Friday, March 22, 2013

Top 10 Most Shocking Games in a Series - #3: Dirge of Cerberus: Final Fantasy VII

The year was the 1987, and a small video game company known as "Square" was struggling to stay alive. Their sales were low, and no one was really quite sure how they would make it, so they decided to release one final game; a game that would be called "Final Fantasy." Square had put everything they had into making this last game with the hopes that it would somehow magically save the company. Really it didn't look too good, and Square really had no way of knowing if the game would sell, but they knew that it would be at least wroth a shot.

After seeing how well Nintendo's fantasy series "The Legend of Zelda" was doing, Square decided to make Final Fantasy a fantasy based game as well, but they wanted to throw in some twists of their own. Square decided that the game was going to be a fantasy based JRPG, it would focus on open ended gameplay, and it was going to be a game that also had a strong focus on its story (which was quite rare for games at the time). So, with that being said, Square crafted their last hope of a game, and released it to the world.

In 1986 Final Fantasy hit store shelves, and it stunned the world! When players first turned on the game they found themselves picking a party of four from a wide range of class selections, they then got to name their characters, and decide how to use them. With the wide range of classes to choose from, equipment, and weapons, players truly got to build a unique team to suit their needs. This time of freedom was just about unheard of in a game, but what was even more shocking was the game's world itself! Now this wasn't the first console RPG, but the game had a massive world map, there were many towns and dungeons to explore, there were NPCs to talk to, many monsters to fight, and as smaller events occurred, the larger story unfolded in front of the players eyes. Players fell in love with the game over time, and before they knew it, they would soon find themselves becoming fans of a completely brand new game series!

After the success of Final Fantasy, Square set out to work on a sequel titled "Final Fantasy II;" however this was not your standard Sequel. Square had apparently decided that the Final Fantasy series would be sort of like a book, and each entry in the series would be its own stand alone story. The second game featured a cast of all new characters, it had a brand new story, a brand new world, and it also featured quite a few new gameplay mechanics as well. This was the pattern Square would soon find themselves repeating over and over again for the next decade, and because of that fans would soon find themselves playing many different games within the same series.

Although each Final Fantasy game did in fact keep the same basics, each game felt like a game of its own, and because of that each game also had its own fan base. While some people might love Final Fantasy IV, others have fallen in love with the characters and setting of Final Fantasy VI. Sure while the games are still turn based JRPGs (with a sort of timed battle system), each game had its own features which made them unique, and because of that each one was able to stand out on its own. Then things began to change.

In 1998 Square jumped into a brand new generation, and released their first Final Fantasy game on the brand new Sony PlayStation. Making full use of the PlayStation's power, Square decided to release Final Fantasy VII as their first game with 3D models, and prerendered backgrounds. The game featured a Sci-fi setting mixed with modern day aspects (such as cars), the game had a darker tone, and many felt that it was a game that took JRPGs to a whole new level. Unlike past games which were rated E for everyone, Final Fantasy VII got a T rating in the USA, and because of that Square was able to take the game places past Final Fantasy games didn't dare enter.

The game's story revolved around a man named Cloud as he pulled off terrorist attacks on the Shinra company. Shinra was draining power from the planet's life force, and Cloud has decided to stop them at all costs. Although this is how the story starts, things actually take a very unexpected turn. Soon Cloud watches his friends die, he meets up with an old friend from the past, and he soon finds himself setting out on an adventure that would leave him down a dark path. Unknown to him, things on the planet aren't quite what they seem, and soon he finds himself fighting for the lives of everyone he cares about.

Really the story of Final Fantasy VII isn't something that can be easily summed up, and it is a story that has actually gained a large cult following. The game's story was deep, filled with plot twists, all of the characters were very likable, and on top of that, it even expanded outside of the game! Books were released, anime OVAs were released, and even a full CGI film was released to take place after the game ended! Really the game's story became one of the most well known among Final Fantasy fans, but that isn't the only reason fans were so in love with the game. Final Fantasy VII also featured quite a lot of improvements to the gameplay as well, and due to the game being on three game discs, it was also much longer than past games as well. With its massive world, its customization systems, and with its massive game length, FF7 soon became a "must play" for RPG fans everywhere. But how do you follow that sort of game up? Well over the years Square continued to release Final Fantasy games, but the fact still remained that Final Fantasy VII still had a large fan base, and movies weren't going to please them forever; that is when they decided to release a sequel to Final Fantasy VII on the PS2 titled "Final Fantasy VII: Dirge of Cerberus.

Final Fantasy VII: Dirge of Cerberus is a follow up to Final Fantasy VII, and it takes place not too long after the end of the movie. The game actually focuses on the two extra characters from Final Fantasy VII (Vincent and Yuffie), with Vincent being the lead character. Now although one might expect Dirge of Cerberus to be an RPG, the truth is, it was anything but, and THAT is why Dirge of Cerberus is at number 3 on this list! So, just what is this game then? Well...

Dirge of Cerberus is a 3rd person shooter/action game, and NOT an RPG! Now sure you do unlock weapons, upgrade them, increase stats, etc, but the game is still in fact a 3rd person shooter. Every level has Vincent running through different areas, shooting the heck out of everything he sees, dodging bullets, melee attacking every enemy that gets close to him, and using other items and pieces of equipment around him to his advantage. Each stage has a series of cutscenes to break up the action (so the game is still in fact story based), but for the most part it is shooting galore! On top of that Vincent can also transform into quite a few monsters with their own melee attacks and abilities, but this feature is completely overshadowed by the shooting aspect of the game, and only has limited uses. The game also features quite a bit of platforming and exploring areas for hidden secrets, but once again these features all come standard with most 3rd person shooters such as this.

On top of the game's story mode, Dirge of Cerberus also featured a wide verity of extra missions as well, and it even included a full story multiplayer mode; however sadly these features didn't remain in all versions of the game. In the original Japanese version of the game, was the only version to include the multiplayer mode, and it is the only version to include its story as well. This story took place before the main game's storyline, and it focused on two "player" characters who are not seen during the rest of the game. Multiplayer in a Final Fantasy game was also unheard of, and it was another major shock to fans who got to play the original release.

Really, Final Fantasy VII: Dirge of Cerberus is something most fans would have NEVER seen coming! I mean, think about it; what do you think of when you hear someone say "Final Fantasy?" I'm pretty sure there isn't a person in this world who will think "3rd person shooter," which is what this game is. It was unexpected as a game, it was an unexpected sequel (which was unheard of for the Final Fantasy series), and it focused on the two most unexpected characters of Final Fantasy VII; the two characters who were added in as extras and don't even show up in the game's cutscenes. Maybe Dirge of Cerberus isn't as big of a shock today, but back then it was completely unheard of.

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