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   Final Fantasy VII: Dirge of Cerberus - Staff Review  

Dodge of Cerberus
by Michael "Macstorm" Cunningham

BATTLE SYSTEM
INTERACTION
ORIGINALITY
STORY
MUSIC & SOUND
VISUALS
CHALLENGE
Easy or Annoying
COMPLETION TIME
10-20 Hours
OVERALL

3.0/5

Rating definitions 

   Taking its place as the PlayStation 2's contribution to the Compilation of Final Fantasy VII is Dirge of Cerberus: Final Fantasy VII. Following the events of Advent Children, Cloud steps aside to allow Vincent Valentine to take the forefront in this gun-based action RPG. Vincent must clean up the mess that Shinra left in Midgar while also dealing with demons from his own past. Dirge of Cerberus has a lot to live up to with the shadow of Final Fantasy VII hanging overhead, but it never tries to be something that it is not. This game is a hybrid of an action RPG and a third-person shooter, and it has a simple yet entertaining story to keep things from getting dull. Though controversial and completely different from conventional RPGs, Dirge of Cerberus is not without redeeming qualities.

   The gun-based battle system of Dirge is quite simple in concept, though the actual implementation is far from perfect. The player controls both Vincent's movements and the direction of his gun. In keeping with RPG traditions, Vincent has HP and a magic bar, but along with that he has multiple guns: a rifle, a machine gun, and a handgun. All guns can be upgraded and customized with such focuses as firing speed, attack power, and range. Aiming, which is an essential part of combat, is fairly accurate, but it's just not good enough for a game based completely around gun combat. Another issue is that players will constantly need to purchase or find ammo for these weapons, which can become tiring after awhile. Accessories are available for the guns, such as a scope for long distance shots with the rifle and elemental-based materia which deals powerful magic damage. Vincent's actions are not limited to just shooting, as he can jump, dash, roll, and duck; giving him a full range of movement. Staying true to his roots, players are also able to change into Vincent's heavy-hitting limit break form as they could with him in Final Fantasy VII.

   The foundation was laid for a decent gun-based RPG, but the gameplay causes the game to fall short of the mark. The control layout gives players plenty of options, but for many RPGamers it will leave them hitting the wrong buttons at the wrong time. It is quite easy to mistakenly waste magic with a materia shot when merely trying to swap guns. Item management is also quite cumbersome, as Vincent can only hold a certain amount of each item. Since items are fairly prevalent throughout the stages, developers must have decided to impose such a limit as a means of raising the difficulty.

Ready.  Set.  Dodge. Dodge, duck, dip, dive, and dodge.

   Dirge of Cerberus's story is quite a bit more involving than its gameplay. The game focuses on both Vincent's own history and personal issues along with the ongoing battle between the World Regenesis Organization and the sinister organization known as Deepground. Vincent must face his own horrific past event as he assists the WRO in uncovering the goals of Deepground. Many times throughout the game, Vincent will receive help from the rest of the crew of Final Fantasy VII. Taken alone, the story doesn't have near the impact it would for someone who has played through FFVII. Dirge of Cerberus takes those that are familiar with the lore of its predecessor for a trip down memory lane. No, gamers will not be saving the world from Sephiroth and Meteor yet again, but through this adventure, Vincent's background is enhanced and wonderfully brought to life.

   Both the cinematics and real-time gameplay of Dirge of Cerberus are quite impressive. The game is filled with a number of cut scenes, and character animations within those scenes are smooth and highly detailed. While everything looks good, the majority of the game does seem rather dark. The game's setting does support a darker feel, but not everything had to be as drab has it is. Also bringing the game to life is a wonderful group of voice actors, many of which were also featured in the movie Advent Children. On the audio side of things, Masashi Hamauzu, co-composer for Final Fantasy X and composer of the upcoming soundtrack of Final Fantasy XIII, was given the helm on this project. He does an extremely good job of creating an epic soundtrack. While not every track is memorable, most are very fitting pieces that really assist the urgent feel of the game.

Freeze. If you can dodge a wrench, you can dodge a bullet.

   Dirge of Cerberus offers multiple difficulty levels, though frustration levels would be a better name for them. The higher difficult settings takes gamers through the same story except it features stronger enemies and much more of them. On the easier settings, Dirge does not offer much of a challenge. Restorative items are plentiful and money to purchase additional items/upgrades is easy to accumulate. Leveling up takes place between the sectional chapters of the game when the gamer is given the choice between experience points or money. After a certain point, it seems more beneficial to take the money to upgrade Vincent's guns instead of improving his stats. The overall game difficulty is just off-balance. Some areas of the game are simple and require little thought, while others are just downright annoying.

   For a first offering, this game is not that bad, though it could have been much better. Not that this title is going to create a new RPG sub-genre, but it does do quite a few things well. The story is entertaining, though it is nowhere near as epic as Final Fantasy VII itself. Impressive visuals and a top notch soundtrack do improve the feel of the game; however, with so many gameplay issues, it is tough to say if those things are enough to redeem the game. The further development of Vincent Valentine alone is not enough to make this game a masterpiece, but with Final Fantasy VII at its core, Dirge of Cerberus is definitely set to draw the attention of RPGamers. The original style of the game will not appeal to everyone, though.

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