Review by horror_spooky

"Devils never cry"

In lieu of all the controversy surrounding the Devil May Cry reboot, I decided to revisit the original game that started it all. The original Devil May Cry kick-started the entire subgenre of "extreme" action, influencing classics such as Ubisoft's Prince of Persia reboot, and the hugely successful God of War franchise. Its importance in the annals of gaming history cannot be denied, but how does the game hold up?

I am of the opinion that if a game is great when it released 10 years prior, then it should still be great today. Devil May Cry is still great, despite being over a decade old at this point. The game is not quite the masterpiece that initial hype made it out to be, but as a pioneer of the genre, it does a good job of translating the classic 2D beat 'em up feeling to the three dimensional realm.

Starring the demon hunter Dante, Devil May Cry is bogged down a bit by its story. Dante is approached by a scantily clad woman with superpowers named Trish and asked to take down the demon king Mundus residing in an ancient castle. The son of the legendary dark knight Sparda, Dante is half-demon and half-human, which gives him the best of both worlds. He goes with Trish to the castle and begins fighting the horrors within in an attempt to reach and destroy Mundus.

There are moments in the story that are well done. Dante's relationship with the frequent boss Nelo Angelo adds a nice layer of mystery and wonder to their battles. The other bosses have interesting personalities and are voice acted in a very creepy way that makes them memorable. Phantom, the huge spider that torments Dante in the early stages of the game, is particularly iconic in the series. All the boss fights are intense and tough, forcing players to learn the most strategic way possible to take down each foe.

Other moments in the story are not so great. Particularly, Dante is a very odd character in this game. At times, he is a smart-mouthed guy that takes nothing seriously, and at other times, he is incredibly sad over a girl he has just met and is also very angry. Capcom didn't know what to do with him at this point, and the result is that Dante feels a little underdeveloped. His relationship with Trish is just way too forced. She doesn't appear in enough of the game for the players to care about her, let alone Dante. They must've had serious bonding on the way to the castle, I guess.

In typical Capcom fashion, the dialogue is cringe inducing. The final scenes of the game contain the worst dialogue, and one of the hammiest lines in video game history, spoken by our protagonist. I don't understand the attachment people have to this character because of the reasons already stated above, plus the awful dialogue. The corny dialogue works in other games like Resident Evil, but Devil May Cry is not meaning for the lines to be corny, and it shows.

But take away the plot and you're left with one hell of a game. The combat is very simple, but it's still thrilling as hell in execution. Dante has access to a variety of guns and melee weapons called "Devil Arms". The guns are the trademark pistols, as well as a shotgun, a grenade launcher, and more. To build up style points, another series trademark, the game doesn't focus on switching between weapons, but rather just building up combos, mainly by button mash.

Even though it boils down to button mashing, the combat is still deeply satisfying. New moves can be purchased for Dante's weapons, plus each weapon feels completely different from one another in practice. Having to go into the menu to equip weapons means that players will not be switching between them a lot in the game, but rather finding a gun and melee weapon combo that works for you is part of the fun.

Dante can level up these abilities by collecting red orbs. Red orbs can be found by defeating enemies, smashing parts of the environment, completing Secret Missions, and ranking high on the regular missions. Use of items is also given much more of a focus in this installment, and there is no penalty for using items in this game. Dante has access to a suite of usable items, including one that surrounds him with a shield that makes him temporarily invincible, and another that clears the entire room of any enemies. There are other orbs in the game, such as blue orbs that increase the maximum health meter, and yellow orbs that allow players to continue from a checkpoint.

This checkpoint system coupled with the stiff opposition from enemies makes Devil May Cry no walk in the park. Players that are particularly bad at the game will be asked to play Easy mode, which actually has better controls. I don't agree with making the higher difficulties having a less appealing control scheme, but oh well.

Originally, Devil May Cry was supposed to be an entry in the Resident Evil series as a survival horror game. This fell through, and instead it became a new IP. However, there are still remnants in this game that show it was definitely going to be a Capcom style survival horror game. For example, the menus, fonts, and graphical style are all very reminiscent of Resident Evil. Dante himself sort of looks like a white-haired Leon S. Kennedy with a red trench coat. Dante can examine parts of the environment and receive text explanations of what he's looking at in a style not unlike Resident Evil. Certain sound effects also seem like they were lifted straight from Resident Evil.

The puzzle-solving would also feel at home in a Resident Evil title. The puzzle solving in Devil May Cry, though, is not all that fun. It basically requires a lot of back-tracking, which is a damper on the mission based structure of the game. Having to repeat environments in this kind of game just doesn't feel natural. It also makes the action feel slower and the entire game starts operating at a slower pace once the back-tracking starts.

Besides the typical action segments, there's also platforming, which is not done well at all, and then there are first-person underwater segments. I enjoyed these moments, as they really show off the game's strong graphics. There are also flying segments that play like an on-rails shooter that also do a nice job of breaking up the typical action and giving Dante something fresh to do in the game.

Being an early PS2 game, Devil May Cry doesn't take full advantage of the system's hardware, but it still looks very good. The game never hiccups or has any framerate issues. The character models are well done, and Dante himself is animated particularly well. There's a nice amount of enemy variety, and each enemy moves and acts differently than any other enemy in the game. The huge Gothic castle that is the game's setting is also designed perfectly down to the last detail. The colors are dark and depressing, and the use of red and black is very prominent. Using fixed camera angles (also like Resident Evil) creates a very intense atmosphere, though it's not always the best camera for the busier action moments.

Adding to the atmosphere is the overwhelming orchestral score. Heavy on the organ and piano, the music in Devil May Cry really invokes the sense of dread that the designers were aiming to achieve. Exploring the castle with this music constantly playing in the background gets the blood pumping and makes every situation that much scarier. The sounds of Dante's boots heavily clomping on the ground in empty corridors is just as chilling, giving the castle an empty feeling despite all the monstrosities that live inside.

Perhaps the best aspect of the original Devil May Cry is the replayability. After beating the game on normal, players can restart on hard with all of their weapons, upgrades, and usable items. There are Secret Missions to beat and other hidden items to uncover, plus there is a mode beyond hard mode, the crippling Dante Must Die! game mode that is incredibly challenging itself.

The first Devil May Cry is one of the most important games of all time. It heavily influenced other major games of the sixth generation era, and started one of Capcom's strongest gaming franchises. The game does have its issues, particularly with its bad story and weak dialogue as well as various minor gameplay elements, but it also sports a hard-hitting combat system and a fantastic atmosphere that makes revisiting the horrific castle a no-brainer.


Reviewer's Score: 8/10 | Originally Posted: 02/06/13

Game Release: Devil May Cry (US, 10/16/01)


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