Capcom released devil May Cry in 2001 for the PS2, about a demon hunter who single handedly sieges an evil castle to take down an ancient evil. So we kick off the Castlevania references early, though this only picks up when we look at the sequels.
Originally this game was a sequel to Resident Evil, Capcom’s survival horror series, but due to its heavy emphasis on combat it became it’s own game (ironic considering the criticisms of the recent Resident Evil games).
The plot of Devil May Cry is little more than a framing device; half demon, half human devil hunter Dante is recruited by the mysterious woman Trish to stop the revival of the demon prince Mundus, who was sealed away years ago by Dante’s father, the dark knight Sparda. After that the plot just seems to disappear into the background until the final act (SPOILER!) when Trish is revealed to be a demon working for Mundus! Which would be a decent twist if we’d spent any time with her. Seriously, they expect you to empathize with this character that you know nothing about and then they actually try to have a romantic connection between her and Dante!
Compare this to the original Metal Gear game; Big Boss is your support throughout the game and is always giving you help and advice, until he reveals himself to be the leader of the terrorists! You spend time with him and trust him, so his betrayal comes as a surprise. Trish does get more interesting outside of this game, in particular her appearances in Devil May Cry 4 and the animated series…..Spoilers Over!
Gameplay is all about cutting down monsters and solving puzzles, using both your over sized sword and a pair of handguns. However gunplay often goes unused, since the damage they do is so minimal. The only use for these is against enemies that require you to weaken them with gunfire, or when you perform the classic knock an enemy into the air and keep him in the sky with a hail of gunfire. So your go to in the sword; you upgrade the sword with red orbs that you gather throughout the game to unlock new combos and make it more power full.
The strange thing about the combos in Devil May Cry is the way they work; most games use the light attack and heavy attack buttons in different combinations, while DMC uses only one button. Combos are done by using pauses between presses to execute different moves, or in combination with a direction on the left stick. You later unlock a pair of fire bound boxing gloves which deal slow but heavy damage, and a sword named after Dante’s father Sparda, which switches between being a sword, a spear and a scythe. Each weapon has it’s own super mode too, known as devil trigger, which has different abilities depending on which weapon you have equipped; with the sword Alistair you become a flying lighting demon, while the fire gloves Ifrit transform you into a flame engulfed beast. Sparda is the only weapon without a devil trigger (outside of the final boss), but deals double damage to compensate. There are also some other guns to unlock, like the shotgun to blast enemies away, a grenade launcher and the Nightmare Beta; a gun that looks like the Xenomorphs from Aliens and fire shots that bounce off the walls.
There are water segments too, but they’re not too difficult. It goes first person style while you shoot raptors with a spear gun; simple but still pretty atmospheric, as you swim through the dark bowels of a sunken ship, wondering what’s going to pop out at you next.
There’s a decent variety of enemies too, which range from floating grim reapers, armoured raptors and transforming plasma beasts; each one is recorded in your database, and as you fight them you learn their moves and discover their weaknesses, which you can review from your codex at your leisure. Then there are the bosses, of which there are only five. However they appear three times each, getting stronger each time and forcing you to fight them in different environments. You can beat one guy with little effort the first time around, but then he shows up again and starts wrecking you with a variety of new moves.
The final boss is one of my favorites in all games; Mundus the prince of devils. He starts off as a pure white statue in an angelic church, but then he rises to reveal his true demonic form. The first form has you flying after him dogfight style, until you damage him enough to fight his second form one on one. It’s a hell of a final boss but once you defeat him, you’re on top of the world!
But the fun’s not over yet! The castle starts collapsing and you have to escape Metroid style, until you are attacked by Mundus in his weakened form. It’s an easy fight all things considered, but it’s very atmospheric. Just this colossal mess slowly crawling after you in a tiny tunnel, until you unleash a lighting attack with help from Trish to finish him once and for all. And finally you escape the crumpling castle in a biplane! What makes this interesting is that there is no other flying segments in this game until the end; if it had been a recurring element then it wouldn’t be worth noting, but instead it make this one hell of a memorable climax.
So this game sounds damn near perfect right? Wrong! Because Dante can’t jump to save his life! Literally!
It’s strange, but every time you jump your body seems to lock into this stiff position, so you can’t really aim yourself in the air (again like the original Castlevania). There are long jumps too, which you do by performing a dash attack as you move towards the edge of a platform. While the game is thankfully not focused on platforming, some of the secret missions are.
Secret missions are found in unexpected places and really challenge you in unexpected ways! Like fight all of these enemies with little life, or bounce on the heads of floating enemies to reach the goal (bringing said jumping controls into the limelight). These are vital towards gathering pieces to health upgrades, which when brought together increase your life. It’s interesting to note that this style of up grading your health by collecting fragments was used in similar games like Ninja Gaiden and God of War.
The most infamous thing about this game is it’s difficulty, which really pushes you to your limits. You have to upgrade across your different playthroughs, so you get stronger as the game gets harder rather than starting you at square one each time you playthough. The last Dante Must Die difficulty would be impossible otherwise.
The key to this games challenge lies in the fact that you are rarely take down by the controls or an unfair enemy. You have the tools to beat the challenge and you know that you can do it, but every time you mess up you have to try again! You can spend your points on gold orbs which let you continue the fight where you died, or potions to heal you, though they use the same currency as your upgrades so it’s best to look for these and stick to leveling up for the first few playthroughs. Over time you really get good, and other difficult games suddenly feel like less of a challenge. It’s like with chilies; you build a tolerance to the spice and as a result simple jalapenos don’t cut it anymore (this is coming from a man with both a history with difficult games like DMC and with spicy curries. Hell I’m actually craving a Vindaloo while typing this).
The important thing is that the game isn’t unfair. An interesting thing to note is that the enemies don’t attack you from behind; they are programmed not to attack you while the camera is facing away from them, which is a nice touch and much appreciated. So you don’t have to concern yourself with a sneak attack you didn’t see coming. But they will get close and once they’re in frame your fair game for these guys.
Devil May Cry was a lot of flaws all things considered; the voice acting is painful at times and it has a few design flaws when it comes to jumping. But it has a lot of spooky atmosphere with it’s gothic setting and creepy design, with some of the most invigorating gameplay I’ve ever experienced. It had some fantastic sequels too, and many games emulated it’s design and strove to be as difficult, if not more so. It’s a worthy prize on any gamers mantle, and surely things can only get better from here.
Next time lets talk about why Devil May Cry 2 sucks!