Monday, October 21, 2013

Devil May Cry

Devil May Cry is an action-adventure, hack and slash game developed and published by Capcom with director Hideki Kamiya, who wrote the game alongside Noboru Sugimura. The game was introduced in the Summer of 2001 in Japan and came over here in October, quickly becoming a a fan-favorite. We saw two sequels, one prequel, and a reboot. During development Devil May Cry was originally going to be the fourth installment of the Resident Evil franchise, but it was felt that the game new cool and stylized action themes strayed too far from the franchise's roots, and it was decided to make it its own independent game. If only we all had those convictions.

The game opens up to a text scroll featuring a demon known as the Legendary Dark Knight Sparda, shaded in black with red eyes and a fire backdrop while swinging his swords around in different poses. Yeah, he's so badass he knows he doesn't have to say a word. Along with the text scroll is also narration explaining how the human world is at war with the underworld, and that one of their own awoke to justice to put a stop to them and seal the underworld away. I don't know what's up with the sound on this, but the background music is so loud that you can hardly hear the narration, and that carries over to the next scene as you have to turn the volume up just to hear them, or set it to mono under options if you're having that problem.

We're introduced to our main protagonist, Dante, who is just relaxing at his shop Devil May Cry when a mysterious blond woman named Trish bursts in on a motorcycle and starts asking him some questions. Once he answers she takes it upon herself to kick his ass, blasting him with some energy, and then impaling him with his own sword (get used to that) before throwing the motorcycle at him. Dante just chuckles and then knocks the motorcycle away mid-flight with his pistols (physics? Never heard of it), and knocks Trish back down on her ass. Trish assures that she's not his enemy (coulda fooled me!) and reveals that she looks exactly like his deceased mother.

So, let's recap, boy meets girl, girl kicks boy ass, boy fights back, girl looks like boy's mother, and boy spends the next eight months in therapy. Sounds about right.

Trish takes Dante to Mallet Island, the setting of our game, where the Dark Prince Mudus, formerly defeated and sealed away by Sparda, is looking to return to Earth and invade with his armies. After the two split up we're finally given control of our character and the game begins.

Devil May Cry has a similar learning curve to Dark Souls, and seeing how the game came out years before that, and Demon Souls, I'm led to believe it had a certain influence on those games. While other Hack and Slash games have button combinations for combos, Devil May Cry is all about timing. Tapping the attack button at a certain speed and then waiting a certain amount of time before tapping the button again to deliver more devastating combos. The more combos you manage to deliver, and the faster you can do it, the higher your Devil Hunter rank will become.

The game doesn't allow you to choose the difficulty setting at the beginning, instead it automatically starts you off on Normal. If you complete Normal mode then the Hard difficulty is unlocked, but if you die a total of three times then the Easy difficulty becomes available. As if to say “Wow, you suck at this. Here.” Think of the default difficulty as a way for the game to test you.

If you're familiar with Resident Evil or first couple of Dino Crisis games, then a lot of the gameplay elements and menu screens are going to be familiar to you. The title screen, options, and sound that comes with clicking on them is the same as the menus on the other games up to that point, only where Dino Crisis felt like an exact Resident Evil clone, Devil May Cry has enough of its own style to set itself apart.

Devil May Cry presents a dark and Gothic atmosphere in its scenery with the main setting being an old castle on top of an island, its soundtrack, and the many great range of enemies you have to face like puppets, and demons in black robes with large scissors that laugh at you. It allows for plenty of horror aspects to be available in the game despite controlling the half-devil spawn of a notorious legend. Adding more to that horror aspects are fixed cameras, something you either love or hate. The cameras will move as you navigate each area, and some times the enemies will move off camera.

Another major part of the game involves the collecting of red orbs used as currency to buy items and abilities for your weapons to unlock new combos to use in battle. It's pretty much the closest thing the game has to grinding. Different color orbs have different uses, such as green orbs which replenish health, blue orbs which increase your overall health, white orbs that replenish the Devil Trigger gauge, purple orbs which increase it, and yellow orbs that revives you after dying. Run out of yellow orbs and it's game over.

The game is separated by stages, each stage having a name and objective in order to complete. In-between each stage you can buy upgrades and save your game. At the end of a stage it tallies up the time it took to complete and shows you your Devil Hunter Rank. The Devil Hunter Ranks are D (dull), C (cool), B (bravo), A (absolute) and S (stylist). Ideally S is the rank you'd want to get each stage, but that will be no easy task. It all depends on filling up the stylist gauge to get to S, I swear this game has a gauge for everything.

The puppets I mentioned earlier are called Marionette, they're the first enemy Dante encounters in the game and the most common ones you'll run into through the castle. The second are called Sin Scissors & Scythe, the enemy that will laugh at you as they fly off screen. Then you have their tougher and faster alternate called Death. They possess a fiery red aura and have a more varied attack pattern, their laughter is also way more terrifying than that of the Sins.

Next we have Shadow, just Shadow. Black and purple shadowy cat-like demons with red glowing eyes that may challenge your love of cats. Beelzebub, not to be confused with the devil, are exactly what the pun implies, insects that buzz around in the sewers of Mallet Island with warped and hideous looking bodies. If you didn't hate bugs before you may after an encounter with them. I'm getting this strange feeling Devil May Cry has a thing against animals and insects.

Kyklops are large spiders (not to be confused with Phantom) that usually attack in pairs. Blades are lizard demons with a claw on their left hand and a round shield on the right forearm. Sargasso are giant skulls that attack you underwater, and also laugh at you. I'm starting to notice a pattern here. Late into the game you'll encounter the Nobody, a powerful class of demons that look like, well, I have no idea how to describe what they look like, unique to say the least. They're able to perform a dance that actually drains Dante's Devil Trigger gauge. That's right, they'll Dance, Dance Revolution the crap out of you!

Fetish, I'm not joking there is actually a demon called Fetish, are similar to the Marionette, only they are created by demons and as a result are stronger, faster, and smarter than the Marionette. They only appear on Normal and Harder difficulties that are available in the game. Frosts are lizard demons that wear ice armor (don't ask just go with it) that resemble the Blades and claws are pretty much like swords due to being frozen. Plasmas are bat-like creatures made up of electricity, like a flying demon jellyfish, they can change their shapes to match your character and copy your moves as well as multiply. They must have been paying attention to the bible verse “Be fruitful and multiply.” God was talking about humans, but it works for electrical bats, I think. Due to their element they're immune to electric base attacks, so a certain Devil Arm you get in Mission 2 is not going to do you any good.

Devil May Cry has a total of six bosses in the game. The first one you encounter is Phantom, a large lava spider that you face in Mission 3. After that you face an armored clad individual named Nelo Angelo who has a large sword and wears a purple cape challenging you to a duel honorably and fairly. Another boss is called Griffon, a giant brown bird that shoots red lightning at you and makes his debut in Mission 9. Nightmare is a bio-weapon created by Mundus out of inorganic substances and first appears in Mission 16. And of course you have the Dark Prince himself, Mundus, who appears as a large statue of an angelic warrior with a beard, a third eye on his forehead, and a hole in his chest compliments of Dante's father. There's one more boss in there, but I don't want to give that away.

Because of the limited boss characters in the game, you'll fight most of them more than once. Phantom challenges you twice in the game, as Nelo Angelo, Griffon and Nightmare, will face you three times. Each boss and common enemy requires their own strategy in order to beat them, so you can't just rely on button mashing all of the time.

You start out the game with a long sword named Force Edge and twin pistols that are Dante's signature weapons, Ebony and Ivory. In the Devil May Cry universe you never need to worry about reloading. The Force Edge, and other related weapons, are called Devil Arms. Devil Arms are weapons created from and infused with the power of the demon it was molded from, though how a weapon becomes a Devil Arm is never explained, future entries will create them from fallen demons. Each weapon comes with its own combo, style, and molds Dante's Devil Trigger form when equipped. Some with their own element such as Alastor that is based on electricity, or Ifrit, which as its name would suggest is fire based. The firearms to my knowledge are mostly regular firearms except modified to allow Dante to channel his demonic energies through them making an otherwise useless weapon harmful to demons.

When your DT gauge is full that's the ideal time to change into your demon form to give you a power boost. The gauge is represented by runes underneath the health bar. Upon activation, the gauge slowly goes down. When it's empty you can build it up again by continuing the good fight against demons, an item intended for just that exact purpose, taunting, or filling up the stylist gauge. You can also perform other moves while in DT depending on your equipped Devil Arm.

Did I mention there were puzzles in this game? Oh, God, the puzzles! This is another factor in the gameplay that is going to feel a lot like Resident Evil. You'll encounter an obstacle, get a subtle hint on how to get past it, and then run around the castle to find the object required to solve it. It was tedious when Resident Evil did it, and it's tedious now. How anyone in these games, whether it be a mansion, a lab, or an old castle, memorized all of this stuff so they could get into another room is beyond me.

By the way, if you thought the normal and hard difficulties were bad, get ready should you unlock the Dante Must Die Mode, and I do mean Dante must die. In this mode the game is even more ridiculously hard, each enemy fight will have a timer, and when the timer runs out all the enemies in the area will hit their Devil Trigger all at once. That's right, the enemies can now Devil Trigger, and bosses can usually kill Dante in 2 – 4 hits so you better be good at parrying and dodging.

Let's talk about our characters:

Dante: The main protagonist of the Devil May Cry series and everyone's favorite Demon Hunter. Dante is the son of the Legendary Dark Knight Sparda, and the only known living relative to still be alive. Due to being a hybrid of a human, and a devil, he has extraordinary abilities that mortals can only dream of while still maintaining his humanity. These abilities allow him to perform vast quantities of moves, and styles, as well as survive being ran through with a sword and shot multiple times in the head.

Personality wise he's a laid back individual that'd most likely hit on you if you're a girl, and call you names if you're an enemy that needs eliminating. There are certain time his lines such as “Slow down, babe!” and “Block off, feather face!” sound like someone writing down what they think is cool, instead of just focusing on giving the character a unique and interesting personality that others would perceive as cool. They were still experimenting with what did and didn't work at this stage, and Dante gets a little more fleshed out as the series progresses.

Trish: She displays imposing fighting ability and powers of her own allowing her to match wits with Dante and be a force to reckon with on her own, making you even more upset that you can't actually play as her in the game. In fact, the only game where you actually can play as Trish is the one game in the series where she isn't even present in the game's story (Hello, Devil May Cry 2!). For reasons unknown Trish looks exactly identical to Dante's deceased mother, Eva. There is more to Trish than meets the eye, much more, but in order to find out you'll just have to play the game. Or look it up online. I guess you could do that.

Sparda: Sparda never shows up in-game, but his legend and background story is very much felt through the series and you can unlock him as a playable character. His is a story best left told instead of being shown, so you can use your imagination to fill in the blanks. Sparda was a general in Mundus' army, fell in love with a human woman (and seeing that she looked like Trish I don't blame him), and decided to fight for the humans, defeating Mundus armies, and slamming the door of hell shut in the Dark Prince's face, but it came at a terrible price as Sparda lost his own power as well. Long story short, he and Eva had twin sons to carry on his legacy and Sparda took his last purple demon dump somewhere and passed away.

Mundus: The main antagonist of our story. Mundus is the leader of the underworld and draws many parallels with Satan. Like Sparda, not much is known about his history. He is depicted as a ruthless leader with no loyalty for his minions and is the epitome of all that is evil within the Devil May Cry universe. Seeing how he treats his subordinates I'm not surprised that Sparda turned on him.

Phantom: Phantom is one of Mundus' generals and whose temper is about as hot as you'd expect a spider that bleeds lava would be. He confuses Dante for a human at first and threatens to crush him like an ant leading up to their battle. It's believed that Phantom is Mundus' greatest general, kinda funny that he would be the first one you face, but given that people aren't usually given the chance to go home and talk about that horrible demon they saw there could be much worse working for Mundus.

Griffon: Griffon is based off the legendary griffins and is the oldest and most loyal of Mundus' servants. His loyalty is so strong that he'll willingly go head to head against Dante with outdated and rusty combat abilities. He doesn't have much personality outside of that, though none of the main bosses really do. Griffon also isn't above begging.

Nelo Angelo: Another mysterious figure in the game. The strong silent type would probably be the best way to describe him. He says a whole lot more with body language and a wave of a hand than he ever could through speech. Out of all of them, Nelo may very well be the most evenly matched opponent Dante will face, and has the best theme when he makes his appearance. From his sword, armor, and straight down to his cape, this is one foe you'll absolutely love to hate.

I hate to say it, but the voice acting and the script in this game is terrible. When they try to be serious it either comes across as unintentionally hilarious, or melodramatic, which closely borders to unintentionally hilarious anyway. Like when Phantom realizes Dante's similarity to Sparda, or when Dante bellows the infamous line “I should have been the one to fill your dark soul with light!” You either shake your head or just laugh. The voice acting and writing in the franchise wouldn't pick up until the third game.

You can't block in the game. I wouldn't even be mentioning this at all if not for the fact that pretty much every other enemy you face can block. The Marionette can block, the Sins can block, Nelo Angelo can block. How is that fair? The most you can do is dodge attacks and parry at just the right time, but are you seriously telling me that with all the moves Dante learned he doesn't know how to perform a simple block? Give me a break.

The fixed camera angles pose another problem, too. It just doesn't work with the game's style at all. Now, when it was used with Resident Evil it was less about the action and fighting enemies, and more about the horror and atmosphere, plus enemies were slower and you had more time to prepare. It was more about the threat of what lurked around each corner than the actual threat. Here, the combat is more fast-paced and you have more enemies coming at you all at once, not being able to see where they are just adds a cheap level of difficulty to an already challenging game. This is forgivable since it was originally meant to be a Resident Evil game, so there's a reason the fixed camera angles are there, and it may have been too big an inconvenience to change them at that stage in development, but it just doesn't work as well with the finished product.

Auto-lock has one annoying flaw, when you have more than one enemy near you and want to turn to attack them it's still locked on to the last enemy you had your eyes on so you end up attacking it again giving the other foe a chance to strike with no way to cycle between them. At least in Darksiders you could toggle in and out of targeting enemies so it wasn't an issue. Here? Nope! Although, there was a nine year gap between games so that may have something to do with, but would a simple targeting button really have been that hard to implement?

Despite its flaws, Devil May Cry is still a classic among the Hack and Slash genre and paved the ways for other games to come after it, such as the new Ninja Gaiden games, Darksiders, and of course, Bayonetta. If you're a fan of the genre, main protagonists who are laid back, and kicking demon ass left and right, or hell, played Dark Souls and enjoy a challenge, then Devil May Cry is just the right receipt for your appetite.

Try it

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