It is well known that Devil May Cry is the grandfather of action games. This game defined the genre and many series today owe their existence to Devil May Cry. While it is a slightly dated game at this point, it still holds up in many aspects. I was genuinely surprised how satisfying and thrilling the gameplay from a 17-year-old game is even compared to modern games. At the very least, all action game players should play through Devil May Cry just to pay homage.
The history of Devil May Cry is fairly interesting, it was originally supposed to be a Resident Evil game, but the developers shifted focus part way through development. They wanted to highlight combat and action rather than horror and suspense, and thus Devil May Cry was born. The roots of Resident Evil are evident, as many aspects of that series is present. Collecting items that essentially function as keys to unlock the next area is an obvious holdover from Resident Evil. It is a solid system that makes the player feel clever when they figure out where to use the item, even if it is obvious. Luckily, it is rarely confusing to figure out where to go next. Devil May Cry guides the player through hints so the player is not left frustrated trying to progress onward.
At the heart of Devil May Cry is its stylish combat. Satisfying sword slashes stringed together with rapid fire gunshots defines the series. The satisfaction when hitting an enemy through visual and audio feedback is phenomenal. Juggling enemies in the air and slaying hordes of hellish creatures fulfills the fantasy of being a badass demon hunter. Devil May Cry is flashy in all the best ways. Even the corny story adds to the enjoyment. Devil May Cry feels like an action flick, complete with cheesy one liners and over dramatic dialogue.
For a 17-year-old game, Devil May Cry has surprisingly deep combat. This is mostly because there are just so many options how to play the game. A variety of weapons and guns to mix and match allows the player to develop their own style. At the center of the combat is “devil trigger”. Devil trigger is built up by dealing or taking damage, and when the gauge is filled enough it allows the player to briefly enter an empowered state. Devil trigger makes the player do more damage, regenerate health, and use special attacks. Furthermore, Devil May Cry has a new game+ option to replay the game on higher difficulties to refine your skills. The base difficulty is already fairly challenging, especially towards the end, but the higher difficulties are very well designed. Instead of only simply increasing enemy health and damage, they revamped enemy layouts in many of the areas. Devil May Cry is a game that is meant to be replayed.
The aspect that surprised me the most about Devil May Cry was its intricate enemy design. While there were limitations that prevented the developers from putting more than one type of enemy on the screen at any given time, this was hardly noticeable due to the quality of the creatures. Visually, contextually, and mechanically, the enemies in Devil May Cry shine. Each archetype boasts a variety of attacks and maneuvers that the player needs to become accustomed to. Enemies can block, dodge, and interrupt your combos, which makes even the simplest encounters nontrivial in execution. The hellish abominations that infest the narrow hallways of Devil May Cry are a cornerstone in the game’s success.
Devil May Cry takes a lot of inspiration from arcade games, mainly in its ranking system. After each mission the player receives a grade based on their combos, damage taken, and speed. This encourages the player to improve their technique, as you are rewarded with “red orbs” for receiving high grades. You can use these orbs the purchase new attacks, upgrades, and items. It was clever to lock some combat techniques behind in-game currency, because it alleviates the barrier of entry that many action games have. Starting a new action game can be daunting because you have to learn a plethora of combos, but Devil May Cry starts simple and lets the player unlock new attacks at their own leisure.
While Devil May Cry has some great aspects carried over from Resident Evil, a fatal flaw was brought along as well. The camera is an issue that has plagued game developers since the dawn of 3D technology in the late 90s, and it is especially bad in Devil May Cry. The stationary camera is a holdover from Resident Evil and it clashes with the fast-paced action. The camera is at its worst when you change from one angle to another, leaving you disoriented and moving in the wrong direction often times. The other issue with Devil May Cry is that it does a poor job at introducing the bread-and-butter mechanics that the player will need. Things like juggling, standard combos, and even shooting are not explained anywhere. I would recommend looking up a quick guide to explain controls if you want to play Devil May Cry. Lastly, Devil May Cry is a product of its time, it is a little clunky to control at times. You cannot change direction in air, and Dante (the main character) is rather rigid. It is far smoother than most games of its age, but is a lot less fluid than more modern games.
To be honest, games from the late 90’s and early 2000’s are usually too dated for me to enjoy fully. The advent of 3D technology was a rough transition for the gaming industry, yet somehow a few games from that time period manage to overcome those issues. Devil May Cry is one of those games. While it definitely is a product of its time with problems such as its camera or lack in fluidity, Devil May Cry is so polished and tightly designed in every other facet that it is easy to look past its age. When I started Devil May Cry, I expected just to play it to become familiar with the series and to understand the roots of the action genre. Instead, I thoroughly enjoyed Devil May Cry and was incredibly impressed by the attention to detail and thoughtful design that was implemented. Once I played Devil May Cry, it was apparent why it spawned an entire genre.