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DmC: One Fan’s Forecast

I’ve been a fan of Capcom’s Devil May Cry series longer than some of today’s gamers have been alive, and certainly longer than many gamers today have been playing. Now, Ninja Theory’s controversial taking of the development reins for the latest installation of the series has some fans of the series (of all ages) worried, others curious, and perhaps a select few excited for a new adventure. Here, I’d like to offer my thoughts on the different sides of the issue, as well as share some conclusions about the direction the series seems to be headed, and what that might mean for its loyal fan base.

Why I’m worried:

New Developer

In 2010, Capcom announced that they would be handing the reins for the development of DmC: Devil May Cry, the 5th and latest installment of the series, to Western developer Ninja Theory, creators of Heavenly Sword and Enslaved, both of which feature hack-and-slash action similar to the Devil May Cry series. To say the least, this led to a great deal of backlash from fans loyal to the series as it originally developed. Aesthetics and sentimentality aside, what I’m really worried about here boils down to game design issues themselves.

While I personally enjoyed Heavenly Sword, Ninja Theory’s first PS3 title, the considerable about of different attack combinations (ranged-stance, speed-stance, power-stance, oh my!) seemed a bit overwhelming, especially since these attack sequences could not be easily blended together (as they could in the Devil May Cry series), and I found myself constantly pausing to re-check the combo lists so as to make sure my character wouldn’t get stuck with a half-completed combination and most of an enemy’s health bar still intact. In Enslaved, another title that received my personal approval, I felt like Ninja Theory scaled the combat possibilities back a little too far, and players could easily triumph over most enemies by simply mashing the attack button.

Because the original Devil May Cry series was somehow able to design a stylish, over-the-top, highly variable, yet simple combat system, I can only hope these elements can be preserved in the hands of Ninja Theory.

New Look

While others have classified Dante’s new, and in the eyes of some, radically altered, look as “having a bit more of a punk ethic,” but let’s go ahead and just address the elephant in the room: I think it’s pretty safe to say that we know emo when we see it. Missing from the new Dante model as showcased by the initial announcement trailer is the character’s cynical smirk, cocky swagger, and, most notably, his signature white ‘do (not to mention about 30 lbs. of demon-slaying muscle). And it’s not only fans that have expressed some pretty extreme emotions, ranging from mild disappointment to outright controller-flinging rage. Despite the fact that radical changes were indeed what Capcom had in mind for the series now-classic protagonist, I’d be lying if I said I didn’t sit on the “negative” side of the fence on this one.

If It Ain’t Broke…

We’ve all seen it before: you take a great formula for a game – and really, what beats mid-air demonic decapitation!? – take a few wrong steps while trying to think outside the box, and you’ve managed to screw something up that was just fine to begin with. Need I remind anyone of the black sheep of the beloved series? I get that both Capcom and Ninja Theory seek to take the series in a new direction. I really do.  I just hope they don’t turn the helm too far off-course.

Why I’m Not Worried

Same Great Taste

While the initial announcement trailer did indeed weaken my faith in the series’ future, the more recently released E3 2011 gameplay trailer certainly restored much of my hope, for a few reasons. Still seemingly present – and perhaps even upgraded – is the visceral action that was a hallmark of the series’ original games. Sparks dance off the tip of Dante’s blade as he drags it mockingly across the ground toward his demonic victims, and black bile shoots across the screen as he blasts and slices his way through crowd-after-crowd of minor hellspawn. Juicy slashes, sickening crunches, and gut-wrenching thuds can all be heard as his devilish opponents disintegrate around him. Sound familiar? It’s everything we’ve come to know and love about Dante, except in a shiny new package.

Also present and showcased in the trailer are the over-the-top attack combinations and acrobatics that set Dante apart from many of his contemporaries back when the series first debuted. Volleys from his handguns continue to suspend his enemies in mid-air, just before he rockets upward to knock them away; of course this is only just before he uses a whip-like attack to yank them back (also in mid-air) for a final, devastating blow.

Finally, for those still lamenting the complete loss of Dante’s old look, remnants of it can indeed be seen when he enters what appears to be the game’s re-vamped “Devil Trigger” mode, which not only seems to dilate time around him, but also returns his trademark white hair and red jacket. A good-faith effort to preserve the well-loved elements of the series can be seen from this trailer, and for now, that just may have to be enough.

Developer Strength

In my personal and professional life, I’ve always been advised to look past weaknesses and focus on strengths. So despite my worries about certain elements of the new title, let me say this: If there’s one thing that Ninja Theory is really good at, it’s telling great stories. Whether it’s the masterful direction of Andy Serkis, memorable set-piece design and pacing, ever-improving facial expression and movement-capturing technology, or powerful voice acting, the folks at Ninja Theory know how to get its audience to connect with their characters and stories. In crafting and sharing a new story about Dante that will linger with audiences long after they’ve put their controllers down, I am confident that Ninja Theory will deliver.

Although in Devil May Cry 4, the story began to seem like much more of a side-piece to the action, Capcom themselves stated their confidence that Ninja Theory builds games around characters, and not the other way around. This, when applied to the already-established story of Dante and his half-demonic family tree, I have got to see.

Hey, It’s Still Dante

Continuing to look past the negativity and criticism, it’s also important to remind ourselves that this is still Dante we’re talking about here – you know, the demon hunter spawned from the Legendary Dark Knight (no relation) Sparda, who turned his back on the armies of Hell to protect humanity? The guy who can home-run–swing a broadsword using only one hand and whose never-ending handgun bullets brazenly give a stiff middle finger to the laws of gravity? The guy who dueled his katana-wielding brother in the depths of the netherworld and came out without so much as a dent in his pride? Yeah, that Dante. He’s back for another demon-slaying run around the bases, and I, for one, won’t be caught hatin’ from the stands.

Final Thoughts

Like it or not, fans need to understand that DmC: Devil May Cry represents is the next step of Dante’s official development as a character, and the series’ development as a whole. Naturally, many will feel uncomfortable with this change, although it may be better to shelf the pessimism, and simply keep an open mind about things. Am I excited, for example, that for some, this will be their first introduction to Dante and his story? Maybe not. But, I do have hope it may lead others down the path to discover Dante’s “true” identity through previous incarnations in the earlier series’ games? I just may.  And as to the possibility of this reboot spawning a possible PS3 port of the original titles? You can guess how I feel about that.

In the meantime, I’ll be firing up my ever-faithful PS2 and celebrating Dante as I’ve always I known him, for everything he was and everything he always will be.

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    • Grace
    • March 27th, 2012

    When i first saw the “new look” dante, i thought it was, sort of, a young dante or some distant relation. I loved dante’s silver hair! And he weres chick jeans now.

  1. Your points are well taken. Unfortunately, when you take a look around, this is also largely what a majority of the current audience for video games wears these days (also a shame).

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