After a lengthy hiatus from gaming during high school and college, I picked up a Playstation in 1997 shortly after getting married and within a year or two was as hooked as I ever was. One of the games that really pulled me in was Final Fantasy VII, otherwise known as the best-selling RPG of all time. I bought the strategy guide to that game (and still have it) and logged close to 75 hours playing it. I almost beat it too, but the cheapo third-party memory card I had conked out on me and my save data disappeared.
Flash forward to 2006 and now, rather than being the procrastinating grad student staying up way too late playing the game, I got to be the guy writing the strategy guide to the game's sequel. Pretty cool, if you ask me.
Dirge of Cerberus: Final Fantasy VII is not at all like it's predecessor. Instead, it explores the story of one of the side-characters from the original, Vincent Valentine, in a third-person shooter format. In fact, you can hook up a keyboard and mouse to the Playstation 2 and play the game as a first-person shooter if you want. This isn't to say that the franchise's outstanding stories and cinemeatics aren't there, however, as they are entirely in tact. In fact, the story in Dirge of Cerberus: Final Fantasy VII may even outshine the original. Having played through much of the Japanese release and then the entirety of the North American build, I can safely assure you that the complaints that were bantered about the Internet earlier in the year have been resolved. The North American release is superior to the Japanese release in every conceivable way.
Fans of the Final Fantasy universe may not like the sudden shift to an action game, but they would be foolish to skip this latest installment as the game is actually quite fun. I'll concede that the game starts out a bit on the slow side as the lengthy cinematics and ease of gameplay can seem a bit pedestrian. That having been said, the game really starts to get in its groove after the first couple chapters and the latter two-thirds are quite enjoyable, both in terms of gameplay and story.
I'm giving away autographed copies of the guidebook to the first four or five people who send an email requesting one. The guidebook is roughly 200 pages and contains everything you need to know about the countless weapons configurations, enemies, hundreds of Memory Capsules and unlockables, and, of course, a foolproof walkthrough strategy designed to help you earn an S-rank in the game. Lastly, there's a fold-out poster that covers the entire Final Fantasy VII timeline, including the events of the cell-phone spinoffs and the movie Advent Children.
Send your guidebook request to me at: firstname.lastname@example.org