DMCember – “Devil May Cry 1-4” vs “DmC”

by Ben Butzow (pestulio07)

(Published: December 15, 2015 @ 0900)

At the 2010 Tokyo Game Show, the world was introduced to a mysterious new game trailer starring a young, smoking, black haired… um, a-hole. The trailer was dark, dirty, and caused no small amount of Twilight-related jokes. Series fans were by no means happy to see their more mature, quick-witted badass protagonist re-imagined so starkly. Developer Ninja Theory stuck to their guns though, releasing the series reboot “DmC: Devil May Cry” in 2013 to sharply mixed reviews. There was no middle ground between adoration and abhorrence.

The core concept was the same: Kill demons with a variety of weapons, foremost being a sword, and two pistols. So, what was it that divided fans so harshly? Rather than simply review the game, (It’s in my top 10 games of last-gen, so I’d be a bit biased) I’d instead like to compare the two series side by side, bringing to light the best of each. (NOTE: While I’ll do my best to avoid spoilers, be aware that the story segments may contain some, especially considering the order of the original series of games is a bit topsy-turvy) So let’s begin with…

dmcember wk 2_story

Devil May Cry 1-4

Dante, a cocky half-demon, half-human, runs a detective and bounty hunting agency, with a specialty of demon hunting and the paranormal. He is well known and feared in the demon world as the Son of Sparda, a legendary demon who, centuries earlier, sought to free humanity from the evil of demons once and for all. After an epic conflict, Sparda fled to Earth and lived out his days with his human wife and twin boys: Dante and Virgil.

Note on Virgil: He’s a somewhat recurring antagonist; playable in DMC3, 4 HD, and as a costume in DMC1. If I got into how, I’d be spoiling. So. Moving on…

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Where DMC1 and 2 were fairly light on story, 3 and 4 picked up considerably. They offer many more cutscenes, and characters with much more personality. The sibling rivalry in DMC3 remains a series highlight for fans, and the game actually contains an entire second story from Virgil’s perspective (obtainable only  after clearing the game, once). Regardless of the good or bad in the stories, fan favorite Dante is the main reason everyone keeps coming back for more.

DmC: Devil May Cry

Set in a modern-day parody of American consumerism, known as Limbo City, the world is secretly controlled by demons. They use energy drinks, and political brainwashing, to sedate the populous. All the while, Mundus, the king of demons, seeks to to control the world.

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Dante, a young slacker living a life of debauchery, is pulled into the conflict between demons and a group of freedom fighters known as “The Order,” who fight to free humanity from the demonic control. He soon learns of his sordid past, his twin brother Virgil, leader of The Order, and that he is a Nephilim; the son of an angel killed by Mundus, and the demon Sparda, banished from earth. Now knowing his mysterious origins, Dante decides to assist The Order as they break the control of the demonic forces, and win revenge for his parents.

DmC not only houses a plethora more cutscenes than the original series, it also includes character interaction and story dialogue during regular gameplay. Something none of the past games had included. This allows for a much deeper story with a (albeit predictable) twist ending that leaves you wanting a little more, if not a complete sequel. The game does have post-story DLC available, but again, going there with this quick review enters “spoiler territory.”

dmcember wk 2_gameplay

Devil May Cry 1-4

This varies from game to game, and, though the basic gameplay stays mostly similar, the weapons change drastically between games. Dante’s abilities are constantly expanded, too. The series does suffer from repetitive combat spanning through each game, but that isn’t necessarily a bad thing. Dante’s staple swordsmanship remains consistent; if you’ve played any one of the games, you know more-or-less how he’s going to control, and how to perform many of his signature moves.

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DMC4 does change things up, putting you in the shoes of newcomer Nero for the first half (and end) of the game. While a nice change of pace in retrospect, at the time this did evoke the “switcharoo” feeling of Metal Gear Solid 2, when players found out Solid Snake wasn’t actually the protagonist. Nero’s gameplay did add a very unique new spin on “charge” attacks, however. His sword was equipped with a motorcycle-esque throttle, allowing him to rev up his attacks. Not only was it devastatingly powerful, but a treat for the eyes and ears as well.

In each game, Dante has a special meter underneath the health bar representing his “devil trigger:” a super powered transformation phase that greatly increases attack, speed, etc. This thankfully transferred from game to game, becoming a staple with the franchise, giving players an ace in the hole for those more difficult fights. DMC3, serving as the earliest (chronologically) entry in the series, shows how Dante first learns to access these powers, following quite possibly my favorite mission of the franchise roughly midway through the game. (Seriously, start with DMC3. It is absolutely the best of the originals.)

DmC: Devil May Cry

The series reboot kept the basic hacking and slashing of its predecessors, while adding some Ninja Theory flair, breathing fresh life into a stagnant series. Where the initial games required the player to pause mid-combat in order to swap weapons (or cycle through with shoulder buttons between attacks in later entries), DmC had a unique angel/devil system. Dante could of course swing away with the traditional sword Rebellion, or by alternately holding down various shoulder buttons, switch to angel weapons (blue glow, fast attack, low damage but longer reach) or devil weapons (red glow, slower, harder hitting, but short range). All forms could be switched out mid-combo, resulting in some spectacular attacks that could be strung from enemy-to-enemy, nonstop, until there was nothing left to smack. All-in-all, combat felt more fluid and fast-paced than the originals.

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The biggest complaint that original series fans tended to have with DmC, was the seeming lack of difficulty. Devil May Cry games have always been known for their punishing adversity and satisfying payoff, even going so far as to have difficulty modes where the player can die in one hit, with no in-level checkpoints. DmC certainly has those, but the easy and medium difficulties were scaled down quite a bit. In my initial playthrough on easy for example, I didn’t die at all. “Purists” would say this is a bad thing (or tell me not to play on easy) but I don’t see it as such. There is a plethora of difficulty options, and Ninja Theory provided players with a story worth hearing. With that in mind, it is nice to be able to take on a game like this with minimal frustration, and simply enjoy the visuals, and engaging narrative.

Much like the original series, Dante again has a “devil trigger,” but instead of bursting into a totally different demon form, his hair becomes white, and the entire screen goes black and white, except his coat which turns a stark red. The overall concept is similar enough to that of the originals however: enhanced attack and speed, and decreased damage intake.

(Editor Note: Think of Max Payne-style bullet time coloration, with the main character basically turning into the original Dante)


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Devil May Cry 1-4

In a word: Gothic. Look up any setting of the original four games, and you’ll see an overarching style of darkness, pillars, arches, spikes, and an overall dreariness of a renaissance world lost in time, bereft of its former glory. It fits, though. Dante’s stark red coat, and sheer white hair, make him impossible to miss in the chaos, and his constant quips and one-liners add some well contrasted humor to a purposefully dismal world (sans DMC2 Dante, who gets a little too Christopher Nolan Batman-y).

As the games progress, the world comes to life a bit more. You never walk through areas filled with NPCs, but a sense that the world is alive does come about towards DMC4.

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DmC: Devil May Cry

In a word: Vibrant. A major gameplay feature is the constant shifting from the real world to Limbo, the demon world. When this happens in-game, the streets and buildings warp themselves with uncomfortable twists, cracks, and breaks, creating a jungle gym of platforming for Dante to traverse. The colors are rich and saturate everything with deep reds, cool blues, and every color of the best summer sunset in between. Dante himself doesn’t stand out nearly as starkly, sporting a black coat and black hair.

Boss fights take you from the lava pits of hellish beasts, to intentionally glitch cyberspace battlefields, and beyond. This doesn’t necessarily make it superior to the original series, but it takes it in a satisfactory direction, without aiming for hyper realism, or a straight up copy of the source material.

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dmcember wk 2 storywinner

When I initially started writing for this piece, my plan was to declare a “winner” for each of the above categories, and end with an overall victor. As I continued to write down moments of, “Oh yeah! I loved that part!” from each series, though, I came to realize that I shouldn’t be pitting them against each other. Each can be equally celebrated for it’s merits, and panned for it’s flaws.

In the mood for some hard-hitting fun and a fast talking badass protagonist? Devil May Cry 1-4 are the way to go for you. Want something a bit more modern with a stronger story and harder to master, but rewarding combat? Give DmC a shot.

If you were to twist my arm, I would say that I enjoyed DmC more so than any one Devil May Cry game. That said, it was for personal reasons, and I still love the core series just as much. The best way to determine who wins is by playing all of them for yourself! Once again, I would suggest beginning with Devil May Cry 3, since it serves as a prequel to the story, and has the tightest combat- in my opinion.

For those of you who have played any of the five games, what are your thoughts? And those of you who haven’t tried any, which series sounds best to you?