There's a ton of news out of last weekend's Square Enix Party 2005, lots of it concerning the large litter of Final Fantasy spin-offs due over the next few quarters. And while there was a time when the merest hint of a forthcoming Final Fantasy title would set off a firestorm of slavering anticipation, with myself at the head of the drooling fanboy vanguard, I think this time I'm actually a little bit nervous.
You see, normally I don't put much stock in hands-on previews; they're informative, certainly, and much better than relying on screenshots. But since they normally involve a developer hovering over your shoulder and visibly trembling if the frame rate in his prealpha build slows down, I think reviewers can sometimes be a bit too forgiving. Which is why, upon reading 1up.com's hands-on preview of Dirge of Cerberus: Final Fantasy VII, I stopped dead in my tracks: They didn't like the game. This was bad, bad news; you must understand that for a game journalist even to look askance at a prebuild title, never mind a Final Fantasy title, never mind a Final Fantasy VII-derived title, it has not only to stink, but also to give off visible smell rays.
OK, I'm overreacting. A lot of the problems 1up had with Dirge of Cerberus were early build issues, and if you read the article, you'll see that they retain a sort of cautious optimism that things will work themselves out in the end. But is it fair to say that maybe Square Enix needs to keep a tighter leash on their treasured Final Fantasy properties? If Dirge of Cerberus tanks, it certainly won't cheapen anyone's memories of the original FFVII, but it will temper their excitement for future spin-off efforts, especially the unapologetically crappy ones. Final Fantasy overexposure needs to end, before the franchise's name can become even more deeply ironic. I don't think I'm alone in longing for a time when Cloud was making awesome cameos in Kingdom Hearts instead of shilling digital cameras.