Final Fantasy Unlimited: Complete Collection (Thinpak) (of 1) (Mania.com)

By:Paul Gaudette
Review Date: Wednesday, March 31, 2010
Release Date: Tuesday, June 10, 2008

All aboard the magical train of mediocrity!

What They Say
All aboard! Join twin children on a mystical subway train as they embark on a hazardous quest to find their lost parents in a world of stunning beauty and thrilling danger. One of the all-time favorite franchises of all time!

The Review!

Audio
The series is presented with a 5.1 English dub or a stereo track of the original Japanese dialogue. For the purposes of this review, I listened to the dub. Although the show wasn't terribly heavy on directionality, there is an incredible amount of "oomph" placed throughout the series with explosions and music effects guaranteed to give your subwoofer a workout. I noticed no distortion and on the whole, the mix was very clean and pleasing.
 
Video
ADV presents the show in its original aspect ratio of 4:3 and really lets the quality craftsmanship of Gonzo animation shine through. Without delving into nipicks about style, the presentation is nearly flawless. Busy backgrounds and chaotic battles feature no noise to speak of. Layered digital effects are cleanly integrated. I could find no instances of shimmering or any other defect either. Black levels are deep and colors remain vibrant throughout most of the show. Whatever the opinion of the series, there's little to nothing to complain about in the video department.
 
Packaging
I could honestly see people keeping this show around just for the artwork on the box. The thick exterior box which houses all five slimline cases features some very pleasing designs in terms of contrast and style on both front and back. Oddly enough, the spine seems too cluttered when compared to the other "cleaner" work on either side of it. The slimlines are equally pleasing with a single character design set against a sea of screenshots in some basic hue. The artwork on the disc features the same shot as the case but with a shiner, foil-like background. Great stuff.
 
Menus
Simplicity itself. Each disc features every episode selectable at the top of the static main menus with language options and trailers selectable below. Access times are fast and it's easy to see which option is currently selected.
 
Extras
Aside from the standard trailers, nada.
 
Content
Ai and Yuu are two precocious youngsters who are left alone when their parents decide to go visit "Wonderland." Fortunately, their mom and dad literally wrote the book on the place. (It even got published!) Using that information, they board a mysterious subway train that only appears at a specific time. They are joined in the search by Lisa, a woman who is also searching for someone lost to Wonderland and is trained in Kigen Arts, a powerful fighting style. They quickly find that Wonderland is not such a welcoming place as the child Earl King sends his minions to take care of the intruders. It's lucky for them that Kaze, an enigmatic man with a unique weapon is always there to save the day.
 
FF: Unlimited seems destined to alienate its audience. If a fan of the games picks up the title, they'll likely be disappointed that this series bears no resemblance to the long-running franchise. Likewise, the show won't interest those who aren't fans of the game because they'd rightfully assume that only fans of the game would enjoy it. There were some who complained that Final Fantasy Advent Children was impenetrable to those hadn't played Final Fantasy VII. Well, that certainly isn't the case here.
 
You can count the similarities to the game on one hand as only a couple of staple characters like Cyd appear and recognizable musical fluorishes abound. (The victory music adds a couple of noteworthy punchlines.) The main thing that the creators seemed concerned about getting in there was the chocobos though. They act as comic relief in a show with relatively no drama or tension. 
 
Certain touches do remind of RPGs as Kaze's Magun uses three elements in different combinations for ammunition- a great nod to weapon customization that most players would be familiar with. Bizaarely, some shots of the pilot remind me of another game series with its red hues and abandoned Tokyo locales: Persona. Unfortunately that's the only thing that the series has in common with Shin Megami Tensei's games.
 
If I'm honest, I'm not a fan of the Final Fantasy games and haven't played many through to completion. This being said, it is possible for the show to be good even if it doesn't rely heavily on its namesake. After all, the story credit goes to the master story tellers at Square Enix. I get the impression that this particular plot line is one that was drafted and deemed unfit to make a game though.
 
Everything about the plot reeks of a fantasy series aimed at kids. Not to say that fantasy aimed at a younger audience is bad. I still watch and enjoy Neverending Story and Secret of Nimh from time to time because they never talk down to their audience. Unfortunately FF:Unlimited plays it way too safe assuming that the viewers will be happy with cliches and repitition. There's actually a pretty funny gag where a chocobo (named "Choby") grabs one of Ai's pigtails and flails her around. The first five times got me to laugh. Whenever the number of times they pulled the stunt hit the double digits, I began to groan.
 
While hitting every cliche possible to remove tension (Ai gets a handbag that grants ANY wish), the show also aims for comfortability in a familiar formula. Our heroes enter a new locale by train and learn a little about it. They get attacked by one of the villains. Kaze shows up just in time to save the day. About midway through the series, they do start to provide some interesting questions about Kaze's character and his relation to the most enigmatic of the villains, White Cloud. These fleeting glimpses at an evolving plot are rare throughout the series though, and I wouldn't be surprised if the audience had lost interest by then.
 
The main story about the kids searching for their parents does provide some startlingly real drama from time to time. Occassionally, they lament that they will never find their parents and cry. These exchanges are far more distressing than the battles with mostly non-threatening villains. However, the desire to see these kids reunited with their parents is soured by one nagging point. When the series shows the parents leaving, they seem too excited about the task at hand to even worry about their kids. They blindly leave their two young children alone and never return. They don't seem cruel in most or any scene, but the unrealistic exchange smacks of endangerment and neglect. 
 
My main gripe with the show is that the formula has them fleeing one part of Wonderland every episode before the location can fully be fleshed out. Secondary characters are rarely present and aren't granted enough time to gain the audience's sympathy (save for one or two examples.) Unless, I'm mistaken, good RPGs like the series on which this show is based are built around slowly evolving plots and exploration which lends to a feeling of a cohesive world. There are some areas that did interest, but the main characters got back into the train at the end of the episode before they could be decently examined.  There is no transition between one section of Wonderland and the next, and the world feels disjointed if the same at all. 
 
Summary:
Although it has almost nothing to do with its namesake, Final Fantasy Unlimited was somewhat enjoyable in the beginning while falling into every cliche of a show written for a younger audience. It never evolves though and a mediocre story can become bad if goes on for too long without really changing. There are occasional glimpses of creativity in the series but they are quickly quelled by the show's overbearing nature. Children might enjoy the show if they're looking for a fanatasy story and aren't too picky. However, with the number of other better choices, nobody should go out of their way to pick it up. On the plus side, this boxset features great packaging and clean audio and video so Gonzo's traditionally great animation is allowed to shine.
 
Features
Japanese 2.0 Language, English 2.0 Language, English Subtitles

Review Equipment
46" Toshiba REGZA HDTV, Sony Playstation 3 (upconverted to 1080p through HDMI), Yamaha YSP-900 Digital Sound Projector w/ YST-SW216 100 watt subwoofer


Mania Grade: D
Audio Rating: B+
Video Rating: A
Packaging Rating: A
Menus Rating: C
Extras Rating: N/A
Age Rating: 13+
Region: 1 - North America
Released By: ADV Films
MSRP: 49.98
Running time: 625
Aspect Ratio: 1.33:1
Disc Resolution: 480i/p (mixed/unknown)
Disc Encoding: MPEG-2
Series: Final Fantasy Unlimited