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Dirge of Cerberus: Final Fantasy VII

Square Enix
Gun Action RPG
Final Fantasy VII
  • August 15, 2006
  • January 26, 2006
  • November 16, 2006
B 23 total ratings
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Don’t cry for Vincent: he’s already dead

A Dirge of Cerberus: Final Fantasy VII review Author: Jeriaska Published: December 10, 2006
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Dirge of Cerberus is not a completely terrible game, but it is certainly a failure, by no means a worthy direct sequel to one of Square’s most revered titles. First of all, the game pays too little homage to its predecessor, wishing to exist on its own merits, which are insufficient for the task. Only a couple of noticeable locations from the RPG show up this time, and the novelty of running through the mansion in Nibelheim where we first met Vincent Valentine wears off fast when all we can do there is fight a robot. Cerberus chooses instead to draw its inspiration instead from a mélange of unrelated sources painfully out of step with the world of Final Fantasy VII. The gameplay clearly attempts to give Half-Life the RPG treatment, an effort so shoddily performed in the Japanese original that Famitsu rated it a woeful 38 out of 50. The addition in English-regions of greater speed, a double jump, and more accurate shooting control to some degree redeemed the gameplay mechanics, but the areas of story, character and sound still leave something to be desired. The enemies are straight out of Xenosaga, the title was torn from Koji Igarashi’s brainstorming journal, the music belongs to a jazz club, and the terrain is so boxy at times that the game could be taking place in a diorama. With millions of dollars in payroll expended, that Dirge holds itself together enough to get the player from start to finish at all is something of a miracle.
Don't make fun of his shoes.

**Spoilers abound**

Before the game was released, there was some concern among Final Fantasy VII’s fanbase that the series was being whored out to Japanese fans of JRocker Gackt, see duckroll’s editorial, selected most likely due to his prominent role in the futuristic vampire movie Moon Child. As it turns out, Gackt’s participation in the game is minimal, though largely detrimental. Rather, it is the suburban mock-heavy metal ethos that Gackt represents that weakens Dirge. The fact that Vincent stands for nothing and goes about his work with stoic resignation handicaps developers who would build an entire story around him. Whereas Final Fantasy VII made the breakthrough of introducing to an RPG world the nightmare of a globalized corporation devoid of ethical constraints, Dirge of Cerberus awkwardly throws at the lone protagonist a rabble of villains attempting to bring about the apocalypse. That Vincent’s overdrive ability should endow him with the sole means of bringing about such a galactically significant (Gacktically significant?) outcome blows the character’s cosmic relevance needlessly out of proportion.

"I'm a Soviet, I mean Tsuviet, dahlink."
Story is a major problem in Dirge of Cerberus, especially considering the wealth of proven storylines already established in Final Fantasy VII. The game probably would have worked more successfully as a prequel, as the attempt to top the catastrophe of Meteorfall requires perverting the premise of the original game. In the intro sequence, the nauseatingly innocent town of Kalm is enjoying a G-Rated carnival complete with fireworks, balloon animals, and Celtic Riverdancing. Suddenly, armored soldiers air-dropped from helicopters go around blowing away the townsfolk with machine guns. Someone instruct me, who’s the villain!?! After delving through the morally ambiguous terrain, Reeve appears to fill Vincent in on the needed exposition. It turns out that without its corporate structure intact, the remnants of the Shinra corporation’s military has managed to eke out an existence as a fascist organization called Deepground, headed by a Sephiroth clone called Weiss (pronounced Vice.) The inclusion of a villain dressed in Soviet red and not only sporting a Slavic accent but calling herself a “Tsuviet!” further confuses the storytelling with conspicuous but meaningless real-world resonances. Weiss will bring about the apocalypse in a topsy-turvy inverse of Christian fairytales, if Deepground can gather enough human sacrifices. Reeve explains that Hojo is attempting to bring about the end of humanity “too soon.” What Deepground is attempting to affect then is a sort of scriptural prophecy—it’s merely the aesthetic means of fulfilling the prophecy that the good guys find fault with, ie. kidnapping children and sacrificing them to the Omega Weapon. Slow down, Shinra, apocalypses take time!

The worst offense the game commits is, without a doubt, forcing a brainless Yuffie onto the player to tag along for the ride. Square must have assumed that the inclusion of Gackt music would clear out any discriminating female gamer from a one mile radius of the title, for only the most chauvinistic of misogynists could find Yuffie’s penchant for twittering mindlessly aloud and hitting her head against walls to be welcome comic relief. In a nutshell, Yuffie acts painfully retarded in this game, an embarrassing testament to the lingering gender discrimination in Japanese culture. Thankfully the characters of Shelke and Shalua are mature enough to make up for Yuffie’s adolescent incompetence, but the fact that Ms. Kisaragi is the only conspicuously Japanese-sounding name in the game gives one the impression that some faction of the development team wishes to bind young women’s minds the way the Chinese once bound their feet. Were Vincent truly the badass he purports to be, he would give twittering tag-along Yuffie a piece of his mind. Seriously, Square, we don’t need to see Yuffie knocking her head against the wall again, please! Please.
Third. Rate. Girl.

The music for Dirge of Cerberus leaves something to be desired, unfortunately. Gackt intrudes rather painfully in one shoot-em-up sequence towards the game’s finale and during the ending credits. Otherwise, Masashi Hamauzu is in command of the music composition, and appears clearly out of place. Cerberus must hold the title of the most slow jazz and piano solos of any first-person shooter in history. At times Hamauzu, certainly a gifted enough composer to warrant respect, almost appears to be protesting the violence of the game to which he has been assigned. Clearly the man could have used some help from Einhander’s Kenichiro Fukui, Front Mission 4’s Masaharu Iwata, or even Parasite Eve’s Yoko Shimomura. Going it alone, Hamauzu gets the dirge part right but cannot keep up with the ass-kicking tempo required of a Half-Life knock-off. Taken alone, the DoC soundtrack is enjoyable for a handful of tracks and quickly disappears from memory. The most glaring question of all, of course, is why the OST includes none of the tunes of the original Final Fantasy VII. Square composers, please take a cue from Masaharu Iwata. Synthesizers have changed. Don’t shy away from remixing the old classics.

All in all, Dirge stands or falls on its gameplay, an only marginally successful combination of customization and blazing guns. The best elements of the story revolve around the ice cold could-almost-be-but-not-really-all-that-much sexual tension between Vincent and a ten year old girl. Shelke comes closest of any of the characters to reaching the level of likeability found in Final Fantasy XII’s Ashe, due in no small part to her being voiced by the stellar Kari Wahlgren. Shelke's characterization trumps everyone else in the game, PLUS she specializes in Synaptic Net Diving. The back story involving Vincent, Lucrecia, and an ever-cackling Hojo explaining how the hero became kinda like a vampire through some experiments really makes no sense whatsoever. It turns out that Vincent was one a Turk, but the other Turks are nowhere to be found, making the discovery entirely academic. A few touches here and there easily could have made the game much more in the vain of the PSOne original: that is, much better.

Vincent describes himself as being a stone in history’s stream, but he is young compared to Hojo. A twenty year-old vampire that does not even bite people is kind of a let down. Vincent of Final Fantasy VII is cool looking enough to convince you that he could hold his own in a gunplay-based action vehicle. Lamentably, Dirge is a promising title whose execution is largely funereal.
Editor's Grade
dotted line "Dirge holds itself together enough to get the player from start to finish, but falls short of becoming a worthy direct sequel to one of Square’s most revered titles."
B dotted line Average Reader Score (Based on 23 ratings) | Rate it Now
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