“You’ve heard of it haven’t you, the Legend of Sparda? When I was young my father would tell me stories about it. Long ago, in ancient times, a demon rebelled against his own kind for the sake of the human race. With his sword he shut the portal to the demonic realm and sealed the evil entities off from our human world, but since he was a demon himself, his power was also trapped on the other side. I never believed it…”
…but it’s been twelve years since the launch of Devil May Cry, originally planned as the next iteration of Resident Evil. After abolishing fixed camera angles and shifting the focus towards stylized-action, Shinji Mikami noted how far the series had strayed from its roots, convincing the team to abandon the moniker and eventually announcing ‘Devil May Cry.’
That wasn’t the only big change the series undertook; our iconic hero began life as Tony, an invincible human being possessing astounding intellect and skills. He was no half-demon, but augmented with Biometrics, the game centred on unravelling the mystery behind these augmentations. Director Hideki Kamiya later rewrote the story; giving birth to the man you love to hate, Dante, the progeny of the Dark Knight. No not Batman, Sparda!
Over the course of 5 games Dante has continually changed, he’s grown up, gotten younger and recently been completely redesigned by Ninja Theory. The series convoluted timeline certainly makes for a tough retrospective, so I’ve decided to order it chronologically.
DmC: Devil May Cry (2013)
Nu-Dante garnered an unprecedented amount of hate from the gaming community, who berated Capcom, Ninja Theory and pretty much anyone involved with the games creation. Yet Dante is looking at his very best, not because of the redesign but because Ninja Theory have pushed the available hardware to its peak (let’s not argue about frames per second here).
The key to handling a reboot is with tact, which is why Dante is introduced the way the fan-girls love him, naked. But he doesn’t put his trousers on one leg at a time, opting to leap into an airborne trailer just to put on his civvies. You could tell it wasn’t the Dante we know and love when a slice of pizza went to waste! Thankfully they left the rest of his equipment lay strewn across the pier; I wouldn’t keep my handguns anywhere other than nestled within the cups of a bra.
Upon discovering his heritage as a Nephilim, a half breed between angel and demon, it’s coincidentally revealed to be the only creatures able to defeat the demon lord Mundus. Ninja Theory constantly play on the theme of light and dark – the most blatant example being the combat system which allows you to shift between weapons infused with varying power. Angelic weapons are rapid onslaughts that do little damage but stagger opponents. Demonic weapons on the other hand are monstrously heavy attacks that deal astounding damage, but they’re notoriously slow.
The reboot is a coming of age story, Dante learns to embrace his humanity and forge himself into the hero he has yet to become. Well, at least a little.
Devil May Cry 3 – Dante’s Awakening (2005)
Time passed or we‘ve possibly entered an alternate dimension, but Devil May Cry 3 introduces us to a slightly older Dante who has opened his as-of-yet unnamed shop. Things are kick-started by an intrusion from Dante’s brother, Vergil, whose ‘invitation’ promptly wrecks the ‘I hadn’t even named it yet’ shop!
Centred on the brother’s dysfunctional relationship, Vergil served as the titles primary antagonist and one of the few able to hold their own against the cocky demon slayer. Dante’s youthful vigour had returned, strutting through the tower of Temen-ni-gru as if the experience were nothing more than a game. Here he met Lady, who after initial hostilities eventually becomes a friend and one of his first contacts in his business endeavours (see devil hunting).
The combat system was praised for introducing multiple style variants; these opened up new development pathways and increased the games replay value. My favourite would have to be Doppelganger which created a ‘shadow’ that fights alongside Dante and could even be controlled by pressing start on another controller. Defeating bosses rewarded you with new weapons, swapped out at the flick of a trigger, allowing you to chain ‘SSStylish’ combos with relative ease.
As the credits roll, Lady helps Dante name his shop ‘Devil May Cry’ (don’t you just love it when they mention the title in-game). Trapped in the demonic realm, Vergil prepares to engage Mundus in battle.
Devil May Cry (2001)
The original Devil May Cry lay down the fundamentals that the series retains to this day. Most noticeably of these would be the inclusion of the ‘style’ meter, encouraging rapid flurries of attacks, but punishing you for taking damage. The mission structure was built around this, with players rewarded for clearing the stage quickly, collecting orbs, accruing style points and avoiding the use of items.
Another key aspect was the heightened state of self ‘Devil Trigger’, boosting strength and defence, regenerating health and even imbuing you with new skills. Devil Trigger was maintained by a gauge that depletes whilst activated; it was recharged by attacking or taunting enemies.
The excruciating difficulty curve has become a staple for the series and Devil May Cry had to nerve to offer an easy mode after multiple deaths, daring you to tone down the difficulty. It could be considered that this punishing gameplay inspired titles like Dark Souls. To this day a quick jaunt on the HD collection reduces me to a blubbering pile of rage, curious as to how I managed to best this thing as a kid.
The bosses were incredibly tough, featuring battles that could occur in all manner of locations, from open ballrooms to tight knit hallways, forcing you to constantly restructure your strategies and triggering the fight or flight response. One of the toughest bosses was Nelo Angelo, one of the few opponents able to best Dante in combat; however he departed after noticing the amulet around his neck.
Despite being betrayed by Trish, Dante risks his life to save her not once but twice. This pays off when she returns the favour, unleashing Dante’s true power and allowing him to take on the form of Sparda. After Trish begins crying, he utters one of his most iconic catchphrases in an attempt to console her. She joins his agency and he renames the shop to match.
Devil May Cry – The Animation (2007)
What’s a more stylish medium than video games. In my opinion, nothing, but if you were going to branch out I could think of worse ways than anime. The animation was a series of mostly self-contained episodes with a series long arc that came to fruition in the final few episodes.
The shops re-branding didn’t last long, after the departure of Trish, the shop was back to the basic ‘Devil May Cry’. Dante spent the majority of the series pining after strawberry sundaes whilst embarking on various demon hunting missions in the attempt to pay off an insurmountable debt.
Paying homage to its forefathers, the anime reintroduces classic characters and explores the relationships of those around Dante, all the while maintaining the abundance of style we would expect from the franchise.
Devil May Cry 4 (2008)
Before DmC’s Dante took some time out and read the dictionary to learn a selection of cuss words, swearing was a rarity in the series. So when Devil May Cry finally debuted on next-gen consoles, Capcom introduced a mouthy protagonist and even had the gall to put Dante in the role of antagonist.
The game is played from the perspective of Nero, a Holy Knight within the Order of the Sword, a cult that worships Sparda. Despite being almost polar opposites, Dante and Nero do have a few things in common – both have demon blood coursing through their veins, both exhibit extreme confidence and Nero maintains Dante’s penchant for style. The biggest difference between would be Nero’s Devil Bringer, a physical manifestation of his demonic power that allows him to grapple and slam enemies.
Despite the pair’s shaky meeting, Dante helps Nero uncover truths about himself and the order, forcing him to question his beliefs. Midway through the game, Nero becomes indisposed and Dante takes the helm, backtracking through the stages and boss battles in reverse order. It was a horrible experience made bearable through the reintroduction of the style variants from Devil May Cry 3, with weapon restraints removed and the ability to switch styles with a tap on the D Pad.
Dante even let the white mop head take down the final boss, the other white mop head. As a sign of the trust between them, Dante gives Nero ‘Yamato’ the last memento of his brother, Vergil.
Devil May Cry 2 (2003)
Dante had certainly changed in the sequel, he had lost a lot of his bravado, rarely speaking and leaving his decisions up to the flip of a coin, in the style of a familiar Batman villain. These changes didn’t resonate well with the fans, influencing the direction later games took.
You were given the option to play the campaign through the eyes of another protagonist, Lucia, whose story consisted of some cruel self-realisations but whose actual gameplay differed very little from Dante’s campaign.
Combat was expanded by introducing aerial combos, improving opportunities when juggling opponents. However the weapon system was chastised for being one dimensional, weapons only served as stronger or weaker variants and lacked the clear-cut advantages or disadvantages by those in the original.
In the closing moments, a portal to the demonic realm is opened and Dante flips a coin to decide on who will close it from the other side. With the portal closing behind him, he is offered no other choice and rides his motorcycle further into the demonic realm.
This article may be over, but Dante’s story is not. Whether Ninja Theory continue to explore the trials and tribulations Nu-Dante is set to face or Capcom return to the classic white haired half-demon will remain to be seen. Perhaps both can exist cheek to cheek. Dante is not irrevocable, he has constantly shifted, influencing our perception over the past 12 years and he isn’t done just yet.
“No doubt you’ve got some fun planned for me. Right”