Final Fantasy VII: Dirge of Cerberus: Cash-In or Continuation?

Back in 1997 a little game came out by the name of Final Fantasy VII. It came at a time when videogames were just beginning to gain recognition as a viable form of entertainment, and when the genre it belonged to was the furthest thing from popular. However with its amazing graphics, inspirational musical score, and downright revolutionary presentation it managed to capture the hearts of millions. The game became the first major hit for the old Playstation console, and cemented the Final Fantasy name as one of the hottest titles in both the United States and Japan.

Now fast forward a number of years, and here we are. The company responsible for this opus has now begun expanding the content of the Final Fantasy VII universe. It began with a direct-to-dvd movie (titled Advent Children), and now it continues with Dirge of Cerberus. But the question remains, does this universe need to be revisited?

The short answer is yes, but there’s been a lot of concessions made that perhaps didn’t have to be.

From a storyline standpoint, this is without a doubt a needed addition to the franchise. Anyone who was curious about the full history of Vincent Valentine, lead protagonist of Dirge of Cerberus, will not be let down. Getting to see the roles some of the characters play in the world after the events of Final Fantasy VII is certainly interesting, and the main plot is an interesting one.

Anybody familiar with the first two chapters (the original Final Fantasy VII and Advent Children) will not be truly shocked by any of the revelations in the game, but they will find enough to be nostalgic about. Newcomers to the franchise may be a little confused though, as some pieces of Vincent’s background aren’t explained again from the first time we heard them, and so it is highly recommended that one has played at least the first game before venturing into this one.

When Dirge of Cerberus was first announced, people were shocked at the news that the game would be an action title and not a role playing game like its prequel. How would it translate? To be honest, it’s been a decent but flawed transition. From the aiming and lock-on system to the movement and dodging, everything is completely average.

There’s nothing here you haven’t played, and played better, in other shooters such as Max Payne and Devil May Cry (the two most obvious comparisons). Some variety is given thanks to the ability to gain levels and increase character attributes, along with your weapons being highly customizable, but these come off as small additions.

A big problem with the gameplay is that there really isn’t enough challenge and excitement. The enemies basically just stand around waiting to be shot, and the puzzles have no variety at all (get a key to open a door, and that’s about it). Extra Hard Mode and the special Bonus Missions do help alleviate this a little, but the primary game (and default difficulty setting) should have provided at least something.

Graphically the game is a marvel. From the character models to the intricate backgrounds everything is rendered in superb detail. Some of the environments look a little similar from time to time, but overall there’s enough here to keep the eyes entertained. The cutscenes and FMV sequences are the usual quality for Square Enix. That is to say that they’re amazing beyond comparison. There’s really nothing to complain about here.

In terms of music, most of it is forgettable. There are some standout tracks, but the rest just fades away. Special mention does have to be given to the vocal themes, though, performed by Japanese singer Gackt (who also has a small cameo in the game itself). These are two rock songs with excellent rhythm, and they add immensely to the sequences they are used in (both of which are in the last hour of the game).

All in all I’d caution anyone who isn’t a fan of the source material to consider looking elsewhere. This game offers you nothing you haven’t done before, and more games like it come out virtually every week. However, for fans of the Final Fantasy VII universe, this is at least a rental. Square Enix hasn’t created another masterpiece here, but they do have a solid and average action game with a plot that will take you back to characters you know and love.

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