If you have read my entry on journalism, then you may be familiar with the reboot of Capcom’s video game franchise Devil May Cry and the backlash it is receiving from fans for the changes being made under the Western developer Ninja Theory. Before I discuss the issue with the reboot in more detail, I will give a brief history of the past Devil May Cry games.
The first Devil May Cry, or DMC for short, was released by Capcom in 2001 for the Playstation 2 and directed by Hideki Kamiya, who previously directed Resident Evil 2 on the Playstation 1 and would later join Platinum Games to direct another highly praised action game, Bayonetta, for the Playstation 3 and Xbox 360. In the game, players assume the role of Dante, a freelance mercenary who is the son of a demon, the legendary dark knight Sparda, and whose half human and half demon abilities are used to fight evil while making a living. The original DMC introduced stylish combat involving a mixture of swords and gunplay, a “stylish” combat gauge that rises as an unbroken string of attacks is performed while avoiding as much damage as possible, epic boss battles, Devil Trigger mode (a temporary demonic state that Dante can enter at anytime which powers up moves and grants additional abilities for a time depending on the Devil Trigger gauge), orbs used for purchasing items, power-ups, new moves, and upgrades for weapons, enemies that require the player to change tactics necessary for defeating them (i.e., marionettes can be easily defeated with both swords and guns, given that their varied attacks can be dodged, while cat-like Shadows would require you to shoot them in order to expose the core, which needs to be destroyed with melee weapons), and secret missions which grant health upgrades upon completion. DMC was also known for its difficulty, which is generally viewed as a challenge which grants a reward and a sense of satisfaction upon beating the game. When it was rated by reviewers and players as one of the greatest video games of all time, Hideki Kamiya, the directer of Devil May Cry, had said: “It’s [now] well known, but this game started out as ‘a new Resident Evil for a next-generation console.’ DMC was my challenge to those who played light, casual games. I believed there were [more] people out there that had a true love of games–fortunately [when DMC was released it sold very well]. I was relieved that the game market was still strong and thriving.” (This quote was from 1up in a feature called The Greatest 200 Videogames Of Their Time.)
Upon Devil May Cry‘s commercial success, the sequel, Devil May Cry 2, was released for the Playstation 2 in 2003. With Hideaki Itsuno appointed to direct the game instead of Hideki Kamiya, it was expected to live up to the premise of its predecessor and therefore become bigger; unfortunately, that was not the case. DMC 2 was criticized for its dumbed down combat system, lowered difficulty, lack of story, weak boss battles, poor and unappealing weapons, uninteresting characters, too much emphasis on style, and Dante, once again the main protagonist, being devoid of the personality he had from the first game. The game was not, however, without any positive aspects. For the first time in the series, the ability to perform mid-air melee attacks, fire in two directions, switch weapons on the fly with the shoulder button, and run along walls was made possible, as well as having another playable character: Lucia, a member of the tribe that hired Dante and is also half-demon. On a side note, it is possible to play as her on a second disk; this method was also used in Resident Evil 2. Features such as these would come into play in the next sequel.
For the next two years after the release of DMC 2, the development team lead by Hideaki Itsuno sought to learn from the mediocre flaws that were made and thus created Devil May Cry 3: Dante’s Awakening, once again for the Playstation 2. Taking place before the original DMC, a younger and more arrogant Dante sought to settle a score with his dark twin brother Vergil while developing his demonic powers amongst the release of an ancient evil sealed away by their father, the rogue demon Sparda.
Besides returning the stylish combat mechanics back to their roots, DMC 3 has made several new additions to the gameplay, including new weapons, a quick change system allowing 4 weapons to be equipped at a time (2 firearms and 2 melee weapons, respectively), and a combat system which allows the player to one of the few combat styles which changes the way Dante fights. The Swordmaster style, for example, provides additional moves to melee weapons while the Gunslinger style improves the firing speed of firearms as well as granting new ways to use them like firing two handguns in different directions simultaneously. The challenging difficulty which defined the first DMC also makes a return, which has garnered the most criticism. Nevertheless, DMC 3 received more positive reviews than Devil May Cry 2 and was successful enough to release a Special Edition, which featured rebalanced difficulty settings, a survival mode called Bloody Palace (first introduced in DMC 2), and Vergil as a playable character.
Moving on to the next generation market, Hideaki Itsuno and his team developed and released Devil May Cry 4 in 2008, this time for the Playstation 3, Xbox 360, and the PC. This time, another half-human, half-demon character is introduced as the main protagonist alongside Dante: Nero, a young knight from the Order of the Sword, a religious sect that worships Sparda as their god and a savior of mankind.
When assuming control of Nero, players were introduced to new gameplay mechanics. One of them is Nero’s sword, Red Queen. Alongside regular attacks, it can be charged like a motorcycle via Exceed to execute harder, faster, and more powerful attacks. However, the most notable new mechanic is the Devil Bringer, Nero’s demonic right arm. This arm is used to grab objects and enemies from long distances, move to hard-to-reach areas, and execute powerful throws on enemies, which are made even more powerful once Nero enters Devil Trigger mode.
When players gain control of Dante, he retains most of his abilities from DMC 3, mainly the style modes. When it comes to the style, it is now possible to change styles on the fly via the D-pad without having to resort to the menu like in DMC 3. Another change made in DMC 4 is how both Nero and Dante acquire their moves and abilities. Red orbs, which have been used throughout the DMC series as currency for recovery items, power ups, moves, and weapon enhancements, are used exclusively for purchasing items in DMC 4. In order to acquire new moves and abilities, the player will have to use Proud Souls, which are earned after completing each mission. The number of Proud Souls acquired depends on the rank received.
Taken as a whole, the Devil May Cry franchise as a whole has been praised by the gaming community for its stylized fast-paced action and bringing new innovations and challenges to each game released. With the exception of Devil May Cry 2, they were ranked among the greatest action games of all time. But for many of the fans, the future of the franchise became clouded last year when Capcom announced that there would be a reboot that will be developed by Ninja Theory at last year’s Tokyo Game Show (TGS).
It would be premature of me to make my personal judgements on the reboot. So before I do that, I will just go over all of the information I have gained about the previews of the game and the issues surrounding it. When the first trailer for the DMC reboot (DmC: Devil May Cry, at it is now known due to the logo) was released at the TGS, the outrage of fans was sparked by the new Dante’s appearance, personality, and actions, all of which were in stark contrast to the Dante they have known throughout the early years of the franchise. Prior to the announcement of a re-imagining, Dante was known to be an arrogant but playful character who taunts large demons, shows compassion to humans (including those who are demons in disguise but don’t actually act like demons), and eats pizza. The new Dante, on the other hand, is made into a young disenfranchised outcast who is aggressive, has no fear, has no respect for authority, and smokes cigarettes. Many of the fans have also noticed that the face of the re-imagined Dante was strikingly similar to Tameen Antoniades, the creative director from Ninja Theory who is one of the people in charge of the reboot and had played a major part in the development of two of the company’s games: Heavenly Sword and Enslaved: Odyssey to the West. It is unclear as to whether or not it was intentional. The re-imagined Dante has also been criticized for looking like a malnourished emo crackhead who looks like Edward Cullen, a character from the Twilight franchise. When asked for opinions by fans on his Twitter account, Hideki Kamiya did not seem impressed by the reboot either.
When questions were being raised about the sudden changes to Devil May Cry, the people from both Capcom and Ninja Theory gave responses that aggravated some fans and only raised more questions. When interviewed by IGN, Christian Svenssen, Capcom’s Senior Vice President of Strategic Planning and Development, said that “Dante needed a new look for this new game.” He also said: "The original concepts that came back for Dante were actually extremely close to the Dante everyone knows and loves. The feedback that came back from [Keiji] Inafune and [Hideaki] Itsuno was, ‘No guys, this needs to be completely different, we need you to go much further and be much more creative.’ And literally dozens of potential iterations later became what we as a team felt comfortable and actually happy with.”
Svenssen also admitted that the negative fan backlash was part of a plan to bring Devil May Cry into discussion, as evident in this statement: “I will argue that any changes will bring about a knee-jerk reaction from fans. We know that; we knew that going into it. To be fair, I think some of the strategy here was to create that discussion and dialogue, and I think it drastically raises the visibility of the title versus if we had just done another Dante.”
As for the changes themselves being made for DmC: Devil May Cry : “This is meant to be an origin story, so this is Dante before you knew who Dante was. There is going to be some interesting changes and twists to what people think they know about Dante or where he came from. We aren’t planning on deviating greatly from the path that is there.”
When Tameen Antoniades was interviewed by 1up, he responded with the following: “The essence of Devil May Cry is all about ‘cool.’ It’s about Dante being cool and making you feel cool when you’re playing it, and so the combat and the style system and everything is integral to that. But, you know, what was cool 12 years ago — I think that was when the first game came out [I feel that it is important to point out that since the interview took place last year and if the game was released 12 years earlier, the year would technically be 1998, two years before the Playstation 2 came out and before the official development of Devil May Cry started.] — isn’t cool anymore. If Dante, dressed as he was, walked into any bar outside of Tokyo, he’d get laughed out. What Devil May Cry did when it launched was it brought everything that was great about action cinema like the fashion, music — it was like a cultural melting pot — and I feel like now, for Devil May Cry to have that same impact, it needs to draw on new things. New music, new ways of cinematography, new fashion.”
In a few other interviews, Tameem Antoniades said that he and his team are trying to recreate the DMC franchise with elements of the so-called underground youth culture of the present day in order to make it new and fresh again. I have a question regarding this which I will bring up later in this entry.
The details regarding the DmC: Devil May Cry‘s gameplay system weren’t known until the a few new trailers displaying that were released at this year’s E3 and Gamescom. By the time the latter was streamed, the developers described the basic details. According to previews from Gamespot and IGN, more emphasis is being placed on aerial combat than the previous DMC games. The key to the combat itself is switching 3 different forms, described as human, angel, and demon. Each form has access to different melee weapons, sets of dual handguns, and move sets (i.e., a standard sword in human mode, a light blue spectral scythe in angel mode, and a fiery red axe in demon mode). There are to be other specific angel and demon weapons that are easily selectable with the D-pad, rendering menu customization unnecessary. The player can also have the new Dante perform what is said to be a Devil Trigger ability that lets him slam the ground and send enemies floating in the air in a zero-gravity state, leaving them vulnerable to a brutal string of attacks. As for the story itself, DmC: Devil May Cry takes in two worlds: a modern European-style city and a demon-occupied parallel dimension called Limbo, which interferes with the former. In Limbo, the city is distorted and comes to life in pursuit of Dante with surveillance cameras housing demonic eyes, city streets that tilt and crack to reveal lava pits, and distorted buildings that sometimes try to crush him by squeezing in. The game is also stated to run at a speed of 30 frames per second (FPS) that the developers said, will feel like 60 FPS, the speed in which most of the previous Devil May Cry games run on.
Now that I have gone over what is known and revealed so far, I have a good deal of questions to ask regarding DmC: Devil May Cry. Since Dante as a character is being remade into a disenfranchised youth, the word ‘disenfranchised’ means “to be deprived of privileges, rights, and/or power.” Given this definition and the fact that many of the decisions regarding the reboot made by Capcom and Ninja Theory have provoked negative reception among a majority of the Devil May Cry fans who are both young and old (which is express with YouTube), wouldn’t they be considered ‘disenfranchised?’ When Antoniades said that Devil May Cry is all about being cool, how is the word “cool” defined in a social, fashion, and cultural context? Speaking of cultural context, he said the following quote when being interviewed by G4 regarding how DmC: Devil May Cry is going to be made: “We’re trying to recreate it with new references, new movies, new fashion, new music, but the underground scene because he’s young.” He seemed to be implying that the underground culture and youth culture go hand in hand. In what ways it that possible? To what extent to the majority of young people know about “underground culture” and understand the ideas, customs, skills, arts, and people that make up that culture? Is it being assumed so because DmC: Devil May Cry is being aimed at a wider audience?
Since everything about the franchise is being changed (including Dante’s character, his origins, the storyline, and the gameplay) in order to cater to both old and new fans, how are the changes that are in stark contrast to what made Devil May Cry popular in the first place going to appeal to old fans and draw in new ones? Since its been said by Capcom representatives and Antoniades that the DmC: Devil May Cry would tell the story of how Dante becomes the character as the gamers have known him, how would the new Dante become the old Dante in a reboot? Will the few aspects that are being retained in this game (the Gothic elements and stylish combat) going to make any difference? Since the game runs on 30 FPS, how is it supposed to actually feel like 60 FPS? How much do the people at Ninja Theory actually know and understand about Devil May Cry based on what they said in the many interviews that were given?
The questions that I have just raised do not give me much confidence in DmC: Devil May Cry being on the caliber of its predecessors. I say this because as a gamer I have played all of the Devil May Cry games, excluding DMC 2 due to the average reviews it received. When I play the original Devil May Cry, I would feel intensity every time I fight a group of enemies and triumph upon defeating them, regardless of how well I string my attacks, how many red orbs I receive, or how badly damaged I get. The boss battles are etched into my memory, including those with an over-sized molten lava spider called the Phantom, a giant lightning-powered winged creature known as Griffon, and the demonic knight Nelo Angelo. Devil May Cry 3: Dante’s Awakening is also a memorable experience for me. I would feel satisfied every time I engage in a boss battle and be rewarded with new weapons and powers upon overcoming them. I would feel like a powerful warrior when I fight enemies using different styles and an even stronger one when I acquire new moves for each style. The story surrounding Dante, Vergil, and a few other characters is also compelling, as it appears to tie in with the original Devil May Cry quite nicely. I also consider Devil May Cry 4 to be a worthy addition to the franchise. When I use Nero’s Devil Bringer on enemies, whether they are on a lesser or boss level, I would feel a sense of power and awesomeness in doing so. When I fight as Dante, a would feel a sense of freshness when I change styles on the fly during my battles. It would have been nice for him to have more weapons and moves, though. Despite the inconsistencies of the story, I find the growth of Nero, the rivalry he had towards Dante, and the respect between the two main characters that developed by the end was gratifying.
I have watched all the trailers for DmC: Devil May Cry released so far and rewatched them numerous times. From what I can tell, there seems to be emphasis placed more on graphics and style than the substance of gameplay. The gameplay itself seems slow when compared to the past games. The models for the new Dante and the enemies he fought in the trailers don’t seem to be shaped well. I have also noticed a few slowdowns, or framerate drops, at times while the E3 trailer played. I may try out the demo when it comes out, but I am not sure whether or not I will do it yet.
In order to support the points and arguments I have made, I have thought about posting some videos that show gameplay footage from all of the Devil May Cry games, the trailers for DmC: Devil May Cry, the interviews with the producers and developers responsible for the reboot, and a few YouTube videos of a user who discussed the whole issue and made arguments for the past DMC games and against Ninja Theory, the game journalists who did not ask questions raised by the gaming community, and the ways in which Capcom and Ninja Theory attempt to bring the whole reboot in a positive light. But I don’t have the confidence to do so just yet. I will make attempts to upload the said videos in another entry in the future. During that time and before DmC: Devil May Cry is released next year, I would recommend keeping an eye on it as more details, trailers, and gameplay footage are revealed. By the time it comes out, the best thing to do would be to exercise one of the most basic consumer rights we all have: if you don’t like the product you see, then don’t buy it.