[It’s time for another Monthly Musing — the monthly community blog theme that provides readers with a chance to get their articles and discussions printed on the frontpage. — CTZ]
Bosses and sub-bosses are one of the few constants in videogames. Very few games lack some form of a boss and only a select few boss-less games are good. Notable bosses or foes in videogames that get most of the praise seem to consistently be to the foes of the big hulking variety; whether it be Colossi, world ending aliens, or big nuclear robots.
Yet there always seems to be one ‘type’ of boss that seems to be overlooked; the boss who isn’t really a boss, but rather a reflection of the hero — your equal — your peer — your reflection — you. I speak of characters such as Zero from the Mega Man X series, a reploid who is equal to X in almost every way and whom you have an epic clash with in Mega Man X2 (if you fail to retrieve all of his parts, of course) with an epic musical score playing in the background. Ocarina of Time fans may remember the confrontation with Dark Link in the Water Temple as well. Final Fantasy 7’s villain Sephiroth is consistently represented as a fallen SOLDIER who has very little difference from the likes of Zack and Cloud, and Kingdom Hearts 2 even goes as far as describing Sephiroth as darkness if Cloud is light.
They can do everything you can do and there is nothing you can do about it. There’s a certain allure to these types of foes because they provide a different kind of challenge than any other enemy or boss can possibly deliver; whether it be through gameplay, storyline, or both. For me, the most noteworthy character to ever fit this profile was a secondary villain of the original Devil May Cry and main antagonist of the prequel Devil May Cry 3. The person I speak of is the other son of Sparda, Vergil.
Anyone who’s even heard of the Devil May Cry franchise knows one thing: Dante is a cocky badass who’s a master swordsman and has superhuman abilities along with the power to transform into a demon. Vergil is Dante’s twin, they look almost identical, have the same body types, and he inherited all of the same powers that Dante inherited. His main differences, however, are that he takes things far more seriously and through the course of the games Vergil hates Dante and therefore hates you too. No other character in the Devil May Cry universe has a more direct connection to Dante, perhaps more so than even Sparda himself, and thus this makes Vergil the perfect foe.
My first time through Devil May Cry 3: Dante’s Awakening was quite an adventure, doubled by the fact that my first play through of the game was on the original edition of the game and not the substantially easier DMC3: Special Edition. Despite this, I was still confident, perhaps too confident, that I could slash my way through this title like I did with the first two installments of the series (yes … I played Devil May Cry 2 … I’m sorry). The game provided the challenge I expected and I did get tested a little when I fought Cerberus and the Agni & Rudra duo. But my overcoming of these foes seemed to only fuel my Dante-esk confidence as I went through the early portions of the prequel.
Then I encountered Vergil.
After being perched atop Temi-Ni-Gru awaiting my arrival, my first encounter with Vergil was about as brutal a defeat as Dante’s cinematic defeat after the fight. Ebony & Ivory were pretty much useless against Vergil’s lighting fast Yamato and my offensives were usually met with a swift counter. Needless to say, Vergil caught me with my proverbial pants down and it took me a couple of retries in order to defeat my demonic brother (only to watch myself lose, again, in the following cutscene).
However the sudden jump in difficulty caught me off guard yet made me thirst for more, because despite the sudden challenge the entire fight was fair. There were no gimmicky boss tricks or anything that was outright cheap because Vergil was exactly what he should have been, a copy of myself. Vergil had limits similar to my own and knew how to push those limits just like I could with Dante. It was a competitive challenge, a test on how to use my own wits against me essentially. Above all else, I thirsted for more because I needed to redeem myself due to the quiet humbling Vergil gave me.
As you would expect, Devil May Cry 3 delivers with this thirst for payback. One of the great things about DMC 3 is the fact that the game doesn’t throw the same four bosses at you multiple times like the original game. Instead, it’s populated with a series of mission bosses that you only encounter once (excluding the obligatory All Bosses Return Level that is seemingly required in every Capcom game) and the only repeating boss is Vergil himself. The second, and my favorite, encounter with Vergil definitely cranked up things in comparison to our first battle. I came into this encounter with a few more tricks up my sleeve; I had upgraded some of my weapons; leveled up a couple of my styles, and now had the Devil Trigger ability at my disposal. I wouldn’t let Vergil catch me off guard this time.
To my expected displeasure, Vergil was ahead of the game as well specifically by unveiling the Beowulf gauntlets (which were a slightly better version of Ifrit from the original) and tapping a little further into his Dark Slayer abilities. Oh, and remember that whole Devil Trigger thing I said I had now? Yeah, that became a null factor because Vergil’s demon form awoke just as mine I had. I quickly learned that making an offensive mistake while Vergil is in his Devil Trigger results in a good chunk of your health vanishing (not to mention attacking Vergil while in D.T. mode in general is a mistake).
My strikes were quick and with purpose during this encounter while last second rolls kept me just out of harms way. Like my first encounter with him, the fight was quite the challenge and with our mutually gained abilities Vergil threw a whole new batch of awesome at me. The only way I could counter this was by being, well, more awesome. Cinematically, the second fight between Dante and Vergil ends in a draw for storyline reasons, but in my mind I struck back.
A shift in storyline took my focus away from Vergil for a bit, only to remind me of the respect I had for the fair but challenging enemy when he came to my aid later in the game (which results in a totally fucking awesome cutscene by the way). But Vergil’s reappearance very quickly established one thing that I was eager to get to — The final showdown against Vergil (which Vergil and Dante respectfully refer to as ‘the main event’). My friend (who lurks here as Trev) gave me one bit of advice when he knew I was approaching the third Vergil battle for the first time. His advice was very simple, stock up on as many vital stars as you possibly can. I asked him if Vergil really gets that much tougher the third time around and Trev simply laughed and said “Yeah. He really does”. I went into the third fight fairly well prepared; a few large vital stars, couple devil stars, I had Trickster style maxed, I had all of Rebellion’s moves learned, and I had Beowulf on stand by just in case.
The moment the third fight began I unleashed a flurry of gunfire from Ebony and Ivory at Vergil, and seemingly both of us in unison teleported at each other and began what was a clash of epic proportions. My maxed out trickster style gave me the ability to teleport above Vergil at will and this allowed me to counter out some of his own teleports via his Dark Slayer style. The result was that there was so much teleporting and counter teleporting that even a DragonBall Z fan would have probably been awed by the sight. Despite lacking Beowulf, Vergil still had new tricks up his sleeve for me since he now had the Force Edge sword in his possession. This allowed him to string together some extremely wicked dual sword combos as well as using my own helm breaker maneuver against me. Getting caught in one of his dual sword combos resulted in damage unlike anything Vergil dished out in previous fights, and similar combos while he was in Devil Trigger mode meant that a vital star needed to be used immediately.
The fight was intense and long, by Devil May Cry boss standards, and as his health dwindled away Vergil finally decided to go all out on me by going into what I always called his berserker mode. Essentially he would become momentarily invincible and be constantly teleporting above you trying to start one of his most brutal combos, otherwise he’d teleport and remain unseen as he unleashed a flurry of judgment cut attacks that are still very hard to dodge. I was running out of vital stars and Vergil’s health was dwindling, and then I saw a brief opening and in an aggressive moment of desperation I drove at Vergil with a powerful stinger attack. Then in that split second, all of my hard work against Vergil was rewarded as total silence came upon our arena and Vergil’s last word echoed out, “Dante”.
I love the Devil May Cry games. They are in my opinion the top of the mountain in regards to action games. I also like to think I’m pretty damn good at those games as well when you include that I don’t exploit glitches in the games. So my first encounters with Vergil were both humbling and at the same time welcomed. Vergil quickly turned into my favorite boss in any of the games simply because he was my equal, and for that I salute the darker blue coat wearing Son of Sparda.
And as any Devil May Cry fan knows, the fate of Vergil brought a few epic battles for Dante in the future…