Devil May Cry - Review

With the PlayStation Halloween sale going on, I decided to once again take a chance, and try something new. In past years I used this sale to get back into series like Castlevania, but this time around I went for a game I have never touched in my life. That series being none other than Devil May Cry. Now as a Capcom fan this is one of the few games of theirs I simply wouldn't play. Wasn't a huge fan of the whole demon thing, and I never had a good reason to give the series a chance. That is until the complete collection went on sale the other day.

Anyway, with the entire series now downloading on PS4, I finally found the time to really sit down with the series to give it a chance. So with that being said, here's a review I never thought I'd do. A review of Devil May Cry 1 for the PS2/PS3/PS4.

Devil May Cry. It's a series that has quite the strange history. Originally it was being created as a brand new Resident Evil game, but it was eventually deemed too much of a departure from the series' roots. Rather than fighting zombies and what not, the game had more of a supernatural ghost theme, and for whatever reason it didn't sit well with the developers. However, rather than tossing the game out after canceling it, the team decided to save what they could and create a new IP instead. This is what would eventually become Devil May Cry on the PlayStation 2. Needless to say, the game was a pretty big hit back in the day, but how does it hold up now? Is this game really as good as fans say it is? Or could it be nostalgia? Well, after playing the game for the first time in 2018, I'm hoping to have that answer. This is my review of the original DMC.

The Story:

The story in the first Devil May Cry is pretty light. In the ancient past a demon named Sparda rebelled against his own kind. Rather than siding with the evil beings of his dimension, he decided to walk down the path of justice instead. Eventually Sparda sealed off the underworld, and defeated it's leader Mundus, but this came at a price. By locking away the demon world and it's evil power, Sparda lost his power as well.

Jumping ahead to modern day, Dante, the son of Sparda, is running a shop called "Devil May Cry." There he works as an investigator mercenary who specializes in strange paranormal activities. At the start of the game Dante is attacked by a young woman named Trish, and is then asked to help her take down Mundus once and for all. Dante, who is looking to avenge the death of his mother, accepts the job, and sets out for a strange castle to confront the evils within it.

At this point the story of DMC is mostly told by the environment. Similar to Capcom's Resident Evil, much of the plot comes from the places you visit, and objects you examine (such as the books on the book shelves). While there are cutscenes during key moments, they are few and far between, with other aspects of the plot only being implied. Of course this is understandable, as DMC1 is focused on gameplay over everything else.

The Gameplay:

Devil May Cry is an action adventure game, with some light puzzle elements incorporated. The game features one central location that you explore, but the story itself is broken up into smaller "missions." At the start of each mission you are given a clear cut goal, and the moment you complete it the mission will end and will trigger an intermission checkpoint. During these moments you're able to save your game and buy items or upgrades, but you're also given a rating as well. This is where DMC differs from most action games out there, as it rewards you based on your performance.

Although the game does have it's chapter based structure, the world itself is completely connected. Taking place in a creepy old castle, Dante must explore the world around him and solve puzzles as he progresses. Sometimes you'll come across doors that require a key to open, but that key itself might be locked behind another puzzle accessed in a later chapter. There are also side areas that will challenge you with extra missions (such as one that asks you to trick enemies into killing each other), and completing them will give you bonus rewards. Although most key items are given to you just by following the main plot, these extra areas give you a reason to explore and to backtrack to older areas. On top of that some weapons are completely optional as well, and can be missed if you're not careful. Again, these elements are reminiscent of Capcom's Resident Evil series, and will be very familiar to fans. However that's about as far as the similarities go.

While RE is a pure horror survival game with limited resources, DMC focuses on it's action. The game does retain the fixed camera angles from RE, but the environments are fully 3D with some more dynamic camera angles during fight scenes. Also while Dante's main weapon of choice is the sword, he also has a wide range of guns at his disposal as well. Although most of them have to be found by exploring, a handful are given to you as you progress through the game. Unlike in RE these guns do have unlimited ammo, and are meant to be used along with Dante's sword combos to help clear out mobs of enemies. However using the gun alone does come at a price, as it does not reward you with the stylish combo points needed to achieve higher rankings during the intermissions.

Although using guns in DMC is quite simple (as it's a matter of holding aim and then hitting the shoot button), Dante's sword and other melee weapons are not quite as straight forward. While triangle is used as the main attack button, depending on when and how you press the button will cause Dante to use different combos. Quickly tapping the button will give you a quick basic attack, but putting a pause between presses will result in a different type of attack entirely. There are also attacks that can be pulled off during a job, and you can use other moves like the dodge roll by holding the aim button and tapping jump while flicking the analog stick. It's actually a pretty complex system, and mastering it is the key to survival. Mix in some well aimed shots however, and you'll be able to pull off massive chain combos that completely destroy everything around you. But on the flip side... Fail to learn this combat system, and you'll be struggling your way through from start to finish. DMC is NOT an easy game, and it can be a very punishing one as well.

Despite being a challenging game, there are some things that can be done to help you through it. Killing enemies (as well as getting high scores on missions) will reward you with currency you can spend on items and skill upgrades, and health upgrade items can be found hidden throughout the world as well. There's also a special demon mode Dante can activate to give himself an edge, but this ability is limited use and needs to recharge after it runs out. If you're still having trouble with the game even after all of this however, there is an easy mode that can be switched to after dying enough times. This mode boosts your health bar, allows you to stay in your demon mode longer, and simplifies the controls to allow you to pull off auto combos. It's a way to help you get through the story if that's all you care about, but it does ruin a big part of what makes the game fun. On top of that it also locks you into easy mode forever, so you're unable to challenge the harder difficulties on New Game Plus... Which is something else that really adds to this game's replay value.

Once you have finished the game for the first time, there is still plenty to do. Finishing normal mode lets you roll on into the harder difficulty settings, and completing them lets you challenge yourself even further. Eventually you'll be able to master the game and experience the rush that goes along with it, but it's a long road before you get to that point. Even so, for the die hard players it'll be worth it.

The Good and the Bad:

Like many games released around this time period, Devil May Cry is an early PS2 release, and it shows. While the game can be a lot of fun, it's also one that takes quite a bit to get used to. Especially playing other action games this day in age. The fixed camera angle can often keep you from seeing enemies and their attacks, the forced platforming sections can be a bit of a challenge, and the lack of checkpoints during the missions can be frustrating. Mix in the fact that most enemies can kill you in a few hits, and you're greeted with a challenge that might be a bit harder than it should be. This doesn't stop it from being a fun game though.

If you can put aside it's age and design choices, DMC is a solid old school action game. While the camera might cause you to get by something off screen once in awhile, most of the challenging moments don't feel cheep. If you die or fail to finish something, it's typically because you aren't skilled enough yet or are simply doing something wrong. Dante has many different combos under his belt, and it's up to you to figure out which ones are the best to use, and when to use them. It's a nice system that keeps the combat from becoming too repetitive, and it prevents you from mashing buttons and hoping for the best. On top of that, the auto lock on guns feel great to use as well, and you can get pretty creative with your combos if you know what you are doing.

Besides the combat, the setting of DMC is a nice one as well. The dark eerie castle is shrouded in mystery, and exploring it's halls is fun on it's own. While it might not be as detailed as areas found in horror survival titles, it does give off a similar vibe and has plenty for you to discover for yourself. The hidden challenges are a nice addition to the main story, and finding new weapons or upgrades always feels great. Putting aside some clunky swimming sections, the map itself is perfect.

Overall Devil May Cry is a pretty fun game, with most of it's issues coming from it's age. It was the first title in a brand new series, and a lot of the ideas they tried out were new at the time. If you're willing to look past all of this, what you're going to find is a solid old school action game with plenty of replay value. It's also one of the few action games to really challenge it's players, and it's iconic main character only helps make things better. Sure, DMC isn't a game for everyone, but it is one that is worth checking out at least once.

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