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Dirge of Cerberus: Final Fantasy VII

In the parable of the blind men and the elephant, several blind men are placed in a room with said proverbial pachyderm. Each touches a different part of the elephant and delivers a different report. The one who touches the trunk claims that the elephant is like a snake; the one who touches the tusk, like a spear; the tail, like a broom, and so on. Each was correct, at least in part. But if you bundle a snake, a spear, and a rope together, you sure as hell don't get an elephant.

Which brings us to Final Fantasy VII: Dirge of Cerberus. Its Japanese development team went to great pains to familiarize themselves with first-person shooters, a genre that's practically unknown in Japan. And, to their credit, all the parts are there: a varied arsenal of weapons, an FPS-style control scheme, doors and keycards and exploding barrels. But no matter their intent, the team didn't make a first-person shooter, or even a third-person one. In Japan, their creation was termed a "gun action RPG," and it's quite unlike anything you've seen before.

Set three years after the events of Final Fantasy VII, Dirge of Cerberus stars one of the original FFVII's heroes: Vincent Valentine, ex-Shinra Turk, and undead ladykiller, as he moves to stop a recently discovered world-threatening menace. Vincent is helped in his quest by another FFVII character, Reeve. He began FFVII  working for the bad guys, but had a change of heart during the game, and now heads up recovery efforts under the aegis of his World Restoration Organization. In fact, every major Final Fantasy VII character shows up to lend a hand, and Vincent's journey will take him to some very familiar locales, now rendered in real-time 3D.

The main story, however, focuses on a new cast of characters. There's Shalua Rui, the one-eyed dominatrix scientist; Shelke, a diminutive girl who wields linked electric shortswords; and the members of Tswetts, a color-coded team of supervillains. Another new character is "played" by Gackt, an eccentric (and effeminate) Japanese rock star. Gackt contributed not only his likeness, but the game's theme song "Redemption" as well. Overall, the game's production values are extremely high, with the art and music you'd expect from Square Enix, and lavish cinematics that are every bit the equal of the Advent Children movie.

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