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Dirge of Cerberus: Final Fantasy VII
I finally played Dirge of Cerberus and was very disappointed to beat it the very next day. This to me was the little game that could, but was riddled with minor things that surmounted to making it only mediocre. As I've stated, I love most anything Final Fantasy, the only major exceptions being Tidus and most of the X story line. But as much as I wanted it to be, this just did not feel like a Final Fantasy.
The game play was like a bastard child of Devil May Cry and Star Wars: Battlefront. The controls were almost a direct rip from SWB except they weren't the tight and precise controls I was used to. Even after adjusting the camera speeds to something of my liking, it still felt very sloppy, taking me a few hours to adjust to. Even after the adjustment though, I would still have a difficult time taking multiple enemies. Some elements that were added to the US release, such as a double jump and pulled back camera, felt like Devil May Cry, but you can easily tell they were just thrown in last minute and did not mesh with the environments at all. Much like the original Kingdom Hearts, I found my biggest opponent was the camera. To say that this provided a challenge would be an understatement, but I found that if just kept my gun out, navigation became much easier. As for the jumping, it was unnatural in that Vincent could obviously clear some obstacles, but would be stopped by an invisible wall. This was most obvious when in stair wells or on balconies. Heaven forbid that I be able to jump down a three tiered balcony, that would just be ridiculous. Instead, I was faced to navigate through crumbling ruins to find stairs and doorways which under normal circumstances could be easily bypassed.
Unlike DMC though, this game was incredibly easy. I hear this is based on SE making the game easier for Japanese players whom were not used to playing shooters. The US version did away with the easy mode and replaced with a very hard, but still, the game is a walk in the park compared to DMC 3. Very Hard Mode is just an increase in enemy numbers and making them a bit more suicidal. Other than that, not much changed. A bonus with the very hard mode was that you could save your weapon stats from a previous play through, although I feel this should have been incorporated into all modes of play, like it was for the bonus missions. As for the boss fights, they were simple as well, felling more like harder encounters, than an actual boss. No real strategy was needed to take down an individual boss. 90% of the time, I would plant myself in a corner and let loose a volley with Cerberus and would emerge unscathed. Compared to other shooters, the bosses fell amazingly short of my expectations. You can shift into Vincent's beast forms as a limit break, but I never found a need to except in one of the final boss battles, but you're doomed to lose that battle anyways as it is part of the story.
Another complaint is how repetitive the game play is. Sure, you'll fight a few enemies from FF7, such as Gargoyles and Sahagin, but the majority of what you'll fight are Deepground soldiers. They come in standard varieties, such as grunt, sniper, rocket, etc., but sadly the mix is not enough. Most can be killed in a single shot, which I enjoyed quite a bit as it made Vincent feel more powerful than he really is. Most of the levels follow the same drab layouts, such as Edge and Midgar. The wilderness levels were all bland and uninteresting and it felt more like I had to navigate a maze. During game play, you'll come across side missions, which will pause the game and cover the screen with needless details to tell you what you need to do, although you've already done it countless times before.
Another major problem, as I mentioned with the side missions, that the game play is interrupted far too much. It seemed that every five minutes I stopped playing to watch a cutscene or mission statement occur, sometimes these would take up to 15 minutes. It really was like a sequel to The Bouncer in that respect as it was more a movie than a game, and that really hurt the game. SE games are upsetting that they're following a trend of babysitting the player and holding their hand through a majority of the game. Those that can be found guilty of this are: Kingdom Hearts 2 (the first five hours are a tutorial on how to use the effing char) and Final Fantasy XII (the first few hours follow KH2's lead). The developers were too in love with the story to let the player actually play the game.
The story itself was impressive, but some of it put me off. The major thorn in my side was Lucrecia. My God, there is no other game character that I would like to see die a horrible fiery death more than her. She loves Vincent, but at the same time can't be with him because she feels responsible for his father's death. She flirts with him and it seems they could make it, but then she has one of her frequent freak outs where she chooses to hook up with Hojo, whom you can tell is only a self serving prick at the very early stages of the game. Hojo knocks up Lucrecia with a plan to experiment on the baby, Sephiroth, with Lucrecia's full knowledge and consent. Vincent doesn't think it's such a great idea, so Hojo blows him away with a hand cannon and Lucrecia once again flips out because she loved/couldn't be with Vince/could have saved him that fate, but decided to be a overly dramatic bitch to him and does nothing but cry about things she did herself. Hojo experiments on Vincent's body, ditches him and then starts tampering with Sephiroth. Lucrecia once again flips out that she can't see her child and that he's being experimented on like this. AGAIN, she agreed to all of this before hand and knew full well what was going to happen. She then turns Vincent into a monster and cries some more about what was happened to him, although she is once again the cause of it all. She really reminds me of Jodie Foster's character in Flight Plan. Running around, crying and doing absolutely nothing. So much hate for a fictional character. So much hate.
In a bizarre twist, you find that Lucrecia's memories/dreams were uploaded in the computer like mind of 19 year old Shelke, who is trapped in the body of her 10 year old self. It's never stated directly, but I'm convinced Vince ends up hooking up with this dead mind trapped in a child's body, thereby breaking into the taboos of necrophilia (he and Lucrecia are both technically dead) and pedophilia ( she looks like she's 10 for fuck's sake). Another bizarre love story is between two of the bosses who are also brothers and share a deep love. One is dead, the other wants to bring him back to life and then merge with him so that they'll never be apart again. Somewhere along the line, SE got really weird.
All in all, I'm glad I waited half a year for the price to drop to $15. For non FF related players, the game is a rental at best, I beat it in under nine hours my first time through. FF diehards will probably buy it and like me, enjoy it despite its many flaws. I really believe this could have been a great game if only the developers took the time to add and work with very basic features found in the genre of gaming. This is the epitome of a little train that could have, but sadly did not.