim for many years. Regis, King of Lucis, possesses the Divine Crystal and the Ring of the Lucii, powerful magical objects that Niflheim wants. To protect them, Lucis raised an impenetrable wall around the crown city of Insomnia, using the power of the crystal. Despite Lucis’ great magic and the king’s mighty warriors known as the Kingsglaive, Niflheim seems poised to win the war with its unsurpassed military force. Unexpectedly, Niflheim proposes a peace treaty that specifies Regis relinquish all territories outside Insomnia and marry his son Prince Noctis to Princess Lunafreya of Tenebrae. Twelve years previously, Tenebrae, a former ally of Lucis, fell under Niflheim rule when Regis abandoned it to save himself and Noctis. Regis decides to accept Niflheim’s treaty, but sends his son away to a safe location outside Insomnia, creating enemies among his own people and the Kingsglaive. Despite its superficially sufficient story, beautiful visuals, and action-packed fight scenes, many critics describe Kingsglaive as a gorgeous mess. Many complain about the difficulty of following its convoluted and political plot. Others point out its weak characters: helpless and useless females, a throwaway protagonist, and stereotypical kings attempting to outmaneuver one another. Still others equate it to a long video game cut scene or trailer. Criticisms about its weird lip syncing, mixed voice acting, and poorly written dialog abound. As for me, I feel a sense of déjà vu. The description sounds awfully familiar: a Final Fantasy movie promising to bring photorealistic graphics and an accessible story to a new audience only to produce a lukewarm story disguised with impressive visuals. It bears a striking resemblance to Final Fantasy: The Spirits Within. I even recognize the complaints critics have in that I don’t think they reveal the source of Kingsglaive’s problems. I’ve argued before that Spirits Within contains a fatal flaw in the obstacles that the protagonist faces in the pursuit of her goal to save her life and the world. Kingsglaive similarly has a flaw with its conflicts. This time, however, the problem is that conflicts are almost non-existent. In most stories, characters have problems to solve. Simple stories often have one major, overarching conflict that the characters must resolve and many smaller obstacles that hinder them along the way. Conflicts not only add excitement and purpose, but also help define the world and its characters. Of course, obstacles work best when the characters have a good reason to overcome them no matter what. For example, a major conflict could be that a hero must free her village from a king’s tyrannical rule. In order to do this, she decides to kill the king and take his throne. The obstacles in her way include traveling to the king’s crown city, sneaking in through his walls, breaking into his castle, and fighting through his guards. She also has a clumsy, obnoxious wizard for a sidekick, who she tolerates because of his useful magical powers. Failure means her death and the destruction of her village. High stakes, big obstacles, and a variety of conflicts usually make stories exciting and engaging. The heroes of Kingsglaive seem to fight for “the future” against characters who fight for “their homes.” These vague ideals rarely conflict with one another though nor do significant obstacles arise from other sources. Most of the main characters can’t fail to achieve their goals, and the consequences for failure are never defined and logically don’t seem that bad. Consequently, pointless violence, duty, and death fills the film, but one person could have given meaning to everything. Prince Noctis produces everyone’s problems and gives everyone purpose, but alas, he doesn’t appear in the film to bring this to light. No amount of action-packed fight scenes fill the void of meaninglessness that Noctis’ absence creates. As is, Kingsglaive suggests that the conflict between King Regis and his people comes from differences in beliefs as to what the kingdom should protect: the people’s “homelands” or the “future.” The film doesn’t define what these terms mean, but in general, “fighting for home” seems to refer to a desire for a just king who keeps his people safe. “Fighting for the future” seems equivalent to protecting Noctis so he can fulfill his destiny as the future king and world’s savior. While many of the characters fall into one camp or the other, each character seems to define what they fight for and how they will fight for it in a different way. King Regis fights for the future, which involves protecting both Lunafreya and Noctis. To make up for the fall of Tenebrae, he wants to free Luna from Niflheim’s grasp and reunite her with her beloved Noctis. Luna also protects the future, but she believes that she must stay away from Noctis to keep him safe and that her survival doesn’t matter. The protagonist, a member of the Kingsglaive named Nyx, fights for the future by serving King Regis. After Regis gives away his hometown Galahd to Niflheim, Nyx’s friend and former Kingsglaive Libertus fights to overthrow Regis. The antagonist General Glauca appears to fight for both empires to keep his hometown safe. Ultimately, he sides with Niflheim to overthrow Regis in exchange for his home’s freedom. On closer inspection, however, little stands in the way of the characters and their goals. Sometimes comically weak obstacles stumble them, sometimes the consequences of catastrophic events go unnoticed, and sometimes nothing can stop the characters from succeeding. Luna and Regis’ goals appear to be in conflict with one another, but really, nothing can stop Luna from keeping Noctis safe by staying away from him. In the beginning of the movie, she briefly goes along with Regis’ plan to escort her to a safe location to rendezvous with Noctis, but when his plan fails almost immediately, she staunchly refuses to indulge in Regis’ next plot to bring them together. Regis agrees easily, and because Noctis is already safely outside Insomnia, Luna can literally do nothing and still succeed. Regis can’t reach his goal to protect Noctis and Luna so easily. Many superficial obstacles keep Luna in constant peril, but the horrific sacrifices that Regis makes to save her go entirely unnoticed when they really should produce significant moral dilemmas. Soon after Luna arrives at Regis’ castle, General Glauca kidnaps her and locks her on an airship with a surprise octopus monster on board. Nyx, the first to discover her absence, rushes through easily-parted guards and verbal threats to warn Regis. Regis permits him to deploy the Glaives to save her. Without the Kingsglaive’s captain, also mysteriously absent, Nyx commands his teammates himself. While on their mission, the peace treaty signing ceremony proceeds in Insomnia, but ends with Niflheim attacking the castle and the city. At the same time, Nyx discovers that he led his team into a trap. Amid all the excitement of Nyx fighting a giant octopus, killing traitorous Kingsglaive members, and maneuvering Luna out of two crashing airships while she threatens to kill herself by jumping out of them, the movie fails to emphasize the responsibility Nyx, Regis, and Luna bare for killing the Kingsglaive and destroying Insomnia. With Regis’ permission, Nyx led the Kingsglaive into a trap that killed almost all of them and left the king and the crystal open to attack to a save a woman with questionable importance. As a result, Regis dies, Insomnia’s wall falls, and Niflheim steals the crystal. This leads to the destruction of Insomnia and hundreds of thousands of its civilians. Nyx has little reason to believe that Luna is more important than any of this or that Insomnia’s destruction was inevitable, but he feels no remorse for the role he played and barely questions his loyalty to Regis. By sending the Kingsglaive to save Luna, Regis sacrificed his citizens to save a woman who seems content to remain a prisoner. His internal struggle, if he even has one, never shows. Luna doesn’t value her own life, and yet Regis sacrificing his most powerful warriors, himself, and his citizens for her doesn’t horrify her. These terrible acts of violence don’t make anyone examine their steadfast beliefs when they really should. Nyx, already a nearly unstoppable super protagonist, has such a fluid definition of “the future” and how he protects it that nothing can stand in his way. When King Regis gives Galahd, Nyx’s hometown, away as part of the peace treaty, Nyx doesn’t care because at least Regis and Insomnia are safe. When Insomnia’s magical wall falls, Nyx doesn’t care because at least Regis lives. When Niflheim steals the crystal, King Regis dies, Insomnia falls, and Nyx faces certain death, he still doesn’t care because at least Luna lives and she possesses the Ring of the Lucii. Even if General Glauca took the ring or killed Luna, Nyx probably still wouldn’t care because at least Noctis lives and doesn’t seem to be in danger. Like Luna, Nyx doesn’t have to do anything to save an already safe future. Not even Nyx’s friend Libertus can give him a significant personal or physical conflict. Libertus betrays Lucis to join the rebellion, presumably an organization that wishes to overthrow Regis and replace him with a more people-oriented government. The rebellion doesn’t do anything though. In one scene, Libertus gives them some unspecified information. The next scene related to the rebellion features their leader getting shot in the streets by Niflheim’s army. The film suggests that the rebellion and Libertus help the empire somehow, but Niflheim conquers Insomnia by themselves. Plus, General Glauca, who doubles as captain of the Kingsglaive, already works for Niflheim and likely knows all the information possessed by Libertus and the rebellion. Not even the radio broadcast that Nyx listens to while driving Luna out of the city says what the rebellion did. Nyx pounds the steering wheel angrily at the discovery of Libertus’ betrayal, but when they meet next, Nyx forgives him immediately. Kingsglaive also never defines what makes its obstacles problematic or why the characters must overcome them. Regis, Luna, and Nyx all seem to want to keep Noctis, the future, safe, but he’s outside Insomnia where Regis says it’s safe. Technically, nothing is stopping Niflheim from hunting Noctis down and killing him, but no one threatens to do this. Niflheim doesn’t even seem to care that he’s not in the city even though they specified in the treaty that he marry Luna. We also don’t know Noctis. If he’s anything like his father or ancestors though, he has super powers and doesn’t care about anyone except his next of kin. Why should we want another tyrant to rule the people of Lucis? The film implies that Niflheim is so evil that they can’t be allowed to rule, but honestly, Lucis seems pretty horrible, too. It’s not automatically bad when one kingdom loses power against the military might of another. Would it really be much different or worse if Niflheim ruled? The Kings of Lucis, as revealed by wearing the Ring of the Lucii, seem even more uncaring about their own people than Regis does. The old magic that defends Insomnia even includes destroying the city and killing its citizens. Unlike Lucis, which forces its people to fight a losing war to protect a crystal, a ring, and the next heir to the throne, Niflheim gives people territories in exchange for their help and treats the survivors of Tenebrae decently. A lot of people seem to agree that Niflheim coming into power wouldn’t be so bad. Speaking of the ring, why is it important? Part of the conflict in the final fight scene deals with Nyx and Luna trying to keep the Ring of the Lucii safe from General Glauca. Surrendering it seems to symbolize Lucis’ defeat, but Regis himself doesn’t seem to place much importance in it. Before he dies, he begs Nyx to keep Luna safe. Then, he gives her the ring almost as an afterthought. It doesn’t seem that powerful either. Regis and Nyx use the ring to fight General Glauca. Regis dies, and Nyx barely defeats Glauca before he dies himself. In fact, everyone who uses the ring besides Regis either dies or receives a grievous injury from its power. In death, Regis determines who the ring serves with his fellow prior kings, so of course, a Niflheim ruler will never wield it. Really. Why is it important? Another conflict in the final fight scene as well as most of the conflict throughout the movie deals with keeping Luna safe for equally unspecified reasons. Why is Luna important? Luna suggests that she has some dutiful destiny related to Noctis, but she also says that her life doesn’t matter. Saving Luna just seems like Regis’ vain attempt to make up for letting her home burn while he ran away with his son. Regis kills thousands of people to save Luna and Noctis though, which seems less like making up for the past and more like making an even bigger mistake. This isn’t flattering, considering that Luna’s mother died last time he did this. Luna clearly loves Noctis, and under different circumstances that’d be reason enough for them to be together, but again, we don’t know Noctis. All signs indicate that he’s terrible. Many conflicts in the movie seem like an attempt to create problems that don’t exist and make characters do things when they have nothing to do. The future that half the characters seem so desperate to save, Noctis, seems safe already. Simply placing Noctis in the film, and thus in danger, creates a big problem that can color the characters and the story. For example, Kingsglaive could tell the following tale with Noctis in it, ignoring the events that occur in the game and other media: On his way out of the city, Noctis hears from a traitorous Glaive that Luna didn’t safely escape Tenebrae to meet him and is on her way to Insomnia. Noctis doesn’t understand his father’s blind faith in his destiny nor does he agree with his decision to abandon Luna and Tenebrae twelve years ago. He decides to stay in the city to see Luna to safety himself and meet Niflheim’s terms for peace despite his father’s wishes. He reasons that surely his life doesn’t matter to Niflheim. If they want anything else, it would be the ring and the Crystal, and they can have them as long as the war ends. Unable to convince Noctis that he doesn’t understand and needs to leave, Regis assigns Nyx to be Noctis’ bodyguard. Noctis continues to defy his father by picking Luna up from her Niflheim escort himself (in a sports car of course) with Nyx. The rebellion within Insomnia makes a minor attempt on Noctis’ and Luna’s lives, but they make it back to the castle safely. Unimpressed with Noctis’ show of bravery, Luna reprimands him for remaining in the city and endangering himself. She refuses his affection when Noctis reiterates that he won’t leave and abandon her or his people. On the day of the signing ceremony, traitorous Kingsglaive serving Niflheim kidnap Luna and blame the rebellion, making sure that Noctis and Nyx know about it first. Noctis demands that his father send the Kingsglaive to rescue her, but Regis refuses, wanting to keep the Glaives close to protect his son. In frustration, Noctis runs off to save Luna himself, leaving Regis no choice but to send the Glaives after him. In turn, he leaves himself, the crystal, and the ring vulnerable to attack. He proceeds with the signing ceremony as planned, prepared to sacrifice everything for his son’s safety. Meanwhile, Noctis, Nyx, and the Glaives fight a giant octopus that they find on a ship that looks suspiciously like a Niflheim aircraft to rescue Luna. Members of the Kingsglaive turn on Noctis, and when he and Nyx reach Luna, she warns them of a trap. Noctis realizes that Niflheim tricked him specifically to try to kill him. His father was right, and his hope for peace is naive. The situation gets even worse when Luna, Noctis, and Nyx see Insomnia’s wall falling, enemy ships closing in on the city, and the crystal stolen. They rush back to the castle in time to witness Regis’ death. General Glauca pursues them next to finish the job of crushing Lucis’ last hope. Nyx distracts him while Luna and Noctis escape. Along the way, they are separated. Looking over the ruins of Insomnia, Noctis vows to avenge his father and his people, reclaim his throne, and find Luna. While he still doesn’t understand his own importance, he must ensure that his father’s sacrifice wasn’t in vain. The events of Final Fantasy XV begin. This retelling basically follows Kingsglaive’s existing story, but creates more conflict by adding Prince Noctis. The presence of the prince heightens the potential costs of failure, and the characters’ actions have a greater sense of purpose. Niflheim can destroy or capture every hope that Lucis has, the ring, the crystal, Luna, and Noctis. Lucis could lose all hope for the future instead of some unspecified amount of it. Nyx’s actions and extravagant battles directly relate to protecting Noctis, a character that we can see and understand as opposed to an abstract concept. For fun, the rebellion adds more obstacles and distracts Noctis from his true enemies. To create even more conflicts that help define the characters and the world, Noctis has differing beliefs from his father and Luna. He’s also easier to relate to because he doesn’t fully understand his destiny and all these magical objects either. The greatest losses and violent acts show Noctis his mistakes and motivate him to correct them, which gives them more meaning. They also highlight Niflheim’s cruelty. On Noctis’ insistence, Lucis acts in accordance with Niflheim’s treaty and still the empire destroys Insomnia and attempts to kill Noctis and Luna. The existing story highlights Regis’ cruelty when he defies the peace treaty from the start, sacrifices his people, and doesn’t seem to care. Fifteen years after The Spirits Within, Final Fantasy looks better than ever, but the quality of its storytelling remains about the same. It could have been different though, if only Noctis had stayed. Even if he only plays a minor role, Noctis’ very presence creates a problem that the characters must solve at all costs. He’s the object of his people’s hatred, the son that his father protected over his allies and kingdom. He’s the hope that Niflheim wants to destroy and Regis, Nyx, and Luna must protect. Without him, the characters can only fight over objects and people that may or may not be important and make horrendous sacrifices in pursuit of a nebulous future that may or may not already be safe and may or may not be good. For all of Kingsglaive’s action-packed fight scenes, no one has a battle worth fighting. --- Any other Extra Lifers out there with some writing skills and a good idea? Read about how to become a community contributor and start submitting today! View full article
  3. Fans and critics of Final Fantasy VII: Advent Children alike have commonly perceived it as lacking a compelling story, complex characters, and purposeful fight scenes. When I decided I wanted to understand why I still loved the film in 2013, I didn’t expect the answer I found. Parts one and two in this series debunked these major criticisms of the film by examining what story Advent Children tells and how it tells that story through action. This leaves the question, why did it take twelve years to notice that this film portrays the opposite of what everyone says about it? If these criticisms don’t have merit, or are at most over-exaggerated, how did they originate? The dominantly negative reviews about Advent Children appear to spawn from its subtle and unconventional storytelling combined with misconceptions that it doesn’t have a meaningful story to begin with. Advent Children frequently uses visual language, thematic imagery, and minimalist storytelling to convey its story and ideas. Movies communicate their stories visually through shot composition, lighting, costuming, video editing, and positioning of props and actors. These elements are called the film’s mise-en-scène. While films can also use verbal, written, and musical language to convey meaning, film theorists claim that as a visual medium, movies should tell their stories visually. Characters should speak less and do more. As a subscriber to this theory, Advent Children doesn’t always tell the audience what’s happening and what it means through dialog; it shows them through its mise-en-scène. Sometimes Advent Children’s scenes seem more representative of the film’s themes and ideas than of what is actually happening. For example, the final scene in the movie where we see Cloud surrounded by orphans, townspeople, and friends, both dead and alive, after crashing through the roof of a church is ridiculous even in the world of Advent Children. This scene, however, represents Cloud’s reunion with his friends, his family, and the world. He has found happiness and is ready to accept life over his memories and thoughts of death. In an earlier scene, Cloud also finds himself in an equally ridiculous scenario. Menacing orphans surround him while Kadaj taunts him. It doesn’t make sense that orphans pose a threat to a super human like Cloud, but they represent his separation from the world and heighten the tone of helplessness in the scene. By isolating himself, Cloud’s made enemies out of the people he cares about in addition to having to fight his actual enemies and demons. In general, Advent Children takes a minimalist approach to storytelling. It doesn’t repeat spoken information often. The film explains Jenova, Sephiroth, and materia only once, for example. It encourages viewing the film multiple times as opposed to spoon feeding an obvious tale that viewers can see once and completely understand. While the film shows us all the information we need to understand the story, it doesn’t always put it together. The characters don’t have extensive conversations to analyze the pieces and find meaning in the outcomes. These storytelling methods as used by Advent Children and other artworks rely to some degree on the viewer’s analytic skills and personal experiences, which has strengths and weaknesses. Advent Children gives the audience the respect and space to put its clues together themselves and incorporate their own experiences with Final Fantasy VII and real life into the film. This allows viewers to create their own powerful connections to the work either because it reminds them of personal experiences or because finding meaning in it takes effort and feels rewarding. Minimal storytelling, however, also opens the possibility that viewers will interpret the work in unintended ways. For example, audiences can interpret Advent Children’s narrative as meaningless nonsense. Viewers also may not be able to find intended meanings in the work because they don’t have the required experiences. Someone who’s never played Final Fantasy VII, for example, won’t see the similarity between Kadaj’s relationship with Cloud and Cloud’s relationship with Sephiroth. Someone unfamiliar with mental illness might not see it in Advent Children or might interpret Cloud’s character as clichéd. This doesn’t mean, however, that they can’t find meaning in the work through other experiences and clues from the film. Telling a story in this way can also make it impenetrable for casual viewers. Advent Children has plenty of action and fan service at it surface, but it takes work to see that it’s not just mindless entertainment. Advent Children also has some specific problems that make recognizing that it has meaning difficult. Its purely thematic imagery, for example, creates plot holes that can’t be filled so easily. The director’s cut Final Fantasy VII: Advent Children Complete attempts to explain why the children and townspeople gather at the church at the end of the movie with an event even more ridiculous than the scene itself. Aerith, a dead woman, calls everyone on their cellphones, even the orphans, and tells them to go to the church… Similarly, Cloud’s apparent isolation in the final fight scene continues one of the film’s visual themes but doesn’t make sense in the story’s world, considering that his friends would never leave him to fight a worldwide threat on his own. Sometimes Advent Children withholds too much information as well. To a point, the director’s cut better explains Denzel and how he befriended Cloud, a character that struggles to display and accept affection. Viewers can easily miss this visual and minimalist storytelling, especially if they have preconceptions that the work doesn’t contain meaning. Unfortunately, Advent Children has an association with three types of movies known for poor storytelling: fan service films, photorealistic CGI, and video game movies. Reviewers say that Advent Children is obviously a “fan service film.” This term has two meanings, depending on the reviewer using it. First, these films tell a story that only fans will understand and appreciate. Second, fan service films have a bad story that exists only to show fans what they want to see, most often battles between characters from the base material. This labeling suggests that people who haven’t played Final Fantasy VII before shouldn’t even attempt to find meaning in Advent Children. At the same time, fans of the game claim that Advent Children can’t contain a good story because it sequels an already complete one. It doesn’t have any more story to tell. They also claim that it exists only to sell Final Fantasy VII merchandise such as the Crisis Core and Dirge of Cerberus video games, which came out at about the same time. Therefore, it’s meaningless fan service and merchandising. Critics don’t provide enough evidence that Advent Children is any of these things though, and it’s really not obvious. Some people, like myself, watch the film with little to no experience with Final Fantasy VII or even Final Fantasy and find it enjoyable and understandable. A majority of this review examines a story that has little to do with the game and exists entirely within the film. Fans have as much difficulty decoding the superficial geostigma-Jenova-Sephiroth story as non-fans do, and anyone can understand the parallel story about a guy struggling with his past. In fact, many Final Fantasy VII fans complain that the movie doesn’t contain enough fan service. The film spends more time on Denzel and Kadaj, characters that don’t exist in the game, than it does on the game’s playable characters. Additionally, the short battle with Sephiroth ends rather suddenly for a film that supposedly exists solely to create an excuse for the fight to happen. The film also doesn’t add anything new to the Final Fantasy VII universe. It opens with the message, “To those who loved this world and knew friendly company therein: this Reunion is for you,” but it simultaneously provides evidence that it’s not for fans only. Advent Children seems more like a film that uses Final Fantasy VII as a medium to tell a story than a fan service film. It has elements that only fans can understand, but that doesn’t mean that everything else is incomprehensible. We don’t need Barret, Yuffie, and Cid’s backstory to understand that they’re Cloud’s friends and helped save the world two years ago, for example. The backstories clearly exist because these characters have distinguishing personalities. The movie simply chooses not to present the stories of its side characters and peripheral details like a lot of other movies choose to do. “Fan service” can also mean gratuitous sex and violence. Advent Children features a cast of male characters that fit the pretty, sexy man stereotype found in many Japanese anime and relentless, sword-swinging action. When an anime doesn’t have anything interesting to say, it can resort to large-breasted women and effeminate men with partially open jackets and large swords to find an audience. Movies with these elements, however, can still have great stories and ideas to share. Hollywood has many pretty faces, but we don’t condemn all its movies as bad simply because the actors aren’t hideous. Fight Club isn’t critically acclaimed because it features Brad Pitt and two hours of men punching each other in the face. It tells an excellent story with an interesting commentary about life. Advent Children’s creators made the characters aesthetically pleasing (Who wants to look at butt ugly artwork?) but not radically different from their basic designs in the game. The film has a story and messages applicable to real life told through the action, pretty men, and Final Fantasy VII elements at its surface. Reviewers have also classified Advent Children as photorealistic despite no one in the film looking like a real person. In the wake of Final Fantasy: The Spirits Within and The Polar Express, critics labeled Advent Children as yet another attempt at photorealism with a poor story. Unsurprisingly, critics complained that it didn’t look realistic enough. Characters don’t follow the real-world laws of physics, they don’t bleed, and the movie never tricks the audience into thinking that it’s live-action. No evidence suggests that Advent Children is or ever was meant to be photorealistic. The anime-influenced characters look too perfect and alien to be real. Like cutscenes in Final Fantasy games, Advent Children only presents the illusion of realism. The creators even state in The Making Of featurette that they didn’t want to make a photorealistic film. As co-director Takeshi Nozue says, “If it looked too real, then we might as well shoot it live.” Ignoring the laws of physics and not showing blood are stylistic and thematic choices that don’t affect the quality of the story. If we don’t expect Pixar films or video games to trick us into thinking that we’re watching real people, then we shouldn’t hold Advent Children to this standard either. Finally, critics make claims about Advent Children simply because of its association with a video game. Video game movies generally don’t have great stories, but they can break this stereotype. Reviewers describe Advent Children as one long cutscene, which suggests that it doesn’t contain enough information on its own to tell a story. Everything about its story, its themes, and its characters except a few details in this analysis comes from the movie. Other reviewers have called Advent Children a series of cutscenes. This description just applies a video game term, cutscenes, to the elements that make up all movies, scenes. This metaphor doesn’t contain any information about whether the movie is good or bad. Some argue that the film can’t engage the audience because it’s not a video game. Depending on the gamer, cutscenes in games are either a reward or an annoyance, and Advent Children shows an hour and a half of beautiful visuals without requiring the player/viewer to do anything. It’s true, movies don’t reward strategic button pressing. The reward lies in finding meaning in their visuals and audio. Advent Children defies all these descriptions and criticisms because it’s unlike anything ever created. Beowulf defines technology porn, a photorealistic spectacle brimming with graphic sex, gore, and violence. A series of cutscenes accurately describes .hack//G.U. Trilogy, a film obviously missing crucial explanation and character development that would usually occur during gameplay. Similarly, a long cutscene describes Kingsglaive: Final Fantasy XV, a film that doesn’t even explain what problem its characters must solve because it’s in the game. Tekken: Blood Vengeance, a film that contains a ridiculous plot that ties together apparently pointless fight scenes between characters from the game, is one type of fan service film. .hack//Beyond the World, a film that loses itself in .hack lore without explaining why it matters to the protagonist, demonstrates another. Elysium (2003) shows what terrible but brief dialog combined with a terrible story looks like. Want to know what Advent Children would sound like had it explained everything in excruciating detail? Watch Ark (2005). Kaena: The Prophecy makes a sincere but novice attempt at using a video game world to tell a story, what Advent Children near perfects. While Advent Children takes inspiration from Japanese anime and live-action films, it uses CGI to its full potential to tell a story in its own way. It doesn’t use cell shading to mimic hand-drawn 2D animation like Appleseed, nor does it try to mimic live-action like The Polar Express. It avoids the uncanny valley without severely deforming its heroes like A Christmas Carol does. It retains the illusion of realism and humanity even when the characters defy the laws of physics. It entertains without resorting to excessive sex or violence like Starship Troopers: Invasion or Sausage Party do. It’s an art film and drama disguised as an action movie. It tells a thoughtful and universal story through elements from a video game. It uses CGI’s strengths to create choreography, characters, environments, and camera work that would be extremely difficult to recreate in any other medium, but it doesn’t discard basic filmmaking and narrative techniques. It creates a visual spectacle but never forgets that first and foremost it must tell a story. In a fledgling art form that struggles to tell any kind of meaningful story outside of children’s entertainment, Advent Children is one of the most important CGI movies ever made. Even with its uniqueness, Advent Children can still be judged and analyzed as a movie. It contains a story with characters, conflicts, and themes. It has spectacular battles as an action movie should, but it also conveys a meaningful narrative through its mise-en-scène both inside and outside the action scenes. While it has flaws, they don’t immediately discredit the film as a pointless visual spectacle. Advent Children has never been treated as a work of art or even as a movie though. It’s viewed through the lens of fan service, visual spectacle, and video game bonus material. It’s judged as a bad movie because it doesn’t contain enough fan service, isn’t realistic enough, and is based on a video game. None of these complaints address whether Advent Children tells a thoughtful story that connects with viewers, uses filmmaking techniques effectively to convey meaning, or doesn’t do either. And that’s a shame. From what I’ve seen, Advent Children makes the best use of known filmmaking, storytelling, and animation techniques to tell a fantastic, mature, and human story through CGI out of all films in its class. That’s why people love this movie. That’s why it never fails to make me smile. I no longer ask, “Why do I like Advent Children?” Now I ask, “Why shouldn’t I like it?” I hope you’ll ask these questions, too. The film could mean something different to you as a Final Fantasy VII fan or as a person than it does to me. If you don’t like Advent Children, I hope you, too, will ask yourself why. Is it genuinely a terrible movie, or does it just defy the expectations of some Final Fantasy VII fans and moviegoers? And, of course, if you’ve never seen it, watch it. Playing the game first is optional. Advent Children isn’t perfect, but it’s worthy of criticism and analysis. It has so much to say, and filmmakers have so much to learn from it. What does Final Fantasy VII: Advent Children mean to you?
  4. Back in November of last year there were murmurs of a partnership between Square Enix and Machine Zone Inc. (now MZ) to create an MMO mobile game within the Final Fantasy XV universe. In March, there was a soft launch for players in New Zealand. At that point, we learned the title of the game: Final Fantasy XV: A New Empire. Without clear guidance from Square, fans were left a little confused about the game. For one thing, it looks like another team (possibly within the MZ family), Epic Action LLC, is working on the empire building game. Epic Action only has A New Empire in their Google Play and App Store catalog and it at least appears that a trademark for the company was filed for on March 31. And then there's that timeframe. March 31 and shortly after isn't really the prime time to announce new video games. All of that being said, the game appears to be legit with pre-registration open now. There does appear to be at least two official links to pre-register though... To cement the legitimacy of the game, a tweet from the Final Fantasy XV Twitter page was sent out on today. The "introduction" tweet is below and is accompanied by a link to the Twitter page for the game, and the official webpage for the game which is in Japanese. Square Enix did indeed retweet the message in question. Speaking of the game itself, its description in the mobile stores describes it as the "largest open-world MMO in the series." Also, "Final Fantasy XV: A New Empire is a mobile adventure that lets you rewrite a favorite classic to fulfill your unique destiny." What do you think of A New Empire? How do you think Square Enix is handling its expansion of the FFXV universe? View full article
  5. Back in November of last year there were murmurs of a partnership between Square Enix and Machine Zone Inc. (now MZ) to create an MMO mobile game within the Final Fantasy XV universe. In March, there was a soft launch for players in New Zealand. At that point, we learned the title of the game: Final Fantasy XV: A New Empire. Without clear guidance from Square, fans were left a little confused about the game. For one thing, it looks like another team (possibly within the MZ family), Epic Action LLC, is working on the empire building game. Epic Action only has A New Empire in their Google Play and App Store catalog and it at least appears that a trademark for the company was filed for on March 31. And then there's that timeframe. March 31 and shortly after isn't really the prime time to announce new video games. All of that being said, the game appears to be legit with pre-registration open now. There does appear to be at least two official links to pre-register though... To cement the legitimacy of the game, a tweet from the Final Fantasy XV Twitter page was sent out on today. The "introduction" tweet is below and is accompanied by a link to the Twitter page for the game, and the official webpage for the game which is in Japanese. Square Enix did indeed retweet the message in question. Speaking of the game itself, its description in the mobile stores describes it as the "largest open-world MMO in the series." Also, "Final Fantasy XV: A New Empire is a mobile adventure that lets you rewrite a favorite classic to fulfill your unique destiny." What do you think of A New Empire? How do you think Square Enix is handling its expansion of the FFXV universe?
  6. Noclip, a YouTube channel focusing on crowd-funded video game documentaries, has produced an in-depth series looking at the development history Final Fantasy XIV. This first of three installments gives a great look at the MMORPG's early history, particularly development on the 1.0 version of the game. Interviews with key designers speak about how Final Fantasy XI's design served as a blueprint, and how the development team responded to Final Fantasy XIV's initial backlash, leading to a new team coming in to completely overhaul the game into A Realm Reborn. In the past, Noclip has produced fascinating videos detailing the development of titles such as the new Doom, Rocket League, and The Witness. If you're interested in learning not just how games are made, but the personal stories behind the designers who craft them, the channel is well worth checking out. If you're interested in other gaming documentaries Gameumentary's Torchlight retrospective, Us and the Game Industry, and KAZ: Pushing the Virtual Divide are all very much worth watching. View full article
  7. Noclip, a YouTube channel focusing on crowd-funded video game documentaries, has produced an in-depth series looking at the development history Final Fantasy XIV. This first of three installments gives a great look at the MMORPG's early history, particularly development on the 1.0 version of the game. Interviews with key designers speak about how Final Fantasy XI's design served as a blueprint, and how the development team responded to Final Fantasy XIV's initial backlash, leading to a new team coming in to completely overhaul the game into A Realm Reborn. In the past, Noclip has produced fascinating videos detailing the development of titles such as the new Doom, Rocket League, and The Witness. If you're interested in learning not just how games are made, but the personal stories behind the designers who craft them, the channel is well worth checking out. If you're interested in other gaming documentaries Gameumentary's Torchlight retrospective, Us and the Game Industry, and KAZ: Pushing the Virtual Divide are all very much worth watching.
  8. Final Fantasy XIV: A Realm Reborn received its latest expansion June 20 with the release of Stormblood. A journey and the warrior of light are the focal points in Stormblood story. New features include additional jobs such as the red mage and samurai, a level cap increase, new enemies, new areas to explore and more content additions. In true Square Enix fashion, there's no skimping on the epic high-fantasy vibes of the expansion's trailer. Reportedly, there were a plethora of issues for any players trying to play the game during the early access period that began on June 16. Gamers were stuck with long wait times to log into the game and still had issues while in the game. Early access will end this Friday, June 23. FFXIV: A Realm Reborn itself is a MMORPG that launched in August 2013 to Windows and PlayStation 3. Currently, it is available on PlayStation 4 and Mac. A Realm Reborn acts as a remake of the original FFXIV which was released in 2010 but was plagued with many issues. Are you playing FFXIV? Are you excited for Stormblood? View full article
  9. Final Fantasy XIV: A Realm Reborn received its latest expansion June 20 with the release of Stormblood. A journey and the warrior of light are the focal points in Stormblood story. New features include additional jobs such as the red mage and samurai, a level cap increase, new enemies, new areas to explore and more content additions. In true Square Enix fashion, there's no skimping on the epic high-fantasy vibes of the expansion's trailer. Reportedly, there were a plethora of issues for any players trying to play the game during the early access period that began on June 16. Gamers were stuck with long wait times to log into the game and still had issues while in the game. Early access will end this Friday, June 23. FFXIV: A Realm Reborn itself is a MMORPG that launched in August 2013 to Windows and PlayStation 3. Currently, it is available on PlayStation 4 and Mac. A Realm Reborn acts as a remake of the original FFXIV which was released in 2010 but was plagued with many issues. Are you playing FFXIV? Are you excited for Stormblood?
  10. Square Enix unveiled the first full trailer for its next piece of Final Fantasy XV story DLC. Prompto follows in the steps of Gladiolus with his own episode that places the pistol-toting goofball under a far less jovial light. Episode Prompto follows the titular character as he uncovers the truth surrounding his origins. Combat focuses heavily on gunplay, with explosive over-the-shoulder-style firefights. Check out the trailer below, although players who have yet to play or complete Final Fantasy XV will see spoilers for one of the game's murkier subplots. Just a heads up. Episode Prompto becomes available for download June 27. For more on Final Fantasy XV, read about Square Enix's upcoming updates. View full article
  11. Square Enix unveiled the first full trailer for its next piece of Final Fantasy XV story DLC. Prompto follows in the steps of Gladiolus with his own episode that places the pistol-toting goofball under a far less jovial light. Episode Prompto follows the titular character as he uncovers the truth surrounding his origins. Combat focuses heavily on gunplay, with explosive over-the-shoulder-style firefights. Check out the trailer below, although players who have yet to play or complete Final Fantasy XV will see spoilers for one of the game's murkier subplots. Just a heads up. Episode Prompto becomes available for download June 27. For more on Final Fantasy XV, read about Square Enix's upcoming updates.
  12. Final Fantasy XV isn't at its first year anniversary yet, and yet Square Enix has already been working to fulfill its promise to continue expanding on the lore of the game. Creating a media-rich universe for its latest major Final Fantasy title has been a strong suit for Square. It's cohesiveness, however, has been a little lacking. E3 2017 saw the release of a few trailers within the FFXV Eos. First up, it was announced during the Microsoft conference that the game would get a free 4K enhancement per the Xbox One Enhance Program. Sony followed suit during its conference by announcing PS4 Pro updates. Sony also announced a VR component with PSVR spin-off Monster of the Deep. The game focuses on the fishing feature of the game, putting players behind the eyes (and rod) of Noctis. Monster of the Deep has the release date of September 2017. On June 13, aka the first official day of E3, Square released additional trailers outlining old content alongside new. The new includes a mobile game that Noctis and Co. are obsessed with called King's Knight, with its full title being King's Knight - Wrath of the Dark Dragon. The stage was pretty much set for this game to be made eventually, as it is referenced several times throughout the core gameplay of FFXV. It will be available on both Android and iOS in 2017. The FFXV Universe E3 trailer does exactly what its name implies. During the first half (roughly), viewers get a recap of all of the expanded media released so far, from the core game to the Brotherhood anime series and Kingsglaive movie. On the other end, we get the King's Knight news, E3 info, and updates including a new Regalia model, the Regalia Type-D with the June update. There, of course, was also some information on the upcoming Prompto DLC as well. During the "Universe" trailer viewers get a brief glimpse (see 1:15 on that trailer) of some sort of combat system. And June 13 also saw the release of a new video for the DLC. In the trailer, Naoshi Mizuta talks about his time composing the music for the game. There isn't much in-game content released in its runtime, but new artwork for Episode Prompto does appear at the conclusion. The third episode, centering around Ignis, didn't receive any mention. What do you think of Square Enix's efforts to create media for the FFXV universe? What do you think of the DLC content so far? View full article
  13. Final Fantasy XV isn't at its first year anniversary yet, and yet Square Enix has already been working to fulfill its promise to continue expanding on the lore of the game. Creating a media-rich universe for its latest major Final Fantasy title has been a strong suit for Square. It's cohesiveness, however, has been a little lacking. E3 2017 saw the release of a few trailers within the FFXV Eos. First up, it was announced during the Microsoft conference that the game would get a free 4K enhancement per the Xbox One Enhance Program. Sony followed suit during its conference by announcing PS4 Pro updates. Sony also announced a VR component with PSVR spin-off Monster of the Deep. The game focuses on the fishing feature of the game, putting players behind the eyes (and rod) of Noctis. Monster of the Deep has the release date of September 2017. On June 13, aka the first official day of E3, Square released additional trailers outlining old content alongside new. The new includes a mobile game that Noctis and Co. are obsessed with called King's Knight, with its full title being King's Knight - Wrath of the Dark Dragon. The stage was pretty much set for this game to be made eventually, as it is referenced several times throughout the core gameplay of FFXV. It will be available on both Android and iOS in 2017. The FFXV Universe E3 trailer does exactly what its name implies. During the first half (roughly), viewers get a recap of all of the expanded media released so far, from the core game to the Brotherhood anime series and Kingsglaive movie. On the other end, we get the King's Knight news, E3 info, and updates including a new Regalia model, the Regalia Type-D with the June update. There, of course, was also some information on the upcoming Prompto DLC as well. During the "Universe" trailer viewers get a brief glimpse (see 1:15 on that trailer) of some sort of combat system. And June 13 also saw the release of a new video for the DLC. In the trailer, Naoshi Mizuta talks about his time composing the music for the game. There isn't much in-game content released in its runtime, but new artwork for Episode Prompto does appear at the conclusion. The third episode, centering around Ignis, didn't receive any mention. What do you think of Square Enix's efforts to create media for the FFXV universe? What do you think of the DLC content so far?
  14. "Hella." If that word evokes a distinct sense of bemusement and nostalgia, have we got good news for you. Microsoft announced a prequel series to Dontnod's award-winning episodic adventure game Life Is Strange titled Life Is Strange: Before the Storm. The prequel series will be three episodes long and feature a younger version of Chloe, the blue-haired attitude machine known for getting into trouble and saying expletives that no human would ever utter. It's unclear if the game will feature original protagonist Max Caulfield, as the two were evidently separated when Max's parents moved years before. However, the game will evidently feature Rachel Amber, the best friend of Chloe's who met an unfortunate end before the events of Life Is Strange. Life Is Strange: Before the Storm's first episode is scheduled to release on August 31. View full article
  15. "Hella." If that word evokes a distinct sense of bemusement and nostalgia, have we got good news for you. Microsoft announced a prequel series to Dontnod's award-winning episodic adventure game Life Is Strange titled Life Is Strange: Before the Storm. The prequel series will be three episodes long and feature a younger version of Chloe, the blue-haired attitude machine known for getting into trouble and saying expletives that no human would ever utter. It's unclear if the game will feature original protagonist Max Caulfield, as the two were evidently separated when Max's parents moved years before. However, the game will evidently feature Rachel Amber, the best friend of Chloe's who met an unfortunate end before the events of Life Is Strange. Life Is Strange: Before the Storm's first episode is scheduled to release on August 31.
  16. Fans and critics of Final Fantasy VII: Advent Children alike have commonly perceived it as lacking a compelling story, complex characters, and purposeful fight scenes. When I decided I wanted to understand why I still loved the film in 2013, I didn’t expect the answer I found. Parts one and two in this series debunked these major criticisms of the film by examining what story Advent Children tells and how it tells that story through action. This leaves the question, why did it take twelve years to notice that this film portrays the opposite of what everyone says about it? If these criticisms don’t have merit, or are at most over-exaggerated, how did they originate? The dominantly negative reviews about Advent Children appear to spawn from its subtle and unconventional storytelling combined with misconceptions that it doesn’t have a meaningful story to begin with. Advent Children frequently uses visual language, thematic imagery, and minimalist storytelling to convey its story and ideas. Movies communicate their stories visually through shot composition, lighting, costuming, video editing, and positioning of props and actors. These elements are called the film’s mise-en-scène. While films can also use verbal, written, and musical language to convey meaning, film theorists claim that as a visual medium, movies should tell their stories visually. Characters should speak less and do more. As a subscriber to this theory, Advent Children doesn’t always tell the audience what’s happening and what it means through dialog; it shows them through its mise-en-scène. Sometimes Advent Children’s scenes seem more representative of the film’s themes and ideas than of what is actually happening. For example, the final scene in the movie where we see Cloud surrounded by orphans, townspeople, and friends, both dead and alive, after crashing through the roof of a church is ridiculous even in the world of Advent Children. This scene, however, represents Cloud’s reunion with his friends, his family, and the world. He has found happiness and is ready to accept life over his memories and thoughts of death. In an earlier scene, Cloud also finds himself in an equally ridiculous scenario. Menacing orphans surround him while Kadaj taunts him. It doesn’t make sense that orphans pose a threat to a super human like Cloud, but they represent his separation from the world and heighten the tone of helplessness in the scene. By isolating himself, Cloud’s made enemies out of the people he cares about in addition to having to fight his actual enemies and demons. In general, Advent Children takes a minimalist approach to storytelling. It doesn’t repeat spoken information often. The film explains Jenova, Sephiroth, and materia only once, for example. It encourages viewing the film multiple times as opposed to spoon feeding an obvious tale that viewers can see once and completely understand. While the film shows us all the information we need to understand the story, it doesn’t always put it together. The characters don’t have extensive conversations to analyze the pieces and find meaning in the outcomes. These storytelling methods as used by Advent Children and other artworks rely to some degree on the viewer’s analytic skills and personal experiences, which has strengths and weaknesses. Advent Children gives the audience the respect and space to put its clues together themselves and incorporate their own experiences with Final Fantasy VII and real life into the film. This allows viewers to create their own powerful connections to the work either because it reminds them of personal experiences or because finding meaning in it takes effort and feels rewarding. Minimal storytelling, however, also opens the possibility that viewers will interpret the work in unintended ways. For example, audiences can interpret Advent Children’s narrative as meaningless nonsense. Viewers also may not be able to find intended meanings in the work because they don’t have the required experiences. Someone who’s never played Final Fantasy VII, for example, won’t see the similarity between Kadaj’s relationship with Cloud and Cloud’s relationship with Sephiroth. Someone unfamiliar with mental illness might not see it in Advent Children or might interpret Cloud’s character as clichéd. This doesn’t mean, however, that they can’t find meaning in the work through other experiences and clues from the film. Telling a story in this way can also make it impenetrable for casual viewers. Advent Children has plenty of action and fan service at it surface, but it takes work to see that it’s not just mindless entertainment. Advent Children also has some specific problems that make recognizing that it has meaning difficult. Its purely thematic imagery, for example, creates plot holes that can’t be filled so easily. The director’s cut Final Fantasy VII: Advent Children Complete attempts to explain why the children and townspeople gather at the church at the end of the movie with an event even more ridiculous than the scene itself. Aerith, a dead woman, calls everyone on their cellphones, even the orphans, and tells them to go to the church… Similarly, Cloud’s apparent isolation in the final fight scene continues one of the film’s visual themes but doesn’t make sense in the story’s world, considering that his friends would never leave him to fight a worldwide threat on his own. Sometimes Advent Children withholds too much information as well. To a point, the director’s cut better explains Denzel and how he befriended Cloud, a character that struggles to display and accept affection. Viewers can easily miss this visual and minimalist storytelling, especially if they have preconceptions that the work doesn’t contain meaning. Unfortunately, Advent Children has an association with three types of movies known for poor storytelling: fan service films, photorealistic CGI, and video game movies. Reviewers say that Advent Children is obviously a “fan service film.” This term has two meanings, depending on the reviewer using it. First, these films tell a story that only fans will understand and appreciate. Second, fan service films have a bad story that exists only to show fans what they want to see, most often battles between characters from the base material. This labeling suggests that people who haven’t played Final Fantasy VII before shouldn’t even attempt to find meaning in Advent Children. At the same time, fans of the game claim that Advent Children can’t contain a good story because it sequels an already complete one. It doesn’t have any more story to tell. They also claim that it exists only to sell Final Fantasy VII merchandise such as the Crisis Core and Dirge of Cerberus video games, which came out at about the same time. Therefore, it’s meaningless fan service and merchandising. Critics don’t provide enough evidence that Advent Children is any of these things though, and it’s really not obvious. Some people, like myself, watch the film with little to no experience with Final Fantasy VII or even Final Fantasy and find it enjoyable and understandable. A majority of this review examines a story that has little to do with the game and exists entirely within the film. Fans have as much difficulty decoding the superficial geostigma-Jenova-Sephiroth story as non-fans do, and anyone can understand the parallel story about a guy struggling with his past. In fact, many Final Fantasy VII fans complain that the movie doesn’t contain enough fan service. The film spends more time on Denzel and Kadaj, characters that don’t exist in the game, than it does on the game’s playable characters. Additionally, the short battle with Sephiroth ends rather suddenly for a film that supposedly exists solely to create an excuse for the fight to happen. The film also doesn’t add anything new to the Final Fantasy VII universe. It opens with the message, “To those who loved this world and knew friendly company therein: this Reunion is for you,” but it simultaneously provides evidence that it’s not for fans only. Advent Children seems more like a film that uses Final Fantasy VII as a medium to tell a story than a fan service film. It has elements that only fans can understand, but that doesn’t mean that everything else is incomprehensible. We don’t need Barret, Yuffie, and Cid’s backstory to understand that they’re Cloud’s friends and helped save the world two years ago, for example. The backstories clearly exist because these characters have distinguishing personalities. The movie simply chooses not to present the stories of its side characters and peripheral details like a lot of other movies choose to do. “Fan service” can also mean gratuitous sex and violence. Advent Children features a cast of male characters that fit the pretty, sexy man stereotype found in many Japanese anime and relentless, sword-swinging action. When an anime doesn’t have anything interesting to say, it can resort to large-breasted women and effeminate men with partially open jackets and large swords to find an audience. Movies with these elements, however, can still have great stories and ideas to share. Hollywood has many pretty faces, but we don’t condemn all its movies as bad simply because the actors aren’t hideous. Fight Club isn’t critically acclaimed because it features Brad Pitt and two hours of men punching each other in the face. It tells an excellent story with an interesting commentary about life. Advent Children’s creators made the characters aesthetically pleasing (Who wants to look at butt ugly artwork?) but not radically different from their basic designs in the game. The film has a story and messages applicable to real life told through the action, pretty men, and Final Fantasy VII elements at its surface. Reviewers have also classified Advent Children as photorealistic despite no one in the film looking like a real person. In the wake of Final Fantasy: The Spirits Within and The Polar Express, critics labeled Advent Children as yet another attempt at photorealism with a poor story. Unsurprisingly, critics complained that it didn’t look realistic enough. Characters don’t follow the real-world laws of physics, they don’t bleed, and the movie never tricks the audience into thinking that it’s live-action. No evidence suggests that Advent Children is or ever was meant to be photorealistic. The anime-influenced characters look too perfect and alien to be real. Like cutscenes in Final Fantasy games, Advent Children only presents the illusion of realism. The creators even state in The Making Of featurette that they didn’t want to make a photorealistic film. As co-director Takeshi Nozue says, “If it looked too real, then we might as well shoot it live.” Ignoring the laws of physics and not showing blood are stylistic and thematic choices that don’t affect the quality of the story. If we don’t expect Pixar films or video games to trick us into thinking that we’re watching real people, then we shouldn’t hold Advent Children to this standard either. Finally, critics make claims about Advent Children simply because of its association with a video game. Video game movies generally don’t have great stories, but they can break this stereotype. Reviewers describe Advent Children as one long cutscene, which suggests that it doesn’t contain enough information on its own to tell a story. Everything about its story, its themes, and its characters except a few details in this analysis comes from the movie. Other reviewers have called Advent Children a series of cutscenes. This description just applies a video game term, cutscenes, to the elements that make up all movies, scenes. This metaphor doesn’t contain any information about whether the movie is good or bad. Some argue that the film can’t engage the audience because it’s not a video game. Depending on the gamer, cutscenes in games are either a reward or an annoyance, and Advent Children shows an hour and a half of beautiful visuals without requiring the player/viewer to do anything. It’s true, movies don’t reward strategic button pressing. The reward lies in finding meaning in their visuals and audio. Advent Children defies all these descriptions and criticisms because it’s unlike anything ever created. Beowulf defines technology porn, a photorealistic spectacle brimming with graphic sex, gore, and violence. A series of cutscenes accurately describes .hack//G.U. Trilogy, a film obviously missing crucial explanation and character development that would usually occur during gameplay. Similarly, a long cutscene describes Kingsglaive: Final Fantasy XV, a film that doesn’t even explain what problem its characters must solve because it’s in the game. Tekken: Blood Vengeance, a film that contains a ridiculous plot that ties together apparently pointless fight scenes between characters from the game, is one type of fan service film. .hack//Beyond the World, a film that loses itself in .hack lore without explaining why it matters to the protagonist, demonstrates another. Elysium (2003) shows what terrible but brief dialog combined with a terrible story looks like. Want to know what Advent Children would sound like had it explained everything in excruciating detail? Watch Ark (2005). Kaena: The Prophecy makes a sincere but novice attempt at using a video game world to tell a story, what Advent Children near perfects. While Advent Children takes inspiration from Japanese anime and live-action films, it uses CGI to its full potential to tell a story in its own way. It doesn’t use cell shading to mimic hand-drawn 2D animation like Appleseed, nor does it try to mimic live-action like The Polar Express. It avoids the uncanny valley without severely deforming its heroes like A Christmas Carol does. It retains the illusion of realism and humanity even when the characters defy the laws of physics. It entertains without resorting to excessive sex or violence like Starship Troopers: Invasion or Sausage Party do. It’s an art film and drama disguised as an action movie. It tells a thoughtful and universal story through elements from a video game. It uses CGI’s strengths to create choreography, characters, environments, and camera work that would be extremely difficult to recreate in any other medium, but it doesn’t discard basic filmmaking and narrative techniques. It creates a visual spectacle but never forgets that first and foremost it must tell a story. In a fledgling art form that struggles to tell any kind of meaningful story outside of children’s entertainment, Advent Children is one of the most important CGI movies ever made. Even with its uniqueness, Advent Children can still be judged and analyzed as a movie. It contains a story with characters, conflicts, and themes. It has spectacular battles as an action movie should, but it also conveys a meaningful narrative through its mise-en-scène both inside and outside the action scenes. While it has flaws, they don’t immediately discredit the film as a pointless visual spectacle. Advent Children has never been treated as a work of art or even as a movie though. It’s viewed through the lens of fan service, visual spectacle, and video game bonus material. It’s judged as a bad movie because it doesn’t contain enough fan service, isn’t realistic enough, and is based on a video game. None of these complaints address whether Advent Children tells a thoughtful story that connects with viewers, uses filmmaking techniques effectively to convey meaning, or doesn’t do either. And that’s a shame. From what I’ve seen, Advent Children makes the best use of known filmmaking, storytelling, and animation techniques to tell a fantastic, mature, and human story through CGI out of all films in its class. That’s why people love this movie. That’s why it never fails to make me smile. I no longer ask, “Why do I like Advent Children?” Now I ask, “Why shouldn’t I like it?” I hope you’ll ask these questions, too. The film could mean something different to you as a Final Fantasy VII fan or as a person than it does to me. If you don’t like Advent Children, I hope you, too, will ask yourself why. Is it genuinely a terrible movie, or does it just defy the expectations of some Final Fantasy VII fans and moviegoers? And, of course, if you’ve never seen it, watch it. Playing the game first is optional. Advent Children isn’t perfect, but it’s worthy of criticism and analysis. It has so much to say, and filmmakers have so much to learn from it. What does Final Fantasy VII: Advent Children mean to you? View full article
  17. Any news of the next Kingdom Hearts game in the series has been eagerly awaited by fans and coinciding with E3, Square Enix has delivered a new sneak peak. The latest trailer was released during the Los Angeles leg of the Kingdom Hearts Orchestra World Tour on June 10. In the trailer, we see the franchise heroes Sora, Donald and Goofy fighting heartless on Hercules' Mount Olympus and talking all things Roxas with Organization XIII. In another scene, universe baddies Pete and Maleficent are seen asking Hades about a "distinctive black box." Square Enix had previously teased images of Mount Olympus on it's Twitter account late 2016. The trailer was also sure to show off gameplay footage of Sora battling heartless across different locations in the Disney world. No release date was associated with the trailer. Instead, we got July 15, 2017, aka D23 Expo 2017 where there will be a presentation of a new world and another trailer. Kingdom Hearts III was first announced back at E3 2013. Are you excited for Kingdom Hearts III? When do you think we'll finally get a release date? View full article
  18. Any news of the next Kingdom Hearts game in the series has been eagerly awaited by fans and coinciding with E3, Square Enix has delivered a new sneak peak. The latest trailer was released during the Los Angeles leg of the Kingdom Hearts Orchestra World Tour on June 10. In the trailer, we see the franchise heroes Sora, Donald and Goofy fighting heartless on Hercules' Mount Olympus and talking all things Roxas with Organization XIII. In another scene, universe baddies Pete and Maleficent are seen asking Hades about a "distinctive black box." Square Enix had previously teased images of Mount Olympus on it's Twitter account late 2016. The trailer was also sure to show off gameplay footage of Sora battling heartless across different locations in the Disney world. No release date was associated with the trailer. Instead, we got July 15, 2017, aka D23 Expo 2017 where there will be a presentation of a new world and another trailer. Kingdom Hearts III was first announced back at E3 2013. Are you excited for Kingdom Hearts III? When do you think we'll finally get a release date?
  19. Since its release in 2005, Final Fantasy VII: Advent Children has attracted negative reviews about its story, characters, fight scenes, dialog, and fan service. For fans of the film like me, defending it seemed an unthinkable, if not impossible, task. This made it all the more surprising when I dared to look closer at these criticisms and found baseless claims and exaggerations instead. The previous article in this series refuted arguments that Advent Children doesn’t contain a strong story or compelling characters by outlining the story it tells, examining the protagonist Cloud and his relationships, and exploring some of the film’s many themes. Critics may be quick to point out that even if the film contains a story, deeply flawed storytelling obscures it. They say Advent Children contains an excessive amount of meaningless action scenes strung together with weak and brief dialog. In reality, its action scenes are as important to understanding the story and world as the characters’ efficient and purposeful conversations. Many critics of Advent Children claim that the film’s excessive fight scenes contain only action-packed fan service. These visually stunning scenes allegedly have nothing at stake, no indication that characters can die, no physical limitations, no change in energy from fight to fight, and no purpose in the story. To the contrary, the fight scenes build the world, advance the story, and develop the characters in parallel with the battle. The visuals not only look wonderful but also contain a wealth of information. Advent Children doesn’t use the physics that we know, but it still has rules that it defines and follows. What the characters can do and their limitations are established in the fight scenes. In the first battle of the movie, the antagonist Kadaj sends his brothers Loz and Yazoo to fight Cloud. The combatants introduce motorcycle battles, summoned monsters, and physics-defying action. Cloud gets his goggles shot off his face at point blank, but the scratch it leaves behind hints for the rest of the film that he isn’t invincible. The following fight between Loz and Cloud’s friend Tifa demonstrates the characters’ high jumping abilities and super human strength. While Tifa can take wooden benches to the face, electrocution is her weakness as is being punched with enough force to destroy a concrete pillar. Next, Cloud has a mystical weapon battle with Kadaj’s gang where we see the magical and destructive capabilities of materia. Cloud blocks bullets and magic with a sword, but he tires rather quickly. These first three scenes also establish that the bad guys pose a threat because Cloud and Tifa lose them all. The tide changes during the fight with the monster Bahamut, which introduces friendship as an element of combat. Cloud’s friends demonstrate their differing skills and how they compensate for one another’s weaknesses. Cait Sith is quite useless, riding on Red XIII’s back the entire fight, but he provides moral support and comic relief. Barret saves Cloud’s foster son Denzel, but he can’t high jump and periodically needs to be saved himself. Red XIII saves Cid from plowing face-first into a pillar. Cid saves Yuffie from an energy blast. Cloud saves Barret from falling debris. And all of them together with divine assistance from Aerith help Cloud defeat Bahamut, the first win of the movie. Cloud, Loz, and Yazoo’s motorcycle chase and the following sword fight between Cloud and Kadaj cement these rules in place by using every element that we’ve learned about from all previous battles: high jumping, motorcycle battles, materia, divine assistance, friendship power, etc. In the final battle, Cloud’s true enemy Sephiroth reveals that he has abilities that we’ve never seen before. He can fly and apparently manipulate the weather without materia. Cloud, however, is still bound by the rules. He tires easily, feels afraid and uncertain, and requires his friends’ assistance to survive. The film doesn’t define how characters die, but it does use other means to endanger them. Because the characters don’t often give the bad guys the chance to injure them, danger mainly comes from their reactions and emotions. Falling debris scare Barrett and Cloud. Cloud fears separation from his sword in battles, and geostigma pains him. His friends flee and exclaim from various threats during the battle with Bahamut. These human reactions, the humanity of Cloud’s personality and struggles at the center of the film, the fantastic action scenes, and the lack of information combine to leave us in suspense. How human are these characters? Withholding violent acts actually makes Sephiroth stabbing Cloud and Yazoo shooting him at the end of the film more shocking. Even when Cloud survives, the movie heavily implies that it was only because Aerith helped him. Advent Children’s action scenes are scenes, integral to advancing the plot and developing the characters. Loz, Kadaj, and Yazoo introduce themselves in the first fight scene by toying with Cloud, which shows their childish personalities. By the end, Cloud still doesn’t know what they want, but he knows that they pose a threat. Tifa’s battle with Loz begins with neither of them taking each other seriously, but by the end, Loz easily outmatches Tifa and kidnaps Barret’s daughter Marlene. The next battle features Cloud trying to save the city’s orphans, but it ends in miserable failure, confirming to him his uselessness. After regaining his confidence in the fight with Bahamut, Cloud attempts to show in his sword fight with Kadaj that he doesn’t need his friends while Kadaj attempts to prove that he doesn’t need Sephiroth. Each battle also heightens the stakes. In the first action scene of the film, Cloud must fight only to save himself. Tifa then fights Loz to save herself and Marlene. After that, Cloud fights Kadaj’s gang to save the city’s orphans. Cloud and his friends fight Bahamut to protect the entire city. Then, Cloud chases Kadaj to prevent him from using Jenova’s remains to resurrect Sephiroth, which could lead to the world’s destruction. Finally, Cloud fights Sephiroth, a god-like being, to save the world. The cinematic choices during fights make the choreography a spectacle, which is an important aspect of any action movie, but they also define the characters’ locations in space, show what they’re doing, and convey their feelings and thoughts. Compare the shots in Advent Children to a bad action movie full of shaky camera angles, two-second-long shots, and close ups (e.g. Kingsglaive: Final Fantasy XV) where it’s difficult to tell what’s happening or why. Advent Children does use disorienting camera work, such as in Cloud’s battle with Sephiroth, but only to convey confusion and fear. Otherwise, it shows almost everything, including some imaginative choreography that compliments the characters and story. Combatants don’t shout cheesy catchphrases to announce what they feel or what they want to accomplish. They communicate this information almost entirely through visuals. The following are just a few examples. During Cloud’s attempt to rescue the orphans from Kadaj’s gang, Cloud shifts his attention from Loz and Yazoo to Kadaj, his true target. The camera zooms in on Kadaj’s face, and Cloud attacks. In the motorcycle chase later in the movie, Kadaj flees from Cloud with Jenova’s remains in hand. He takes the upper road when the super highway splits. Loz rides up alongside Cloud and attacks, preventing him from taking the same path. In the final fight scene, Sephiroth darkens the sky with a flick of his wrist; Cloud grimaces fearfully and grips his sword tighter. The characters seem to have conversations without saying anything at all. Only so much can be conveyed through facial expressions and body language, but they say more than: “I’m going to kill you!” “No, I’m going to kill you!” Advent Children explains what it can’t show with clever and to-the-point dialog that reviewers complain is terribly written. Sure, it has weaknesses, but overall, the dialog is some combination of real, efficient, informative, and thought provoking. The characters don’t sobbingly spew their backstory in a futile attempt to make us care, explain concepts that everyone in the scene already knows, inject catch phrases into everything they do, or announce what they will do instead of, you know, just doing it. Characters don’t have much chance to sound insincere because they rarely speak. And when they do converse, they do so purposefully. Make fun of “dilly-dally, shilly-shally” all you want; it’s part of a real conversation about a real-life problem said much more efficiently. The majority of the dialog in the film exists to explain Final Fantasy VII concepts, but it performs double duty by developing the characters at the same time. In a scene near the beginning of the movie, for example, Cloud and Rufus talk about the Shinra Power Company, geostigma, Jenova, and Sephiroth. The tone of the conversation simultaneously shows Cloud’s love-hate relationship with Shinra. Cloud treats Rufus coldly, constantly cutting him off and questioning him. He jabs at Rude and Reno, who seem like loveable goofs, and hesitates when Rufus suggests that Shinra wants to atone for its past sins. Some dialog simply provokes the audience to think about the film beyond its superficial action-oriented, Final Fantasy VII-enhanced plot. For example, Cloud’s friend Vincent asks, “Cloud, are you sure this is about fighting?” Sephiroth says, immediately before he disappears, “I will never be a memory.” And Cloud ends the film with, “I know. I’m not alone. Not anymore.” A film adorned in fan service almost requires lines like this if it wants to make the audience aware that it has anything important to say. The dialog stumbles most when it explains concepts and does nothing much else, but even then, it’s efficient. At one point, Kadaj obviously explains materia as if nobody in the scene knows already, but the film had to explain it at some point and doesn’t spend much time on it. Compare it to the director’s cut, Final Fantasy VII: Advent Children Complete, where this scene turns into two minutes of equally cringe-worthy dialog featuring Kadaj and Loz explaining everything that they’re about to do and re-explain. The overview of Final Fantasy VII at the beginning of the film receives criticism for existing, not explaining enough, and containing awkward dialog. Overviews are necessary refreshers for newbies and veterans alike and difficult to write well in general, not a fault of Advent Children in particular. Like the rest of the film’s spoken information, it provides the bare minimum needed to understand the plot. Advent Children’s fight scenes look spectacular because they contain so much information about the story, characters, and world. The script intentionally keeps the dialog short to highlight where the story really shines in the film’s visuals and the characters’ actions. This explains how Advent Children tells its story, but it doesn’t explain why it took over a decade for anyone to recognize it. Why has no one ever discussed Advent Children’s use of visual language if it’s as excellent as I claim? Is this film so opaque? The final part of this series will examine the misconceptions surrounding Final Fantasy VII: Advent Children that stifled the conversation about its story and storytelling techniques before it even began.
  20. Since its release in 2005, Final Fantasy VII: Advent Children has attracted negative reviews about its story, characters, fight scenes, dialog, and fan service. For fans of the film like me, defending it seemed an unthinkable, if not impossible, task. This made it all the more surprising when I dared to look closer at these criticisms and found baseless claims and exaggerations instead. The previous article in this series refuted arguments that Advent Children doesn’t contain a strong story or compelling characters by outlining the story it tells, examining the protagonist Cloud and his relationships, and exploring some of the film’s many themes. Critics may be quick to point out that even if the film contains a story, deeply flawed storytelling obscures it. They say Advent Children contains an excessive amount of meaningless action scenes strung together with weak and brief dialog. In reality, its action scenes are as important to understanding the story and world as the characters’ efficient and purposeful conversations. Many critics of Advent Children claim that the film’s excessive fight scenes contain only action-packed fan service. These visually stunning scenes allegedly have nothing at stake, no indication that characters can die, no physical limitations, no change in energy from fight to fight, and no purpose in the story. To the contrary, the fight scenes build the world, advance the story, and develop the characters in parallel with the battle. The visuals not only look wonderful but also contain a wealth of information. Advent Children doesn’t use the physics that we know, but it still has rules that it defines and follows. What the characters can do and their limitations are established in the fight scenes. In the first battle of the movie, the antagonist Kadaj sends his brothers Loz and Yazoo to fight Cloud. The combatants introduce motorcycle battles, summoned monsters, and physics-defying action. Cloud gets his goggles shot off his face at point blank, but the scratch it leaves behind hints for the rest of the film that he isn’t invincible. The following fight between Loz and Cloud’s friend Tifa demonstrates the characters’ high jumping abilities and super human strength. While Tifa can take wooden benches to the face, electrocution is her weakness as is being punched with enough force to destroy a concrete pillar. Next, Cloud has a mystical weapon battle with Kadaj’s gang where we see the magical and destructive capabilities of materia. Cloud blocks bullets and magic with a sword, but he tires rather quickly. These first three scenes also establish that the bad guys pose a threat because Cloud and Tifa lose them all. The tide changes during the fight with the monster Bahamut, which introduces friendship as an element of combat. Cloud’s friends demonstrate their differing skills and how they compensate for one another’s weaknesses. Cait Sith is quite useless, riding on Red XIII’s back the entire fight, but he provides moral support and comic relief. Barret saves Cloud’s foster son Denzel, but he can’t high jump and periodically needs to be saved himself. Red XIII saves Cid from plowing face-first into a pillar. Cid saves Yuffie from an energy blast. Cloud saves Barret from falling debris. And all of them together with divine assistance from Aerith help Cloud defeat Bahamut, the first win of the movie. Cloud, Loz, and Yazoo’s motorcycle chase and the following sword fight between Cloud and Kadaj cement these rules in place by using every element that we’ve learned about from all previous battles: high jumping, motorcycle battles, materia, divine assistance, friendship power, etc. In the final battle, Cloud’s true enemy Sephiroth reveals that he has abilities that we’ve never seen before. He can fly and apparently manipulate the weather without materia. Cloud, however, is still bound by the rules. He tires easily, feels afraid and uncertain, and requires his friends’ assistance to survive. The film doesn’t define how characters die, but it does use other means to endanger them. Because the characters don’t often give the bad guys the chance to injure them, danger mainly comes from their reactions and emotions. Falling debris scare Barrett and Cloud. Cloud fears separation from his sword in battles, and geostigma pains him. His friends flee and exclaim from various threats during the battle with Bahamut. These human reactions, the humanity of Cloud’s personality and struggles at the center of the film, the fantastic action scenes, and the lack of information combine to leave us in suspense. How human are these characters? Withholding violent acts actually makes Sephiroth stabbing Cloud and Yazoo shooting him at the end of the film more shocking. Even when Cloud survives, the movie heavily implies that it was only because Aerith helped him. Advent Children’s action scenes are scenes, integral to advancing the plot and developing the characters. Loz, Kadaj, and Yazoo introduce themselves in the first fight scene by toying with Cloud, which shows their childish personalities. By the end, Cloud still doesn’t know what they want, but he knows that they pose a threat. Tifa’s battle with Loz begins with neither of them taking each other seriously, but by the end, Loz easily outmatches Tifa and kidnaps Barret’s daughter Marlene. The next battle features Cloud trying to save the city’s orphans, but it ends in miserable failure, confirming to him his uselessness. After regaining his confidence in the fight with Bahamut, Cloud attempts to show in his sword fight with Kadaj that he doesn’t need his friends while Kadaj attempts to prove that he doesn’t need Sephiroth. Each battle also heightens the stakes. In the first action scene of the film, Cloud must fight only to save himself. Tifa then fights Loz to save herself and Marlene. After that, Cloud fights Kadaj’s gang to save the city’s orphans. Cloud and his friends fight Bahamut to protect the entire city. Then, Cloud chases Kadaj to prevent him from using Jenova’s remains to resurrect Sephiroth, which could lead to the world’s destruction. Finally, Cloud fights Sephiroth, a god-like being, to save the world. The cinematic choices during fights make the choreography a spectacle, which is an important aspect of any action movie, but they also define the characters’ locations in space, show what they’re doing, and convey their feelings and thoughts. Compare the shots in Advent Children to a bad action movie full of shaky camera angles, two-second-long shots, and close ups (e.g. Kingsglaive: Final Fantasy XV) where it’s difficult to tell what’s happening or why. Advent Children does use disorienting camera work, such as in Cloud’s battle with Sephiroth, but only to convey confusion and fear. Otherwise, it shows almost everything, including some imaginative choreography that compliments the characters and story. Combatants don’t shout cheesy catchphrases to announce what they feel or what they want to accomplish. They communicate this information almost entirely through visuals. The following are just a few examples. During Cloud’s attempt to rescue the orphans from Kadaj’s gang, Cloud shifts his attention from Loz and Yazoo to Kadaj, his true target. The camera zooms in on Kadaj’s face, and Cloud attacks. In the motorcycle chase later in the movie, Kadaj flees from Cloud with Jenova’s remains in hand. He takes the upper road when the super highway splits. Loz rides up alongside Cloud and attacks, preventing him from taking the same path. In the final fight scene, Sephiroth darkens the sky with a flick of his wrist; Cloud grimaces fearfully and grips his sword tighter. The characters seem to have conversations without saying anything at all. Only so much can be conveyed through facial expressions and body language, but they say more than: “I’m going to kill you!” “No, I’m going to kill you!” Advent Children explains what it can’t show with clever and to-the-point dialog that reviewers complain is terribly written. Sure, it has weaknesses, but overall, the dialog is some combination of real, efficient, informative, and thought provoking. The characters don’t sobbingly spew their backstory in a futile attempt to make us care, explain concepts that everyone in the scene already knows, inject catch phrases into everything they do, or announce what they will do instead of, you know, just doing it. Characters don’t have much chance to sound insincere because they rarely speak. And when they do converse, they do so purposefully. Make fun of “dilly-dally, shilly-shally” all you want; it’s part of a real conversation about a real-life problem said much more efficiently. The majority of the dialog in the film exists to explain Final Fantasy VII concepts, but it performs double duty by developing the characters at the same time. In a scene near the beginning of the movie, for example, Cloud and Rufus talk about the Shinra Power Company, geostigma, Jenova, and Sephiroth. The tone of the conversation simultaneously shows Cloud’s love-hate relationship with Shinra. Cloud treats Rufus coldly, constantly cutting him off and questioning him. He jabs at Rude and Reno, who seem like loveable goofs, and hesitates when Rufus suggests that Shinra wants to atone for its past sins. Some dialog simply provokes the audience to think about the film beyond its superficial action-oriented, Final Fantasy VII-enhanced plot. For example, Cloud’s friend Vincent asks, “Cloud, are you sure this is about fighting?” Sephiroth says, immediately before he disappears, “I will never be a memory.” And Cloud ends the film with, “I know. I’m not alone. Not anymore.” A film adorned in fan service almost requires lines like this if it wants to make the audience aware that it has anything important to say. The dialog stumbles most when it explains concepts and does nothing much else, but even then, it’s efficient. At one point, Kadaj obviously explains materia as if nobody in the scene knows already, but the film had to explain it at some point and doesn’t spend much time on it. Compare it to the director’s cut, Final Fantasy VII: Advent Children Complete, where this scene turns into two minutes of equally cringe-worthy dialog featuring Kadaj and Loz explaining everything that they’re about to do and re-explain. The overview of Final Fantasy VII at the beginning of the film receives criticism for existing, not explaining enough, and containing awkward dialog. Overviews are necessary refreshers for newbies and veterans alike and difficult to write well in general, not a fault of Advent Children in particular. Like the rest of the film’s spoken information, it provides the bare minimum needed to understand the plot. Advent Children’s fight scenes look spectacular because they contain so much information about the story, characters, and world. The script intentionally keeps the dialog short to highlight where the story really shines in the film’s visuals and the characters’ actions. This explains how Advent Children tells its story, but it doesn’t explain why it took over a decade for anyone to recognize it. Why has no one ever discussed Advent Children’s use of visual language if it’s as excellent as I claim? Is this film so opaque? The final part of this series will examine the misconceptions surrounding Final Fantasy VII: Advent Children that stifled the conversation about its story and storytelling techniques before it even began. View full article
  21. Square Enix announced at E3 2015 that the long-awaited Final Fantasy VII remake was finally going to become a reality over a decade after first showing footage of a remade Final Fantasy VII opening running on the PlayStation 3. Since then, more sceenshots and trailers have appeared along with details about how Square Enix would be releasing the game as an episodic series (not the way many would prefer to play FFVII, but at least the remake would finally exist). Now the director of the PlayStation 4 HD remaster of Final Fantasy XII, Final Fantasy XII: The Zodiac Age, has revealed that Square Enix might very well be expanding its remake efforts to another Final Fantasy title from the PlayStation One era, though that revelation comes with some predictable caveats. In an interview with The International Business Times - UK, Takashi Katano let some insider speculation slip, saying, "[Final Fantasy 12] is a PS2 title, and you look at the other titles in the series and technologically anything before the PS2 era is going to be quite difficult to do a modern remaster of to a suitable level of quality. That means [a future game] is far more likely to be a remake." That statement is hardly controversial - Square Enix has reimagined and remade the earliest Final Fantasy titles for mobile, PC, and Nintendo DS/3DS several times over the years. However, this news coming from a director of a major Square Enix project seems to imply that any upcoming remake would be a major, franchise undertaking, perhaps on par with their efforts to remake Final Fantasy VII. The question seems to be which Final Fantasy game would see such a complete overhaul? Final Fantasy V and VI, though originally released on the Super Nintendo, could be a contenders as both eventually made their way to the PlayStation and the current director of the Final Fantasy VII remake has expressed interest in remaking those two titles in particular. However, significant camps of support are present for Final Fantasy VIII and also Final Fantasy IX. Expanding on his statement, Katano explained that the process would be less about what any individuals within Square Enix would like to port and more about what their customers want, "I've personally been working at Square Enix for 20 years now and I've got a lot of memories from that time. I think the way that we look at it is not the game that [we] would like to remake it's really down to what the players, the fans, want to see. We really have to hear their voices on that, if they want to see a remake or a remaster of a certain game then that's more likely to be the one we go for." Anything beyond the Final Fantasy VII remake is likely still in only the very earliest stages of development, if at all, but it is certainly wonderful news to hear that the company is open to revisiting their classic line-up with more modern technology.
  22. Square Enix announced at E3 2015 that the long-awaited Final Fantasy VII remake was finally going to become a reality over a decade after first showing footage of a remade Final Fantasy VII opening running on the PlayStation 3. Since then, more sceenshots and trailers have appeared along with details about how Square Enix would be releasing the game as an episodic series (not the way many would prefer to play FFVII, but at least the remake would finally exist). Now the director of the PlayStation 4 HD remaster of Final Fantasy XII, Final Fantasy XII: The Zodiac Age, has revealed that Square Enix might very well be expanding its remake efforts to another Final Fantasy title from the PlayStation One era, though that revelation comes with some predictable caveats. In an interview with The International Business Times - UK, Takashi Katano let some insider speculation slip, saying, "[Final Fantasy 12] is a PS2 title, and you look at the other titles in the series and technologically anything before the PS2 era is going to be quite difficult to do a modern remaster of to a suitable level of quality. That means [a future game] is far more likely to be a remake." That statement is hardly controversial - Square Enix has reimagined and remade the earliest Final Fantasy titles for mobile, PC, and Nintendo DS/3DS several times over the years. However, this news coming from a director of a major Square Enix project seems to imply that any upcoming remake would be a major, franchise undertaking, perhaps on par with their efforts to remake Final Fantasy VII. The question seems to be which Final Fantasy game would see such a complete overhaul? Final Fantasy V and VI, though originally released on the Super Nintendo, could be a contenders as both eventually made their way to the PlayStation and the current director of the Final Fantasy VII remake has expressed interest in remaking those two titles in particular. However, significant camps of support are present for Final Fantasy VIII and also Final Fantasy IX. Expanding on his statement, Katano explained that the process would be less about what any individuals within Square Enix would like to port and more about what their customers want, "I've personally been working at Square Enix for 20 years now and I've got a lot of memories from that time. I think the way that we look at it is not the game that [we] would like to remake it's really down to what the players, the fans, want to see. We really have to hear their voices on that, if they want to see a remake or a remaster of a certain game then that's more likely to be the one we go for." Anything beyond the Final Fantasy VII remake is likely still in only the very earliest stages of development, if at all, but it is certainly wonderful news to hear that the company is open to revisiting their classic line-up with more modern technology. View full article
  23. A strangely off-beat throwback to the Final Fantasy of yesteryear? A sunny journey into the heart of existential crisis? A relic outdone by its shinier successor? Final Fantasy IX is many things to many people. Only recently has the general gaming population begun to look back and notice the entry in Square Enix's long-running series that came only a year before X moved the series into a new console generation. Dan Olson from Folding Ideas joins the podcast for a two-part episode discussing Final Fantasy IX's fascinating development history and subtly powerful narrative. Does a PlayStation 1 title from the turn of the millennium earn a place in video game canon? Is Final Fantasy IX one of the best games period? You can find Dan Olson on Twitter, @FoldableIdeas, or on his YouTube channel Folding Ideas. Each week we will be tackling a video game, old or new, that at least one of us believes deserves to stand as one of the greatest games of all time. We'll dive into its history, development, and gameplay, while trying to argue for or against the game of the week. Sometimes we will be in harmonious agreement, other times we might be fighting a bitter battle to the very end. However each episode shakes out, we hope that everyone who listens will find the show entertaining and informative. Part one focuses on our special guest, the development history of Final Fantasy IX, and our individual experiences with the title. Outro music: Final Fantasy IX 'Melodies of Life (Arranged)' by MkViff (http://ocremix.org/remix/OCR00152) Part two delves into an attempt at summarizing the intricate plot and some narrative dissection in an effort to get at the heart of why IX has always felt different from the rest of the franchise. Outro music: Final Fantasy IX ''You Don't Know Me" by katethegreat19 (http://ff9.ocremix.org/) You can download or listen to the podcast over on Soundcloud, our hosting site, and iTunes. A YouTube version is (sometimes) available as well, so you can watch what we are talking about while we talk about it! If you want to have your opinion heard on air, follow the show on Twitter and participate in the weekly polls: @BestGamesPeriod New episodes of The Best Games Period will be released every Monday
  24. A strangely off-beat throwback to the Final Fantasy of yesteryear? A sunny journey into the heart of existential crisis? A relic outdone by its shinier successor? Final Fantasy IX is many things to many people. Only recently has the general gaming population begun to look back and notice the entry in Square Enix's long-running series that came only a year before X moved the series into a new console generation. Dan Olson from Folding Ideas joins the podcast for a two-part episode discussing Final Fantasy IX's fascinating development history and subtly powerful narrative. Does a PlayStation 1 title from the turn of the millennium earn a place in video game canon? Is Final Fantasy IX one of the best games period? You can find Dan Olson on Twitter, @FoldableIdeas, or on his YouTube channel Folding Ideas. Each week we will be tackling a video game, old or new, that at least one of us believes deserves to stand as one of the greatest games of all time. We'll dive into its history, development, and gameplay, while trying to argue for or against the game of the week. Sometimes we will be in harmonious agreement, other times we might be fighting a bitter battle to the very end. However each episode shakes out, we hope that everyone who listens will find the show entertaining and informative. Part one focuses on our special guest, the development history of Final Fantasy IX, and our individual experiences with the title. Outro music: Final Fantasy IX 'Melodies of Life (Arranged)' by MkViff (http://ocremix.org/remix/OCR00152) Part two delves into an attempt at summarizing the intricate plot and some narrative dissection in an effort to get at the heart of why IX has always felt different from the rest of the franchise. Outro music: Final Fantasy IX ''You Don't Know Me" by katethegreat19 (http://ff9.ocremix.org/) You can download or listen to the podcast over on Soundcloud, our hosting site, and iTunes. A YouTube version is (sometimes) available as well, so you can watch what we are talking about while we talk about it! If you want to have your opinion heard on air, follow the show on Twitter and participate in the weekly polls: @BestGamesPeriod New episodes of The Best Games Period will be released every Monday View full article
  25. Square Enix's Just Cause series is getting the Hollywood treatment. According to Deadline, a screenplay has already been completed by John Collee, the writer behind Master and Commander: The Far Side of the World, and Brad Peyton is slated to direct. Peyton has become known in recent years for his directorial work following the financial success of the Dwayne Johnson vehicle San Andreas. The Just Cause series could put those destructive chops to good use given the game franchise's penchant for exploding... well, pretty much everything. Interestingly, Peyton is also set to direct The Rock's pet video game movie project, Rampage. Jason Momoa, the actor set to portray Aquaman later this year in Warner Bros. Justice League, has reportedly signed on to star in the Just Cause film as Rico Rodriguez. Rico has been the protagonist of the last three Just Cause titles and the film follows his adventures, reportedly taking cues from Just Cause 3. The focus of the film's story centers on a moment during one of his missions that finds Rico beginning to have doubts about whether his cause truly is just. While video game movies tend to get a bad rap, there seems to be a surprising amount of effort and talent behind this attempt that could lead to an enjoyable (and profitable) theatrical release. There's no release window for the film as of yet. View full article
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