"Super Mario Bros. is the first videogame I ever played, and I loved it. I’ve conquered other electronic worlds, but you always remember your first time. Mine happened to be with the seminal effort that turned the slumping mid-80s gaming scene on its head. "
Super Mario Bros. is the first videogame I ever played, and I loved it. I’ve conquered other electronic worlds, but you always remember your first time. Mine happened to be with the seminal effort that turned the slumping mid-80s gaming scene on its head.
When I heard about the forthcoming sequel, of course it was a revelation. A chance to relive that magic…could it be?! If you've played Super Mario Bros. 2, you can guess at my devastation. It was weird--picking up vegetables and playing as a princess that could fly and no Koopa in sight--nothing like its predecessor, in fact a retooled version of a Japanese game that originally had nothing to do with Mario. But I grew to like it. It wasn't the same game, but it wasn't a bad game. It was a different game.
Devil May Cry is another landmark, and another game I happen to love, but its sequel devastated me in irreconcilable ways. There's no coming to terms with Devil May Cry 2 because it is essentially a shitty, shitty take on the original, a poisonous, evil DMC that leaves only hatred and disgust in its wake. A hint of something good is just barely recognizable--a glint of light weakly flickering amid a vast, engulfing darkness--just barely.
Normally it's up to inferior designers working at other studios to create the ripoffs of popular games, but Capcom managed to do it all in-house. They farmed out their eagerly anticipated sequel to a green group of programmers, and these guys’ experience, or lack thereof, is painfully obvious. I’ll try to put it nicely: their hold on what made DMC so cool in the first place is dangerously tenuous.
Dante, the half-human, half-demon protagonist, was a marginally interesting hero the first time around, an appealing mix of cheesy “attitude” and steely killer instinct. In this adventure, any trace of personality has been violently removed. He barely talks; indeed the story is minimal to the point of nonexistence. Yet even its sparse smattering of cutscenes still manages to be incredibly off-putting. The big baddie is a CEO in a fur coat who looks like Heihachi's wimpy brother. Of course he wants some sort of incredible power, but we only find about his ambitions in the vaguest of terms.
Playing the game isn't any better than watching it. A few of the thrilling mechanics from the first DMC have been left intact, but some have inexplicably been replaced with lame, stunted variations that could have easily gone unchanged. The original system of purchasing new abilities for your weapons and tailoring your own style of play is gone; there are now items that make you "stronger" without offering any evidence of it. You’ll kill enemies in fewer hits, but you won’t get any new moves. Gone is the sense of progression, the experience of building a hardass killing repertoire with a swift lightning sword or punishing flame gauntlets.
There are plenty of glaring flaws and countless annoyances I could reel off, but the real game-killer is the level design. Both Devil May Cry titles feature a static camera [there are number of preset angles from which you see the action, rather than a camera that follows your movements], and although it caused problems in the original, things were very manageable: the preponderance of narrow corridors and small rooms ensured enemies were rarely out of sight. Boss battles were also restricted in area, necessitating skillful evasion and fierce melee brawling.
DMC2 is a game of sprawling landscapes: an Eastern European villa here, a foggy port town there. Sometimes these environments have a certain sweeping grandeur, but game-wise the result is always crippling. A substantial portion of the time, you won't even be able to see your enemy. This is inexcusable, but there is a simple path to victory: just lock on to an off-screen enemy and fire away with a projectile weapon. Don't worry about dying! The flaccid enemies--weaker and dumber than the original’s in yet another change for the worse--won't get too close. You can even pummel bosses into submission this way. My personal Most Depressing Moment came when the giant lava spider (a terrific boss from the original DMC) showed up. He plodded in about 3/4 of the way through the game, a last ditch effort to restore some shred of dignity to the proceedings. He was promptly dispatched when I stood in a corner of the massive, round open space and continually fired my rocket launcher.
The overbearingly bland design makes things even worse. The visuals are certainly smooth and polished, but what's the point? So much of Devil May Cry's appeal laid in its terrifically moody settings--each room alive with strange artifacts and unsettling artwork--and its horrifying, dynamic enemies. In DMC2 there are only bleak, desolate areas clashing horribly with generically "demonic" baddies that pose little threat. Imagine an ugly industrial complex with obnoxious birds, or an abandoned city with gangrenous tanks(!). Bad, huh? The designers were clearly grasping futilely to come up with something cool…and they had the blueprint right in front of them the entire time! Capcom’s idea of a concession is a second disc featuring a second characters named Lucia. There’s nothing wrong with this sort of extra, per se, but her journey certainly isn't any better than Dante's.
You can still achieve flickers of the DMC magic--a combo pulled off just right or the occasional close-quarters skirmish--but they are rare indeed. An awesome framework has been marred and warped to hideous ends.
Dante cares about being stylish above all else. I can only assume he was mortified to be a part of this production.
Community review by careless_whisper (May 26, 2005)
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