Overly literal children

I went to that Crisis Core event last night — partly because I had to for the sake of the 1UP Show, but also to settle a bet with Shane regarding just how relevant FFVII really is in this day and age.

Anyway, chatting with Christian Nutt and Kohler and various other game writer types at the Metreon last night, I had a realization as to why I think Crisis Core succeeds where Advent Children fails miserably, and it’s so simple that I feel kind of stupid about it. The difference: one is a video game, the other isn’t. For all that gamers complain about movies based on games totally missing the point and straying entirely too far from the source material, I look to Advent Children as a resounding demonstration that movies can only go so far in mimicking the other medium before they drop off the deep end and into utter ridiculousness.

The things I hate most about Advent Children — the obtuse narrative, the lack of tension and consequence within the endless violence, the general preposterousness and joylessness of it all — are things that, within the context of a game, wouldn’t feel entirely out of place. But when you turn a boss battle into a cinematic sequence (which is precisely what the one-on-one brawl between Tifa and Pretty Boy #2 is) the result is incredibly stupid, a pointless back and forth that goes nowhere. Having those little numbers pop up when you hit a dude makes a world of difference, I guess.

From a narrative standpoint, I guess Crisis Core probably isn’t really that much better than Advent Children, besides having a much more likable protagonist. But since the video game-y bits are allowed to be video game, it comes off much better. So let this be a lesson: if you want to make a cinematic game adaptation, don’t put a freaking video game director in charge.

Except Hideo Kojima. Naw, just kidding. Especially not Hideo Kojima.

21 thoughts on “Overly literal children

  1. Shit; when you look at the bosses in MGS 3 and place them next to the various lieutenant baddies in Ninja Scroll, you’re basically faced with the same product…

    Welcome back to the states; that country ruined me and my relationship.

  2. Um, sorry to hear that. I escaped unscathed, except that I’m way over budget for the month.

  3. I saw a new Limited Edition of Advent Children at Wal-Mart the other night for forty dollars. It even says on the bottom, “Designed and Created by Tetsuya Nomura”. It was adorable.

    Needless to say, I didn’t feel bad when I picked up The Ten Commandments and Bender’s Big Score instead.

  4. “Way over budget” is putting it lightly. Your blog was a very helpful little guide for me, the ignorant outsider, to locate some areas that I would have otherwise avoided. Thanks for just doing what you do.

  5. Can you imagine a 15-minute chain-and-reflect Vagrant Story battle rendered faithfully in film? No thanks! Part of Matsuno’s genius is that the substance of his systems match the substance of his narrative; one without the other would be desperately lacking.

  6. You know, I think it needs to be said the sort of crazy over-the-top fight scenes we’re talking here don’t really work in videogames either. They just kinda crept in gradually enough and became so prevalent that we’ve all become desensitized to the whole thing. I mean, heck, when FF7 came out, I remember everyone in my circle having a serious problem with how over-the-top the various limit breaks, summons, and in particular the whole several-planet-destroying, impossible to actually kill your party ability Sephiroth has were. There’s a certain amount of leeway you need, especially in an RPG with steadily increasing stats, but it still hurts any medium when people totally shrug off being hit with falling marble columns.

    I think the worst of Advent Children’s crimes in the vein of turning a game into a movie though come from them quite literally doing so. If you can bring yourself to watch it again, take note of how darn near every rendered cutscene from FF7 somehow finds its way in, usually as a flashback, and the telltale pauses when they end, or how the animation seems to stiffen up during some of the more grounded fight scenes. It’s very easy to believe that the whole thing was made to recoup the losses from an aborted start on an FF7 remake that didn’t get much past re-rendering the FMVs.

  7. While I know there is a no love for FFVII here on gamespite there is no reason to think that Advent Children the result of an aborted attempt on a remake of FFVII. Square-Enix only needs to wait until they need a hit after a few misses to remake FFVII. A PS3 graphical-quality remake of FFVII would be a license to print money (regardless of its actual quality).

  8. Sounds about right. One of the writers or whatever for Advent Children was talking about how they wanted to be completely over the top with no limits, since it worked so well in the game. Yeah, it’s neat to see Cloud slice through an enemy then fly through the air in a battle because it’s a limit break. It’s supposed to be special and goofy and neat. Or having a dolphin fly out of the ground and slam into an enemy when Tifa does an attack. It’s not supposed to be taken so seriously.

    I’m just afraid seeing Advent Children may have ruined the whole thing for me, even with the game. I’m afraid to even touch Crisis Core because of those one winged generic characters.

  9. That idea is hard to argue against because it’s so perfectly simple and well-rounded.

    But if it’s true it leads to another problem, since using that stance is kind of like admitting that games are naturally weak in the area of dramatic storytelling and the genre relies on it’s unique characteristics of player interaction and direct investment to compensate.

  10. I’ll start this off by saying I actually LIKE Dirge of Cerberus, even though it’s an average FPS (with a third person camera that doesn’t make me sick like a real FPS) in a world of excellent FPS and action games. It doesn’t help that it’s stuck between two worlds, an action game trying to appeal to fans of an RPG. It appeals to a very select group of people (FF fans who can’t play most FPS games)

    One of the problems with Dirge is that you see Vincent and the gang jumping around and going crazy like Advent Children in cutscenes, but you start playing the game, and you’re lucky to be able to even shoot while jumping, and you’re only jumping a foot at that. I don’t know if Square is forward thinking enough to do something like, say, Prototype, in an actual game, despite easily going over the top in the movie sequences.

  11. I actually thought the fight with Tifa in the church was one of the best parts of Advent Children. Guess I’m one of the mindless masses. >.

  12. It’s so interesting how people who read a criticism of something they like on the Internet will so often hallucinate some sort of ad hominem attack from thin air.

  13. IMO Advent Children’s problem was not that it was made by a video game director, but that it was made by a company used to making games that run for dozens of hours, but it only ran for 90 minutes. If it had been a TV miniseries, it could have matched the storytelling of the games. They’d have to use a lot of game-style cost cutting measures to stretch it out that long – like instancing and walk-cycle looping – but the overall effect would be excellent.

    I keep hoping that one of Japan’s game companies will decide that game development is too hard and do exactly this.

  14. Well then we both admit they are. But just remember there’s some crazy “GAMES ARE ART” types who would froth in the mouth at such a suggestion.

  15. Thing that depressed me most about Advent Children was how much love Square invested in the choreography of those pre-rendered fights that they could have spent making the combat sequences in their games less of a phoned-in grindfest. It infuriates me that movies like AC, the first Matrix and that one episode of Clone Wars with Mace Windu destroying an entire army, are handing games their asses as far as amazing looking fight scenes.

    Game developers want to pretend they’re directors, movie fight choreographers want to make videogame fights but of course the latter succeed far more than the former because they don’t have the whole interactivity thing to deal with.

  16. I don’t think it’s quite the zero-sum game you’re suggesting — the resources invested in one wouldn’t have been committed to the other instead.

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