Home
Twitter
RSS
Newsletter
David Low
04 Dec, 2006

Dirge of Cerberus: Final Fantasy VII Review

PS2 Review | Final Fantasy VII returns as...a shooter?
Final Fantasy VII has got to be one of the most important games in the history of the video game industry. Not because of anything the game did artistically, but because it changed so much about how games are produced. The most obvious of it's influences was the massive leg up Square gave to Sony's video game ambitions by ditching Nintendo for the Playstation, but it also heralded the era of games with hours of CG cinemas, popularised the JRPG genre in the west, and confirmed Square's place as one of the most powerful developers in the world. Nine years later, the industry is a very different place. While Sony went from strength to strength, Square's leanings toward overly melodramatic computer generated imagery culminated in the impressive but deeply flawed Final Fantasy movie, which tanked so badly that they almost went under and ultimately had to merge with their arch-rival Enix.

While so far this may sound more like a history of Squaresoft then a game review, it's necessary to mention this when discussing Dirge of Cerberus. SquareEnix have struggled in recent years to find success outside of their established franchises in the same way they used to (Chrono Trigger, Secret of Mana and Xenogears spring to mind). The closest thing fitting that description of late would be Kingdom Hearts, but it's hard to describe a game that is both a character compilation and a licensed title as 'original' in terms of IP. So while they seem to have kept some reverence for their main franchise releases, SquareEnix have ducked back into their back catalogue in their latest effort to answer to their accounting department. One of the ideas they came up with was a project called 'Compilation of Final Fantasy VII', a series of products based in the universe of the 1997 Playstation game. The first major release of the project was the incredibly insular straight to video movie Final Fantasy VII Advent Children, and the one many people seem to want most - Crisis core -Final Fantasy VII on PSP - seems to be turning into that platform's Duke Nukem Forever and has still not been released. Early this year Dirge of Cerberus - Final Fantasy VII was released in Japan to much criticism, a slightly improved version was released in America a while ago, and now it's finally made it's way to PAL. An RPG FPS/TPS [always wanted to see all those acronyms side by side – Ed] starring Vincent Valentine, a hidden character from the original, Dirge of Cerberus is a clumsy, repetitive game, but it's nicely produced, and fans of the property will probably find something to like in it's decent style and expansion of the universe.

The in-engine cutscenes are very impressive

The in-engine cutscenes are very impressive
Close
In Dirge of Cerberus you control Vincent (and at points certain other characters) mostly from a third person perspective, although some weapons also allow a full first person perspective to be played. Most of the time the controls are mapped exactly like a dual analogue first person shooter, just viewed over the character's shoulder. Confusingly, there is a separate set of controls for when your weapon is not drawn allowing for a standard 3rd person camera system, which means the game actually has three entire sets of controls to learn, and there's also a melee attack, jump and some dodging maneuvers. While it sounds like Devil May Cry – and your first impression would be that it is that type of game – it's actually closer to the Dynasty Warriors type gameplay, just with guns. Most of the gameplay involves running around shooting military like enemies by simply mashing the fire button and letting the generous auto aim do the work for you, and when an enemy gets close, you melee them to death. The dodging and jumping is fairly useless in combat, because it seems you get hit no matter how you move or how lowly the enemy. The generic boss characters aren't much better, most encounters involve simple strafing until their weak point is visible and then constant firing until they're dead. It ends up being a simple game of heath bar attrition – yours will go down no matter how skillfully you play, so you simply have to kill the enemies as quickly as possible, irrespective of your own safety.

If this sounds like Dirge of Cerberus is a completely weak and repetitive action game, that's because it is. It's possibly the clumsiest shooter of the generation – the enemy AI is both pathetic and unfair, the gameplay lacks depth, and the controls aren't even very tight. Compared to the best third person action games of today, Dirge of Cerberus is an outdated joke. While it's simplistic and repetitive, there's not much in the way of frustration from all this this because the game is quite easy, and this is where the RPG elements come into play. While you'll be taking constant damage, there are always health potions around, so you'll be healing a lot. And while there isn't much in the way of tactics to the physical gameplay, as with an RPG the tactical element is confined to the status and item screens. You level up with experience much like an RPG, and Dirge of Cerberus contains a robust weapon customisation feature, allowing Vincent to have three separate guns with a variety of features available at all times. Overall, the RPG elements don't really redeem the game from it's mediocre action, but at least distract from it.

Most of the game is grinding, repetitive combat.

Most of the game is grinding, repetitive combat.
Close
One thing that redeems the game to some extent is it's presentation. Like many SquareEnix games, Dirge of Cerberus is very heavily story driven, and this story is related through both GCI and in engine cutscenes. The CGI scenes are of the same quality as Advent Children - ie as high as they come - although it can be annoying to see the ultra agile GCI Vincent dodge bullets and fly around like a kung-fu ghost when in game he apparently can't dodge a frozen sloth. The more common in-engine cutscenes are often equally impressive, rivaling the Metal Gear games for quality. Many familiar faces will turn up throughout the story (primarily Yuffie and Cait Sith, but almost everyone from the original cast gets some kind of look in), and some major mysteries of the Final Fantasy VII universe are finally explained. Although it can get a bit out of hand – for most of the first half of the game you'll face a cutscene either before or after (sometimes both) almost every other enemy encounter, no matter how small. Much like a Metal Gear game, it can often be many minutes between bouts of gameplay as you listen to either friend of foe lecture you about something in a stylish swooshing manner. While that's part of the game design, we're hoping that some day these game producers will realise that some people don't always have an entirely flexible allocation of gaming time, and when an un-announced indefinitely long cutscene begins the concept of scheduled recreational time is challenged. Oh well, hope for next gen?

Graphically, the game is a mixed bag, but generally quite good. The character models are excellent, although the designs are sometimes questionable – why does almost every woman in the game have to dress like some kind of ridiculous fantasy prostitute? The environments are generally well designed and attractive with crisp textures, and there are some nice effects in some areas that help create atmosphere. On the other hand, most areas are very sparsely designed, so you'll be seeing a lot of flat open areas and narrow repetitive corridors throughout, and the generally dull uniform lighting doesn't add to the charm. Battles don't look so hot either, with repeating enemies that are clumsily animated, and the explosions and smoke effects look several years out of date. Most of the time it runs at 60fps, which is easy on the eye in a day when most games seem happy to aim low in the frame rate department, and the few ties when frames go missing aren't too much of a worry.

Some other familiar faces make an appearance

Some other familiar faces make an appearance
Close
Most RPGs are repetitive by design, and in some ways, in Dirge of Cerberus, SquareEnix has simply ported the RPG design aesthetic to a different genre. So while you could say it's a failure as a shooter, it's par for the course for the type of gameplay structure SquareEnix fans love the company for, just with repetitive shooting rather then repetitive random battles. Therefore, a die-hard RPG fan, who has potentially been trained to withstand repetition, will easily look past Dirge's shortcomings and enjoy it for some of the same reasons he/she enjoys a good RPG. It's a perfect test case for how far a game can get based on presentation alone. The gameplay sometimes borders on farcical, but the presentation and production values are right up there with AAA titles like Zelda and, erm, Final Fantasy. If you're not a fan of the property, you should be warned that the game is most certainly not worth it for the gameplay alone.
The Score
A severely outdated action game draped in the richest of modern presentation. 6
Looking to buy this game right now? PALGN recommends www.Play-Asia.com.

Related Dirge of Cerberus: Final Fantasy VII Content

Dirge of Cerberus gets PAL date
07 Nov, 2006 Finally, we might add.
Dirge of Cerberus to be online
31 Jul, 2005 Square Enix to include an online mode.
E3 2005: 6 Dirge of Cerberus PS2 screens
17 May, 2005 The long awaited Final Fantasy screens.
8 Comments
7 years ago
Quote
many people seem to want most - Before Crisis -Final Fantasy VII on PSP
errr, this is a mobile phone game that's been out for about a year now. Crisis Core is the PSP game
7 years ago
lacussama wrote
Quote
many people seem to want most - Before Crisis -Final Fantasy VII on PSP
errr, this is a mobile phone game that's been out for about a year now. Crisis Core is the PSP game
Oops - fixed now.
7 years ago
Is this the same one that was offered through PlayOnline to Japanese customers?
7 years ago
Looks like a rental.
7 years ago
Not even worth a rental imo.

I am a FF nut, and even I think the gameplay in this is.. well, crap.

Presentation is top notch. Gameplay? Definately a complete turd.
7 years ago
I though it was pretty good game myself. The presentation was excellent, and the gameplay was decent. I really can't complain, it was exactly how I expected it to be. I love the Advent Children style of the character models. The FMVs with Cloud and the gang are sweet. icon_smile.gif
7 years ago
admeister wrote
I though it was pretty good game myself. The presentation was excellent, and the gameplay was decent. I really can't complain, it was exactly how I expected it to be. I love the Advent Children style of the character models. The FMVs with Cloud and the gang are sweet. icon_smile.gif
I'm with you, sure it wasnt perfect but still nice and fun to play with.

Anyway, I saw the trailer for crisis core, looks amazing. A game I gotta buy for my dusty PSP.
7 years ago
A very good review of the game David! it was completely honest.
I love Final Fantasy with a passion and this game wasnt a let down but it had some negative points. The worst thing for me (though it was bearable) was the AI. I know what u mean about the enemies ridiculous accuracy and strength. Also, the fact that u can try to sneak around and they will always be aiming at you, that was annoying. Once they spotted you and u were in hiding as soon as your head comes around that corner you're shot. Ex Hard is ex hard but only because of the stupidly hard enemies.
The extra content was incredible but trying to go and shoot EVERY target in the game is a bit of a drag considering how many there are!!!
Extra missions is awesome and without it the game wouldve been a lot worse off.
Still a good game though.
The rest of the compilation, once i have it in its entirity, is going to be the best!
Add Comment
Like this review?
Share it with this tiny url: http://palg.nu/1TZ

N4G : News for Gamers         Twitter This!

Digg!     Stumble This!

| More
  Pre-order or buy:
    PALGN recommends: www.Play-Asia.com

Australian Release Date:
  Out Now
European Release Date:
  Out Now
Publisher:
  Square Enix
Developer:
  Square Enix

Read more...
Currently Popular on PALGN
Australian Gaming Bargains - 08/12/11
'Tis the season to be bargaining.
R18+ Legislation
R18+ Legislation
Naruto Shippuden: Ultimate Ninja Storm Generations Preview
Hands on time with the game. Chat time with the CEO of CyberConnect 2.
PALGN's Most Anticipated Games of 2007
24 titles to keep an eye on during 2007.
PALGN's Most Anticipated Games of 2008
And you thought 2007 was populated.