Long-time gamer, aspiring writer, and frequent bearer of an afro. As an eternal optimist, I like to both look on the bright side of things and see the better parts of games; as a result, I love a game with a good story and awesome characters...and anything that lets me punch the heresy out of my enemies.
I'm a big fan of Atlus' games, and I've enjoyed my fair share of fighters and RPGs. Just...please, keep Final Fantasy XIII out of my sight. It never ends well for anyone involved.
You can check out some of my game musinga/stories/random stuff at my other blog, Cross-Up. I've also got a TV Tropes thingamajig, and I'm trying to get some freelance work going. Among other things. Like a web serial novel. And getting books published. If ever there was a time for the world to learn the joys of ghost-punching, this is it.
I haven't really commented on DmC much -- at least not in a public manner -- and Iím kind of glad Iíve stayed out of it. It seems like there are counterpoints for any possible argument. Tensions flare. One misused word invites a fury so scalding that youíd be better off taking a power nap on Venus. And truth be told, I donít like conflict. I donít want to argue with people and try to convince them that theyíre wrong, or that what they like is unthinkably awful. All I can do is make my own opinion, give evidence, and make observations. And from there, people are free to come to their own conclusions. No muss, no fuss.
With that in mind, thereís DmC. Recent talk about New Dante (or ďDonteĒ as heís sometimes called) has made me realize two things. One: we gamers have known about the change for months, but discussions are almost as heated as that fateful reveal -- and Iím guessing theyíre not going to cool off anytime soon. And two: I think Iím ready to give my own thoughts on the subject -- of New Dante, and DmC itself. So with that all said, Iíll go ahead and make a claimÖjust donít hate me for it.
I -- oh wait, hold on. Wheat lands, swathe me with your divine protection! Barrier! Sorry, just had to take proper precautions.
I don't like New Dante. It's unfair and biased, I know, but there's just something about him that irritates me. I havenít liked him since I saw the reveal; I remember thinking to myself ďPlease donít say Dante, please donít say Dante, please donít say DanteĒ when the baddies asked him his name. I'd be lying if I said it wasn't because of his looks; he doesn't look completely awful, but I can't look at New Dante without thinking "No, this is wrong." The black hair I can forgive, butÖwell, Iíll get to that.
Iíve heard that New Dante looks a lot like No More Heroesí Travis Touchdown. Put side-by-side, Travis and New Dante look a bit alike, and both characters (and Old Dante, in retrospect) are, for lack of a better word, jackasses. But I prefer Travis over New Dante for a reason that goes beyond looks: Travis kind of sucks. Travis is a loser, an over-the-top otaku whose journey revolved around getting laid for an uncomfortably long amount of time. He has fancy skills and technology, but thatís offset by him getting duped and flung around and blown up. He barely has any friends. Heís crass and delusional. He was (and in some ways is) supposed to be a cool character, but thereís an overwhelming sense of lameness to him.
And yet, all those things come together to make him eerily compelling. Heís a loser, but heís our loser. Even if his skill set is absurd and he has access to machinery thatís straight out of Robotech, itís exciting to see what heíll do next, and whatíll happen to him. Travis is what Old Dante would be like if heíd broken several thousand mirrors while walking through the Black Cats and Ladders Store; just think back to some of the antics and animations from his games. He gets blown off his feet and onto his back like Daffy Duck. His lightsaber runs out of batteries, forcing him to recharge mid-battle (with a very unfortunate animation). And whereas Old Dante took most things in stride and with a smile, Travis rightfully freaks out about the absurd happenings of his world -- in spite of being absurd himself.
The No More Heroes games are a feedback loop of absurdity. Travis does crazy things. Crazy things happen to other characters. Crazy characters do crazy things. Crazy things happen to Travis. Itís all a part of the gameís style, its essence -- its spirit, so to speak. It was a spirit that mirrored, and is reminiscent of, the Devil May Cry franchise. Old Dante may not be as absurd as Travis (funny, considering heís a half-demon who surfs on missiles and breaks into Shakespearian dialogues with stuttering bug demons), but there are some strong parallels. Both are wild. Both are over-the-top. Both are distinctly Japanese. Both are red-clad sword masters. Both have weird, cheesy lines. And gamers have come to love them for it.
As for New Dante? Well, the most gamers can do right now is speculate based on whatís been offered. Thereís no telling what the final product will offer us, and itís that very reason that should keep anyone from calling DmC a failure before it even hits shelves (the operative phrase being ďshouldĒ). That said, thereís more than enough reason to be a littleÖwell, letís call it ďapprehensive.Ē Theyíre reasons that go well beyond just white hair.
Speaking from my own observations, I feel like New Dante is a bit too stiff. Not all the time, of course; thereís a wildness and lack of technique in his attacks that I kind of like, at least from an aesthetic view. But remember, information isnít just conveyed through words and speech; a huge part of communication comes from body language, and motions, and positioning of parts. Run a Google search of New Dante, and youíll see the same few images (barring fan art/mocking) -- his police mugshot, smoking, standing around, or doing that weird air dash thing where he pushes off the air/wall or something. Compare that to a search for Old Dante, and youíll see him in more dynamic poses -- guns poised, sword slung behind the shoulder, shrugging, or striking a pose with a rose in his mouth. Granted thatís a consequence of the latter having more art/screenshots floating around than the former, but I think the point still stands. Old Dante was flexible. He could do anything so long as it looked cool -- or fit in with his definition of cool, or just offered him a chance at some fun. But no matter what pose he struck, he exuded power and confidence, as well as a sense of humor. New Dante? Based on what Iíve seen, Iím just not feeling those same qualities. Nor do I feel them when heís in motion, combat aside. Again, the most Iíve seen is him running about from place to place, and there could be PLENTY of style in the cutscenes to come (like using a motorcycle like nunchucks). But for now, itís hard to be impressed.
The bigger issue I have, though, is with New Danteís face -- that is, how often Iím forced to look at it. The gameís not even out yet, and already I feel like I know it down to each blemish and pixel. Meanwhile, I can hardly picture Old Danteís face -- yet I feel like thatís a good thing. Old or New, Danteís face isnít going to be the one doing crazy stunts; itíll be in the hands of his demon-blooded body, and the slew of weapons he puts to use. Thinking back to DMC3, finishing a level featured art of Dante that depended on the style equipped; that art put not his face on the forefront, but the key part of his style. His sword, his guns, and if I remember correctly his hands -- all things I remember more than his face, in spite of having a wall scroll of Old Dante I see every time I open my closet door. In fact, most art Iíve seen almost de-emphasizes Old Dante in exchange for his weapon/actions/pose -- all things that emphasize his charisma and flexibility. New Dante doesnít fare quite as well. I can picture him wearing a cocky smirk or a cold glare, or a mix of the two, but thatís about it. Cutscenes draw attention to his face, zooming in on that when his time could be better spent karate-chopping a Ferris wheel or something. To the gameís credit, there are plenty of shots of his back (for some reason) and the complaints I leverage could likely have applied to the other DMC games as wellÖbut right now, my best impression of Dante is that he loves doing the Dreamworks face.
But the biggest problem I have with New Dante is a simple one: his voice. No, not his voice actor -- as much as body language says, his words speak volumes about the writing Ninja Theory is famous (or infamous) for. I remember when New Dante was first revealed, and how I waited for one specific bit of information over the course of several months: what does New Dante say? If we could hear Danteís irreverence and bravado, it would reassure all of us. Itíd prove that the franchise was in good hands. What Iíve heard so far is so boring itís almost -- no, it IS hard to watch. They donít feel like the lines Old Dante would say, or lines that feel unique to New Dante; any number of video game heroes (or jackasses) could likely say them, and likely have. Travis Touchdown had an endearing crassness about him; New Dante doesnít have that. He doesnít have anything so far that makes him stand out besides the controversies of the reboot. And even in battle he suffers; whereas Old Dante threw in lots of whoops and hollers and silly one-liners, New Dante sounds like heís struggling just to swing his sword. The spirit is gone. Itís gone from DmCís world, and New Dante -- the lynchpin of the productís spirit -- isnít doing anything to put it back.
Iím probably biased. Iím probably looking for reasons to hate this guy (the fact that I admitted to having a hanging picture of a half-naked teenage demon slayer in my closet should be a red flag). But am I really being so unfair? All I can do is analyze what Iím given, make comparisons, and rationalize my opinions. And based on what Iíve been given, the news is not good. YetÖIím not quite ready to take hold of my Tempest Halberd and wage war against Capcom and Ninja Theory just yet. You know me; Iím the Eternal Optimist. I always try and see the bright side of things -- and I can see why people want to believe in DmC.
This should be a no-brainer; the game isnít out yet, so itís impossible to judge everything about it. Maybe New Dante has some of that old spark left in him, or something worthwhile to replace it. Maybe he does something utterly amazing that blows the other games out of the water. Or maybe, in spite of the disdain-begging social commentary itís espousing, DmC is competent enough to pull it all off. At the very least, the world New Dante and pals inhabit has more than enough potential. Even if the character himself makes me cringe, Iíll gladly admit that the levels look pretty fantastic -- if not from a graphics perspective, then solely from the amount of work and ambition that brought those areas to life. Surely if theyíre willing to put that much muscle into the world, theyíre more than capable of making the story and gameplay and characters just as stro-
Oh. Oh. Ohhhhhhhhhhhhhhhh.
All right, real talk time. DmC isnít out yet, but thereís been enough evidence to make some pretty good guesses about what the full game will entail -- especially because each time something new pops up, it means weíre seeing something closer and closer to the final product. Iím thankful that the developers didnít just go into a media blackout until release, and the irrational hate dished out against the game, the character, and the companies is enough to merit a thousand facepalms. ButÖwell, Iím worried. Capcom and Ninja Theory are running out of time; if they were going to prove to us that New Dante and this kinda-sorta reboot are worthwhile, they should have done that immediately. Kudos to them for leaving a lasting impact with the reveal, but have they done anything praiseworthy since then? Have they put out anything thatís put fears to rest? Have they shown anything that inspired applause and hushed whispers? I may be optimistic, but Iím pretty sharp-witted; if the most they can get out of me is grave concern, and if there are debates raging to this day about the gameís quality, somethingís gone wrong. You would think that since one of the companies involved is responsible for this generationís biggest fighting games (a genre HEAVILY dependent on the feedback of players of all skill levels) theyíd not only know how to make a better impression, but offer something thatíd put fans at ease.
DmC is, in my eyes, more of a reinterpretation than a reboot. Itís like taking a strawberry and dipping it in chocolate, or taking some fruit and putting it in a banana split -- the components are there, but theyíre repurposed to create a new and tastier product. But Ninja Theory and Capcom have to be very, very careful; Devil May Cry was never in need of a reboot or reinterpretation. Its style set it apart, and Iíd argue itís still notable even amidst the naysayers. So if the two companies are going to set out replacing the old elements with the new (if only temporarily), they need to offer something as good as, or better than Devil May Cry. The formula wasnít broken. Old Dante and Nero could only go up from DMC4, as could their canon. If thatís really going to be put on hold, then DmC had damn well better fill the gap with an ice cream sundae the size of Alabama. And you know what the lynchpin will be? Do you know whoíll put everyoneís fears and doubts to rest? Of course you do.
Donít let me down, Dante. Prove that you're worthy of the name.