Review by Ido_Alpha_Omega
"Could Have Been Much Better"
Just the opening movie to DoC will give you an impression on where Square spent most of its time in this game. It seems that they labored intensively to get the special effects done right. And, for one, these are a bright point in the game. The explosions and fx look utterly fantastic - as do the character models when speaking and performing the choreographed maneuvers. While there aren't as many pixel-bending effects like in Kingdom Hearts II, enough lighting, shading, and spriting exist to give the game a very extensive set of fires, explosion, collisions, and other eye-candy.
The textures are 50/50; on one hand, they look great in many areas and you can glimpse quite a bit of detail from them. They also really help set the mood: from scifi laboratories to grimy sewers, they seem right in most places. However, they are fairly repetitive with both inside and outside areas generally sharing similar, if not the same, texture sets. The chain-link fences you see outside you'll also see inside. Another thing is that, although the locales from FFVII and Advent Children are generally represented very well, some of the texture for "new" places seem to be ripped entirely off of Ghost in the Shell and the CG Appleseed movie. What do I mean? Well, remember all those fancy tech circles? DoC has quite a few. It also has quite a bit of high-tech monitor screens where they shouldn't be. All these things make parts of the game feel "not like FFVII". There's also a lot of blue glow effect, both on the DG SOLDIERs and in the scenery. I don't remember any of that blue glow in FFVII, but it's apparently all over the place here. Truthfully, it might look "cool", but only certain areas of the game keep in line with FFVII's texture representations. Those that do are pretty good looking and DO reflect what was in FFVII; these levels are a joy to play as they bring up quite a bit of memories and actually make the game fun in certain respects.
The prerendered CG was sweet though, definitely worth watching.
Given the fact that game stories are straightforwardly transparent, the main plot of the game was easy to grasp. Now I'm going to try and not spoil anything, so I'll have to be pretty abstract. Basically, the story is pretty tight and expands on the FFVII mythos in an acceptable way, but I think it limits the explanations on what Sephiroth was trying to accomplish by constraining the "end effect" of the Lifestream gathering in one place to a specific phenomena. The story also focuses quite a bit on the relationship between Vincent, Lucretia, and Hojo and gives an explanation where Vincent got his "Chaos" Limit Break from. It's a little cheesy, but it does tie it into the end-goals of DG SOLDIER. What's hard to swallow is how they introduce some story elements from Ghost in the Shell in reference to certain characters still influencing the present state of events, but I guess you could call that off-canon seeing as how Nomura claimed that it would not be an "exact sequel" to Advent Children. Comparatively, the story is quite a bit longer and more in-depth than Advent Children, which will please some. Truly, there are a lot of discussional "doors" opened because of DoC even though some are closed.
I don't know what to say here... I really can't give Square the benefit of the doubt for action games seeing as how they made Kingdom Hearts I and II. DoC's control scheme doesn't live up to either. There are two modes of eliminating enemies: shooting and melee. The shooting tries to combine 3rd-person action with 1st-person/over-the-shoulder shooting. First off, it takes quite a bit of getting used to; when you tap R1, Vincent starts to aim and crosshairs pop up. What also happens, however, is that you start moving incredibly slowly. At this point, you can shoot bullets or a Materia-based shot to kill your enemies. The problem with this is that whenever you tap R1, Vincent will aim where the camera is pointing and not where he is looking; this caused quite a bit of frustration for me because the camera revolves much much slower than Vincent can turn/look. Many times I would be looking at something with Vincent, trying to shoot it, but when I pressed R1, it would be nowhere in sight. I know that consoles aren't the best medium for shooter games, but this could have been implemented much better. The aiming is also quite a bit slower than one would expect, but that could be a sensitivity issue; either way, the controls just don't feel "right" at first, when you're in gun mode; eventually, you do get a hang of things, but at a price.
The price I speak of is the combination of incredibly loose and hastily-planned controls. For example, when you roll, Vincent will stay crouched, which means he moves quite a bit slower, and if you try and press Square again while you're moving and crouched, he'll just roll again meaning that you have to come to a complete stop before you can press Square again or you can press X to do a swipe and stand up, but you'll be vulnerable for a split second or two. Which leads me to my next point: reversals and getting up. DoC provides no method to quickly get up after you've been knocked down by gunfire, a large enemy, or a rocket. This means that, while Vincent lies there unconscious, your enemies will be setting up another shot or getting closer - ready to swipe or blast you to the ground again; this led to many many frustrating moments where cheap hits wittled down my HP. Yes, you can try to roll as soon as you get up, but there are times when rolling away will put you in a worse position (see problem with rolling) or there just isn't room to get out of fire. Furthermore, you can't execute any aerial attacks (even with melee) nor can you jump up after being knocked to get out of the area. I really missed this feature in DoC, and, after playing Kingdom Hearts II, I can only wonder why it wasn't included in the game; even if Square wanted to keep the shooting method intact, they should have provided a reliable and worthwile melee combat system - this one feels clunky and is quite problematic.
The weapon system is pretty innovative but minimal. There are three handle attachments: revolver, machinegun, and rifle three barrel attachments: short, normal, and long and a bunch of stuff you can add to alter the stats of the gun. Each piece can be upgraded using Gil at the end of each level or at "Jukeboxes" (exactly like a store) littered throughout the levels. The concept is pretty good, but each gun that I've designed so far has pretty much functioned exactly like another; perhaps one was a bit faster, but I guess I put all my Gil into a handgun with a long barrel and a medium scope... it did pretty good damage near the end I guess. Each gun (you can hold three different ones) can also be attached with an accessory and a Materia/Charm that will change some of its stats (STR, SPD, WT, RNG) or give it the ability to shoot magic energy. Truly, I wish there was a way to wield a rocket launcher.
Even though there are gaping problems with the actual gameplay, there are just too many cutscenes. Granted, nobody would want to kill any of the story, but there are a bunch of useless ones which just show the Square team trying to make Vincent "cool" or showing how one enemy (who isn't a lot tougher than other enemies, just a "miniboss" I guess) leaps down from a small stone pillar. It's these little things that break up the gameplay and make the system have to load and load and load too much that take the fun out of playing... because, well, when the shooting system works - it's bearable, but when you have to sit through numerous cutscenes instead of getting to the fight... you start to miss the shooting, which isn't a good thing!
There are no tracks from FFVII that I can recall, and all the music tends to blend in together except for in the CG moments. It's not bad, in fact, I'd say that the music generally fits the mood, but I can't distinguish one song from another for the life of me.
Replay Value: C
There are three difficulty modes: easy, medium, and hard - which I guess will make me want to play it again to see if anything is different or if I can get different equipment. There are canisters lying about that Vincent can destroy... I haven't found all of them, so I don't know what they do, but the game saves every time you destroy one (saves on the fly, don't need to mess with a menu). Personally, I think they open up the Gackt character once all are destroyed, but that's not really an incentive for me. I can't see Cloud beeing a playable character as many of the enemies require a gun to kill... perhaps he could shoot magic at them, but that would still be tough. You get ranked from F to S based on your performance in each level (people saved, time take, etc), so I guess there will be some anal people out there trying to get S rankinkgs on every mission to see if anything is unlocked. There is, also, an online mode where you can kill stuff and other players; I'm guessing it's an MMORPG type deal, but you need the Hard Drive to play it, so there goes anybody with a Slimline PS2. Truthfully, I don't think many people are going to play it because you can play better shooters without a monthly fee.
This game could have been much better had Square decided to can the FPS/3PS format that they went with and looked more at Devil May Cry or Kingdom Hearts II. Personally, I wouldn't have minded a mostly slashing and kicking Vincent as long as the gameplay would have been more fluid and with less cheap shots. The good graphics and inclusion of several FFVII and AC locales recreated in 3d were a very welcome and nice touch, but they could only go so far in altering the overall feel of the game. I think that Nomura's desire to create a "new and different" gaming experience was too much of a push in this game's development to manufacture something that could work smoothly and effectively. A lot about this game feels awkward many times; there just isn't enough time to describe them all.
I love FFVII, and I love good games. I've tried to keep a subjective mind in this, but I can't help but feel my affection for FFVII and its locales/characters keeps me from giving this game a lower grade. Thus, if you're a fan of FFVII, you might want to rent/buy this game (for a cheaper price, of course), but, if you're not, then don't bother - there's really nothing new or exciting to someone who doesn't, to this day, play FFVII. So, I leave with a question, "Why Squaresoft, why didn't you look into your other games and see what made them good?"
Reviewer's Rating: 3.5 - Good
Originally Posted: 01/30/06
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