[Disclaimer - I have been holding off on this post for quite some time for two reasons: a) Quite a few people on the Internet are incredibly reactionary and immediately dismiss any contradictory opinions; and b) the Internet has a wonderfully short attention span. As a result, I can now stick this up without incurring as much wrath as I would have had I done so a few months back.]
In order to do any sort of reimagining regarding douchebag Dante and the DMC franchise, it’s probably best to break the game and its characters within down to the basic themes/concepts/things common in all four games of the series and then attempt to brainstorm back up from there. Now there’s a great temptation to omit DMC2 altogether from the argument because it was so colossally awful and nigh-on universally panned, not to mention being a complete departure in style for the series - and not in a good way. Quite a lot of fans prefer to block it from memory altogether, myself included.
Judging by forum posts, the majority of users here aren't exactly into the genre (though surely some of you out there played God of War?) but it might be fun to take a stab at it given the so-called "outrage" over the DmC trailer back at the 2010 Tokyo Game Show. For those uninitiated, the reaction was on the same level as when Sucker Punch rejigged Cole's look for InFamous 2's gameplay trailer reveal. They have since done a complete U-turn on it, and now the new Cole looks much more like the old, rather than someone closely resembling Nathan Drake's younger, nightclub drug-dealer brother...
So to preface here's the new Dante.
And lead designer Tameem Antoniades WHO BEARS ABSOLUTELY NO RESEMBLANCE TO THE NEW DANTE explains the reboot.
I've put waaaaaaay too much thought into this, and I've considered on more than one occasion just deleting this incoherent shit and moving on. But GDC is in full swing, so we might be hearing more about DmC in the coming days. Also, bear in mind that Capcom is taking a serious risk with this franchise by rebooting it. The worst that can happen (and may very well) is that they manage to alienate current fans without attracting a significant cache of new fans. So let's *drum roll* deconstruct Dante...
#1: General plot
Half-human, half-demon Dante runs a one-man demon-hunting mercenary outfit from a small, slightly run-down office. Antagonists are almost always focused on attainment of some sort of divine power and it's up to Dante to stop them (again). Writing is over the top and predictable. Characterization is next to nil. Setting is usually among vaguely Gothic architecture.
#2: Dante's character
Cocksure show-off who mouths off trash-talking wise-cracks prior to large-scale boss battles. Posture/swagger to match. He's not a particularly deep character, but the games don't demand it from him. The first installment has vague nods towards Dante having an Oedipus complex, with unintentionally hilarious results. Enjoys the company of ladies.
#3: Pre "DmC" depiction of Dante
- Red leather tailcoat; sleeves sometimes rolled up past forearm
- Black fingerless gloves
- Red or black/dark brown leather trousers with black waistcoat/vest
- White (sometimes floppy Kurt Cobain-esque) hair
- Belts and buckles galore (number and position varies from game-to-game)
#4: The handguns & sword
Both Dante’s custom twin M1911 semi automatic Ebony & Ivory pistols and his near full body length sword feature prominently on the box art, and are a staple of the series. Guns are holstered in the small of his back. Not exactly a practical place to put them, but it lets Dante whip them out in a spectacular fashion.
#5: Depiction of female NPCs
Neither recurring characters Trish (tight black corset)
nor Lady (hotpants and/or pleated mini-skirt - hard to tell)
are particularly conservative in terms of wardrobe.
#6: Level layout
Excruciatingly linear often in some badly designed castle with vague nods to Metroidvania - but not really, as the game is broken up into individual replayable chapters, so thankfully it's not open world. The first and fourth DMC suffered from the potential of getting lost wandering around Fortress 101 in the latter stages.
#7 Fixed camera angles
#8: The difficulty
DMC as a franchise is notorious for its difficulty curve, with each playthrough unlocking harder modes for new game plus - the hardest being somewhat amusingly titled "Dante Must Die". Therein, however, lies the appeal and brings us on to the next point...
#9: The fighting system
DMC refers to itself as a 'stylish action' game, in that skillful variation in combos and a risk vs. reward system encourage the player to avoid taking damage whenever possible (especially on higher difficulties) but still keep the style meter running high. A good performance earns extra orbs, which can then be spent on the usual upgrades. As a result, it offers a fair amount of replayability (this is Capcom we're talking about - if they can't get fighting mechanics right then something is seriously wrong). Yes, orb-farming is grinding - though it is nowhere near as monotonous as it would be in JRPGs, nor is it essential to get through the game. Dante also possesses a Devil Trigger gauge. When activated it ups his movement speed, attack power and may also make a couple of other abilities available.
#10: Recurring enemies in vague order of appearance
- Stumbling shifting disproportioned Marionette-things: Slow cannon fodder. Spend a ridiculous amount of time telegraphing melee attacks. No ranged. Always in large groups.
- Grim reapers: Black cloaked flying ghosts with scythes that phase through the architecture. Often perform some sort of "blink" attack. Usually need to be taken down up close with a shotgun to the head.
- Lizards: Fast moving, humanoid in stature, charge from a distance with claw swipes. Some variants have ranged attacks. Dangerous in groups.
- Four-legged wolf-like nuisance: Usually has some sort of unexpected mid-range attack.
(There are several more enemies, of course, but these are pretty much the four main types you'll see throughout most of the games, albeit in different shapes and sizes.)
#11: Boss Fights
Large-scale, flashy and filled with Indian Jones and the Lost Ark-style orgasmic explosions. Bosses are almost always big demons that want vengeance for the actions of Dante's deceased demon knight father Sparda.
Unlike what you've seen with Mario practically since day one of platformers, there is no momentum to Dante's movement. If you stop pushing the analogue stick he will almost always stop on a dime. When he [double] jumps, regardless of whether he was running normally or sped up in DT mode, he will always travel the same distance. The jump button *is* pressure sensitive from DMC3 onwards, however, so height /distance can vary slightly, but it's always exact.
#13 Sources of inspiration
Signs immediately point to John Woo and The Matrix (the latter predates the first game by a year or so) and various anime tropes. My knowledge of this particular sphere of Japanese culture is passing at best, nor have I seen DMC's animated series, but I think the Laws of Super Robot Anime gives an easy-to-digest crash course (too big to post here), point 83 especially. In addition, Devil May Cry is allegedly a nod toward Alighieri's Divine Comedy; Dante's brother is called Vergil and Trish is sort of a diminutive form of Beatrice. Maybe it was some attempt on the developer's half to be seen as intellectual and justify the setting - who knows?
So of the above points, what needs to stay?
I can't remember where I read it, but allegedly red is meant to be the 'good-guy' colour in Japan. So, the signature red coat stays. Buckles and belts need rid of altogether. Hair is debatable, but at least it isn't Space Marine.
The guns. The sword needs toned down a little. Oh look, the DmC trailer has some sort of tentacle whip/lance thing. Huzzah!
As said before, DMC's challenge and the enjoyment from it come from its difficulty. Yes, players might be getting their asses handed to them, but they're getting it handed in the right way. While it may be extreme, from experience it's rarely felt cheap - except when a bunch of those fucking lizards go super saiyan on you in Dante Must Die mode in a cramped space with a dodgy camera angle.
In some cases the fighting system can be a little broken, and more than a couple of moves lie on the flashy rather than the pragmatic end of the scale - but overall Capcom has not failed on this front.
...And what really needs addressed?
DMC games might have a ludicrous storyline, but it doesn't have to be bad. DMC3 managed to almost get it with the evil twin brother arc which, while hackneyed, stayed surprisingly strong from start to finish - not to mention the subplot concerning Lady and her antagonist father Arkham. Neither games 1, 2, nor 4 provided any incentive for the player to see the story unfold. As an aside I can barely remember what happened in 2, it really was that unengaging.
When it comes to flesh-showing, less is more. Trish can still be voluptuous and 'sexy' without having to resort to something as lame as the strapless leather corset thing. In the games she's more or less Dante's personal assistant, so they could at least go for the clichéd bespectacled, hair-tied-back secretary look.
In regards to Lady, in her first appearance in DMC3 she is made out to be something of a tomboy. While only having a brief appearance in DMC4's cutscenes, she somehow became hypersexualized through the roof overnight and looks awful to boot.
Seriously, there is no need for this garish shit.
The marionettes and their similar counterparts in 3 & 4 are kinda dull. I can understand the developers wanting to give the player a relatively safe punching bag at the start, but there's not much satisfaction derived from taking them out on the lower difficulties. The enemies seen in the DmC trailer do not bode well for the future of the franchise.
On first encounter, the Grim Reapers pretty much fuck the uninitiated player over as they now have to bear in mind the surroundings (which the enemies are not limited by), the fixed camera angles, and the fact that they can attack from any x, y or z angle. While the close range, last-minute sawn-off shotgun helps, it goes against the mood that the player should be able to take down any enemy with any of Dante's weapons. The fact that they're just scythe-wielding stereotypes just looks lazy too.
I don't have much beef with the Lizardmen. Sure they're kind of overcooked, but from a design perspective it gives the player a pretty clear idea what to expect with the size = threat level formula.
Because they're not humanoid in structure, the wolf things are far less interesting to fight. Non-*standard* looking enemies (i.e. anything with more than two legs) should probably be exclusive to boss fights.
The chapter structure works fine and adds to the replayability, but the architecture needs mixing up. Don't give the player something grand to look at if they can't interact with it in some way.
Fighting in cramped close-quarters and not having a decent field of view doth not a fun experience make.
...Okay, this is where I'm stumped. If Ninja Theory really are trying to rejig Dante's backstory into something more accessible for a new audience, what's been seen so far hasn't been particularly inspiring (yes it's just a trailer, but DMC has always been a case of style over substance). Nor, indeed, is the whole 70s/80s punk rock theme...
I am extremely intrigued from a narrative aspect by the part of the trailer where Dante is being Saw-style tortured in some sort of Gitmo Bay chamber. I seem to be in an absolute minority on this point, as everyone else has been preoccupied by the look of Dante - claiming that it's Robert Pattinson-Twilight inspired. I also want to note that I do hope that they retain Devil May Cry's trademark sense of humour. DMC3 was cheesy and super-daft with tongue firmly in cheek, but completely self-aware and all the better for it. In the other titles the light-hearted bits were intermittent (and Nero's emo grumping in DMC4 certainly did the series absolutely no favours), whereas DMC3 is more of an action comedy, if anything. Take this pre-boss fight cutscene, for example:
Now that you've all had time to cool down from the DmC outrage, feel free to add your own observations /criticism/suggestions, or just flame me if you want. And thanks for reading.