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This Year's Best Handheld Game:

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Final Fantasy VII: Dirge of Cerberus
2 of 5 stars


  • Lots of customizable weaponry
  • Good use of the Final Fantasy canon


  • Game is horribly paced
  • Battles are generic

Platform: PlayStation 2
Developer: Square Enix
Publisher: Square Enix

This mournful dirge doesn’t know when to shut up. Final Fantasy VII: Dirge of Cerberus brings the well-loved characters from the PlayStation epic Final Fantasy back into the spotlight, but does so in such a clumsy and heavy-handed way as to be problematic at best and almost unworkable at worst.

Final Fantasy VII: Dirge of CerebusGunslinger Vincent Valentine from Final Fantasy VII stars as the game’s playable protagonist. Valentine can shoot in both the first- and third-person perspective, drop the hammer on foes with a series of melee attacks, and transform into a powerful Galian beast in order to better smite any in his path. A man of few words, Valentine is also the prototypical Square Enix hero, possessed of a mysterious past and spiky hair that defies even a soaking rain’s flattening.

Cerberus relies heavily on its action. Valentine must race into danger fighting groups of foes punctuated by boss fights where he takes on attack planes, lightning-fast young women with laser swords, and huge bruisers. At times, he’ll have to man a fixed gun battery to waste an oncoming horde, escort young children to safety, or take out a series of snipers. The scoot and shoot play here is certainly passable, if a bit stolid and predictable in its presentation. Players can look forward to the old standards: a targeting system that’s forgiving enough to allow for imprecise shooters, cargo crates inexplicably holding bullets in public places, and explosive barrels conveniently placed to take out incoming enemies.

Final Fantasy VII: Dirge of CerebusWhat’s problematic here is the way Cerberus attempts to mix its action with the game’s expansive plot. Clearly, Square has a story to tell, and isn’t altogether too happy with actual gameplay interfering with the tale. As Valentine, players will kill a series of foes in a twisty series of outdoor passageways—and then watch a cut-scene of soldiers dramatically rushing in to the fight. Then they’ll dispatch the enemies, prompting the game to jump to another, possibly more involved bit of exposition. After another minute or so of fighting, the game will present a cinematic sequence wherein gorgeously rendered characters yap, yap, yap at one another about the miserable state of circumstances involving the mysterious Deepground soldiers’ machinations.

The game is at once one extended bathroom break. Cut-scenes are placed so frequently as to genuinely interrupt any sort of pace or flow Cerberus might build. This proves to be jarring and frustrating; it literally rips players from the experience, and does so at all-too-frequent intervals. Gameplay, and this seems bizarre to suggest, is almost an afterthought, a sideshow distraction for the main event. Cerberus seems to want to be an animated movie, but settled for being an extended storyline served up on the PlayStation 2 and punctuated by a few bursts of player-controlled blasting.

This is genuinely unfortunate, especially considering the fact that Square Enix genuinely attempted to improve upon gameplay for the English-language version of Cerberus. Valentine plodded in the Japanese release. He runs here. Also, Matrix-style mid-air attacks for both ranged weapons and melee strikes have been added, increasing both the hero’s combat flexibility and his showiness.

Final Fantasy VII: Dirge of CerebusIt’s even more unfortunate because Cerberus has the makings of a good strategic shooter. Valentine can collect a lot of different tools and pieces of weaponry in order to customize his firearms. Players can opt to use the eponymous Cerberus (a three-barreled handgun that shoots three bullets at once), a rifle, or machine gun. Further refinements can be made in the form of materia (magic)-based projectiles, sniper scopes, and other powerful items conferring such benefits as increased defense or improved melee attacks. This means players can build a gun that suits their style of play, allowing them to emphasize power, firing rate, sniping ability, or magic. Giving players the tools to be an excellent gunslinger and then emphasizing the part of the game where no shooting is possible seems criminal—at least in terms of design.

As for the rest, well, it’s firmly rooted in the Final Fantasy canon, right down to the Phoenix Down potions that restore Valentine to health when he’s had a bit too much lead in his diet. It’s great to revisit old friends (Yuffie, Cait, Reeve) and tromp across familiar ground—even if it is unnecessarily potholed. And this is one mythical, three-headed dog that could possibly have some bite in it, if only the damn thing would only, for one second, consider ceasing its infernal barking.

Article by: Greg Orlando
Video produced by: Matt Keil



Posted by Anonymous User - Tuesday, August 7, 2007 11:40 PM

I thought this game was fun even with all the cut-scenes. Actuly I thought they made the game better and the story is magnificent.
4 out of 5.

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