DMC: Devil May Cry – Reboot Retrospective

editorials by Sean Halliday

Fans can be great. They can enhance franchises, allowing creators to get an idea where the next game is heading. They’ll purchase a game without question, supporting it to no end. But what happens when those same fans feel betrayed? How much power can a fan base over the future of a series?

 

Devil May Restart

Reboots are nothing new in any media. When an IP has reached its supposed limits, but still holds potential in other areas, a reboot is a logical answer. Devil May Cry was hardly the perfect franchise. The first entry was drenched in early 2000′s slickness and themes. Dante was the coolest guy rocking an emo/anime haircut in video games.

 

 

Praised for its silky smooth gameplay and fantastic combo system, Devil May Cry was (still is) a classic. The follow up was a stumbling mess of ideas that never quite developed into anything worthwhile. General reactions to Devil May Cry 2 ranged from ‘meh’ to venomous hatred, thankfully the third entry brought the franchise back into the good books.

 

Dante’s Peaks and Valleys

Dripping with all the style of the original, Devil May Cry 3: Dante’s Awakening was the pinnacle of the series. Tight gameplay, ferocious combat, and a pretty decent storyline resulted in some awesome experiences. While the difficulty was crushingly challenging, the satisfaction felt from dusting off a boss with an SS rating was immense.

 

 

Capcom followed up their masterpiece with Devil May Cry 4, the franchise’s debut on 360 and PS3. In what seems like a trend, the even numbered entries tend to underwhelm. Devil May Cry 4 was solid but suffered from repeating level design, a so-so story and fewer options than its predecessor. Playing the game as Nero, only to switch to Dante and literally backtrack for the second half of the game, was sheer frustration.

For a few years, Devil May Cry retreated into the shadows…but soon returned. Capcom handed over the reigns to Ninja Theory ( Heavenly Sword, Enslaved) tasking them with rebooting the franchise. Reaction to the news was fiercely negative. Ninja Theory had a strong pedigree, their past work suggested they had what it took to reboot the fan favorite. The fan base wasn’t so sure.

 

Devil In The Detail

You could spend hours debating on whether or not they should have changed the protagonist. Dante was established as something of a modern day video game icon. Devil May Cry was a product of its time. Floppy hair, long leather jackets, Gothic themes and industrial(ish) metal. Dante was the accumulation of everything that was ‘cool’ at the time.

 

 

Ninja Theory ‘s accumulation of Dante followed a similar path. The physical look simply replaced the leather with more modern takes on men’s fashion. Boots, denim, vest and shorter dark hair. His smart ass attitude was still there, just with more cynicism. The original’s metalish soundtracks were switched for something more electronic sound. Even the story provided imagery of a heavily corporate world dominated by mass media, acting as a mirror more akin to modern day fears.

DMC: Devil May Cry was the modernization that not many hardcore fans wanted, even if it was needed. The new tones worked well together, playing host to a surprisingly great soundtrack. Combining various elements of dark sounds, with sprinkles of dubstep samples, produced a dark,  gritty, tone. The exact same way the original’s soundtracks supplied fittingly dark sounds.

 

 

 

Modern society is pretty damn cynical. People are becoming increasingly jaded with Media spreading lies and corporations peddling unhealthy products while hiding behind a ruse of wellbeing. Team Ninja used this to craft their core story, additionally allowing it to influence some of their level design. The best example of this being the boss battle with news network anchor Bob Barbas.

 

King of “Uncool”

Throughout the game’s run up to release, Devil May Cry fans expressed their disdain towards Ninja Theory’s vision. Natural disapproval to remakes and reboots is nothing new, even more so on treasured franchise. The new look Dante had been the focus of the criticism, Ninja Theory didn’t handle this well. In an attempt to explain the reasoning behind the re-design, creative director Tameen Antoniades described the original Dante was being ‘uncool’.

 

 

As expected, this did not go down well. Rebooting a series is hard enough as it is without seemingly crapping on the source material and its fans. The push for the redesign wasn’t exclusively  Ninja Theory’s fault. Capcom had ordered the series become something different, thus pushing Ninja Theory to create something far away from the original’s vision. Either way, the changes and comments made had generated disapproval among the Devil May Cry faithful, as well as the original’s creator…well for a time anyway. Tensions weren’t helped by a certain scene in the game.

 

End of Days

As a final product, DMC: Devil May Cry was a good experience. It didn’t lessen the importance of Devil May 1 and 3. If anything, it highlighted just how key both games were to enhancing the genre and industry. The departures from classic Devil May Cry themes and traits made it hard for some to hardcore fans to enjoy, but a quality game still remained. With a more gritty look and fantastic use of imagery and music, DMC: Devil May Cry provided a fun jaunt caked in style.

It’s perfectly understandable why some fans felt betrayed. Relations between Ninja Theory and the fan base could have been handled much better, watering down the animosity in the process. Two years after DMC: Devil May Cry’s original release, the Definitive Edition launched. Packing upgraded visuals, 60 frames per second and all of the DLC, the game had its time to shine away from the arguments.

 

 

Looking back at the game in 2017 produces mixed emotions.

It’s hard to overlook the backlash towards the departure from the originals both mechanically and cosmetically. Perhaps with a more communicative approach, things might not have been so bad. If Capcom, and to a degree, Ninja Theory, appreciated and welcomed the fan’s concerns, DMC: Devil May Cry would be remembered more fondly.  At the very least, we got a good game out of it, and hopefully a lesson in how important fans are, even when chasing a new market.

 

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