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   Final Fantasy VII: Dirge of Cerberus - Staff Review  

A Dirge Indeed
by Dallas Richardson

BATTLE SYSTEM
INTERACTION
ORIGINALITY
STORY
MUSIC & SOUND
VISUALS
CHALLENGE
Variable
COMPLETION TIME
10-15 hours
OVERALL

2.5/5

Rating definitions 

   Just about every venerable franchise eventually experiments with its formula and creates something different. The Final Fantasy series is one such franchise. It began with the first true sequel to one of the games, Final Fantasy X-2, which featured the same characters and world of the original game. Then the series revisited the popular world of Final Fantasy VII and developed Final Fantasy VII: Advent Children, a CG motion picture, and Final Fantasy VII: Dirge of Cerberus, a video game sequel. This title has little in common with the other games; it's not quite an RPG, but a third-person shooter where the player controls Vincent Valentine, a hidden character from the original game. Ultimately, it falls short of series standards and stands as a generic shooter that will only appeal to hardcore Final Fantasy fans.

   Dirge of Cerberus takes place three years after the events in Final Fantasy VII. The game follows Vincent as he tracks down a mysterious underground organization called Deepground and discovers their plans to resurrect a certain monster and cause havoc in Midgard. Along the way, he teams up with old friends Reeve, Cait Sith, and Yuffie, and unearths the truth about his past. Other characters from Final Fantasy VII, like Cloud, make cameos in the game, but, sadly, their roles are minimal. In fact, these cameos feel tacked-on and are not integral to the story; however, it's still good to see characters fans have grown fond of. The plot, as a whole, just isn't as compelling as a numbered Final Fantasy sequel. Though it does a good job of developing Vincent's character, everyone else isn't that interesting. The game feels more like a sub-plot than a fully-developed story.

   As mentioned before, Dirge of Cerberus is not an RPG. It's a third-person shooter that controls like a first-person shooter. The left analog stick controls Vincent's movement and the right analog stick controls his aim. This system didn't work particularly well in the Japanese version, but, thankfully, gameplay was tweaked considerably for the U.S. release. Vincent's firing speed has been increased, his jump made higher, albeit it's still a useless feature, and the difficulty is set a bit higher. Nonetheless, the mechanics don't hold up against other shooter games. Nothing is especially terrible about Dirge of Cerberus; it just lacks polish. Thankfully, though, Square Enix added a few features that make the game unique. Vincent can carry three gun presets, all completely customizable. Throughout the game, Vincent will find gun attachments, such as a scope or a shorter barrel. These attachments have a noticeable effect on the amount of damage the guns do and the rate of fire.

Houses You'll see these same houses all throughout the level.

    Just like the original Final Fantasy VII, Dirge of Cerberus features materia, the magic of the game's universe. Vincent can attach materia to his gun to have an added affect, such as a shooting fire or freezing enemies. Of course, each magical shot takes up a bit of MP, which can be restored at various recharge points in the game or with the use of certain items. These items, such as Potions and Ethers, are a Final Fantasy trademark, and do things like restore health, revive Vincent when he dies, and invoke a special Limit Break. These Limit Breaks are another Final Fantasy staple. When Vincent uses the Limit Breaker item, he transforms into a powerful beast for a short period. During this time, Vincent can cause massive amounts of damage and is nearly invincible. It's definitely a good item to save for tight situations. Combat never gets too difficult because Vincent gains levels, slowly making him faster and more powerful. Even when the player fails a mission, the player may choose to keep the experience points gained before Vincent dies or convert the points into Gil, the game's currency. Gil can be used to upgrade the guns or buy new attachments for them. With all these features, the game presents enough character customization to fit any gamer's play style.

The game features great customization options The game's greatest strength lies in its character customization options.

   The musical score in the game is merely decent. The tracks keep up with the action, especially during cinematic fights. Sadly, only a few bits are memorable, and none are on par with other Final Fantasy soundtracks. The game does, however, have a nice, recurring theme and features subtle remixes of classic tracks. Also, famous Japanese singer Gackt recorded the song "Redemption" for the game, which is quite fitting for Vincent's character. Although the music is fair, players won't get to hear it much over the sounds of gunfire. It's good that thing that there is music in the game, though. The voice actors from Advent Children reprise their roles for the game, though they are rather trite, regrettably. This dreariness works for Vincent since it's part of his character, but the others feel like they lack any motivation. The mood of the story suffers for it. Even climatic moments feel a bit dry. Overall, the game's sound design is passable, but nothing special.

   It's a shame the graphics Dirge of Cerberus aren't as polished as other Final Fantasy games. Real-time environments look just plain generic. Players will see the same set of buildings and structures over and over again. The character design is interesting, but the visual textures make them look a bit bland. The in-game graphics aren't anything special. However, in true Final Fantasy fashion, the game features beautifully-rendered CG cutscenes at various points through the game. These gorgeous cutscenes are on par with the Advent Children film. It's just too bad the same can't be said about the bland in-game visuals.

   Dirge of Cerberus consists of Vincent moving from area to area, shooting monotonous enemies along the way. There is also the occasional boss battle at the end of certain levels. Overall, the game is easy. Enemy AI is almost non-existent. Soldiers will shoot rounds at Vincent but fail to react to Vincent. Even if he gets close to them or fires directly at them, they will mostly stay in place. Also, most enemies have recognizable patterns that make them easily disposable. The game does feature different difficulty modes; however, the higher difficulties feel forced. Instead of smarter AI, the game simply throws more of the same enemies at Vincent that do higher amounts of damage. The pattern gets old fairly quickly.

   In the end, Dirge of Cerberus fails to impress both casual Final Fantasy followers and fans of third-person shooters. The only audience likely to enjoy it are fans of the original Final Fantasy VII eager to see what happens to Vincent. Everyone else will be disappointed by the game's bland visuals and unimpressive gameplay. In fact, if Dirge of Cerberus weren't a Final Fantasy game featuring a popular world and characters, it would lack any merit. The only thing that stands out about the game is the character customization options. It's not that the game is particularly bad, but there are just so many other third-person shooters available that deliver a much more memorable experience.

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