I’m pretty familiar with Devil May Cry.
I played the first right when it came out. From what I understand, it hasn’t aged so well.
When it came out, it was revolutionary. God of War and 2004’s Ninja Gaiden wouldn’t have been things without it.
It was kind of a big deal for three reasons.
1. Style Points
There are some games, like Kingdom Hearts or Street Fighter II on easy mode, where all you have to do is use one trick over and over to win, neglecting all other options.
Devil May Cry doesn’t work that way. If you use Stinger over and over, you won’t get many style points. If you don’t get enough style points by the end of a mission you won’t get a good ranking. If you don’t have a good ranking, you won’t get enough Red Orbs to buy upgrades and useful items.
What’s brilliant about this is that the player is forced to use all of Dante’s skills to dispatch enemies and gain points so that you can dispatch tougher enemies with an even greater variety of moves.
Not only does this system teach the player the utility of each move, the system of tracking the player’s methods is referred to as Style, which tells us so much about Dante and the world of Devil May Cry – a world where the quality of kills is more important than the quantity of kills.
Style Points are brilliant because its serves to strengthen both the game’s substance, and its… uh, style.
2. Dante Has Unlimited Ammo
This is especially interesting considering Devil May Cry was originally supposed to be an entry in the Resident Evil series, which emphasized conserving ammo.
In ditching a running counter of Dante’s ammunition, the game emphasizes that, at its core, it’s not about survival, but about fucking dominating.
But the underlying message is even more important. Devil May Cry shows that, even with graphics getting more realistic all the time (at least in 2001), gameplay mechanics shouldn’t be founded in realism if it doesn’t make them fun.
That philosophy still carries through even the most mature of Capcom games. Why else is everything in Resident Evil surrounded by a glowing pillar of light?
3. It’s dumb as hell
All sorts of people, casuals and journalists alike, consider gameplay and story to be like two different things. But they both make up the one thing, like a layer cake. They may have been mixed in separate separate bowls, but right now they’re both on the disc in my Playstation.
That may or may not have anything to do with Devil May Cry’s story. Most people understand it. Some people don’t. They call it stupid. As though the whole game isn’t stupid. As though they haven’t spent twelve hours suspending bodies in the air with speeding bullets.
Devil May Cry – the story of a guy descended from a demon and a human/angel who gets paid (maybe???) to hunt demons – is something of an anachronism. In 2001, there were games that were trying to reach the next step in storytelling. Final Fantasy X. Metal Gear Solid 2. Silent Hill 2.
Devil May Cry heads straight in the opposite direction. There’s no big twist. There’s no social commentary. Its demon-slaying story is so basic, reminiscent of a NES game. When anything involves emotion, they’re obvious and melodramatic. It’s all plain to see. Its style IS its substance.
What’s funny about the new DmC is that it gets to have its cake, and then have a whole other cake. It’s incredibly faithful to the series while feeling fresh in a couple of ways, too.
Dante still has fucking stupid one-liners and acts like a douche bag, like he always did, but in a way that a real person with demon powers would be a cocky douche bag. He also gets to talk about himself and, amazingly, empathize with Kat, another wayward misfit with an affinity for the occult. It also helps that the voice acting is excellent.
What DmC uses really effectively is the series’ setting – basically in that it has none. They always take place in some vaguely European city that seems to also have a castle or some shit.
Throw in Limbo – the alternate dimension that perverts reality and bends, explodes, and collapses around Dante – and you have a lot of really fucking neat visual ideas. Some games would be satisfied to make Limbo look like the real world, throw on a filter, and call it a day. Ninja Theory packs big ideas and a lot of detail into even the briefest sequences.
Having played a lot of Hideki Kamiya’s oeuvre – Devil May Cry, Viewtiful Joe, Okami, Bayonetta – if you pretended Kamiya directed DmC as well, it would make perfect sense. It feels like a logical progression of all the ideas that he’s interested in. It’s fast, it’s fluid, and it’s often QUITE beautiful.
And yet, it’s made in the UK, and it features songs by an Atlanta band called Combichrist. Faithful and fresh.