This is going to be a weird one.
The Final Fantast series has quite a few tropes that keep it going. There’s nearly always a crystal, someone named Cid, and chocobos. They all showed up at some point in the series, and they’ve stuck around. Thematically, they also tend to focus on redemption, righting some wrong. FF4 really hit that one strongly (Cecil the dark knight / paladin) and it took FF6 to really start digging into the grey of morality. The storyline got much more complex.
FF7 was the first in a lot of respects, certainly in terms of visual representation. The swap to 3D brought an in-game perspective change, and with that, a more focused view on the drivers of the individual characters. Cloud is brooding because of guild. Barret is trying to find the balance between revenge and justice. RedXIII trying to find solace as the last of his kind. The story certainly took some long steps through, and while you start off thinking it’s an eco-heavy plot, after about 5 hours you realize that was just the appetizer. The literal world itself is at stake, and you plunge into its heart to save it. You win, but just. Game over.
Except this is where Squenix saw an opportunity to expand the storyline, to look at what happens after the heroes save the world and people try to get back to normal. Advent Children is 15 years old and focuses on that basic question – what do people do after the heroes save the world?
As corny as the idea was at the time, and as fanboy-ish I was when it came out, the film still stands up. The world is dying from a mysterious disease, there are whispers from ghosts that Sephiroth is still around, and CGI battle cinematics abound. Cloud pulls himself out of people’s lives as he’s infected, and eventually you come to terms that while the large battle was won, the war never really ended. The characters all have regrets of what happened, people they lost, and need to come to terms with it all.
The climatic scene puts a face to all of Cloud’s fears, and through clarity and support, he vanquishes it for good. The film could have simply ended with Cloud waking up from some coma, and the storyline would have worked just as well, as his demons are all internal.
There’s a reason that FF7 sticks so darn well in my head. The stakes were relatable, there were timely, the characters acted in a consistent fashion. Cloud was brooding without being a full on arsehole (*cough* Lightning *cough*). The FF series often talks about redemption, of justice. It’s a rare thing for the characters themselves to go through a personal journey. A journey that most of us will go through in our lives – just without giant dragons.