By Tom Tolios / October 5th, 2015
I love Devil May Cry.
I love everything about it.
I love the characters. I love the combat. I love the level design. I love the enemies and their ‘cirque du freak’ goth aesthetic. I love the hard rock beat of its unrepentant heart. I love how sexy it is. I love the often incoherent plots and cheesy dialogue. I love its self awareness.
There isn’t a thing I don’t absolutely adore about this series.
Devil May Cry is audacious and unapologetic and those are merely two of its many virtues. Perhaps the only thing stronger than my affection for Devil May Cry is its fatal, narcissistic love affair with itself. Everything is dialed up to 11 in Devil May Cry and it just doesn’t care. Others can like it or they can hate it, but Devil May Cry refuses to go unnoticed and its presence in the industry is simply undeniable.
So why, you all may be asking, am I saying all of this to you today? Well, I’m a little miffed about the treatment Devil May Cry has gotten from the publisher recently. I complain because I care.
Over the past few years, there was this idea that came from some misguided place that the market was tired of these characters and this setting. I’m not sure why this happened. Were the sales in decline? Maybe that’s because you followed up Devil May Cry 3, the overall best entry in the series and a phoenix-like rise from the ashes after the dismally dull disappointment Devil May Cry 2, with a game that didn’t even star Dante as the main character. And maybe it’s also because Devil May Cry 4, for all of its positives, is only half a game. “How could this happen,” fans asked. “Why would you make a Devil May Cry game without Dante as the main character? Why does he feel so tacked on to the finished product?” For reasons that are, frankly, beyond me, you haven’t been able to comprehend one simple truth:
You don’t sacrifice your golden calves.
Stop trying to reinvent or replace the heroes of your series. We like Dante. We like Mega Man. We like the original Bionic Commando. We like Chris Redfield. These characters don’t need to be supplanted or re-imagined with younger/newer/supposedly ‘cooler’ versions or surrogates. They don’t have to pass the torch to anyone. Mario’s been proving that for years.
But how did Capcom respond to the criticisms they got for Devil May Cry 4’s shortcomings? They infamously brought on western developer Ninja Theory, a highly talented gang, to reboot Devil May Cry and the results were… mixed at best.
I want to be very clear here. I am a BIG fan of Ninja Theory. I own all of their games, am proud to have paid day one prices for them and even bought all the DLC for their various releases on at least one system. What follows is in no way intended to impugn their efforts or downplay their collective and individual talent. I’m looking forward to their next big release, Hellblade, as well. Enslaved: Journey To The West is one of my favorite games of last gen. I am not ‘taking the piss’ over Devil May Cry here. If you check out my review of DmC: Devil May Cry Definitive Edition, you’ll see that I spend most of it praising the game. That said… here we go.
Is DmC: Devil may Cry a good game? I think so. It’s fun to play, the combat is engaging and the controls are smooth as silk. The problem is that it’s a false king. A pretender to the throne. The protagonist of DmC is DINO — Dante In Name Only. And that, in my opinion, is serious business.
He’s an unlikeable cuss that refuses to just let go of his inhibitions and be distinct. He doesn’t wear red. He lacks any charm or flamboyance. He doesn’t have any fun. He doesn’t seem to be enjoying himself at all. The game commits many narrative sins as it regards the series’ core concepts and ideas, but DmC’s biggest misstep is at the end of the game, when it asks us to buy into Dante’s acceptance as a savior of humanity. Devil May Cry shouldn’t be that heavy. More specifically, Dante shouldn’t be that heavy. He’s the kind of guy that believes he can save the world, even if it’s hanging on by a thread, without breaking a sweat. The important conflicts to Dante are, as far as I can tell, his vendetta against Mundus and his contentious relationship with his ambitious twin brother Vegil. Dante doesn’t seem to be a guy that makes a big deal out of broad issues. He reads his newspaper, eats his pizza, hides from women when they start talking down to him and goes about the business of saving humanity in equal measures.
Dante knows how ridiculous his life is and that is one of his strongest character traits. DINO, on the other hand, doesn’t seem to get it. DmC feels like a pastiche of something that was never meant to be a Devil May Cry game and got reskinned into one.
Devil May Cry has lost its way because of the focus on remaking him into ‘a hero of the times’ when the greatest heroes in escapist fiction don’t really need to evolve. Dante should stand apart from the pack. He used to be the coolest guy in the room. Look at Ryu Hayabusa of Ninja Gaiden. Even in Ninja Gaiden III, when they tried to humanize the character by making that narrative an existential story about who Ryu really is, he never lost that iconoclastic sheen. He was still the man. Or how about Raiden? Kratos? Indiana Jones? James Bond? These characters are larger than their world. So should it be with Dante.
I want to see him return to his glory days. It’s clear people still like the original version of the character. He’s the one we get in Project X Zone. In DmC: Devil May Cry Definitive Edition, there is a Dante skin from the first game. And Capcom recently released Devil May Cry 4: Special Edition because deep down, despite its fun but broken mechanics, even the publisher knew people still wanted more of the real Dante.
I think I have a solution. A way to properly celebrate the series, return its hero to prominence and make a real splash with the next entry. Something that should really supercharge the fans’ interests and create stratospheric hype for everyone involved.
There’s a little dev studio out there that does good work in the action genre. You may have heard of them. In fact, as some of your former employees have had, and continue to have, involvement with them, I’m sure you know who they are. They’re called PlatinumGames, and whether you want to admit it or not, they’re a talented group of designers that have true passion for the hack and slash oeuvre. From the high octane futuristic running and gunning shootapalooza that is Vanquish to the hectic superhero shenanigans of The Wonderful 101 to the absolute Raiden renaissance known as Metal Gear Rising: Revengeance, Platinum’s pedigree for perfection in the action genre is video game law. Their peerless beat ‘em up from 2009, Bayonetta, proved that they are, beyond a shadow of a doubt, the masters when it comes to combat mayhem. I’m pretty excited about Transformers: Devastation, it must be said.
And speaking of PlatinumGames. I know there may be some bitterness over the way Capcom has treated some of you over the years, but hear me out and don’t just disregard this out of turn. Anything is possible in the business world. Take up a stool and listen to me ramble on a bit.
Your quality is undeniable. But what is also undeniable is the abysmally underwhelming sales of many of your games. Fans love you and recognize your quality, but these accolades haven’t translated into the kind of mainstream, widespread success you’re capable of. Bottom line is that, for whatever reason, Platinum games don’t sell as much as they should. They are niche, the best of which can break 1-2 million units in sales, most of those numbers representing the already indoctrinated masses that are card carrying members of your fanboy/girl club. They’ve made their noise on your behalf and probably will again after reading some of this, even though I’m agreeing with them that YOU ARE GOOD AT WHAT YOU DO. But it hasn’t exactly translated into the types of numbers that you’re worthy of. In fact, I’d say that you’ve underachieved in terms of sales figures for the most part. Anybody out there that doesn’t believe me can check the sales of their games on VGChartz, which is not a source that can be so easily dismissed.
Again, I’m not here to indict Platinum. I love their games. They are the Wolverines of gaming development, the best they are at what they do. And they deserve a breakout smash hit that will move units and generate more excitement and awareness than they’ve ever had before. They’re worth it. Put your pitchforks down, internet.
And Capcom. You’ve had a rough go of it recently, and this just can’t be denied. With series like Resident Evil, Mega Man and, yes, my beloved Devil May Cry all needing the rub of some positive press, you could be doing a lot more to make your fans happy and benefiting by that. From on-disc DLC to flat out ignoring ‘the mission statement’ (Resident Evil 6, I’m looking at you), you need a win. Your recent announcement of a Resident Evil 2 remake is a good step. No, a great step. But it’s not the only step you need to take. And while your HD remasters are nice, they’re not what I’m thinking of when it comes to a true rebirth.
So here is my impassioned plea to you, as a fan that loves what you used to be and wants to see you become the shining beacon of the industry once more.
A crossover. You’re good at those.
Dante. The REAL Dante. The one the fans love and not the emo poster child we got in 2013. I want the guy that doesn’t take most things too seriously, has fun and keeps it stylish. You know, the one that once filled all our dark souls with LIIIIIGHT.
Paired with Bayonetta.
Developed by Platinum.
Co-directed by Hideaki Itsuno (current guardian of Devil May Cry) and Hideki Kamiya (director of the original Devil May Cry and Bayonetta.)
Published by Capcom.
This is the dream match that this genre deserves. This is the crossover the fans deserve. This is the apology that could set things right for you at long last. Platinum makes the best action adventure games in the world. Capcom has the best hero in this particular genre. He and Bayonetta are practically made for each other. And both characters inhabit such wild and imaginative spaces with angels, demons and everything in between that they would seamlessly dovetail into a combined adventure if you only dared to dream of the possibilities. Bring the entire casts for both franchises into it. Come up with a great story that is insane, over the top, eye popping in its sensationalism and overwhelming in its execution.
No cynical cash grabs. No DLC schemes. No console exclusivity.
Just hardcore heavy metal hack and slash hysteria for all to enjoy.
Your brains know that this was meant to happen. You just never realized it until now.
And so, I end this long dissertation the same way Dante might, and please take this in the spirit in which it is intended.
You are SO…
BayonettaBayonetta 2CapcomDanteDevil May CryDevil May Cry 2Devil May Cry 3Devil May Cry 4Devil May Cry 4 Special EditionDmC Devil May Cry: Definitive EditionNinja TheoryPlatinum Games