Devil May Change

Can a revival shift indifference into appreciation?

By: Alexandra Geraets

Filed Under: Action Editorial Life


In the almost ten years I’ve played games, there are some I’ve loved, some I’ve hated, and more than a few I’ve felt indifference towards. Loving a game is easy enough, and you feel good when you tell people about it. Hating a game can take some time, but once it’s sunk its claws in, hating a game is hard to let go of. Indifference is the kicker, because not having an opinion one way or another about a certain game makes it hard to talk about.

I’ve had enough discussions with friends over the years about games that I loved, hated, and didn’t care about. When I play a new game, I know within an hour or so if the game and I are going to be friends, or awkward roommates until I can trade it towards something better. But sometimes I simply feel indifference towards a game, and when a game like that is revived for a reboot, and I find that I’m interested, yet still feel unmoved by the original, I have to take a step back and wonder why.

The Devil May Cry games were unique, brightly-colored games, with wildly exaggerated characters, and silly, borderline nonsensical stories, but they fall squarely into the stack of games about which I feel indifference. I never played the first two games in the franchise, and when Devil May Cry 3 was released, I made it to the halfway point before putting it aside. Devil May Cry 4 held my attention for about the same length of time before it too joined the Bin Of Games Never Completed.

Looking back, there was nothing about these games that I shouldn’t have liked. The acrobatic combat was enjoyable, and did require a bit of timing and some clever dodging to take full advantage of what characters could do. Mixing in guns and swords against demonic enemies made for a visually entertaining experience. The art style of the games was varied and memorable, from ruined cities and otherworldly dimensions to vibrant gardens and unsettling laboratories. Characters had unique looks; series hero Dante embodied punk and glam fusion with his bright red coat and wild white hair. His personality left something to be desired, but I enjoyed playing the games so much that I was able to look past it, until the time I put the controller down.

I simply could not immerse myself in the game world. Dante’s abrasive, childish personality did not help me in Devil May Cry 3, and while I found Devil May Cry 4’s Nero and the older Dante much more appealing, I still ditched the games. Visually, the games were stunning to look at; sound and gameplay wise they were fast, fun, and filled with an energy that other games like them lacked.

As pure escapism, the games should have appealed to me, and instead, I went in search of something else. At the time, I was feeling out what appealed to me in video games; there is no way someone can hold your hand through that evaluation process, and there are no strategy guides to lead you on the path to the next game that could become your favorite. I learned quickly that art style, design, sound, and story were critical to my enjoyment of a game.

When replaying God of War recently, I was reminded of playing it on the PS2 alongside Devil May Cry 3, and I remembered that God of War’s story was its biggest draw for me, alongside its visual, audio, and gameplay presentation. God of War was about revenge, at all costs, taking classical mythology and twisting it into something perverse and mean. The ultimate story was about the death of the Greek gods, the end of myth.

The Devil May Cry series has its own mythology, a mash-up of gods, demons, devils, and angels, but it is lost within a nonsensical plot. I couldn’t begin to describe the story, because I’m not convinced Devil May Cry 3 had a story. Because story was then, and still is, so important to me, I think that might account for the biggest reason I gave up on the Devil May Cry franchise.

Due to previous feelings, when I first heard that Devil May Cry was being revived for a fifth round, I was indifferent. However, upon seeing conceptual art of series lead, Dante – portrayed as an anarcho-punk character, decidedly modern, and radically different from his initial incarnation – I started to warm up to the idea of the game. Developer Ninja Theory’s involvement immediately made me think that I might actually enjoy playing a Devil May Cry game. The studio has a reputation for writing and presentation due to their previous games Heavenly Sword – an action-packed God of War-esque hack and slash – and Enslaved: Journey to the West – an adventure platformer that boasted the writing chops of Alex Garland (28 Days Later; The Beach). While neither game hooked my attention immediately, the potential for greatness lies within them; Ninja Theory has some fantastic production values behind their games and their development of the Devil May Cry revival might be just what it needs to make a believer out of me.

Films and video games share a common thread in their love of resurrecting old franchises with fresh new spins. In film, we had the 2009 revival of Star Trek; I have more than a few friends who became rabid Trekkies following the reboot. With the current interest in a new Star Wars franchise, a new generation will become followers of that universe, much like the second trilogy did at the beginning of the century. A new generation joins in to share the enjoyment of the old.

In games, we have HD remakes that capitalize on old titles, while paving the way for revivals on the present console generation. I’ve come to the conclusion that HD remakes are good for the nostalgic soul, be they done well or poorly, and I think franchise revivals have the same potential. With the upcoming Metal Gear Rising and Tomb Raider games due to hit consoles next year, new life is being poured into old classics, and fresh takes on the old offers the potential to secure new fans.

Put two gamers in a room and you might witness an argument about whether or not remakes are a good thing, or which studio might have gotten their remake right or wrong. The purpose of a remake is to pique interest, regardless of the medium, and while purists will argue against revivals, others might look at a combination of new-with-the-old as a step in the right direction. It might even open a door that was previously wedged shut.

Filed Under: Action Editorial Life

About the Author:
Alexandra Geraets is an fan of story-driven video games. She's an even more avid fan of exploring how and why they resonate with all of us. Her essays have been found on Village Voice Media.

8,633 Responses to “Devil May Change”

  1. mnorth700

    Remakes? I don’t admire them at all. It’s nothing but laziness to resurrect a previously popular series in the hope that some old fans come back, and if not who cares, the name Devil May Cry is easier to sell then Punk City 001 for any gamers in general. Whether this game ends up being good or not it’s hard to truly appreciate it because it has no integrity. Gaming is maturing but in its maturation we’re just seeing people take advantage of franchises in the same way the film industry lazily takes advantage of them.

    I played the demo. I didn’t think it was very good. Combat is bland, enemy AI is robotic, art-style feels like a cross between Bayonetta and Shadows of The Damned, over-emphasis on story feels at odds with the low-brow nature of the genre. Then again I never thought much to the old DmC games so my opinion isn’t of previous fanboy bias. I couldn’t help thinking that the new game feels more pretentious. I think you’ve incidentally given the game too much credit for opting for a storyline rather than being willing to rely on its subversive traits.

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