"Talk of Devil May Cry being a Resident Evil sequel may seem less ridiculous in light of the fairly slick RE4, but even then it's a bit of a stretch. It's tough to imagine that the game was originally set to be a slow trek through cramped corridors, or that its arsenal of shotguns, pistols, and grenade launchers would have limited and carefully rationed ammo, or that its sword-toting antihero Dante might have been caught wielding a puny knife. More than anything, I can't picture him obeying those..."
Talk of Devil May Cry being a Resident Evil sequel may seem less ridiculous in light of the fairly slick RE4, but even then it's a bit of a stretch. It's tough to imagine that the game was originally set to be a slow trek through cramped corridors, or that its arsenal of shotguns, pistols, and grenade launchers would have limited and carefully rationed ammo, or that its sword-toting antihero Dante might have been caught wielding a puny knife. More than anything, I can't picture him obeying those archaic laws of physics rather than flailing about, effortlessly flipping and rolling about shielded demon lizards before slicing open their backsides.
Good thing Capcom scrapped all that realism nonsense. Would a survival horror game let its lead character turn into a demon at will? Certainly not, but Devil May Cry does. Brawler and generally bad man Dante can transform into an imposing minion of hell whenever his combat-fueled devel gauge is at least a little bit full; the chance to fly around and rain lightning down on your foes is as good a reward as any for playing well. Not that Dante needs the extra boost. His "regular" arsenal of sword swipes, uppercuts, lunging stabs, wall-jumps, and flaming-gauntlets driven martial arts serve his death dealing purposes just fine.
Picture a trio of shotgun-wielding, blade-armed marionettes lurking within a decrepit beige courtyard that has an oversized Victorian fountain in its center. Dante leaps towards the first one as soon as he enters their lair; he slashes down on it, uses an upwards blow to launch it skyward, and then juggles it in the air with his pistols for a while before deciding to hop up and put the thing out of its misery. Turning his attention toward the other two miscreants, he turns into a devil and barrels into them at an insane velocity before unleashing electrically charged shotgun punishment on them until there's nothing running through their heads save some crackling mounds of lead.
For show, he hops onto the fountain's peak and taunts their shattered remains.
Not all of Dante's foes will fall before him as effortlessly as those deranged puppets do. Hulking, teleporting ice monsters; shapeshifting, laser-spewing lightning bats; and cackling, scythe-wielding ghost witches alike will all prove ably aggravating to our huggable protagonist. Yet as cool as these enemies are, none of them top the Shadow.
An oily-black lion with purple electricity popping from its shapeshifting body, the Shadow demonstrates just how carefully Devil May Cry's bestiary is planned out. Hanging back and blasting away? Get ready to dodge it when it turns into an enormous razorblade and comes flying straight at you. Better watch out when half of his body becomes a gruesome lance, too—though the showier amongst you can hop on top of it and fire straight into its crimson eyes! More care is needed than ever once its pulsating core is revealed: letting the Shadow grab on before its ultimate explosion entails almost certain death, with it slamming Dante around like a nunchuck before bringing him in close for a final bout of fiery agony.
Agony made unfortunately trickier to avoid by Devil May Cry's only two niggling drawbacks. Should you die and continue, any disposable items used in your previous attempt remain gone, even health pickups that lie about the battlefield during a boss fight; being punished doubly for losing in this way is never infurating, but it grates just the same. The admittedly stylish camera system also irks; though occasionally the angles themselves are to blame for obscuring the enemy, more at fault is the game's occasional tendency to switch angles. The haunting chapel with pulsing trees in which your very first boss battle takes place is the worst offender—every corner can send the view flying, making you have to be even more aware of your surroundings than you really should be.
Devil May Cry's boss battles themselves far outweigh the flaws that they shed light on, though. The monstrous Nightmare, a puddle of diseased goop than can drag Dante down into a hellish underworld where defeated bosses wait for a rematch, awaits in the aforementioned chapel late in the game when the castle is enshrouded in gloom. Decorative shields scattered about the cavernous arena turn its more vulnerable solid form for fleeting moments; as soon as that happens, though, it mercilessly unleashes attacks ranging from an enormous beam of ice to thrusts from enormous lances of solidified muck. The latter finally gives the skilled played a chance to wail on it, as countering his stabs with a deft sword strike leave him defenseless for a cathartic ten seconds of punishment from blazing fire-gauntlet uppercuts and roundhouses.
And if Capcom can even make a giant blob awesome, you just know the other bosses are up to snuff. Though Dante may open his Socratic discourse with Griffon with the immortal “flock off, featherhead!”, he's an unforgettably challenging foe just the same. One skirmish with this flying behemoth even takes place atop an abandoned pirate ship, the masts of which Dante can leap between to dodge his mutant opponent's electrical blasts and disorienting gales while at the same time filling him full of lead. The lovable lava spider Phantom also cannot be forgotten, the previously alluded to first boss that puts a premature end to the careers of aspiring demon hunters the world over with his arsenal of tail whips, lava pillars, and fireballs—it takes a bit of practice to be able to play meteor baseball and know his shots right back at him.
Devil May Cry isn't perfect, but it's still one of the best games I've ever played. Even the soundtrack, a sweet mix of gothic-tinged rock and electronic, is sweet. The fantastic enemies, gorgeous environments (I was particularly impressed by the ocean-overlooking three stories of crumbling balcony on which you first duel the mysterious demonic swordsman Nelo Angelo), and challenging boss fights make Devil May Cry as integral an action-fest as they come.
Featured community review by bluberry (March 01, 2007)
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