At last we’ve come to my feature article where I discuss the Devil May Cry series, one of my all time favorite video games series even today. This series of games is just so damn fun, and challenging to boot. While the narrative has never been the series’ strongest aspect, I was always interested in the story behind each game given all the interesting characters and enemies. It’s unfortunate that Capcom was never able to really let the story take off as they sort of seemed to just make things up as they went along, which was further evidenced by the fact the games are in a very strange order with regards to the chronology of each game’s story: DMC3, DMC, DMC4, and DMC2. What a mess, right?
Furthermore, after the fourth game was released, Capcom made the foolish decision to reboot the series, but not just in terms of its gameplay (which wasn’t really needed), but also its story. They had Ninja Theory develop DmC: Devil May Cry, which was basically an alternate universe game that started things from the beginning and changed the backstory of main character Dante and his brother Vergil. I saw no need for this, and therefore never bought that game. Don’t get me wrong, it still looked good and I was more than willing to rent the game and see how it played, I just never got around to it. I still may play it someday, but I refuse to buy it given that it’s not connected to the main series at all. As of now, the Devil May Cry series is yet another series of games I own that remains in a state of Limbo and has not received a proper ending (why must it always be my series of games that are never finished?). I shall go into more detail below, so get reading!
Devil May Cry (PS2)
The first game in the series is probably my absolute favorite and it changed my video gaming world with its non-stop and intense action. It was the first game of its kind when I first got into it back in my high school years, the highpoint of gaming with the PS2. It does damn near everything right: the controls, the action, the boss fights, the graphics, they’re all top notch. The story was a bit lacking, but it served its purpose, and like I said before, story has never really been the main focus of this series. Half-human, half-demon Dante is the son of Sparda, a legendary devil knight who stood against and defeated the demons that sought to destroy the human world. Dante, living up to his father’s legacy, is a Devil Hunter for hire and has his own demon hunting business that he runs in a small office known as “Devil May Cry”. Dante himself is a badass who is not only capable of kicking a huge amount of demon ass, but he does so with unmatched style and flair, while also making sure to piss off his enemies with his smartass trash talk.
The first Devil May Cry, in my humble opinion, had the most perfectly balanced level of challenge out of all the games in the series. It was not easy by any means, but unlike the other games that came afterwards, it was neither too difficult nor too easy. The controls were also very well done, with Dante reacting precisely and speedily to each button press and stick movement. Dante’s impressive abilities made him a joy to play; he’s capable of using his swords and gauntlets to crush his enemies up close, pelt them from a distance with firearms like his twin handguns, shotgun, and grenade gun, and combine them into deadly combos like knocking his enemies into the air with his sword and then keeping them aloft with a hail of gunfire before slamming them facedown into the dirt. His ability to use his Devil Trigger to transform into a demon and devastate his enemies with stronger elemental attacks only increases his “badass meter”.
The enemies and bosses were a blast to destroy, with even the weakest of enemies proving to be very deadly if you get careless. The variety of demonic enemies in this game was incomparable: blade wielding marionettes, wraiths wielding large scissors and scythes, cat demons composed of pure darkness that can shape-shift into all manner of blades and stabbing weapons, swift and deadly lizards, and large rock spiders barely make up half of the list of enemies Dante battles, not to mention the legendary bosses: the giant, armored lava-spider named Phantom, the giant hawk demon named Griffon, the formless, blob-like monstrosity aptly named Nightmare, the demon knight known as Nelo Angelo, and the Demon Emperor himself, Mundus. Basically, aside from its story, this is not only my favorite game in the DMC series, it’s one of my all-time favorite games. Devil May Cry gets a score of 95%.
Devil May Cry 2 (PS2)
Back when I first played this game, I was young and impressionable, not to mention blinded by “fanboyism”, and therefore I ended up loving this game. I eventually came to my senses some time later and realized Devil May Cry 2 was a thoroughly average game and simply couldn’t compare to its predecessor, nor its sequels. As straightforward as the story in the first game was, it still had its moments and had a narrative that at least made sense. This game’s story couldn’t be more straightforward nor less interesting. Even the background information in the game’s manual read like an excerpt from a high school student’s history textbook, and in the long run it didn’t really add anything substantial or even relevant to the game’s story whatsoever. Anyway, Dante goes to Dumary Island where he meets with a female half-human, half-demon named Lucia and joins her on a mission to kill some rich, modern day sorcerer who plans on destroying everything with his army of demons. Aside from some identity crisis that Lucia struggles through, there’s basically no depth to the narrative whatsoever. The fact Dante was unusually stoic and displayed a lot less of his usual smartass attitude made him generally less engaging as a character as well.
As simple as the narrative was, the gameplay was almost just as simple. Criticisms on the first game’s rather high difficulty and the environments being quite cramped seemed to drive the developers to make the enemies in this game outrageously easy, as well as the environments unnecessarily large. Certain specific bosses actually do offer decent challenges, but for the most part the enemies have very simple attacks that can be easily avoided and countered, especially compared to the enemies in the first game that actually required strategies to defeat and punished gamers who button mashed. Playing as both Dante and Lucia in their own campaigns gave this game some variety since they both controlled differently, with Dante being stronger but slower and Lucia being faster but weaker. However, the fact they play through a lot of the same levels and that each character only has a couple of enemies unique to their missions makes the game feel rather repetitive.
Weapon selection was decent, at least for the firearms, with both characters using shotguns, throwing daggers, missile launchers, bombs, and the like. However, the less diverse melee weapons for both characters were underwhelming, with Dante wielding three different swords and Lucia wielding three sets of dual-blades; they all control the same and have the exact same combos, with the only differences being how much damage they deal and how far they reach. Pretty much the only things this game excelled at were Dante’s improved design and the soundtrack, though both of those factors were good in the previous game as well. However, I must add that the Devil Trigger function in this game was my favorite out of all the others since you could jump in and out of it multiple times before the meter runs out, which is much harder to accomplish in the other games without upgrading it through multiple playthroughs. Suffice it to say, this game is not outright bad, but it is the definition of average, leaving it far below the standards set by the other games in this series. Devil May Cry 2 gets a score of 60%.
Devil May Cry 3: Dante’s Awakening (PS2)
This could have been my absolute favorite game in the series had it not been for its ball-busting level of difficulty. Seriously, the enemies and especially bosses in this game made me miserable, and I got so red hot with rage that I could have provided an entire household with enough heat to survive a very cold winter. The final boss battle was especially frustrating, so much so that I was barely able to hold back tears of pure, unbridled rage after I fell to his blade somewhere around twenty times. Finally defeating that bastard was satisfying beyond belief. My first playthrough of this game was sort of a video gaming rite of passage, an excruciating experience that left me stronger and tougher when I finally conquered it. The fact the normal difficulty of the game in the U.S. was the equivalent of the game’s hard difficulty in Japan made my completion of the game that much more satisfying.
Despite DMC3’s punishing difficulty, I still enjoyed it. The story is the series’ best. Taking place before the first DMC, Dante is just starting out with his demon hunting business and is apparently still hopped up on “teen hormones” since the jokes and trash-talk he spews out never really stop until the end when he finally grows and matures as a character. His brother Vergil, a fan-favorite of the series, was an interesting character who was Dante’s opposite with his cold demeanor and more calm personality. Vergil was basically the Sesshomaru to Dante’s Inuyasha (anime fans will certainly get that reference). The narrative was also engaging and had a couple of actual twists in there, so that was a plus. The gameplay, as you would expect, was intense and in your face. When fighting enemies, even the weakest of them, you had to be at the top of your game, otherwise you’d be dead. Then, right when you feel you’ve got a handle on the enemies, a boss is thrown at you that will make you realize you’re still a punk-ass little peon.
Thankfully, the many different weapons you get to slay enemies with are vastly improved. Aside from Dante’s signature sword, you get to use ice nun-chucks, twin swords imbued with fire and wind, gauntlets and greaves that release searing light-based attacks, and an electric guitar that actually releases blasts of electricity and even doubles as a scythe. You’ve also got the usual handguns, shotguns, and missile launchers as ranged weapons, but the melee weapons in this game were out of this world, and each one was more useful against certain enemies. Different combat techniques known as Styles further expanded on Dante’s repertoire of demon ass kicking moves: Trickster made Dante more effective at dodging and avoiding enemy attacks, Swordmaster let him use stronger attacks with his melee weapons, Gunslinger improved his ability with firearms, and Royal Guard let him deflect and counter-attack enemy attacks.
Two other styles, or powers, that he gains later that let him momentarily slow down time or summon a shadowy doppelganger were interesting additions, but not game changers either. The Devil Trigger ability also returned, but seemed strangely underpowered for some reason in this game. As far as the weapons and Styles go, the main thing that kind of held them back was the fact you could only carry two sets of melee and firearm weapons at a time, and you could also only use one Style at any given time. These could be switched out between missions or through upgrade statues, but the lack of immediate access to all weapons and abilities was a slight disappointment. Regardless, this was definitely one of the better DMC games. It’s not quite my favorite due to the somewhat frustrating difficulty, but it’s still a very close second and just barely loses to the first game, but that’s just me. Devil May Cry 3: Dante’s Awakening gets a score of 93%.
Devil May Cry 4 (PS3)
The last game in the DMC series was quite good, yet slightly disappointing in certain respects. First off, the story was solid and had improved cinematic qualities to it like DMC3. However, it seemed unfinished from a narrative standpoint. Taking place after DMC1 and before DMC2 (like I said earlier, what a mess), this game has us play as both Dante and newcomer Nero, and the latter has an unusually strong resemblance to the former. He possesses some sort of demonic power that is obviously somehow connected to Dante’s twin brother Vergil, but the nature of that connection is never fully explored. All we’re told is that Nero is somehow part of the Sparda bloodline, but then the game ends and leaves us with no explanation as to how Nero can possibly be part of Dante’s family, though it’s clear Dante himself and other characters do know the answer. As of yet, Capcom has yet to provide us with a sequel to explain this unfinished story element, and I’m starting to fear that sequel will never come.
The gameplay for DMC4 fares better at least. It actually plays just like DMC3, but with some improvements added in. Dante has the same set of moves as he did before and has a wide selection of weapons. His melee weapons include his sword, metal gauntlets and grieves capable of releasing strong shockwave attacks, and a strange weapon that lets him launch red energy blades. His firearms again include his handguns, a shotgun, and what could possibly be the craziest weapon in the series, the Pandora: This thing can change into a gatling gun, a bow gun, a missile launcher, a laser cannon, a giant shuriken, and even a floating platform that can launch multiple missiles simultaneously. Dante’s Styles list also returns with Trickster, Swordmaster, Gunslinger, and Royal Guard all making comebacks, as well as the Dark Slayer Style Dante later gains when he gets his hands on his brother’s sword. Best of all, you can switch between all of Dante’s weapons and Styles on the fly without having to pick and choose from just a few of them at a time between missions and through upgrade statues. His Devil Trigger also proves more useful than it did before.
Nero is the character you play as through the majority of the game, and fortunately he feels different enough from Dante without feeling underpowered. His only weapons are a revolver and a special sword with a fuel-injection system that can be revved in order to increase attack damage. His Devil Trigger is decent, though nothing out of this world. However, his demonic right arm, which can extend a ghostly, luminescent version of itself to crush enemies, is pretty fun to use in conjunction with Nero’s other abilities. He can use it to grab onto distant grapple points, pull in smaller enemies or pull himself closer to larger enemies, and use it to smash and crush even boss enemies when they’re stunned. Like in most of the other games, the enemies are challenging, but overall more balanced. Except that one boss battle where Nero has to fight Dante halfway through the game. I thought the final boss battle against Vergil in DMC3 was difficult, but it figures Dante would prove to be a much bigger asshole to fight against.
One last thing about the game that I felt was a flaw was its repetitive structure. Nero fights his way through certain environments and enemies during the first half of the game, then Dante has to battle basically the same enemies through the exact same environments in reverse order. I feel they could have expanded the game with at least a few more unique bosses, but it is what it is. As it stands, this game was fun and challenging, but its somewhat disappointing and frustratingly ambiguous story along with its repetitive structure keep it from being as exceptional as the first and third games. Devil May Cry 4 gets a score of 85%.
That is the end of my discussion of the Devil May Cry series. Rumors have come and gone for the past few years mentioning how Capcom might be working on a fifth game in the series that would hopefully answer all the questions left over from DMC4, but of course we have yet to see or hear any confirmation on these rumors. I have a number of video game series that had been canceled or discontinued due to many infuriating reasons involving video game politics: lack of demand for sequels, developers insisting on rebooting series instead of letting them end on their own volition, developers and publishers losing rites to series and therefore having them end up in “video gaming Limbo”, etc.
I truly hope that Capcom eventually comes to their senses and makes a conscious effort to actually give the original DMC series a proper closing so it doesn’t fade away into obscurity like so many other series of mine, but my hopes continue to dwindle with each passing year. Like many others, I was really hoping that their recent release of the special edition of DMC4 on the newer generation of systems would lead to them deciding to release a DMC5, and I suppose that could still happen, but I guess I’m too jaded to actually believe it will. Before my melancholy spreads and starts to affect my readers, I will close this out and invite you all to come back next week for Part 22 of “D.G.M.’s Gaming Life Before Gaming Respawn” as I begin discussing a similar action-packed series of games you might recognize known as God of War. Check out these articles below in the meantime:
Remember Just Cause 3? If you stopped yourself from getting that game when it was released back in December, then perhaps Alec’s long overdue yet detailed review will convince you to give it a go. Check out the review here, just make sure not to read it right before bedtime or you likely won’t make it all the way through.
Kane shares his experience with the first episode of Telltale’s latest game with an unnecessarily long title, The Walking Dead: Michonne- Episode 1: In Too Deep, so take a look at the review here.
Kane also shares his list of games to look out for in the month of March here.