Dante’s first three adventures are remastered for the current gen consoles and PC, but do they get the classic treatment they deserve?
It’s going to be fascinating to see what direction Capcom now takes as a company, after Monster Hunter: World became a global smash and Street Fighter and their other fighting games a global disaster. With Resident Evil 7 proving a critical hit, but only just hitting its sales targets, it’s hard to guess what they’ll do next. For years there’s been rumours of a new Devil May Cry, but this remaster collection seems more like a quick cash-in than a prelude to a major new sequel.
The thing to realise here is that that this isn’t really an update of the original three games (Devil May Cry 4 has its own separate remaster). It’s actually a port of the HD collection from the Xbox 360 and PlayStation 3 era, or in other words a remaster of a remaster. And just like a photocopy of a photocopy the further you get away from the original the less it makes sense.
Nevertheless, 2001’s Devil May Cry was a landmark action game and birthed an entire sub-genre, which includes classics such as God Of War and Bayonetta (by the same creator). And yet the game actually started life as an abandoned concept for Resident Evil 4, and was inspired by a bug in Onimusha that let you ‘juggle’ enemies in the air like a one-on-one fighter.
The original idea was to have fixed, pre-rendered backdrops à la Resident Evil – and right up to Devil May Cry 4 there are still plenty of situations where the camera simply pans around a fixed point or remains entirely static. This is one of the most obviously dated elements of the game and we can just imagine players yanking the right analogue stick in confusion at the immovable camera.
But while the movement controls feel very clunky the combat holds up relatively well, with the first game setting the tone for the series with typically brash confidence. Dante is armed with both a sword and a pair of pistols, and you’re constantly encouraged to use both within the same combo – launching enemies into the air with your sword and blasting them on the way down with your guns.
Extra weapons and moves are unlocked throughout the course of all three games, and soon enough you don’t need any point-based rewards to encourage stylish play. Leaping and dodging around the game’s bizarre monsters, and working out the most imaginative ways to dispatch them all, becomes your entire focus – not the game’s dopey storyline.
Which isn’t to dismiss the cut scenes, as they’re often enjoyably cheesy and lead character Dante is a classic mix of bravado and high camp as only the Japanese can serve up. Or at least that’s how he was in the first game, in the second game he was transformed into a near mute.
One of the most infamous examples of a publisher trying to second guess a mainstream audience, Devil May Cry 2 seems a logical enough evolution from the original, with larger open world environments. But the combat is horribly dumbed down, with no real variety between weapons and tedious enemies and boss battles that require little in the way of tactics or skill to defeat.
Even the size of the game world worked against it, with considerably less detailed backdrops that, combined with the still largely fixed camera system, meant getting lost was a far more pervasive problem than the enemies.
Thankfully though everything was set right with Devil May Cry 3. This returned to the style of level design from the original and instead focused itself on expanding the scope and variety of the combat. It gives Dante four separate styles of play that allow him to excel at either dodging, blocking, swordplay or shooting. You can flip between any of them from the pause menu and each style can be improved by repeated use.
You’re also able to hold two of each kind of weapon at a time and change between them in real-time – instantly switching, for example, from revolvers to shotgun. The flexibility and versatility of the combat was hugely ambitious for a PlayStation 2 title and it’s easily the most playable of the three games today.
The original version of the collection added a few new textures and character models but despite that it all looks positively prehistoric on the PlayStation 4. Especially as it only highlights what hasn’t been changed even more. The games do now run at 60fps and 1080p, although that comes at the cost of a number of minor sound and audio glitches.
On a technical level there’s nothing outrageously wrong with the collection though, and the main problem is simply how old-fashioned the games now seem. The original was released in an era when European versions of games still had big black borders and ran 25% slower than they were supposed to, and while that at least is fixed now it can do nothing for the clumsy movement controls and inflexible camera.
Although 1 and 3 are still entertaining none of the games have much to teach modern titles, especially compared to the recently re-released Bayonetta 2. And that’s not anyone’s fault, it’s just a result of how much time has passed since their original creation.
We would very much encourage Capcom to make a Devil May Cry 5, but the original games are too old now to be of anything but academic interest. If you’re a nostalgia hound looking for a hit then this does its job well enough but it’s not the past of Devil May Cry which is interesting, but what may become of its future.
Devil May Cry HD Collection
In Short: A relatively competent remaster collection but the games are so old now that, without a full remake, newcomers will struggle to understand how they became so beloved.
Pros: The combat feels clumsier than it used to but it’s still impressively versatile. Fun characters and over-the-top bosses add to the cheesy, early 2000s atmosphere.
Cons: All the games look and feel extremely dated, and Devil May Cry 2 was always awful. Camera system will frustrate many. Some minor bugs in the remasters.
Formats: PlayStation 4 (reviewed), Xbox One, and PC
Developer: Neobards Entertainment and Capcom
Release Date: 13th March 2018
Age Rating: 16
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