Why Devil May Cry?
All things considered, Devil May Cry is probably my favorite action franchise ever. The series is particularly close to my heart, as I remember when each game came out, and it's one of the only franchises where I rushed to buy every single game day one.
I vividly remember the first time I played the original game, the first time I played the standard version of Devil May Cry 3 and struggled on the first boss (because normal mode was secretly hard mode in the original), and the many times I watched the same clip of Devil May Cry 4's first gameplay video.
The DMC series does action right, simply put. It's the perfect technical action series, that essentially functions as a fighting game in an action-adventure's body. There's cancelling, split-second timing considerations, a heavy emphasis on combos, and a strong sense of urgency with the game's challenging difficulty levels.
It has memorable boss fights, amazingly cool weapons, sick cheesy '90s action cutscenes, tons of unlockables, and solid anime-style voice acting.
People are quick to note that the new DmC is more welcoming to newer players. I heavily agree with that, but the secret is, Devil May Cry was always welcoming.
In fact, it was one of the only action games ever to put in an "Easy Automatic" mode that allowed you to turn it down a notch if you died too many times. It was a perfect compromise, as it allowed you to execute advanced moves with the press of a button. It's a shame so many people have been turned away by a promise of an "impossible" barrier of entry.
I figured with the recent release of DmC: Devil May Cry, it would be a great time to dive into the series again, and see how the new game stacks up directly. For those of you who aren't aware, the series is widely popular, spawning a few novels, manga, an anime series, a US comic series, and a potential feature film.
Dante himself as appeared in many other games, including the Viewtiful Joe series, Shin Megami Tensei: Nocturne, Marvel Vs. Capcom 3 (with Vergil), and PlayStation All-Stars Battle Royale.
If you haven't joined me on my Quests before, the way they work is pretty simple. It's kind of like a retrospective, but rather than just give you an overview of a franchise, I'll generally let you know what I thought of the game when it was released, and what I think of it now.
If I didn't provide a complete vision of what the game is like before I replay it, I'll provide an "extended thoughts" section below each applicable entry. I'll update my progress in real time through my blog, and after I finish the entire Quest, I'll share it with you guys on the front page.
For this particular Quest, I actually finished everything in rapid succession over the course of a few days, so I skipped the c-blog portion and got right into it.
Devil May Cry - PlayStation 2 [Owned], PlayStation 3 (HD Collection), Xbox 360 (HD Collection) [Owned]
At the time, the first Devil May Cry game was extremely fresh and unique. The simple premise of a cocky Devil Hunter engaging in demon hunting was a match made in anime heaven, and it worked. Although the game has started out as Resident Evil 4, it was eventually turned into something else entirely after the fixed camera from previous Resident Evil games was dropped for a more dynamic view.
After the development team traveled across Europe in an attempt to inject some gothic influence into the game, the project was changed entirely: the outcome was Devil May Cry.
I vividly remember seeing the first screenshots for the game, and getting extremely excited at nearly every picture. I loved the deep reds and purple color schemes of Dante and the Marionette enemies, and the ability to juggle enemies with your twin pistols was pretty unreal. Funnily enough, the concept of air juggling was inspired by a glitch in another Capcom game, Onimusha.
Devil May Cry was unique in that it was one of the only games ever to feature a "style" (scoring) system that made you self aware of your gameplay, and always challenged you to play better. But that wasn't the only challenge of mixing attacks up and not getting hit -- it was difficult in general to boot!
Starting the series tradition of unlockable difficulties and costumes, Devil May Cry was also one of the first games to offer an "extreme" difficulty mode, in this case, titled "Dante Must Die."
It was very challenging, and naturally, very rewarding to complete -- and unlike many retro games that featured a "fake difficulty" (through bad design or software limitations), this challenge was legitimate, which made it all the more reason to power through it.
So how was my replay of the game? Well, the PS2 original is pretty choppy by today's standards, but the HD version feels just fine. While a lot of the elements found in the first game have been eclipsed (either copied, or bested by later games in its own series), it's still an enjoyable action game even to this day.
Devil May Cry 2 - PlayStation 2 [Owned], PlayStation 3 (HD Collection), Xbox 360 (HD Collection) [Owned]
A common joke I like to make in Devil May Cry posts is "Yes, of course, Devil May Cry 4, the oddly named third Devil May Cry game" -- in reference to the fact that the black sheep of the franchise, 2, is generally shunned by fans into a non-existent state.
While I've beaten the other games at least ten times each (DMC 3 a lot more than that), I've only beaten DMC 2 a scant few times. So imagine my excitement going into it, seeing if it was truly as bad as I remembered.
And...it basically is. So many changes were made that weren't really necessary. For one, a side character named Lucia is introduced, and...she's not very compelling. Unlike Kat from the new DmC though, she isn't just an ancillary addition -- oh no -- she's basically forced into every facet of the game as a playable character.
On top of that, Dante changes into a less interesting, darker version of his previous happy-go-lucky self, and it isn't really fun to watch. The difficulty (a staple of the series) was also lowered, and weapons weren't as nuanced. Everything seemed to sort of blend together -- whether it was the very samey weapon collection or the similar-looking levels (there's far too much open space and not enough memorable environments).
The point is, it didn't stand out, which is generally what the Devil May Cry series makes its money on. Boss battles are extremely dull and forgettable.
If you're going to brave this, try it on the HD collection. Don't bother hunting it down and paying money for it individually. Besides, the first and third games are worth the price of entry alone for the package.
Devil May Cry 3: Dante's Awakening - PlayStation 2 [Owned], PlayStation 2 (Special Edition) [Owned], PC, PlayStation 3 (HD Collection), Xbox 360 (HD Collection) [Owned]
Devil May Cry 3 is an interesting and storied release. The very first iteration (the standard edition) featured the Hard difficulty as a standard. Meaning, Hard was actually Very Hard. As a result, I remember dying a number of times on the first sub-boss of the game (which is like five minutes in). That's a challenge, my friends, and one of the many reasons why I was immediately enamored by this game.
Some time later, a "Special Edition" was released, with new encounters, tweaked difficulty levels (it shifted every mode down one peg to understandably make it more accessible), and added the ability to play as Vergil. Yep, one of the biggest badasses in all of gaming was finally playable, and it was glorious. In fact, a playable Vergil is so appealing that Capcom opted to include a playable Vergil campaign as DLC in the new DmC.
But enough about Vergil; the game itself, even the non-special edition, is my favorite action game ever. The crux is due to two things: swappable weapons, and styles. While the new DmC has the ability to switch weapons mid-combat, it isn't instantaneous -- Devil May Cry 3's system was. Two weapons each were assigned to slots on the left and right, which would be switched using L2 and R2, respectively. As a result, you could utilize combos with *four* weapons in them at once. The kicker? All of the weapons were fine tuned, and fun to use.
Styles were another thing entirely that allowed you to play the game the way you wanted to play it. If you preferred a more defensive play-style, Royal Guard was your huckleberry. It allowed you to use split second timing and guard attacks in a traditional manner, in addition to the standard dodge mechanic.
There are suitable styles for melee weapons and ranged as well, but my absolute favorite is the Trickster style, which improves your speed, maneuverability, and jumping abilities. All of these styles level up, RPG style, and can be brought across difficulty levels, allowing you to replay the game as many times as you want to max everything out. It was a ton of fun, and there were a few nights where I'd beat the game twice in a row -- it was that enjoyable.
Of course, it also contained some of the best boss fights in all of gaming. Which brings us to the final battle -- Dante's epic showdown with Vergil. I mean, what can I say about this fight that hasn't been said a million times over? It truly is worthy of the term "epic." On higher difficulty levels, it's one of the most intense, and mesmerizing fights in all of action games (it might even be my number-one choice).
If you haven't experienced Devil May Cry 3 yet, you need to. If I had to summarize the third game into one word, it would be "gunchucks."
Devil May Cry 4 - PlayStation 3, PC, iOS [Owned], Xbox 360 [Owned]
The fourth Devil May Cry game had one of the best core action engines of all time -- but you wouldn't know it, because the actual campaign had a heap of problems. Backtracking, pacing issues, and an all around lack of a compelling narrative hurt this game.
The chief complaint for me was backtracking, so much in that it basically expected you to beat the same game twice (and even fight many of the same exact bosses) with two different characters.
Like Devil May Cry 2, DMC 4 featured two characters. This time around I actually liked the newcomer (Nero), and enjoyed his different play-style, but the fact remains that the campaign itself is very uninteresting at points. It's a shame, because it's one of the best-looking games on the PS3/360.
Despite those issues though, Devil May Cry 4 shines brightest when you're playing as Dante, and switching between all four styles at will in the game's Bloody Palace mode. It's combat bliss, despite its fleeting nature.
Don't let anyone tell you Devil May Cry 4 is a bad game. It's not. It also sold very well, which makes the decision to go with a completely new studio all the more puzzling for fans.
DmC: Devil May Cry - PlayStation 3, PC, Xbox 360 [Owned]
So we've come full circle now. We're past the fully Capcom developed titles and we're onto Ninja Theory.
As everyone knows, I'm not the biggest NT fan. Back when they were known as Just Add Monsters, they made a game called Kung Fu Chaos, which was basically an uninspired (and very racially charged) Smash Bros. clone for the Xbox.
Surprisingly, I found out four years later that they developed Heavenly Sword for the PS3, and went to check it out. While it had the machinations of a cool-looking game, I thought it was a pretty basic and uninspired God of War tech demo.
But still, Ninja Theory trucked on, and released Enslaved: Odyssey to the West, which was probably their most successful game to date from a critical standpoint. Even then, I still wasn't impressed.
Although Enslaved contains some of the best imagery I've ever seen in a videogame, the combat system was probably one of the worst I've ever experienced, and platforming basically consisted of "hold forward, press a button occasionally."
So naturally, I was a little skeptical of DmC: Devil May Cry. But even as Ninja Theory had hundreds of insults thrown their way, I remained steadfast, and always said I would give it a shot, because at the end of the day, I'll give anything a chance. I'm glad I did. As Jim stated in his review, the game has many redeeming qualities.
Although it isn't as innovative as the first game was for the time, and isn't up to snuff combat-wise like 3 and 4 were, I enjoyed DmC for what it was. The platforming was actually pretty good (and probably the best in the entire series), and the premise transcended a '90s action movie to the point where it would be (somewhat) universally appealing.
Despite the fact that I really didn't like the new characters for the most part, including Dante (no, not because of his hair -- I just felt like he was almost painfully generic), the world was something I could get into. Plus the combat wasn't bad at all, and is Ninja Theory's best effort to date in terms of straight gameplay mechanics.
In terms of difficulty, DmC was a bit of a letdown (like 2), and you really need to play it on the game's Son of Sparda mode (Very Hard) to get a true Devil May Cry experience -- you just have to beat the game once to unlock it.
While I wouldn't recommend the game to absolutely everyone, I would recommend it to most action fans. You might not be as wowed by it as some people, but you'll most likely enjoy it more than the average action-adventure.
Devil May Cry is a pretty weird series. It starts off with a bang, regresses, peaks, regresses a bit again, and reinvents itself over five short games. Honestly, not a lot of series have that storied a history with this kind of reputation.
Although the collection of games is far from what I'd call a "troubled" past (every game but the second has universal acclaim from fans of the genre), it is an interesting one, and one I enjoyed reliving on this Quest.
Devil May Cry 3's brilliance was no surprise discovery here, but rediscovering why Devil May Cry 4 was such a shame was a bit jarring, and disappointing. I was expecting the first game to not hold up well, but if you play the HD collection, it's just fine. DmC impressed me more than I thought it would, but there's a lot of issues that hold it back from greatness -- kind of like Devil May Cry 4.
As for recommendations, I'd probably tell newcomers to give the HD Collection a try and test out easy automatic if Normal is too troubling, and the new game, with a price cut.
So now we're in an odd spot. Capcom has a franchise that upped its presentation, but regressed a bit gameplay-wise. It's a give and take for fans, and something not all fans were willing to give.
The good news is, Capcom hasn't closed the door on an internally developed Devil May Cry 5. I mean, these two sub-franchises can coexist, right?
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