Devil May Cry is a character action game by Capcom released on the PS2 in 2001 and later remastered in 2012 for the PS3 and Xbox 360. It revolves around the devil hunter Dante's investigation on the resurrection of the demon king Mundus on Mallet Isle.
The story of DMC1 is my jam, in spite of how poorly told it is. It's macho and ludicrous in that special Japanese way common to Capcom games. Dante talking down giant demons with crappy (and sadly poorly mixed) one-liners is the best. The scene where you get Alastor sets the tone for the series perfectly. Dante gets impaled by the blade, rises through it, uses its lightning to break a stained glass window just so he can slash the glass in slow-motion.
As far as rules of storytelling go, DMC1 mostly does its job. It introduces plot points and pays them off later in satisfying ways. Hell, Dante can even examine the enviroment for some nice flavour text.
Where it falters is towards the ending. Most of the game is pretty light on proper cutscenes, but once the plot swings into full motion, it does some silly jumps in logic. Dante takes betrayal absurdly well, I tell ya.
And beyond the rushed ending plot-structure, the actual writing takes a majestic nosedive. The narm has been good for the most part, but once there's talk of the sky being fair since it's above everyone's head when the island is exploding, I can only question what the hell the writer is on about.
Still, the game has its soul in the right place, so I still find the plot enjoyable. The voicecrack line especially. That's true true emutiohn, David Cage, right there.
I think it's fair to say that DMC1 invented character action games. Kamiya and Mikami be blessed. All the pieces are there, albeit in rougher form.
To have an action game where winning isn't the end goal is awesome. It's all about how good you can make winning look, hence the style meter. You dance around enemies, taunt them, juggle them and then you kill them.
The game has a decent set of options for fighting. Dante starts with a sword capable of some simple timing-based combos, a launcher (that can be extended so Dante follows the enemy up) and a vertical chop. It can soon be replaced with another sword that let's you purchase some upgrades in order to round out the moveset. It's here where my beloved Stinger dash-attack comes from. It's always a joy when I find something similar to it in other games.
The sword is a very foundational tool, but it's thankfully not the only one. You also get a kick-ass pair of fire gauntlets to play with. They're slower, stronger and let you charge just about every attack for some extra punch. The two weapons make a good pair, having separate uses, even if it's impossible to switch between them quickly.
Dodging is achieved by either jumping or rolling when locked on. It's a pretty fun evasion system, but once you have to do some platforming, it doesn't work that well. For the main part of the game, it's acceptable, but a few of the secrets are very annoying to jump to. The hidden orb locations you can jump to especially.
Your next asset in demon-slaying are your guns. Their purpose is to act as a supplement to your combos or deal ranged damage. I believe that the air-juggling you can do with the handguns were inspired by a bug in Onimusha. I don't like the handguns in this game though, since they're so weak and can't really be used to prolong combos very well.
The shotgun is nice, but it really loses out to the grenade launcher. This thing is slow (something that can be can be fixed a bit with some roll-cancelling), but deals absurd damage. Using it to stun enemies as setup for a charged fist is very fun, but feels unbalanced.
The last gun is the Nightmare Beta, which is the only gun with limited ammo. It runs on magic and let's you charge up homing lasers that can shred certain foes with impunity. But since you need to charge it standing still, it kinda holds the pace back.
A better use of magic is the Devil Trigger, a super mode that is a staple of the genre. What DMC1 does with it is pretty good. It increases damage, as expected, but it also gives you extra defence, poise, health regen and some extra moves.
Transforming feels really ”weighty” because of this, compared to later installments where it's mostly used for damage or a few extra moves. I think I feel like that in part because these powers can be used to make up for the game's shortcomings.
Flying around blasting annoying ghosts with lightning or nuking jittery monstrosities with hellfire is sweet revenge after they've tested your patience. The ghosts pass through walls, block and your aerial options are limited to two attacks and your guns outside of DT.
The poise and defence is useful when you're up against something in an area where the camera struggles to assist you. I'm very resistant to camera issues and it is somewhat possible to compensate for them with skill, but the game still leaves much to be desired. I wonder if the items you can use in combat and the lock-on system exist to compensate for some of the jankier parts.
Taken as a whole, the combat system is very fun. The skill ceiling is lower than in later games, so I can actually manage all the mechanics. But there are some problems, as previously stated. The camera is probably the biggest issue, but I also dislike how many weak puppets enemies there are to fight.
The style meter is very strict and when the enemies die so fast, it's quite hard to get a decent combo going. Hard mode thankfully introduces harder enemies earlier to replace them, but there should have been some more types of standard enemies, like the Blades. I also think the taunt is too powerful, as you can spam it on the same enemy in order to get a full magic meter very easily.
There's also about 6 minutes of swimming per playthrough, which is quite strange as a change of pace. It's inoffensive and easy, so I can't complain too much. Might be the best miniame I've seen in a character action title, since it doesn't force you to get insanely good at another genre for the sake of ranking.
The rank system is pretty vague actually, making it more difficult than needed to understand why you didn't earn an S-rank. It, along with a whole slew of other things got refined in later titles.
The game began as a prototype for RE4, but soon proved itself much more of an action title than desired, so it became it's own thing. Dante in this game isn't terribly far off from Leon in RE4 design- and character-wise. Something tells me that parts of the ”Hookman” demo of RE4 ended up in DMC1.
It has been said that DMC1 is a survival horror game where the player is the monster. I can't help but agree. In spite of how horrific the game's content actually is, you don't have any reason to be afraid (save for maybe Shadows). It's interesting to compare the castles of Fortuna, Salazar and Mallet with eachother to try and find similarities. I just love how Capcom manage to create these three distinct games out of the development process for RE4. It's a game that keeps on giving!
Hell, Code Veronica, RE4 and DMC1 basically have the same ending to boot. Maybe Capcom is too good at recycling.
Perhaps due to its horror lineage, DMC1 has outstanding atmosphear. It's thick with dread and death whenever you're outside of combat, left to wander the corridors of Mallet castle. I really would like to see the proper horror game version of the game where this kind of music would be the norm. Its gothic nature is to be admired.
Fun fact: The save music from RE4 can be heard in this song at 1:24.
And even when the action hits, the soundtrack is still awesome. My favorite has to be Nelo Angelo's theme. It's so...ahhh, just give it a listen!
Another staple of the genre born here is the way secrets are handled. Spread about the castle are loads of items to help you. The health-boosting blue orbs are the most sought after and I find the game to be evil when it comes to hiding them.
Many are found by just smashing stuff, but a good deal of them must first be spawned via inane methods. Stuff like jumping in arbitrary places, standing still in arbitrary places or looking around corners the camera want to hide from you. It's pretty unfair and the game doesn't even keep track of which orbs you've gotten.
The secret missions are even worse, requiring backtracking after arbitrary points of progression and incessant wall-humping to even start. Actually completing them isn't that bad, save for two early missions. One asks you to kill a Sin Scissor with a critical hit. This is never explained and quite hard to do. I appreciate that they use the secret missions to try and teach you hidden mechanics like enemy stepping and crits, but it's still a bit much to ask. Not to mention the assholish mission where you get one chance to kill 3 shadows in the same room.