‘Kingsglaive: Final Fantasy XV’ 4K UHD Blu-Ray Review – Stunning Animated Epic Delivers Impressive Visuals And Action

The world of Final Fantasy is one that has drawn in millions upon millions of people into its fascinating and complex world that is constantly evolving and growing with each new entry into the long-running video game series. Throughout the years, the masterminds behind the franchise have chosen to expand the universe into film with entries such as Final Fantasy: The Spirits Within and Final Fantasy VII: Advent Children. The most recent example of this is the 2016 tale Kingsglaive: Final Fantasy XV from director Takeshi Nozue which was written by Takashi Hasegawa. This was developed to flesh out the overall story of the highly successful Final Fantasy XV by focusing on the events surrounding the father of the main character in the game and his elite group of warriors known as the Kingsglaive. While the hope was for the film to be able to connect with an audience beyond the core fans of the series, the final product is one that proves to be a bit challenging for those who are not up to date on their understanding of the narrative in the game. 

To give a small bit of background on my own personal experience with the franchise, it would be easiest to label me as a newcomer. The first and only Final Fantasy game I have ever played was Final Fantasy X and a little bit of its sequel about 18 years ago. For that brief period of time, I was completely enamored with the world that was being created and all of the narrative machinations…until I foolishly saved at a point when I should not have and I could not make it to the end (one of my life’s great regrets). This is only to say, I understand the appeal of these worlds to longtime fans. Kingsglaive does its best to set you up with all of the appropriate information at the beginning of the film in one overwhelming information dump. In this world there is the kingdom of Lucis, which is home to a magical Crystal that is used to protect it from invaders. They are constantly in conflict with the militaristic and technologically advanced empire of Niflheim – they really seem like a drag. The capital city of Lucis is protected by the aforementioned Kingsglaive who share in the powers of the Crystal in ways that are frankly amazing. 

To understand this basic power dynamic is key to making heads or tails of anything that is happening in the plot for the remainder of the film. After years of fighting, Niflheim have come to Lucis’ ruling monarch Regis Lucis Caelum (voiced in the English version by Sean Bean) to negotiate a peace treaty that would make Lucis give up a lot of land that many of the Kingsglaive call home – not the best for morale. This deal would also require Regis’ son to marry Lady Lunafreya Nox Fleuret (Lena Headey), although the dastardly people of Niflheim might have more planned than meets the eye. At the center of all of this is Nyx Ulric (Aaron Paul), a noble and badass Kingsglaive soldier who will be key to keeping the future of his homeland intact. This is just a small taste of all of the backdealing, double-crossing, fake-outs, and other such revelations that the film throws at you during its nearly two hour runtime. It could very well be an easier movie to understand for fans, but this is a densely packed film that feels a bit inaccessible for the casual viewer who wants anything more than to appreciate the beautiful computer animation and crackling action sequences. 

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On these two fronts the film delivers in spades. While there have been criticisms that this film feels like you are watching a feature length video game cutscene, I have to push back on that. Kingsglaive most definitely feels like a proper cinematic experience even with its most confounding plot elements. The impressive photorealistic characters feel completely natural to the world without evoking the off-putting uncanny valley imagery that plagues certain CGI tales. The action in this film is simply thrilling from the opening showdown between the Kingsglaive and some Daemons to the all-out melee that makes up a large part of the latter half of the film. The entire experience is very entertaining on the most basic level, but you cannot help but feel like you are missing an important piece of the puzzle that might allow for the action to be more emotionally resonant. Fans of the series should not have as much of an issue with this as newcomers such as myself, but even those daring souls who go into this blind should find the experience more interesting than not. 

Video Quality

Kingsglaive: Final Fantasy XV comes to 4K UHD Blu-Ray newly remastered with a stunning and vibrant 2160p HDR transfer in 2.39:1. The colors present in this transfer are practically leaping off the screen with the wide range of hues permeating every inch of the frame. There are many moments of fireballs popping up on screen, and the transfer handles the brilliant orange hue perfectly every time. When Nyx meets with the “Old Wall,” the deep shade of blue feels like it was made for HDR. The textures on display, from the character designs to the environments, are extremely impressive and give the film a real sense of depth. One of the areas where this feature improves on the earlier films is the fluidity of the character designs. All of the individual strands of hair are unique and flowing in a subtly more natural way. The level of detail these animators put into each environment shines through here. Black levels are incredibly strong with no hint of compression artifacts or digital anomalies of the sort. To say this is anything but perfection would be a grave misrepresentation of the quality. 

Audio Quality

This 4K UHD Blu-Ray release boasts a DTS-HD 5.1 Master Audio track that packs one hell of a punch. This disc brings these bombastic confrontations right into your living room with a depth and clarity of sound that is staggering. As Nyx moves throughout the city, the sounds of approaching foes and other subtle effects flow out of your side and rear speakers. Each sound is precisely placed with perfect spatial awareness. The track engages all of the channels with panning effects and sounds of destruction that really makes you feel like you are in the thick of the fight. The implementation of environmental effects such as explosions and chatter from gathered crowds come through in a natural way. There is an insane amount of activity in the low-end which will keep your house shaking with every stomp and destruction of a building caused by a Daemon. Dialogue comes through clearly without getting muddied by the score or any sound effects. Sony knocked it out of the park with this track, so those with a good surround sound setup should have fun with this one. This disc comes with more Audio and Subtitles options than you could ever believe including English, French, German, Italian, Japanese, Thai and many more. 

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Special Features

  • A Way With Words – Epic And Intimate Vocals: A five-minute featurette which takes a look at the English vocal cast for the film and the characters they play. It is fun to get a glimpse into the recording process, but this is nothing too in-depth. 
  • To Capture The Kingsglaive – The Process: A six-minute look at the motion-capture set and all of the technical details that went into creating a lifelike character. This piece also delves into why the director wanted western actors to bring these characters to life with the technology. 
  • Fit For A Kingsglaive – Building The World: A nearly six-minute look at the world of Final Fantasy XV and the blending of the medieval and the modern aesthetics. This pieces a look at some of the inspirations for the costumes, character designs and settings. 
  • Emotive Music – Scoring The Kingsglaive: A six-minute look at John Graham’s score and how it was key to underscoring the complicated world and philosophies of Final Fantasy XV

 

Final Thoughts

Kingsglaive: Final Fantasy XV is a bit of an overwhelming experience from the assault of action set pieces to the convoluted and twisty narrative aspects of the film. It makes for a very entertaining experience, but established fans are likely to get more out of the journey than those who are using this as their first entry into the series. Sony Pictures Home Entertainment has released a 4K UHD Blu-Ray that has a magnificent A/V presentation and the legacy special features on the accompanying Blu-Ray. If you are a fan of this film or the Final Fantasy series, this release will knock your socks off. Recommended 

Kingsglaive: Final Fantasy XV is currently available to purchase on 4K UHD Blu-Ray and Digital. 

Note: Images presented in this review are not reflective of the image quality of the 4K UHD Blu-Ray.

Disclaimer: Sony Pictures Home Entertainment has supplied a copy of this disc free of charge for review purposes. All opinions in this review are the honest reactions of the author.

 

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