The Final Fantasy franchise has always been about telling a story. Most of the time, it's a story of not only saving the world, but a love between a boy and a girl that inevitably just cannot work. However as of late, the claimed-to-be most popular Final Fantasy game (Final Fantasy VII) has become a compilation, continuing the story from where VII left off. One of these stories is Dirge of Cerberus: Final Fantasy VII, taking place one year after the events of the critically acclaimed Final Fantasy VII: Advent Children (which takes place two years after the events of Final Fantasy VII). This game however, is no sequel, it is something entirely different, a bold move on Square-Enix to take such a direction.
and they fell down a huge hole along the way.
I'll just be clear right here and right now. Dirge of Cerberus: Final Fantasy VII is not a very good game, at all. Final Fantasy fanboys and girls will probably love it because it is Final Fantasy VII and because they get to play as the dark and mysterious character that is Vincent Valentine. The basic storyline is that the World Restoration Organisation (lead by former Shinra employee Reeve) is attempting to as their name is, restore the world. Out of nowhere, a group of strangely armored, gun-wielding enemies attacks a town, and Vincent Valentine just happens to be in the said down. Fighting to defend the people of the town, Vincent discovers that these soldiers are a group called Deepground, an organisation that literally was an underground organisation of Shinra. One event leads to another, and Vincent discovers that for some reason the villains of Deepground are looking for him.
Final Fantasy has always been about story telling and indeed Dirge of Cerberus does deliver. The story however can be quite confusing if you're not familiar with Final Fantasy VII and only true fans of the game would probably appreciate it to its full. The full motion video cutscenes are absolutely beautiful and the regular cutscenes are still pretty good, unfortunately these said in-game cutscenes can be quite annoying, as they can drag on for sometime, but then again the game is supposably all about story telling, so like most things it's personal preference. Thankfully for those who may be impatient the ability to skip cutscenes is implemented into the game, and for those who may be disturbed, the ability to pause these in-game cutscenes is also implemented.
It's strange however when people debate over games over what makes a game. Some only talk about graphics, some talk about the actual gameplay, while others talk about the storyline. Having all three in one game is great but in the end it's the actual gameplay that matters the most, and unfortunately Dirge of Cerberus delivers this to a shoddy extent.
Graphically the game is pretty damn good for a PS2 title. The full motion videos as previously said are beautiful, the in-game cutscenes are also quite detailed and the actual gameplay graphics are nice. Vincent's animation is quick and fluid and the framerate remains pretty smooth and solid throughout the game. However, some environments can differ, some can be very nice to extremly bad, almost as if it was lazily designed. Some of the enemies, particularly bosses look impressive, while the regular enemies were obviously rushed in terms of creation.
Going into the gameplay, once you actually start playing, the game instantly puts you right into the action as Vincent Valentine. Vincent's controls are quite easy to get into, the left analog stick moves Vincent, the right analog moves the camera, X is jump, R1 is to ready and shoot your weapon, square is melee attacking and so fourth. When Vincent readies his equipped gun, a large target sight appears on the screen which aids in Vincent's aim, however aiming can be quite easy due to an auto-lock on feature. Vincent has a small array of melee attacks which do come in handy in close quarters, but unfortunately it is very dull and quite limited. Possibly the most disappointing thing about Dirge of Cerberus is Vincent himself. While he has an awesome upgradeable pistol and in the cutscenes of the game he is shown literally soaring through the air with unrealistic velocity and agility, tearing apart all his enemies with God-like accuracy, in-game Vincent is quite.. lame. His most acrobatic ability is the ability to double jump, and that's it. No big super jumps, no cool flips, no using the environment as he moves.. it's simply running, jumping to double jumping, aiming and firing. That's it. Square-Enix had alot of potential to work with here however did not deliver. Vincent can also transform into his limit break beast form, and of course the Chaos form in time, but these too lack any fine details.
Speaking of limited movements, the levels themselves are also quite limited. Levels tend to be quite small in terms of width, having little movement to move and evade, most of the time you'll find yourself running down corridors. The missions are very linear, simply moving from point A to point B, picking up any keycards along the way, and any objectives that might come along. Again, this elaborates further on Vincent's potential. If Vincent actually did have the in-game ability to do massive jumps and acrobatics the levels of the game would of had to of been much larger and more independent to compensate for this. But I suppose that's not an issue to the developers.
One of the good features of this game is customising your weapon, the three barreled Cerberus revolver. There are many customising options, from attachments such as scopes, Materia, and other things as well as barrel extensions. You can also acquire other guns to customise, such as a machine gun and a sniper rifle. The customising feature is actually really cool and detailed, able to give your guns whatever you want, providing you have the parts to begin with, which can be acquired throughout the game through buying them or finding them.
After each mission Vincent recieves experience and of course, due to being a Final Fantasy game, can level up. His stats such as HP and strength can be increased (automatically) so he becomes stronger to battle the stronger enemies in the coming levels. After each mission, the player has the choice to give Vincent either money, or turn all that money into experience. The level up system is nice, but it would be better if Vincent could acquire further skills and abilities, and because enemies get stronger throughout levels, it feels that leveling up is somewhat pointless, except for the fact you get more life.
Dirge of Cerberus is also a short game, taking at least seven hours to complete on normal difficulty. The only unlockables tend to be cutscenes from the game, concept artwork and character models to look at, all eye candy really, nothing actually game-wise. Although technically there are special bonus missions to do and unlock, but these are just timed missions where you pretty much repeat levels from single player, same environments and all.
So overall, Dirge of Cerberus: Final Fantasy VII is not a very good game, at all. While the graphics are fairly good and the gameplay is simple and easy to get into, the gameplay had so much lost potential that could of made the game so much better. The gameplay is also rather too simple, and overall the game is quite short and offers little to no replayability. The storyline may recieve mixed reviews from players, but true fans of the Final Fantasy (especially Final Fantasy VII) will appreciate this. This is definately one of those games that should be rented, if the players -really- want to see what this game is like for themselves.
Something tells me this whole Final Fantasy VII compilation is just Square-Enix trying to milk VII for all it's worth...