Review by MalachiX
"Hasn't Aged Well"
Normally I don't like to do retroviews. It's hard, and perhaps unfair, to try to look at a game that came out years ago and evaluate it by today's standards. It's also hard to determine how much of one's love for a game is actually based on quality and how much comes purely from nostalgia. That said, I've found that the truly great games seem to get better with age. Castlevania: Symphony of the Night for instance has continued to rise in my esteem over the years to the point that it's now my second favorite game of all time. This isn't simply because I remember it fondly but because I still take it out and play with it. On the other hand, many other games that really wowed me five years ago seem shallow and uninteresting now. Simply put, some games don't age well and this is sadly the case with The Devil May Cry. Upon its release in 2001, the game revolutionized the modern action genre, produced one of the first true killer apps for the PS2, and spawned many imitators. Now however, several of those that drew inspiration from The Devil May Cry have come to surpass it. More so, many of the game's flaws that we overlooked in 2001 are now harder to ignore now that the title is no longer unique or groundbreaking.
One thing that felt dated even when the game was first released was its story. The game stars a half demon badass named Dante who looks like a cross between Blade and Symphony of the Night's Alucard. Dante's father was the greatest of Demon Warriors but turned on his Demon brothers and decided to live with humans. One day, a young woman named Trish walks into Dante's office and, after a brief fight, asks him to accompany her to an ancient castle. The game's story actually has a lot of potential. Dante seems pretty cool at first and the whole nightmarish atmosphere has a lot going for it. Unfortunately, the story pretty much evaporates as the game goes on. There's the occasional cut scene and even one or two twists but all the cinemas are so brief and vague that the player never really gets into the story. What's worse, things get REALLY corny as the game goes on. Dante, who started out as a Clint Eastwood-style badass completely and utterly embarrasses himself toward the end of the game. Someone really should have told the developers that if they didn't have the skills to do a dramatic story, they shouldn't have tried because some scenes toward the ends are downright painful.
Still, the story is just an excuse for the gameplay and DMC is still a pretty fun experience. At its core, the game is a very refined version of the old-school brawlers. Dante spends 90% of his time battling with a ton of other worldly creatures with his trusty sword and twin pistols as well as a few other weapons he gets along the way. A large part of what makes the combat so fun is how stylish it is. For instance, Dante can quite easily knock an enemy into the air with his sword then keep that enemy suspended in mid air with his pistols. The game also scores the player on how stylishly they fight and gives them red orbs for their efforts. These orbs (which can also be earned by killing enemies, exploring the environment, and finishing the missions quickly) can be used to buy healing items and new moves for the weapons. Unfortunately, this is one of the ways in which The Devil May Cry shows its age. Even with the extra ones that can be bought, there simply aren't all that many moves available for Dante's melee weapons. What's worse, rather than letting Dante get many new melee weapons, the game simply has him get new swords that slightly up his attack power. The only other melee weapon, save for the sword, is a pair of gloves with a similarly limited range of moves. Personally, I think it might have been better had Capcom ditched the gloves entirely and simply had more moves available for the sword because, as it stands now, both weapons seem a bit shallow. Dante does get several new projectile weapons as the game goes on, but projectiles really aren't the key way to damage an opponent in DMC and none of the new weapons provide the combo opportunities that the pistols do, thus rendering them neat but similarly shallow additions. In fact, the combat in general in DMC is a lot of fun and quite addictive but fails to get much deeper as the game progresses. One cool little wrinkle that ads a bit to the game is Dante's ability to turn into a demon. Once Dante's demon trigger gage is charged up, he can transform into a much larger and less attractive version of himself which has increased strength and a few extra moves (like the ability to fly). This adds a little bit more strategy but is usually best saved for boss fights where it is most needed. If I sound like I'm being done on DMC's combat, I'm not. It's just that it isn't as deep as it could be. Still, given the game's relatively short playtime (under 10 hours), the combat remains fun and never gets tedious.
Speaking of longevity, DMC provides a fair amount of bang for one's buck as far as an action game goes. While the main quest isn't incredibly long, there are a fair number of bonus missions that should keep the player coming back to earn extra goodies (most of which are simply health-bar expansions). There is also a variety of increasing difficulty modes that can be played to unlock a couple of other extras. I also really appreciate that Capcom allows players to use all the weapons, money, and upgrades that they've earned in previous play throughs when going through the game again. It's a nice way to encourage players to keep coming back and something that I wish more games would do (Ninja Gaiden, I'm talking to you!).
Despite being a lot of fun however, DMC has some series flaws that were troubling when it was first released and are nearly unforgivable now. Many of the flaws come from the fact that The Devil May Cry originally started as Resident Evil 4. When Capcom decided to create a new franchise in order to accompany the new and interesting game design, they were forced to rewrite much of the game. This long process, combined with a lot of technical hurdles that came with working with the very difficult to program for PS2, gives the game a somewhat rushed and awkward feel in many cases. The most obvious example of this is the game's save system and over-world. For the vast majority of the game, Dante explores a large castle and, in between battling the various monsters, solves the occasional puzzle. Just as in a Resident Evil game, Dante is asked to get new puzzle pieces and back track to various portions of the mansion to open up new areas. There are even special areas where Dante can buy healing items and weapon upgrades; rather similar to the save points or Resident Evil. Unfortunately, one can't save at these places. For some reason, Capcom decided to give the game a mission based structure where players can only save in between missions. The problem is that it's often not clear where one mission ends and the next begins. Some times a player will fight a boss and new mission will start while other times the player must do a ton of backtracking to old areas before they're given the opportunity to save. A mission based structure could have worked and given the game and old-school feel if each mission started a new level (along with a mission select mode to revisit old levels) but this isn't the case and I can't figure out why Capcom didn't simply let players save at the various item shops. Another relic from the Resident Evil games is the camera system. While the control is not fully analogue and the environments are full 3D, there is still a fixed camera system which switches between angels on the fly. This can prove rather frustrating when the camera changes during combat and can be even more troublesome when the player cannot see an enemy who is off screen. Yet another thing that gets frustrating are the game's bosses. While most of the boss battles are cool and quite fun, the player is made to the fight the same bosses several times over the course of the game and which gives later parts of the title a been there, done that feel. This was undoubtedly done in order to finish the game in time for release and is a major frustration. Finally, the last of the odd design choices, are two under water levels that take place in 1rst person and feel like a very slow and simplistic shooter. Even for under water levels, which are usually bad, these two missions are incredibly boring and really out of place in such a fast paced game. One can't help but wonder if they were quickly thrown together simply in order to lengthen the already brief game. It's because of flaws like these that The Devil May Cry can be a really aggravating experience. It's even more annoying to know that most of the problems could have been quite easily fixed with a few more months development time and it's a shame that, like so many developers, Capcom was willing to seriously damage the game in order to make a release date.
Graphically, it's hard to complain about The Devil May Cry. While many games have pushed the PS2 farther since the game's release, in its day DMC was easily one of the best looking titles on the system boasting respectable polygon counts and some of the best textures that the PS2 had yet produced. Even for today the game doesn't embarrass itself thanks to the interesting art design that does a good job of using images of the occult and giving the game a somewhat Castlevania feel.
The sound doesn't fair quite so well. While the music is generally good if not terribly memorable, the voice acting could use a lot of work. Dante isn't that bad early in the game but, as mentioned before, he comes to really embarrass himself toward the end. Trish and the few other speaking characters are pretty weak as well, tending to be either incredibly over-the-top or just plain off character. Ultimately, it brings to mind the original Resident Evil's voice acting and that's certainly not good.
Replay Value: 8
Simply put, The Devil May Cry is a game that is just past it's prime. When it was the only game of its kind, we could overlook its various flaws but now, with games like Ninja Gaiden out that boast deeper combat, a much bigger variety of weapons, prettier graphics, and a much more flexible save system, DMC has pretty much become obsolete. It's still a fun experience and worth checking out to see how the genre started but the bottom line is that pretty much everything DMC does, other games now do better.
Reviewer's Score: 8/10 | Originally Posted: 08/09/05
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