Final Fantasy VII: Dirge of Cerberus
Square Enix doesn't have a particularly excellent track record when it comes to games that aren't RPGs. Granted, they've had some success with action-RPGs like Illusion of Gaia on the SNES and Kingdom Hearts on the PS2, but the company has more failures with games like Fullmetal Alchemist, Drakengard and Ergheiz. But Takayoshi Nakazoto, a fan of Half Life, decided he'd explore the genre and has come up with what Tetsuya Nomura dubbed "a shooter RPG." Chronologically, this is the final game in the Compilation of Final Fantasy VII, and it may be able to close it with a bang, but history isn't working in their favor.
More details have become available for Dirge's story since our original preview. The story takes place one year after Advent Children. A new group called the World Regeneration Organization (WRO) has popped up, hoping to rebuild Midgar in the wake of the meteor catastrophe, which left the metropolis in ruins after an attack by the colossus-sized monster, the Diamond Weapon. The organization is privately funded, independent of Shin-Ra, and has pulled together an army capable of holding its own and is headed by Reeve, one of the few remaining Shin-Ra executives and the controller of Cait Sith, the annoying cat from the original FFVII. Opposite the WRO is the Deep Ground Soldiers, unit of soldiers (it's unclear at the moment whether they were part of Cloud and Zack's Soldier, or whether they were, in fact, soldiers) brought together by the original President Shin-Ra (Rufus' father), who oppose the WRO, and attack them frequently. WRO, to strengthen their army, recruit Vincent Valentine, the popular side-character from FFVII to protect the interests of the Organization. Apparently, during Vincent's time in the Turks, he developed some ties to the DGS, probably when he guarded Shin-Ra scientists like Hojo, Gast and Lucrecia. The DGS is headed by the Yvet Unit (Yvet is the Russian word for color), and is comprised of Azul (blue), Shelke (orange), Rosso (red), Nero (black), and Weiss (white). It's pretty obvious that Vincent must systematically destroy the DGS, in order to protect Reeve and the WRO. Just as a side note, the majority of the FFVII cast returns in Dirge of Cerberus, including Cloud, Tifa, Yuffie, Barret, Cid and Cait Sith.
The gameplay is set up like a pretty standard shooter. Left control stick moves Vincent, right control stick moves the camera, X is melee attack, R1 shoots, R2 reloads, circle jumps, triangle brings up the menu, and so on. The environments have pretty standard interactivity, like the legendary exploding barrel, which can be used to deal damage to enemies in various ways. Vincent and his enemies both have HP and MP, and with every hit each of them takes, a number indicating the HP lost will pop up, much like a standard RPG. There are many other RPG elements scattered throughout the title, including weapon customization for fans of highly interactive character abilities, and stats for the math whiz. Fans will also be pleased to know that Vincent will be able to transform into his limit breaks, including Galian Beast and Chaos.
Graphically, Dirge is one of the best PS2 games with some of the most detailed character renders. However, when looking at Vincent's starchy-paneled cape and his generally stationary hair, it's almost a testament to how much better the next-gen consoles are than the current gen. However, it's still impressive visually. Of course, there are FMVs abound, which everyone's come to expect with Final Fantasy, and of course, they look stunning. Tentatively, Square Enix hopes to bring back the cast which did Advent Children and Kingdom Hearts 2. Whether or not they have is yet to be confirmed.
Dirge of Cerberus came out in Japan in January, with mixed reviews. However, Japan really traditionally does not like shooters, so this may not be an accurate representation of the actual quality of the game. Dirge of Cerberus just got its official release date at E3, with Square-Enix currently shooting for a release on August 22.