Over the last year or so I have been making a point to go back and play older video games I missed over the years. I’d love to say this was spurred by my deep love of gaming, but if I’m honest, it was to save money. I love gaming, but rent and groceries need to take priority. As a result of all this though, other than saving a few bucks, is that my appreciation for the art form and what it can do has only increased. This journey inspired me to dive deeper into games and try and put my feelings into words so that I can share my experience with everyone. This has already resulted in me ranking the various Final Fantasy games I’ve played earlier this year and now I’m back to look at another franchise, Capcom’s Devil May Cry.
The Devil May Cry series, or DMC for short, are games under the rather nebulous sub-genre of action games most commonly known as “character action games”. For simplicity’s sake (and because we’ll be here all day if I go into the deeper “character action” debate) , all you need to know about this style of action game is that they are hack ‘n slash/beat ’em up games with robust combat mechanics and the focus is not only beating your foes and progressing through the game, but doing it in the most stylish and flashy way possible as the game grades your performance. DMC is not only a staple of this type of game, but it is held as the originator of this sub-genre.
I managed to get into this series at the right time. I was always interested in DMC but had never played any of the games because my twitch gameplay reflexes suck and the series is known for being hard. Don’t misunderstand, I enjoy a challenge, but as a general rule I’m not a person who generally enjoys games that grind you into the dirt to even hope to beat them and DMC sounded exactly like that. Recently while perusing the cheaper games available at one of my local big-box retailers I spotted that the Devil May Cry HD Collection had been re-released onto the PS4 for thirty bucks and I decided to finally bite the bullet and take a crack at DMC. Halfway through enjoying DMC1 this year’s E3 rolled around DMC5 was announced which was a fantastic surprise getting me excited and giving me the perfect excuse to play and talk about this series. Doing my research I now know there were signs that this would happen, but I was unaware at the time and thankfully so as the “sudden” reveal made me so happy. Ideally this article would have gone up right after E3, but I only have so many hours to devote to games and I refuse to drop the difficulty down to easy just to get through a game faster. I have now played the most current iteration of every game in the series (Capcom being known for re-releasing games with various additions and tweaks).
Before I get cracking here I should mention that the work of two YouTubers work have been instrumental in helping me work through my own thoughts on Devil May Cry. The first being a guy I had followed for years, The Gaming Brit, whose passion for DMC always kept it in the back of my mind and I may not have ever played this series if not for him and the second a creator I was unfamiliar with before playing these games, Foxcade. If you have some free time I suggest checking out their videos.
Introduction done. Let’s Rock!
5. Devil May Cry 2
Oh, DMC2, the one nobody likes. As much flack as DmC: DMC (yes, people do call it that) gets across the internet from fans, it is in fact NOT the worst DMC game. That honor remains firmly with Devil May Cry 2, a game that reaches impressive levels of mediocrity. I can’t even get mad at this boring, banal snooze-fest of a game because that would require a level of emotional investment that is beyond it to inspire, which is why many folks outright ignore its existence.
DMC 2 feels as if someone gave the developers a quick two minute pitch what Devil May Cry was about without letting anyone play the original to see how and why it worked and then plunged them into a non-stop crunch time work schedule to pump out a game. In fact, this was fan-favorite director of the franchise, Hideaki Itsuno’s introduction into the series as he was brought in in the last few months to try and salvage the breakneck production. Thank the game gods that they then let him go and make good Devil May Cry games. I went through the campaigns for both Dante and Lucia, I could have also went through the game again to unlock Trish from DMC1, but that would require playing more DMC2 and I’m not prepared to do that to myself.
Capcom lucked out because so many people bought DMC2 based on word of mouth about the first game and some cool looking promotional material not knowing they had just unloaded their cash for something sub-par. DMC2 isn’t a bad game per se, it is a functional but severely bland action game, but as a Devil May Cry game it totally craps the bed. As it is part of the Devil May Cry HD Collection it is easy enough to play DMC2 (along with two way better games!) and that is the only way I can endorse purchasing and playing it. The story, the characters, the combat, none of it comes close to hitting where it needs to. The characters have all the personality of a bowl of day-old plain oatmeal and the combat all the spice of tap water. I do encourage players not to just pass this game up however, aside from the fact that it is the last game in the DMC timeline so far making it the direct lead into DMC5, to play a sequel that so totally misses the tone and point of original on this level is fascinating. Note I said fascinating, not fun. I’m not joking when I say that failure at this level and what led up to it is worthy of serious academic study.
4. DmC: Devil May Cry: Definitive Edition
DMC4 had sold well, but not at the level Capcom expected and rather than look at the actual deficiencies in their game (which we will cover when we get there) Capcom got it into their heads that the problem was this series was too niche and foreign for a western audience. With Itsuno wanting to take a break from DMC to focus on other projects Capcom turned to UK developer Ninja Theory. Capcom pushed Ninja Theory to take the game in bold new directions, none of which were well received by fans. It got really toxic and bad on on both Ninja Theory’s and the fans’ side and soon was so vile I would have been half-tempted to have cancelled the game if I’d have been in Capcom’s shoes. For whatever reason, Capcom decided to push forward with the game in spite of the backlash, which only made fans angrier. This was a recipe for failure from the start.
The one story point I found the hardest to get past is that in this version Dante and Vergil are part angel, entirely missing a major point of the series. They try and get there with Dante’s plot convenient romance with Cat, but it never rings true like in the old games. The rest of the story changes vary in quality, but none of them are better than what was already in the other games only adding to the sense that this game was unnecessary and counterproductive.
The Definitive Edition is the only way to go here, they dived into the the guts of this game to try and fix all of this game’s gameplay problems. Definitive Edition gets the game up to 60fps, adds a lock-on feature, and re-balances the game to be more in line with the other games in the series with the style ranking. If you want to play the original version go ahead, but I’ll stick to the edition that plays more like the series this game is supposed to be part of.
I want to make this clear, despite this games many faults, this is NOT a bad game. It is a little try-hard and is needlessly over edgy, but the game in and of itself is pretty decent. The problem is that this is supposed to be Devil May Cry and it simply isn’t. It doesn’t catch the same vibe in terms of story, characterization, or gameplay that the original games were known for, which is all anybody really wanted. Capcom and Ninja Theory massively misread the room who turned on them with frothing anger which only made the devs react with combative dismissals of all of the fandom’s concerns legit or otherwise. As this game is now no longer the last thing in the DMC franchise and the new game is going back to the original universe I see no point in remaining angry about this game. This is the least important and easiest to skip game in the entire series, so scrape together a few pennies to play DmC: DMC, or don’t. It really doesn’t matter.
3. Devil May Cry 4: Special Edition
This was the series introduction to Nero (the guy we see for most of the DMC5 trailer). As this was the first DMC of the seventh generation of consoles as well as the first game to also be on Xbox, Capcom knew this would be many people’s first time with DMC so they looked to add a new character to help ease players into their established franchise, hence Nero. They also added the “automatic” function that allowed for complex combos to be performed with minimal button input, but my gamer pride wouldn’t let me use it.
Putting Dante as an antagonist/rival to Nero for a portion of the game was an inspired choice as is Nero’s personal connection to Dante, which while not directly stated in this game is obvious to those who’ve played DMC3 and has been confirmed by Capcom through other media. I like Nero fine as a character and understand his inclusion, his smash and grab playstyle via the Devil Bringer along with his own particular brand of wit fit well within the franchise without just making him an outright Dante stand-in/clone, but I, like most fans, prefer Dante.
Nero is fun and all, but once you can play as Dante the game kicks off the training wheels and lets the player go hog-wild. Being able to switch between Dante’s styles on the fly feels amazing and allows so much experimentation in dispatching enemies, although I did gravitate towards my old standbys from DMC3, Trickster and Swordmaster. The problem is just when the player gets a handle on playing Dante they are forced back to Nero for the finale. As much as I like Nero, having to go back to him after Dante, sucks. Having the freedom of Dante taken away for the more restrictive Nero makes the game feel like it is downshifting things when it should be ramping up. This isn’t DMC4’s only problem however.
Where DMC4 truly falls on its face is the backtracking. Backtracking has always been a part of Devil May Cry, but DMC4 has the player progress through the game to then turn around and go directly back the way they came, to the point where they have to fight all the bosses again in almost identical encounters, just this time in reverse order. It makes the game feel unfinished, and that’s because it is. The story goes that Capcom pushed Itsuno and his team to get the game out before they had done all they wanted to in terms of levels and playable characters. DMC4: SE adds in the extra playable characters (Lady Trish, and the way OP Vergil), but they have no character specific levels and just run around in the same ones as used in the main story. The saving grace here is that the game , crackles with personality, provides sufficient challenge, and has outstanding combat.
Buying a physical copy of DMC4: SE is pretty pricey as it is an import game, luckily it is available digitally across multiple platforms for a very reasonable price. A person so inclined could save a few bucks and get a physical copy of the original for the PS3/Xbox 360 but you’re going to want to pick up the Special Edition for the extra modes and characters, and slightly crisper graphics.
2. Devil May Cry
The O.G. Devil May Cry is way better than it has any right to be. This game was initially supposed to be part of the Resident Evil franchise, but the focus on over the top combat and running towards the monsters to kick their asses instead of away from them led Capcom and series creator, Hideki Kamiya to take the game and make it into its own thing.
DMC gets flack for its simple and rather cheesy and paint by numbers story, but few stop and realize just how well DMC tells it during the course of the game. Each mission and cutscene drips out just enough information to move things along and when things come back around or are revealed the attentive player will know exactly what’s going on. It is a level of economy in storytelling that is truly impressive and I think it is deserving of way more credit then what it gets.
The Resident Evil influence is apparent in the level design, giving it a satisfying metroidvania style of exploration and backtracking which the series would grow and expand on. I’m a sucker for metroidvania style games so this helped push my love for this game and series even more.
The combat is not nearly as deep as the later games, but there is still a satisfying crunch to it all and I never stopped enjoying handing out beat downs. The difficulty can be a little stiff at points, but never beyond what any dedicated player could handle. There are only three bosses, save the final in the game and they are all encountered multiple times throughout the game, but I feel this works well as the player wants to see what new tricks they have in store each time they appear and to use the new tools they’ve acquired to send these big bad demons packing yet again. The Nelo Angelo confrontations are especially satisfying, even more so when the big reveal happens. In truth, DMC1 only has one major knock against it, all the swimming sections are absolute junk. Seeing as that is only a minor part in an otherwise great game I see no reason for people who have not played this to get to it as soon as possible and without a doubt this is where you want to start when getting into this series. Seriously though, the swimming sections are ass.
1. Devil May Cry 3: Special Edition
Like Lex Luger, DMC3 is the total package. Devil May Cry 3 is seen as up in the top tiers of the character action sub-genre as everything from the level design, music, story, themes, humor, combat, weapon options, enemies, and bosses come together in a near perfect mix for this kind of game.
This game is lucky it is so good, because it is also hands down the hardest game in a series known for its challenge. DMC3 gives you the first two missions to get a handle on base combat mechanics and then happily starts slapping you around come the third. In response from western fans that DMC2 was too easy, Capcom upped the base difficulty for the US release to be the same as the original Japanese hard mode. Fans loved the game, but many lamented that they could not beat it due to the punishing difficulty. Enter the Special Edition which re-balances the game back in line with the Japanese version (which does NOT mean the game became easy), adds optional Jester fights, the ability to play the game as Vergil (although I think instead playing as Lady might have been more interesting), and a few other bells and whistles.
This game kicked my ass repeatedly, but always in a way that made me want to get back on the horse and try again. Beating DMC3 on normal took time, but when I did it was one of the most satisfying accomplishments in my gaming life.
The story serves as a prequel to the rest of the series and revolves around the sibling rivalry between Dante and his brother Vergil. Vergil seeks power above all else (perhaps due to his inability to stop the murder of their mother as a child), is almost always all business, and seeks to unleash hell on earth to claim their father’s legacy without regard as to who or that he hurts in the process. He serves a good contrast for the bombastic, over the top, and humanistic personality of Dante and it is through Dante’s encounters with Vergil that he finds a deeper sense of responsibility and purpose. It is a classic trope and entirely predictable, but it so well executed that I did not care.
The setting of the tower was also a bit of genius as it allows for some of the most meaningful and interesting backtracking in the series. Players will encounter multiple areas multiple times in different ways and with different objectives as they advance in the game. It keeps things fresh and provides a keen sense of progression few other games have ever captured.
I also have to praise the humor in this game. Dante may be a total badass, but he is also incredibly impulsive and a total goof and the game does an excellent job of showing both sides of the demon hunter at the same time. The other games have had this as well, but never with such beautiful self-mocking aplomb. The scene with the whale alone had me rolling with laughter. It works to add character depth and keeps the player from ever taking things too seriously. Seeing what silly yet awesome thing Dante will do next is half the fun.
This is the game that introduced the style mechanic that I mentioned when talking about DMC4. Each style changes up some of the command inputs so you can play Dante in different ways. Unlike the quick change style function of DMC4, players can only swap styles and their alternate weapons at the checkpoint statues which mean players have to be more strategic in what load-outs they pick during a mission. I focused on Trickster for the added acrobatics and evasion and Swordmaster which allowed me to chain longer combos for increased damage and higher ranks. I did use the Quicksilver style attained later n the game a few times, but other than helping with some boss battles I didn’t find it that useful.
DMC3: SE is worth the price of the Devil May Cry HD Collection all on its own as it is one of the standout gaming achievements in the sixth generation and whose effects can be felt across gaming to this day. If you only ever play one Devil May Cry, make sure it’s DMC3.
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