Over half a year after its release in Japan, Dirge of Cerberus: Final Fantasy VII has reached the United States. Due to poor reviews and underwhelming fan reactions, Square Enix has tweaked much of the game to appease American gamers. While the changes definitely improved the third-person shooter, they donít prevent it from being a mixed experience.
The game takes place three years after the events of Final Fantasy VII, and one year after the film Advent Children. You play as Vincent Valentine, the mysterious warrior discovered in a coffin in Final Fantasy VII, as he sets out on a journey to save the earth and discover the truth about his identity.
The gameís plot, like every other Final Fantasy VIII related game or movie, is convoluted, but incredibly impressive in its scope. Not many games take the time to develop characters WHILE making them save the world at the same time. There are also several gorgeous pre-rendered cut scenes that might as well be deleted scenes from Advent Children. And itís great to hear all the voices from the film return to portray their characters in Dirge of Cerberus, however small their cameos may be.
Unfortunately, there are several times when the story gets in the way of the gameplay. While playing Cerberus, prepare yourself to periodically sit through in-game cinemas that may last up to ten minutes. For an action game, thatís a lot of time to ask a player to wait for the next shooting stage. What the story scenes convey is definitely interesting, it just takes them too long to convey it. Diehard fans may not have a problem with these bloated story breaks, but anyone looking for a straight up shooter should prepare themselves for a couple of long sequences.
Square Enixís new additions to Cerberusí gameplay almost make it feel like an entirely different game. The most obvious changes include a double jump, the ability to shoot while jumping, and a pulled back camera when targeting. The game has also been sped up a bit and Vincent can now perform a dash attack.
All of these changes make it much easier to string attacks together, which definitely makes the game fun to play. However, it feels as if these additions are an attempt to make the game more like Devil May Cry. And in the long run, if you donít design a game with that in mind from the very beginning, youíre never going to match the quality of such a popular title.
For example, the late addition of the double jump to the US version is great, but you still canít use it to jump to many areas, because the game wasnít designed that way originally.
One of Cerberusís positives is the customizable weapons system. As you progress through the game, youíll find new power ups and attachments for your gun, Cerberus. You can then mix and match these items with your weapons, finding the effects that best suit your play style.
Another satisfying element is that at the end of each level, youíre awarded a certain number of points. You can then either use these points to level up Vincent, or exchange them for money which can allow you to upgrade your weapons or buy ammo and health.
In Dirge of Cerberus, the Final Fantasy VII universe is detailed in all its robust glory, especially in the beautiful pre-rendered sequences. Even the in-game cutscenes, though way too plentiful, have some impressive animation.
Youíll notice, however, that the enemies arenít that varied. With the exception of the occasional giant bug or lizard man, most of your time in the game will be spent fighting the agents of Deepground, most of whom look exactly alike. Considering most of the gameplay involves shooting enemies, having your targets repeat themselves can make even the most exciting gunfights lose their momentum after awhile.
Thereís no doubt that Dirge of Cerberus is a fun game, with a lot of well-done action-rpg elements. However, had the project been designed this way from the ground up, thereís no telling how much better it would have been. The story is interesting and fairly epic, but told in such large chunks at a time, that sometimes the pacing is thrown off. Fans of the franchise should enjoy themselves while blasting through this new chapter in the saga, but anyone looking for a deeply satisfying shooter should prepare themselves for a mixed bag.