New Advent for Final Fantasy at E3

A Cloud over the year's biggest games show.

One of the most interesting things to be found on the show floor at the Tokyo Games Show last year was the return of a few familiar faces, as Square Enix proudly showed off its long-rumoured return to the world of Final Fantasy VII in a short trailer which sent shivers down the spines of the many among us for whom the epic RPG title was a huge milestone in the development of our gaming addictions.

There followed plenty of confusion over what the new FFVII actually is, but we now know for certain that it's a relatively short (less than feature length) computer animated movie, set after the events of the game and featuring many of its principal characters, which will be released on DVD in Japan this summer.

The last couple of weeks have seen some new developments on this front. Firstly, the Japanese release of Final Fantasy X-2 International brought with it a full-length trailer for Advent Children (the name of the FFVII movie), which has quite frankly knocked our socks off and caused certain members of Eurogamer staff to have to change their trousers. Repeatedly. Secondly, and perhaps more importantly, Final Fantasy character designer Tetsuya Nomura had some interesting comments on the topic of E3 to make in a recent interview...

According to Nomura-san, Advent Children will indeed be present at E3, and not just in the form of the existing Japanese trailers either. Speaking in an interview, he said that some of his staff were working overtime on the project to prepare something pretty special for E3 - so we suspect that either a brand new trailer, or possibly even a sneak preview of finished chunks of the movie, could be on the cards for the trade show in May.

What's even better is that a showing at E3 effectively confirms that Square Enix definitely plans to release Advent Children in the west, which doesn't come as much of a surprise given the huge popularity of Final Fantasy VII over here, but is still a relief since the market for direct-to-DVD productions, which is absolutely enormous in Japan, doesn't really exist in the USA or Europe.

If you haven't had a chance to download the new Advent Children trailer yet, we suggest that you do so right away - it's really rather stunning. However, for those of you stuck on narrowband, here's a quick summary of what you're missing (And for those of you who still haven't played FFVII, it's time to look away)...

The trailer starts off with a pan across the ruins of the city of Midgar, while a voiceover reveals that Cloud, hero of the game, is now living with the orphans in the city. We then see Cloud himself walking through the aisle of a church, followed by a number of stunning battle scenes featuring massive swords, guns, motorbikes and magic - a combination of ingredients to send any FFVII fan into raptures.

The central villain of the piece this time appears to be a waifish young man who looks suspiciously like Sephiroth with shorter hair (Sephiroth himself appears in a flashback to the famous moment where he walks through the flames in Cloud's hometown, while another flashback shows Aerith being laid to rest in the lake as a voice (Cloud's?) intones "I think I just want to be forgiven..."), and there's plenty of talk about the recovery of pieces of JENOVA, the entity which caused all the trouble in FFVII in the first place. We also catch glimpses of Vincent and Barrett in their new, more photo-realistic guises. No sign of Tifa yet though - perhaps Square's "bouncy physics" department hasn't finished working on her yet...

One of the main things that'll strike you about the trailer is that yet again, Square Enix has raised the bar for rendered video - although there's less of an effort to look perfectly realistic than in The Spirits Within, these characters and environments look absolutely jaw dropping. The designs may be stylised, but the quality of the modelling and animation is beyond anything we've ever seen before - impressive stuff indeed.

The other thing is that despite the action packed nature of the trailer, the whole affair seems somewhat sombre and melancholic - mostly due to the voiceover and the use of the sweet and tragic Aerith Theme music throughout. Square certainly isn't approaching this sequel with the sort of bombastic energy we saw in Final Fantasy X-2 - FFVII is a deeply beloved game for many people, and it looks like Square really does plan to approach it seriously and with a lot of respect.

Obviously plenty of people have misgivings about Advent Children - after all, sequels to things for which no sequel was originally planned rarely pan out well - but if this trailer is anything to go by, we suspect that further changes of trousers will be required when Nomura-san pulls the wraps off whatever he has planned for E3. Until then, we'll just have to do with watching the trailer a few times a week...

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