Devil May Cry
The son of Sparda
Trapped in a large crypt, standing in front of a cluster of advancing demonic puppets, devil hunter Dante calmly and not without an aura of confidence draws his huge sword, Alastor. The six-foot blade crackles and almost dances in his hands with anticipation and the blue/white heat of electricity. One of the fiendish foes pulls a shotgun seemingly from thin air and quickly shoots at the devil hunter, who – almost quicker than the eye – rolls to the right, barely evading the projectiles. In retaliation Dante draws his signature pistols Ebony and Ivory and quickly sends a volley of bullets at the small crowd, momentarily slowing their advance. He pauses for a fraction, tenses his taut muscles and prepares his attack.
Drawing his blade again, he surges toward the foes blade extended, covering the twelve foot void between them instantly, and smashes the group back across the crypt in a mass of gangly limbs and hollow, featureless expressions. Dante again closes on the hellspawn, ready to end the confrontation. He quickly follows the attack up and slices his blade through the air repeatedly, leaving a sense of power and displacement in its wake, as he rains formidable, fatal strikes down on the inhuman Marionettes. He effortlessly swings the huge blade upwards, lifting the final enemy into the air, as he again draws his pistols and fires with incredible rapidity, suspending the demon mid-air amidst a hail of bullets.
Almost as soon as he has started, Dante ceases firing and lets the defeated foe fall to the ground, falling to pieces on impact. Sheathing his oversized blade and straightening his immaculate scarlet jacket, he collects the defeated enemies’ souls and returns to the stone elevator, to search the vast gothic castle for more minions of the Dark Lord Mundus ready to fall before his relentless onslaught.
This is Dante, an ashen-haired, arrogant and adroit half-human, half-demon, and this is his original adventure. To quote the man himself, it’s going to be one hell of a party!
Let’s rock, baby
Welcome to Devil May Cry; the original – and perhaps still the best – modern action-adventure. Few other characters have proved as compelling, empowering and downright enjoyable to control as our protagonist, the son of Sparda. We begin with Dante as he is relaxing in his office (more of a shack, really), minding his own business, when mysterious not-quite-sure-of-her-motives blonde Trish appears. She very promptly rides her motorbike through the front of his shop and proceeds to beat the devil hunter up. Impaling Dante with his own sword Force Edge, she is exasperated when he retaliates (knocking her to the ground), nonchalantly pulls the blade from himself and moves to finish her off… However things are never that uncomplicated. For reasons unknown as yet, Dante spares this woman because she happens to look exactly like his deceased mother.
This opening scene establishes the tone for the rest of the game; namely elaborate and visceral cutscenes, ridiculously overpowered characters and action sequences that would do Jet Li proud. When you finally get the chance to control the devil hunter it becomes clear how empowering and enjoyable he is. Adept in all manner of combat and acrobatics, Dante is just as comfortable wielding firearms as he is leaping off of gothic castle spires or attacking a group of demonic foes with a pair of fiery gauntlets. His at-times-discordant personality might be a little tough for some to swallow, but there is no denying that this guy can talk the talk and walk the walk.
Before we know it Dante and Trish are on their way to Mallet Island, where the Demon Lord Mundus is trying to break through into the mortal world. It’s down to Dante to stop these fiends from entering our realm, like his father did before him. Sword in hand, Ebony and Ivory holstered at his waist, the brash young man is all too keen to accept the challenge.
The Dark Knight
The way you play relates directly to Dante’s progression. One of the key elements is the way in which you enhance and increase his abilities. Every time you get into combat you get a rating (S, A, B, C, D), and the overall rating from the encounter determines how many red orbs you obtain from defeated foes (which are basically the game’s currency). This system is incredibly simple yet effective, so if you want to level Dante up or buy support items (which subsequently makes later stages easier) you’ll need lots of red orbs to do this and you’d do well to try to get as many from defeated foes as you can. The most effective way to get lots of orbs is to mix things up in combat and try to get high ratings all the time – if you merely do his three-hit combo you’ll get a low rating, but make things a bit more interesting and take advantage of the excellent combat engine, mix three and four-hit sword combos with other attacks like jumping strikes and gunplay, and you’ll be rewarded with a higher rating and thus more orbs to spend on levelling Dante up at the end of the level (or mid-level if you can find the intermittent Guardian of Time statues).
Rather unusually, the game is broken up into missions – there are twenty three in total, and between them you’ll be gallivanting from the gargantuan cathedral, through the grounds and its abandoned monoliths, through flooded caverns and an abandoned ship, as well as a few other locations. Levels design is satisfying and sometimes grand, if usually quite linear, although progress is fast and intense – Capcom have chosen not to slow the game down with much in the way of exploration or puzzles, and so you’ll rarely go more than a moment or two without encountering some suicidal demons ripe for a-slaying.
Dante has an enviable collection of weaponry, most of which are picked up during his adventure. Although his standard sword Force Edge is soon replaced by the bigger and badder Alastor, there’s still a well-balanced and varied mix of weaponry, and plenty of choices therein. Do you sacrifice range for power? Or give up your Devil Trigger to use the most powerful sword available? Would you favour the slow-but-powerful grenade launcher, or the fast-but-weak pistols? The weapons and combat is where much of the depth lies, and finding your perfect set-up to break the enemy forces is both enjoyable and interesting.
Needless to say, Dante’s way is not blocked solely by demonic puppets and scythe-brandishing spectres (although there are plenty of those). Devil May Cry features a cast of powerful and menacing bosses, including the huge scorpion/spider hybrid Phantom, the strangely familiar demon knight Nero Angelo and, naturally, the Dark Lord himself. Boss fights are frequent, difficult, often prolonged and will take all of your skill and endurance to overcome. They are also fantastic set-pieces and show some superb character designs.
Being half-demon, Dante can use his dark powers for limited periods to access incredible demonic abilities. Used in conjunction with the electrical power of Alastor or the fiery Ifrit gauntlets, Dante can harness his dark side and unleash Hell upon his foes. Using the Devil Trigger with a tap of L1, you’re able to utilise all manner of fierce and visceral attacks which are more than a match for even the most powerful of foes.
Devil Never Cry
The presentation is absolutely first class throughout. Most cutscenes are rendered using the admirable in-game engine, with the only exception being where Mundus reveals himself in suitably extravagant style, which is deemed significant enough to have the only FMV sequence in the game. The story isn’t especially important or significant, but cutscenes are always entertaining and the decent graphics really get a chance to shine in them. The music is ultra cool goth-techno-rock, which fits surprisingly well, unlike in the similar-sounding Dynasty Warriors series. Voiceovers and scripting are of typical Capcom quality – which is to say they are hammy and trying, albeit not really to the game’s detriment (they’re unintentionally cringe worthy and amusing, really).
The difficulty level is fairly high – it might not be as punishing as the infamous Xbox classic Ninja Gaiden, but this is certainly one of the more severe games on the PS2 (particularly on re-plays when you can play through on even tougher modes – only the hardcore need apply!). Thankfully, like most of their games Capcom have included their usual Easy difficulty level if you die a few times, which is most welcome to say the least.
If you were to really pick the game apart looking for flaws, there are a few. The omission of any kinds of puzzles or barely any breaks in the relentless action has forged a very fast-paced, shallow feel to the game. If you’ve played other action-adventures such as Onimusha, God of War or even Resident Evil, their more measured and balanced feel seems a little more suitable than Devil May Cry’s unyielding encounters. Some of the missions also feel a little underdeveloped – one in particular can be completed in barely a few minutes, plus there are a couple of others which serve as little more than preludes to boss fights. The fixed position camera can annoy at times as it’s not always the most helpful view, and you will at times find yourself fighting enemies not entirely on screen. However, this is understandable to an extent given most of the combat takes place in the comparatively tight confines of the cathedral, but it’s still a bit of a problem, and something of a recurring theme in Capcom titles (which they are slowly beginning to address in more recent titles). Lastly, it has to be said that the very final section is awful, needless, and feels thoroughly tacked-on.
Devil May Cry might be over six years old and arguably superseded by younger competitors, but if you want a classic, dependable and tough action-adventure with its finger firmly on the trigger then you can’t really go wrong with this awesome adventure. Imitated by many, not particularly bettered by any – this is a real slice of the PS2 in its prime and an outstanding representation of the pinnacle of the genre.
Nine out of ten