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Dirge Of Cerberus - Final Fantasy VII - PS2 - Review


Posted by: jkdmedia

Review Rating 6.9 Above Average
It started nine years ago with a man in a coffin. He was discovered a few hours in, holding himself to an eternal punishment for the wrongs he could not right. Nonetheless, persistence makes perfect. And in this case, a brand-new party member. The man would eventually join your cause and embark on the longest journey of his life. He would be a part of the world's greatest battles, defeat the planet's weapons, and destroy the one who wished to summon Meteor – Sephiroth. Peace would be restored. The Promised Lands were found (spiritually). Everything was the way it should be.

Final Fantasy VII, the greatest RPG of the PSone generation, enthralled millions, created new interest in the genre, and made gamers all over the world wonder what the heck happened to their favorite characters. Unlike the other Final Fantasy games, FFVII ended with only a glimpse of Red XIII's survival. The rest of the story was left in mystery. Sure, we knew the world had been saved. But what happened to our favorite heroes? We wanted closure. And if possible, a sequel and a remake that would extend this most glorious experience.

Nine years have passed since we first took the journey. Finally, after begging and pleading, Square Enix is willing to take the next step and continue a specific chapter in the Final Fantasy series. First a mobile phone game, then a full-length movie, and now the first of at least two games for the PlayStation brand. The latest is a spin-off that stars one of the most popular RPG characters – Vincent Valentine. The game is Dirge of Cerberus: Final Fantasy VII. It's got a lengthy story, references to the past, beautiful CG clips, a new soundtrack, and character designs by the original FFVII artist, Tetsuya Nomura. Could another lineup be more perfect? 

Say hello to my friends: barrel #1, barrel #2, and barrel #3. 

Shooting Gallery

Dirge of Cerberus is a shooter built for role-players. The gameplay is standard third-person shooting plus auto-lock targeting, magic spells (Materia), and two punch/kick combos. Vincent's Limit Breaker is back, and this time he uses it to transform and repeatedly attack enemies in real-time. Mouse and keyboard functionality means not having to fumble with the analog stick, should you prefer a PC-style setup.

Enemies come in droves, and though some can be avoided, you'll quickly learn that it's better to clear a room than it is to leave them hanging. Taking cues from Dino Crisis, Devil May Cry, and Square's own Parasite Eve II, Dirge of Cerberus calculates EXP based on the number of enemies you've killed in each level. It also considers the number of allies you've saved and/or protected, the number of times you've died (if any), and how long it took you to complete every required task. Ranks are applied to every requirement, "S" being the best. Higher ranks lead to greater EXP rewards, which can either be applied to Vincent for status improvement or exchanged for more Gil.

If you don't know what Gil is by now, read no further – this game is not for you. But to cover all bases, it is the currency used in Final Fantasy games, including this one. Gil lets you buy new items and modify your weapons and attachments. There are three main weapons – a handgun, shotgun, and machinegun. Barrels may be lengthened (to increase their shooting range) or shortened (to increase speed) using optional attachments.

Once Fire, Thunder, or Blizzard Materia has been equipped, Vincent will have the ability to fire a deadly blast that assaults multiple enemies. Thunder is particularly useful in that respect.

Magic is limited by MP, which depletes quickly and may only be replenished by items like Ether. HP is the same, but it's nothing a few potions, hi- or regular, can't replenish.

Phoenix Down works a little differently in this game. Vincent doesn't have a partner to revive him after being killed. Thus, instead of waiting for Mr. Death to come knocking at his door, he can apply one Phoenix Down to himself at any time. Once applied, the item will automatically revive him once his HP reaches zero. 

Just an average day in the city until somebody goes and turns on the man-eating gun-toting robot. Darn those super-villains. 

Graphically Speaking

Dirge of Cerberus's intro is rich with beautiful, movie-caliber CGs, showcasing the true power of Square Enix's art team. Characters are fluidly animated with lifelike gestures, facial expressions, and hair that sways accurately. The mouth movements don't line up with the original story's dialogue, which was done in Japanese. But I don't think many will care, especially when you consider that these CG visuals are on par with those featured in the full-length Final Fantasy VII movie. Dirge borrows a clip or two from that movie, but most of what you'll see is new. Prepare to be in awe.

Shooting Gallery 2.0

Let's briefly recap the facts: Dirge of Cerberus is a third-person shooter with elements of Devil May Cry. I love DMC – many of you do – so we already know that it's a winning formula.

The action is paced evenly throughout each mission, taking only a couple of detours to give players the option to chat with several characters. You'll also get the chance to be stealthy, albeit briefly, and take out a handful of enemies using the old roll-an-explosive-barrel-into-them technique.

Though the stealth aspect is not much more than diversion, the core experience of shooting everything in sight will remind gamers of the PS2's earlier days. Enemies will attack repeatedly, seemingly without reloading. This can be frustrating, annoying, and very cheap. You'll lose many lives and use many Phoenix Downs trying to avoid and these assaults.

In contradiction, enemies will also run away in fear if you chase them, turn their back on you for no apparent reason (making them much too easy to kill), and have the strange habit of hiding behind the many explosive canisters lying around each stage. Boss battles are like a bad joke. At best they're cheap; at worst, a cakewalk.

Puzzles consist of killing enemies to acquire cardkeys that unlock gates. You snag these cards while exploring linear corridors in environments.

It's recommended that you tweak the camera and targeting movement settings at the start of the game. Otherwise the controls may seem to move very slowly, as they did when I first started playing.

I also suggest that you turn the semi-auto targeting function off, or switch it to full-auto for ultra-easy gunplay. Semi-auto makes it difficult to select targets – the other options will give you what you're looking for. 

The CG animations are exciting, beautiful, and feature the best parts of the story. 

Story Time

If there is one element Final Fantasy VII fans were looking forward to most (myself included), it's the continuation of our favorite story. Dirge of Cerberus delves deeper into Vincent's world, introducing gamers to a cast of new characters and new plot revelations. Blissful and triumphant moments aside, this is where the game really disappoints.

First and foremost, the story isn't interesting. Whereas Final Fantasy VII took us on a journey of hope and survival, with characters that are on par with some movies and TV shows, Dirge of Cerberus takes us through a series of uninteresting dialogue sequences.

The story moves at the pace of liquid hand soap being squeezed into a soap dispenser. You should note that soap moves slightly faster than molasses. Regardless, when someone's not getting killed, someone else is standing in a room, reciting boring and predictable lines with little to no enthusiasm. New cast members lack the appeal of FFVII's heroes, having generic designs, whiny voices, and dialogue that sounds like it came from one of NBC's failed dramas.

Nearly every scene begins with slow camera movement. Vincent walks a little too slowly for his own good. It does not help build the drama – again, aside from a few moments, "drama" is something this game lacks. Eventually, when you've had to sit through (or skip, as you'll most likely do) your 20th scene, you won't be able to stop yourself from yelling at the screen, "Get on with it already!" Make something happen. Give us some excitement for Cloud’s sake.

The final scenes bring some joy, but it's minimal and not exactly worth the effort. For a game that bears the Final Fantasy VII name, it does little to live up to its legacy, appease the diehard fans, or attempt to create new ones. Newcomers will be bored out of their minds while fans are left scratching their heads, wondering if they should have been satisfied with what they had and not spent so much time dreaming of a sequel. 

Hmmm, I wonder who this could be? 

Funeral Song

The primary reason for playing through the original FFVII was to find out what happened to our beloved characters. Cloud, Cid, Tifa, Barret, Aeris, Cait Sith, Yuffie, and of course, Vincent. Technically that should've been the primary reason for playing this game as well, as it is an important, long-awaited spin-off to an RPG that sold over 10 million copies worldwide.

Dirge of Cerberus doesn't meet that need – the need of its intended market. FFVII fans will be extremely disappointed. Not just in the story, but really, the gameplay doesn't do much to excite the player either. The game knows exactly who it's targeting – it says so right on the box, "Final Fantasy VII." That subtitle is calling to a specific group of hardcore fans. A very large and very vocal group who have created their own sequels in the form of fan fiction.

If this were any other shooter, with any generic name, gamers could walk away thinking this was just another below-average release. But with FFVII's name attached, it's hard to imagine what gamers will feel.

Review Scoring Details for Dirge of Cerberus: Final Fantasy VII

Gameplay: 6.9
An immensely repetitive shooter with the flavor of Devil May Cry, Dino Crisis, and Parasite Eve II baked right in. The finished dish isn’t as delish as the menu indicated, but it isn’t entirely bland. Fans might like the taste, but they won’t love it.

Graphics: 7.5
The non-interactive CGs are gorgeous, exciting, and most certainly worth watching. The game itself, however, isn’t overly colorful. While Grandia III and other recent RPGs have been equipped with colorful, awe-inspiring locales, Dirge of Cerberus’s environments are bland and boring. I expected a bit of darkness. FFVII was dark, and I wouldn’t want a sequel or a spin-off to be done in any other way. However, I also expected the game to feature the same level of detail as Kingdom Hearts and Final Fantasy X, the latter of which is a five-year-old RPG whose visuals blow this game out of the water.

Sound: 7.8
What’s the first thing people will say when they hear Dirge of Cerberus’s music for the first time? “That’s not Final Fantasy VII music.” No unfortunately it’s not, but rather a new soundtrack that sounds nothing like the original. There are some really enjoyable tracks, especially during the cinematics. Early battle music is repetitive and follows the trends of other games – techno over substance. Later battle music is a bit more involved, and a bit more orchestral.

Dirge’s voice acting is mostly weak. Shelke, one of the new characters, is the primary cause. The majority of lengthy dialogue sequences are wasted on her. Not only is her appearance generic, but her voice sounds like it came from every bad anime on the planet. Cheesy dialogue (from all the characters, not just Shelke) prevents the game from achieving true FFVII status.

Difficulty: Easy
Enemies are cowards and fight cheaply when in great numbers. Meanwhile, boss battles are purely cheap, leading to a long scuffle of endurance. Stock yourself with Phoenix Downs, Mega-Potions and other aids and the game will be a snap.

Concept: 6
Half the package is the story, which severely misses the mark. The other half is comprised of average, copycat gameplay that fails to live up to the standards set by Final Fantasy VII. It can be fun at times but lacks any form of original content.

Overall: 6.9
I had high hopes for Dirge of Cerberus and looked forward to taking this new Final Fantasy VII journey. It would’ve been great if it had worked, but alas, not every masterpiece receives an equally memorable sequel. The gameplay is alright, if not a little unexciting, but don’t expect a wonderful story. Hopefully Zack’s adventure (planned for PSP) will bring the series back to glory, and take us back to that place we first visited in 1997.

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