Ninja Theory hasn’t exactly had the smoothest development process for this latest installment in the Devil May Cry franchise. Upon the game’s reveal, the massive fan-base for this long running series cried foul when a younger Dante was introduced for the first time. Was Ninja Theory doing these fans a disservice by introducing a new version of this character? Not exactly. No one really knew which direction the franchise was heading at the time, they just didn’t like the way he looked. Outside of this younger character, there are much bigger changes afoot in the new game. Most importantly, there’s a different story to tell in the new Devil May Cry, one that sets the stage for the games that arrived years ago. A prequel to the Devil May Cry franchise that tells the stories of Dante and Virgil and how they became the demon hunters that fans have been hacking and slashing with for over a decade. While fans may have their concerns about this Ninja Theory reboot, it’s obvious that this is a game that was developed with the true Devil May Cry fans in mind. For the ones that can look past the character aesthetics, it’s the story you’ve been waiting to play all along.
While Hideki Kamiya has long left the franchise behind, DMC still feels rooted in its past. It takes some small steps forward in both the story telling and gameplay aspects, but toes the line in terms of the brutally challenging combat mechanics of previous games. DMC holds its own against other games in the franchise with one of the deepest move and combo lists in the series. A wide variety of enemies to learn, a roster of combinations and weapons to master, and a surprisingly fun puzzle element to it all, Devil May Cry is certainly not the disappointment that hype has many expecting it to be. It’s also not the holy grail of melee action fighters, here’s what we loved and hated about our time with the new Devil May Cry.
“Just Doing God’s Work” - When you look at Devil May Cry as a franchise, there have been some hits and some misses in the story telling department. As the franchise has continued on over the years, we’ve learned more and more about these characters Dante and Virgil. DMC tells the story of a younger version of Dante and his twin brother Virgil, and why they’ve teamed to take on the demon lord Mundus. The world of Devil May Cry is being secretly controlled by demonic forces, who are entangled in many facets of society. Banking, Entertainment, and Food Distribution networks plot to control the population through nefarious means, and the story takes you down a path of defeating each of these evil networks. The game has subtle hints at real life corporations, banks, and television networks that root the story in our modern day society. Along the way, we learn not only more about this evil network, but the alliance between the two nephalem brothers, their upbringing, why they are destined to hunt demons, and why they ultimately part ways.
Practice Makes Perfect - A more engaging story is a plus for the Devil May Cry franchise, but the real meat and potatoes of the game has come from its exceptional action melee combat component. The Devil May Cry franchise has never been a button masher, and DMC is no different. There are a lot of controls to learn in Devil May Cry, but they are broken down into three main components. Dante wields a demon weapon, an angel weapon, and a gun. As the story progresses you’ll earn multiple weapon types in each category, but the game will call on you to use any or all of them in a given scenario. The game helps you by color coding things, blue for angel, red for demon, and the controller is set so that you access Angel weapons from the left side and demon weapons from the right. Being able to recognize these colors will be important in knowing what weapons to use on a specific enemy. It takes some time just to get familiar how to use these specific weapons, but once you do, you’ll be hammering out the same lengthy and complicated combinations and juggle techniques as in previous DMC titles.
How can I get there? - There’s a great deal of exploring needed to find all the secrets there are to find in this game. Utilizing the angel and demon variants, you’ll have to open doors only accessible by these specific weapons. To find some of these hidden items the game will test your dexterity as well. You’ll need to use combinations of jumps, grapples, and glides to reach specific doors, then use a specific weapon to open them, given that you have it. In these hidden areas you find keys that open secret areas, contain extra health bars, and other items that can be used to assist you on your journey. The keys are the most valuable finds though, as they open secret worlds that feature challenges for Dante to accomplish. Completing these secret worlds will net you big prizes, and can be accessed via the main menu even while not playing the campaign.
Round 2 - Devil May Cry has a great deal of replay value, if just for some of things you’ll need to go back into the game to accomplish. Some doors won’t be accessible to you on your first play through as you won’t have found the necessary weapons to open them on your first go round. If you’re looking to see all there is to see, you’ll need to go back in for at least a second go. The good news is that the combat is good enough to warrant you going back in for at least a second playthrough, and numerous difficulty levels will challenge you continually. It is New Game Plus, so all the items that you earn in your previous efforts will come along for the ride.
Dante is misunderstood -After playing DMC and beating it on both the Demon Hunter and Son of Sparda levels, I’m starting to wonder what all the fuss was about with this character. Does he look different? Yes, he looks a lot different than in previous games, but so does his brother. However, the looks of these characters don’t really have a bearing on how they are portrayed. Dante is still the wise cracking ass kicker that he is in the previous DMC games. But the formative years of this character is something that these vocal fans should be excited to see, and in theory, should really enjoy this part of the story. Dante is fleshed out well, and relationship between him and his brother Virgil is explored better than in any game before it.
Please Explain - For a relatively linear game, Devil May Cry will have you scratching your head about what needs to be done for you to progress. Opening some doors requires that you utilize specific weapons to do so, but the game does very little by way of explaining these things to the player. Often times you are left to just using trial and error, or looking for a blue or red dot in a sea of color. And it’s not that Ninja Theory doesn’t use any guide points along the way. You can opt to turn tutorial features on or off when you begin the game, but they are inconsistent in their implementation.
The Ebbs and Flows - Devil May Cry’s combat system is deep and varied with a ton of combinations to learn, numerous weapons to master, and many different types of enemies to do battle with. But if its systems have a weak link overall, it’s in the parrying and blocking mechanics. If just for its unreliability, the parrying system in Devil May Cry is kind of frustrating. It doesn’t always work when you want it to, and when it doesn’t, it breaks up the flow of a good fight. Since Dante can’t block, utilizing this parrying system or using his guns are the only ways to really stop oncoming attacks. It would have been nice to see a transition to something more along the lines of Arkham City or Bayonetta, which both do combat flow very well by allowing the player to counter and change direction at will. Of course, this is a personal preference and not everyone will have the same feelings about these systems. It would have been a tough implementation for Ninja Theory however, since every button is utilized during the combat sequences of the game.
You call that a challenge? - Visually, the boss fights in Devil May Cry are awesome. They house some of the best visuals there are to see in this game. From your first fight with Succubus all the way to your last fight with Mundus, they each offer a different visual style. With boss fights having been traditionally a big part of these types of games, it’s unfortunate that DMC’s bosses offer very little challenge. The dexterity required for navigating chasms in Devil May Cry could be considered a greater challenge than some of these boss fights. They usually boil down to hitting a glowing orb with the appropriate weapon, with attacks easily avoided with nothing more than a simple dodge. Devil May Cry will test your prowess with a controller at many points of the game, but during its boss encounters is not one of them. Devil May Cry is also a hell of a lot easier in how it grades your performance. Achieving S ranks isn’t the thumb-breaking challenge that it once was, but ratcheting up the difficulty will definitely put hurdles in front of you if that’s what you so desire.
Pros and Cons aside, Devil May Cry isn’t for everyone. If you’re the type of game player that needs someone holding your hand throughout your entire experience, you’ll likely not get much enjoyment out of this game. On the other hand, if you’re the type that likes the rewards gotten only by dedication to learning the nuances of systems and complex strings of input commands, you’ll love this new DMC. It’s the closest thing we have to a “hardcore” beat ‘em up in a genre that has very few developers that get it right. While this Devil May Cry reboot could’ve been a colossal failure on many fronts, it wouldn’t have been because of the way that Dante combs his hair. It would have been because Ninja Theory deviated from what made Devil May Cry so beloved in the first place, and thankfully they didn’t.