We’ve got a review for you of the first installment of the “Compilation of Final Fantasy VII” series that Square Enix was putting out. Yes, it’s been out for 3 years, but it still may be worth a shot.

Company Credits

Title: Final Fantasy VII: Dirge of Cerebus
Developers: Square-Enix
System: Playstation 2
Release Date: August 15, 2006
Game Type: Third-Person Shooter.

Premise

Three years after the end of Final Fantasy VII (making it 1 year after Advent Children) Vincent Valentine (the goth-ish gun-toting optional party member from FFVII) discovers a plot by the subjects of Shinra’s Weapon X-esque research facility Deepground to destroy the world. It’s up to Vincent to stop it.

High Point

The CGI in some of the cut-scenes is spectacular – Advent Children-level spectacular. The music is excellent, and the combat is pretty good. As I mention under Story, we get some major character development for Vincent Valentine. In general, I’d compare this game to Gungrave, except Dirge of Cerebus outdoes Gungrave in every respect.

Low Point

This game could have actually done with a couple of Real-Time Action events ala God of War when fighting some of the boss characters. Most of the boss fights conclude (after you’ve worn down the bosses life bar) with a non-interactive cutscene where Vincent finishes off the boss in a incredibly spectacular fashion, leaving me, as the player, going “Wow, that looks really awesome. It’d be nice if I could do that in game.” That reaction is a bad thing – you don’t want that. That’s the reason why games like God of War have Real-Time Action finishers for bosses.

Also, I’m going to take issue with the names of three characters: Azul the Cerulean, Rosso the Crimson, and Nero the Sable. In short, these characters names are, simplified (and with names for colors in other languages translated into English) – Blue the Blue, Red the Red, and Black the Black. In short, these names, with the exception of colors in the characters’ outfits, don’t describe very well the characters’ particularly their gimmicks. They really should have spent more time on those names.

The game also needs an option for a 16:9 aspect ratio for wide-screen TVs (which Dragon Quest VIII and Final Fantasy XII has) and a mini-map (or at least radar so I can find those annoying enemies that are shooting me in the back).

Oh, and the tease for a sequel in the bonus ending, solely because we’re not going to get one, which is a shame because there’s potential here for a better second outing, now that they’ve got the engine done and can work on refining the controls and the camera.

The Scores

Originality: It’s a sequel, but one that takes the series into an entirely different genre, one that Square-Enix themselves hadn’t done before. It’s not the best TPS ever, but I’d call it superior to Gungrave, though not on par with Devil May Cry. 4 out of 6

Story: The story is decent. It ties in nicely with FFVII, but it doesn’t mesh as well with Advent Children (in the one year gap they’ve effectively abandoned Midgar?) However, it does provide a helluva lot of character development for Vincent Valentine, development the character was really lacking. 3 out of 6.

Graphics: The graphics were pretty good – with a good engine for the game (the cut-scenes that aren’t with the higher “Advent Children” style graphics are done in-engine, and really show off the character models). The camera is a bit of a problem – the game controls like a console FPS, but in the third person (Left stick moves, right stick aims). In wide open environments (of which there are quite a few) everything goes fine. However, when in more confined environments the camera can get really bad – not because of walls getting in the way, but more because of having to turn around a lot. Ultimately, this gave me motion sickness. Now, the game does have options for Mouse & Keyboard control – I did not try those out, but they look like your standard FPS controls, and they might alleviate some of my camera problems. Still, a third person game giving me motion sickness is a bad thing. 4 out of 6

Sound: The music is excellent in the game (including the song contributed by Gackt), as is the quality of the sound effects. The voice acting on the other hand is a mixed bag. The voice actors for Hojo (who appears mainly in flashbacks), Vincent, Reeve, Shalua, Tifa and Cloud are good. The acting for Barrett, Yuffie, Cait Sith (though why they made him psudo-Scottish is beyond me) and all of the villains is mediocre, and the acting for everyone else is horrible. The lack of an option to turn on original Japanese dub (which, even if it isn’t as good, allows me to ignore some of the more moderately annoying acting) doesn’t help things. 3 out of 6.

Playability: The game’s got a moderate amount of replay factor – there is an unlockable Extra Hard mode (in addition to Normal and Hard), and there is an added portion to the ending you can get by finding pieces of a report of the “G Report” throughout the game. Also there are optional bonus missions you can unlock, as well as unlockable concept
art and music. 3 out of 6.

Immersion: The game got me involved in the story, but the difference between the spectacularly awesome stuff Vincent was doing in the cutscenes and the very grounded stuff I was when I was controlling Vincent threw me out of
the game more than a little bit. 3 out of 6.

Overall: This is not a bad game. It’s not a fantastic game either. It’s decent. This game got hammered for being a Devil May Cry-alike when it’s really not. DMC has a certain attitude to it that this game doesn’t have, and the stories of the Devil May Cry games at best cover the soles of your feet – they exist to string along the action. Dirge of Cerebus has a much different tone in both action and story, making it worth, at least, a rental. 4 out of 6.

In total, Dirge of Cerebus gets 24 out of 42.