The latest entry in the spin-off series known as Compilation of Final Fantasy VII, Final Fantasy VII: Dirge of Cerberus takes a
significant step away from series tradition, exchanging turn-based combat for a unique hybrid of first-person shooter and action-adventure
gameplay. The combination creates a very active and fluid style, helped in large part due to some significant changes Square Enix has made to
the basic combat engine specifically for the US release. Increased running speed and easier targeting, among other things, help to make
the game faster and closer to the twitch-gaming style many FPS fans are used to. Overall, the game provides an interesting
experience, feeling a bit like a cross between the Call of Duty and Fullmetal Alchemist series.
"Overall, the game provides an interesting experience, feeling a bit like a cross between the Call of Duty and Fullmetal Alchemist series."
The combat system is based largely on an action RPG style, heavily modified with aspects of first- and third-person shooting games. Running
around on the map, the player can press R1 to bring up a crosshairs, which can be aimed with the right thumbstick. The player can then
fire using the R1 button, go into first-person firing mode by pressing R3, or cancel out of the mode entirely by pressing the circle
button. The game is very forgiving of players who arenít used to shooting games, offering a large crosshairs and a flexible targeting
system. It also has a heavy focus on weapon customization, allowing each of the playerís three guns to be modified and upgraded
in a variety of ways, from reducing a weaponís weight and recoil to increasing its rate of fire, magazine size, and overall power, to
attaching Materia and accessories. The player can switch between these three guns in the midst of combat with a simple tap of the L2
button. Over time, and with enough of an investment in upgrades, each weapon can be further specialized for short, long, or midrange
The plot of Final Fantasy VII: Dirge of Cerberus delves deeper into the story of Vincent Valentine, one of the more enigmatic
characters in the series. In a sequence of events taking place approximately one year after Final Fantasy VII: Advent Children, Dirge
of Cerberus follows the conflict between the World Regenesis Organization, headed by onetime Cait Sith puppeteer Reeve Tuesti, and the
covert military organization known only as Deepground. Vincent is caught in the middle of the conflict, as flashbacks to his time with
Dr. Lucrecia Crescent drive him to investigate Deepground and the link they may have with his own gruesome transformations. The plot
so far feels reasonably solid, though it does exhibit some serious deus ex machina from time to time.
The gameís visual style is quite similar to that seen in Final Fantasy VII: Advent Children, though it adds a few flourishes of its
own, such as unusual spikes and swoops in the angles of certain characterís hairstyles. The overall effect isnít quite enough to set the
visuals of Dirge of Cerberus apart from other games in the Compilation of Final Fantasy VII series, but the similarity between the
different games does help tie them together.
Square Enix has made several significant changes to the game, largely in response to complaints and reviews in Japan. Vincentís rate
of movement has been increased, his dodge roll ability has been swapped out for a short but speedy dash, and targeting has been modified
to make it easier to move and shoot at the same time. On the other hand, the online mode has been completely removed. To compensate for
this, Square Enix has added in an Ex-Hard mode, which unlocks a soundtrack player, character artwork, model galleries, and over 40
special missions. Overall, the changes go a long way towards improving the game, making it flow better and giving it a more active style
Thus far, Final Fantasy VII: Dirge of Cerberus has been pretty enjoyable. Some parts of the game do come off as forced or gimmicky, but
overall, it feels very unique and interesting. Keep an eye on RPGamer for a full review as the release date draws nearer.