Review by Genjuro Kibagami
The archetypal lone indestructible badass character has been seen throughout the ages. There was the man with no named played by Clint Eastwood, the lame dialog spewing and poorly casted Neo from The Matrix, and now there's our boy Dante. He embodies them all. He's got the cool looks like the man with no name as well as cheesy dialog of the likes of Neo. But unlike the first two, you can actually interact with Dante and control his powerful rage.
Many years ago the Earth was scorched with the fires of Hell. The pathetic mortal humans were to be enslaved by the almighty demons of the underworld, but not everything went according to plan. It would seem one of the most powerful demons didn't like this plan and stopped the whole thing with his own blade - that demon is your old man. Now a whole bunch of years later, you're Dante and you're greeted by the spitting image of your dead mother. She tells you to go get this evil demon named Mundas on a deserted island, and because she looks like your mother (or perhaps because you're just really stupid) you run off to this place. And so begins this tale of blood, metal, and women.
The basic point of Devil May Cry isn't cool level design or survival among the fittest. Nope, not here. Instead this story of a demonic lad is all about action and kicking the snot out of your unearthly opponents. Get your fingers ready for some exercise with the controller because this game is packed with tons of difficult and long fights. The first thing that will show you that Dante means business is the wide variety of moves he has in his grasp. The guy can quickly jab with his sword, juggle a foe in the air, go Bruce Lee on their asses with his fiery fists, or even pump a few thousand bullets into a soon to be dead demon.
Dante has access to two weapons at a time: one melee and one gun type. His melee weapons only consist of a sword or gauntlets. However, there are so many moves he can perform with each weapon that it's mind boggling how Capcom was able to cram them all in. Dante can toss his sword like a boomerang ands wait for it to return, or fly forward and thrust his blade with all his might. Equip the gauntlets and let your jaw smack the floor as you see Dante come crashing down to the ground and release waves of fire and ash. Mix and match this skills and you'll be wiping out every monster you see. There are a nice array of guns in the game as well, but they lack the variety of maneuvers that we see with Dante's main tools of killing. They're really more of sub weapons to supplement your principal attacks. For example you can juggle your enemies with the handguns or instantly stun a beast with the shotgun. While these instances wouldn't exactly slaughter the foe, it gives Dante the opportunity to go to work on them. But what really sets combat apart from other Capcom games such as Resident Evil or Onimusha is Dante's ability to jump (when did jumping become a demonic power?). The ability to leap all over the place really makes Devil May Cry a much different games as well. Dante can discover hidden items, strike downward with his gleaming blade, or even jump out of the way of an impending foe.
Another cool thing about the combat system is the Devil Trigger. When three icons of the Devil Trigger are full from the standard beat-down it requires to even be filled, our hero can unleash his demon powers to go medieval on his opponents' asses. His two weapons Alastor (the electrifying sword) and Ifrit (the gauntlets infused with the fires of Hell) both give him different abilities in the Devil Trigger state when one is equipped. For example when Alastor is equipped, Dante gains super speed to dash around his foes and perform quick, hard-hitting combos. Watch as our sexy hero gracefully swings his blade upward only to let it come right back down with a gruesome cut to the enemies face and finally ending with a mighty thrust to stab your vile foe in the stomach. When Ifrit is your weapon of choice, Dante will be instilled with super strength to make mincemeat out of the toughest demon. He'll knuckle bash and bone crush those crazy lizards from the arena while they wail in pain, and end it all with a spine shattering roundhouse. I really liked the Devil Trigger a lot. It adds a level of strategy to the game. You'll be wondering when the right time to use your Devil Trigger is or how you should use it. It's really quite exciting when coupled with the entire mix of combat.
Of course, quite possibly one of the coolest aspects of this action game is the enemy AI. Remember how in Onimusha you could just hack and slash away at your opponent until they were dead? Well, that's not going to fly here. Your enemies actually have some intelligence to them. They're not going to let you just attack them with the same asinine move over and over again. If you keep doing the same lame combo repeatedly, your foe will actually block and then counter attack. In addition these demon can take a lot of punishment. Sometimes it'll take a river of pain and a cold rain of bullets before just one of them bites the dust. Oh yeah, and did I mention that these enemies also have a grandiose forte of combat maneuvers? Yeah, they have many ways of disemboweling our protagonist. For example take the Sin Scythe. These menacing shabby clothed demons carry a gigantic scythe. They can simply float down to Dante and slash away or they could throw their blade like a boomerang to inflict tons of damage to our fair hero. Or then there's the Shadow. It can morph it's body to look like a wide array of different killer shapes such as a puma, row of sharp spikes, large jaws of a beast, and more. All of these potential opponents mean business. To really tick Dante off, they travel in large packs, and when one dies, usually another one will come running.
Boss fights are wicked fun. They're usually long, wild, difficult, and amazingly cool. There will be a lot of attacks to dodge, counters to be done, and more. For example take the first fight with the infamous Phantom (better known to most people as The Giant Magma Spider). This creature packs a mighty wallop with an enormous scorpion tail for impaling Dante as well as a few too many breaths of pure lava. Trying to fight the abomination head-on will result in death. Instead, Dante has to jump on top of the Hell-spawn as if it were some sort of sick, cruel demon rodeo. You'd better be prepared for the worst when it comes to the gruesome demonic bosses found through the island.
Could you believe that Devil May Cry even has extra incentive for simply fighting every demon you encounter? In this title, beating an enemy yields great rewards: red orbs. You can think of red orbs like experience points for an RPG. They're there just to make Dante more powerful and unstoppable. You can use orbs to purchase new abilities, healing items, improvements for your Devil Trigger, and more items to aid you in combat. Why I spent an extra four hours just on random fighting for red orbs. Fighting the enemies was fun, so I thought why not beef up my boy. There are other orbs in the game too: green, yellow, and blue. Green orbs simply heal Dante instantly, and can be found by killing monsters. Blue orbs however increase Dante's health meter permanently, but these are scattered about the island in hidden places. Yellow orbs will revive you and place you right outside the room you just died in rather than going to the start menu and losing all progress made since the last time you saved.
Devil May Cry sports some puzzles, however, they're not exactly real brain teasers. Seeing as Capcom wanted the game to be more about action, there are only puzzles that consist of finding items and sticking them places. You know, find statue A, place on pedestal B, get key C, and open door D. It's that kind of stuff. And to even help you out further, the game tells you what to do for these puzzles. You see, the game is broken up into missions where it tells you what item to get and what to do with it. Don't be fooled by the game format, during a mission you can back track and go all around the castle, so it's not really split into stages. Missions are mostly there to be a good time to save your game and hint you in on the puzzles. The missions system was kind of cool because it did help you focus more on fighting rather than making you stop to think where you put some dopey emblem. There are even secret missions in the game where upon completion you'll earn a goody such as a blue orb fragment or even the game's super secret item of doom.
The controls work well with the game, but you may encounter a slight problem when first starting out. Due to the game's fixed camera system, sometimes the scene will switch quickly and all of the sudden you're pushing the analog stick the wrong way. For example say the camera is facing Dante's front side. To move forward, you have to hold the analog stick down. Now when you get to the edge of the camera, the shot quickly cuts to behind Dante. That means you have to hold up to move forward, but you're still holding down from before. It's a little weird at first, but eventually I was able to get the hang of it. Don't let a small problem like this get in the way of experiencing the game. The camera system itself is pretty good. Most of the time you'll be able to see the enemies, so their won't be any surprises.
So is this game challenging? Before I had played Devil May Cry, I had heard a lot of people claim it was challenging. Let me tell you that this is a really iffy topic for the game. On one hand the game does have a real steep learning curve, so you probably will get your ass handed to you several times when you first lay your hands on the game. However, once you know what you're doing, the game becomes a real piece of cake that you'll breeze through on normal. Once you hit the hard difficulty though, this game becomes fairly challenging with brutal enemies, fewer green orbs, and more curve balls that make you wondering if this is even the same game. So if you want a real challenge, you're going to have to wait until you've beaten the game on normal.
Graphically this is one of the better looking PS2 games. With the exception of Trish's laughably phony looking hair, all the character and demon polygons are marvelous. There's tons of animation and fine detail etched within the game's polygons. Then comes the jaw-dropping backgrounds. Unlike its cousins in the survival horror genre, Devil May Cry doesn't use pre-rendered backgrounds. Instead the game utilizes fully polygonal landscapes - think Dino Crisis only that it looks good. The scenery consist of a plethora of gothic architecture, slimy cave walls, drool-inducing sunsets on cliff sides, and even a gigantic arena where Dante must battle with an equally enormous foe. To make matters even better, the game runs fine and smooth with absolutely no slowdown. This is definitely one visual feast for the eyes.
To accompany the marvelous visuals, Capcom placed equally radical sound. First of all the music is downright awesome. When simply walking around the island, it'll play beautiful soft quiet ambient music. But then when demons pop out of no where, some excellent fast-paced techno rock starts gearing up at full blast. In addition there's tons of different tracks, so you'll never have to hear the same damn song over and over again. The sound effects really flesh out the action with metal clashes, bones crunches, demon grunts, and loud bangs coming from Dante's guns. The voice acting on the other hand could have really used some work. Dante's voice actor doesn't sound serious at all. While this is may be the X-Treme factor that Capcom was going for, it leaves me laughing at Dante's goofball lines like Let's rock, baby, I hope you got something in that big body of yours, or my the ever-so-popular I should have filled your dark soul with light. The array of vicious monsters and Trish on the other hand have fairly good actors - not something that win an academy award but better than most games.
Devil May Cry is a top-notch all action game that is definitely going to be a classic in my book. The blood-soaked heavy metal atmosphere combined with the intense face-smacking action satisfied my hunger for a kick ass game and left me crying for more. While the controls are a little peculiar at first, the game really hooks you in and doesn't let go. It's well worth the price. Now let's just hope that Dante can reclaim his greatness in the upcoming third game.
Reviewer's Rating: 5.0 - Flawless
Originally Posted: 11/11/03, Updated 06/15/04
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