Devil May Cry, the franchise that defines the modern hack n slash action genre and in many a gamers opinion, has never been dethroned despite a few shaky outings along the way has returned in a blaze of glory with Devil May Cry V which is already tipped as a contender for Game of The Year! DMC started life as an early rendition of Resident Evil 4 but the gameplay was soon considered to be too action-heavy compared to the RE titles of that time (sadly CAPCOM didn’t have the same notion when RE6 was in development) and was soon dropped as a RE title and took on a life of its own as Devil May Cry.
DMC quickly picked up a fan base who were drawn in by over the top characters, sharp presentation, gothic aesthetics and most importantly the slick and stylish combat system which mixed smash mouth physical attacks with loud and aggressive gunplay, allowing the player to string together jaw-dropping combos on the hordes of demons and monsters that lurked around every corner. Dante and the DMC series have a special place in the hearts of its fan’s but as renowned as the series has become to the genre, it has not always been clear sailing for CAPCOM and their blue-eyed devil. Let’s look at the games and the story so far to get you up to speed.
Devil May Cry launched on PS2 in 2001 and received a positive response from both gamers and critics alike. Following the story of Dante, son of the Legendary Dark Knight Sparda, who 2000 years ago defended earth against the armies of hell by defeating The Devil King Mundus and sealed the rift between our worlds preserving peace until his death. Dante now takes his father’s place by defending the human world against any demon forces that look to gain a foothold.
Wielding a mix of Demon and Human weapons, primarily “Rebellion” a sword passed down by his father and his signature custom pistols “Ebony & Ivory”. His bloodline also grants him the Devil Trigger ability, enhancing his movement and attacks for as long as it is active, Dante is quick to get in the face of anyone or anything that threatens humanity by taking contracts via his shop “Devil May Cry”.
Let’s rock baby!
We meet Dante with his feet up on the desk, skulls of demons adorning his walls listening to some hard rock when his evening is rudely interrupted by a mysterious woman named Trish. Bearing a striking resemblance to his late mother she crashes a motorcycle through his shop door and impales him with his own sword just to see if he truly is the infamous son of Sparda. It becomes evident from here that DMC is going to be over the top and awesome in all the right ways. Dante brushes off the 6-foot long sword sticking out of his chest and tells an awestruck Trish that he hunts demons to track down the ones responsible for killing his mother and twin brother, pointing a gun to her head he smirks and states that he must be getting closer. Trish informs him that Mundus has returned and is gathering his strength on Mallet Island. Thus begins Dante’s quest to rid the world of The Devil King once and for all as he ventures into the depths of a labyrinthian castle riddled with enemies, traps and illusions to uncover the true source of the demonic powers within.
Gigantic bosses soon make an appearance as a mammoth-sized lava spider crashes through the ceiling to ensnare our hero, most protagonists at this time would gasp in shock and terror but this is Dante, as quick with his tongue as he is with his trigger fingers and talks more trash than The Rock in the ’90s whenever a monstrous foe squares up to him. It was refreshing to play a character that had pretty much no fear in the face of danger and helped drive the tone of the game.
Channelling Dante’s hatred of demon’s sees you getting stuck into battles and going on the offensive. DMC is not without challenge though, swinging your oversized sword around like Stevie Wonder at a pinata party will get you killed quick! But mastering each weapon you come across and using its techniques correctly will see you holding your own against even the largest of monsters while racking up stylish combos.
After defeating a powerful Dark Knight (no, not Batman) who stalks Dante throughout the game and challenges him to several duels, it is revealed that this Knight is in fact the corrupted and enslaved soul of Dante’s brother Vergil. After finishing him off Dante gains his full power and heads towards a final showdown with Mundus.
The brothers’ names are inspired by Dante Alighieri’s story, Inferno. The development team spent time in England and Italy researching historical architecture which inspired the Gothic look of the DMC series.
Yeah, let’s go all the way to hell…
Hot off the heels of the successful first entry and aiming to strike while the iron is hot CAPCOM rushed into development for a sequel. Releasing DMC2 in 2003 to an eagerly awaiting fanbase. Sadly, this entry in the series is an early low point, the production was not handled by the original team but instead handed to another faction within CAPCOM.
Many changes were made to the controls, combat and characteristics of Dante, gone was the cocksure attitude and snappy one liner’s in place of a more stoic and generic tough guy vibe. The difficulty was also lowered significantly making the game a lacklustre and flat feeling experience overall. Though DMC2 is not fondly remembered it was still financially successful for CAPCOM as many fans picked it up off the back of the original’s popularity.
DMC2 sees Dante hired by newcomer and playable character Lucia. Together they head for Uroboros city to stop a Hitachi lookalike “Arius” from raising a demon lord named “Argosax” (Sadly he’s not a Viking jazz player) in his quest to gain power. The urban environment was significantly larger and more sprawling than the enclosed castle and caverns of the original but lacked any real charm or memorability as each area just seemed to blend into the next. The story is bland and flat too with the only noteworthy event not occurring until the final battle.
Dante faces off against Saxophone Demon who is emerging from a hell portal, as he saves the day the portal closes behind him stranding him in the underworld. Unphased by this, he locates a motorcycle in the rubble that was sucked into the portal and decides to ride deeper into hell seemingly to locate his copy of Meat Loaf’s greatest hits. Later on, Lucia is in an empty Devil May Cry when she hears the sound of an approaching motorcycle, heading out into the street we are never shown if this is Dante returning or somebody else…
DMC2 saw a promotional deal struck with Diesel clothing. Unlockable outfits from the popular clothing line were added to the game as well as promotional material featuring Dante wearing the outfits was released in clothing stores throughout Japan.
This party’s getting crazy, lets rock!
Keen to correct the mistakes of DMC2, CAPCOM released what many consider to be one of the finest action hack n slasher games in history with DMC3 in February 2005. Taking a prequel approach, DMC3 Dante’s Awakening is set some 10 years before DMC1 and tells the story of a much younger Dante coming into his powers as he faces off against his brother Vergil. Shaking up the lore a bit, young Vergil commands the armies of hell and is very much in touch with his demonic side and fixed on enslaving humanity. Our hero Dante, who grew up in the human world is still to discover his true power and calling.
The loudmouth, hilarious and brash Dante of the original game is back on form with the volume turned up to 11! Combat also saw a huge overhaul, introducing multiple fighting styles and a host of extravagant weapons to master. The game would also boast a severe difficulty which some struggled with causing a special edition to be released a year later (before the days when developers could “fix” things with patches) with more forgiving gameplay and a checkpoint system for each level. It also added Vergil as a playable character.
Sorry, not open for business yet…
Setting up his shop which has yet to be named Dante is visited by a crusty bald geezer named Arkham, who informs him that his brother sends an invitation. Shortly after Dante is attacked by demons which he dispatches in one of the most over the top, badass intros you are ever likely to witness. The ground begins to shake as a gigantic tower emerges from the underworld and rises to the sky. Atop this tower is none other than the tall Vegeta himself, Vergil, who stares down at his twin (clearly has good eyesight) inciting our cocky hero to begin his climb to the top and face brother dearest.
Along the way Dante encounters all manner of demons and monsters in true DMC style, boasting some of the most memorable bosses in the series his skills and abilities are put to the test while facing down a gigantic 3 headed dog who sadly isn’t guarding the philosophers stone, a flying leviathan, a seductive vampire and more! as well as meeting Lady, a bazooka-wielding young woman (then it’s not just a clever name) who has a score to settle with Arkham. Although the pair aren’t exactly fast friends they form an uneasy alliance and Lady has since been a regular within the series. The story unfolds as Dante and Vergil have several showdowns, each one more vicious than the last. As Dante begins to realise his full potential and awakens his demon powers, his attitude also matures becoming more like the man we were first introduced to in DMC1.
The stark contrast between the two brothers is evident in every way. The red trench coat, fiery attitude and in your face style from Dante is the opposite of the blue garbed, icy cold, precise and menacing presence of his twin brother Vergil. Even their weapons reflect their differences, Rebellion is an oversized claymore of a blade adorned with a skull. Vergil’s Yamato samurai is a more elegant weapon for a more civilised time, the very embodiment of control, making every move and action meaningful and deliberate like it’s owner.
Eventually defeating Vergil but reluctant to strike the final blow, his twin retreats in shame back to the depths of hell where he encounters the resurrecting Mundus. Eager to prove himself an equal to his father and rid himself of the embarrassment of defeat, the weakened Vergil rushes in to face Mundus. Back in the human world Dante now appears in a similar look to how we first met him in DMC1, finally choosing a name for his shop. Devil May Cry is open for business.
CAPCOM opted for a more Anime-style character model with the third entry and returned to the stylistic gothic architecture of the original.
The end? Don’t bet on it…
It would be 3 years and a new gen of console before we saw the return of Dante to our gaming screens in a title that nearly spelt the end for the beloved character and for the franchise. Join us in part 2 where we look at DMC4, DmC and the latest instalment, DMC V.
If you want to try or replay the first 3 DMC games they are available in a handy remastered triple pack for both PlayStation 4 and Xbox One. Although the 2nd game is a low point it’s still worth taking a look. DMC1 is an instant classic and DMC3 is the special edition featuring the updated difficulty grading and playable Vergil.