Do these sound like your problems? Hordes of demons got you down? The wall between the world of humans and the demon world seems to be breaking, allowing “undesirables” to come through? Perhaps the Lord of Hell has a vendetta against your dad for sealing him away or something? No? Well, if you were Dante, the silver-haired, leather-clad, rock’n’roll loving, pizza-devouring, gun-and-sword-slinging half-demon protagonist of Capcom’s 2001 video game Devil May Cry, they would be your problems. And as players, they become our problems. So, for this “Replay Value”, I go a bit farther back into my nostalgia vaults to the days of the PlayStation 2 for this hack-and-slash action game that started a series to which I was a hardcore devotee until…the abomination that is the black-haired Dante emerged.
Brief Recap: So, when I talk about replay value, I’m looking at three aspects of the gaming experience: engagement with the characters/story, gameplay, and overall aesthetics.
Story Engagement. Devil May Cry begins with a background narrative about the warrior Sparda who betrays the Demon King Mundus to protect the human world, because he fell in love with a human woman and got married. That marriage produced twin sons – Dante and Vergil. Flash forward to the game’s present, Dante sits in his office telling people that he’s closed for the night. We see demon heads mounted on his wall, so we get the sense that he’s a “special kind of bounty hunter”. A blonde woman named Trish breaks in and tells him that Mundus is set to return. Dante heads off to Mallet Island to find a way to stop and kill Mundus.
The story itself is a standard fantastical plot where the hero saves the world from dark forces. The Devil May Cry series shines in its cast of characters, particularly in the flashy, sarcastic, “devil may care” attitude of its protagonist Dante. While his character shines through, the rosy nostalgia goggles had me remembering far more sarcastic quips than there appear to have been. Perhaps I’m lumping the entire original trilogy and the short anime series together for this. Knowing Trish’s true nature and origins make the big “plot twists” far less surprising this time around. That said, I still enjoy the story and its characters.
Gameplay. The gameplay is fairly simple and straightforward. It’s a hack-and-slash gorefest where you trade the blood (represented by red orbs) of the monsters you kill for power-ups. It’s simple, but it’s solid. And subsequent games in the series have expanded upon this mechanic to add complexity to the experience.
However, the gameplay is where the game starts to really show its age. It’s a PlayStation 2 game, so certain things should be expected. That said, I found myself growing increasingly frustrated at both the lack of control over the camera angle (which made some of the jumps maddening, as I could not always see what I was jumping toward, and at the snail crawl that Dante called a run. For a game that’s based on fast-paced combat, the movement speed is frustrating. The overall responsiveness is still good for its era, but it’s not as fast and instantaneous as contemporary games.
Aesthetics. Overall, the aesthetics are still pretty much what I remember loving. The music is good. The graphics, while starting to show their age, are still clear and distinct. The mood is fitting. You can see early that this was originally going to be part of the Resident Evil series, as the moody, somber, grim aesthetics come through. I’ve included a little video that shows the opening conversation with Trish and me walking around the opening part of Mallet Island just so you can see the overall presentation of the game.
Final Thoughts. Honestly, I still enjoy Devil May Cry, but I have to admit that a lot of that is the rosy glasses of nostalgia. Capcom released the game my senior year of college (which, honestly, makes it younger than I remember it actually being), which was a time in my life where I was heavily involved in the heavy metal and goth scenes (such as they were where I lived). The aesthetics, the attitude, the dark themes, and the blood and gore really drew me in. It is still a fun game, but it hasn’t aged as well as I thought it would have at this point.
So, would I recommend this game to someone who hasn’t played it before? Yes, but with the following caveat: Devil May Cry is a classic PS2 game. It’s fun, it’s flashy, it’s well-made. However, it is a game from the early 2000s, and it reflects that in some of its negative aspects. If you can handle slow movement and the lack of complete camera control, the game is still pretty responsive and a blast to play. Give it a shot. You’ll be in for a hell of a good time.
So, what games do you remember playing back in the early PlayStation/PS2 days that you still enjoy?