For the most part, I find myself agreeing with Mike's review of Capcom's Devil May Cry. The one element that seems to come up at numerous points in that appraisal revolves around just how stylish the game is—and I agree wholeheartedly. The game is stylish—in many ways, its a heady mélange of cinematic influences as diverse as the Hong Kong action film aesthetics of directors like John Woo and Ringo Lam crossbred with the surreal and menacing atmosphere of a Dario Argento horror film. The influences arent only cinematic, however. There are also numerous elements culled from earlier games—most notably Konamis Castlevania series, but also Capcoms Resident Evil games, Mega Man, and even Metal Gear Solid. Its the way that Shinji Mikami and crew have integrated these disparate elements into a semi-cohesive whole that makes the game so intriguing. Yet, I still cant shake the feeling that Devil May Cry is ultimately an exercise in style over substance.
Theres no denying that the game is often breathtaking to look at. Its rich and expansive environments are quite impressive and go a long way toward making the gaming experience an immersive one. Couple that with a battle system thats both simple enough so you can pick up the controller and begin playing immediately—but still deep enough that youll be working on perfecting combos hours after youve started—and youll see why this games generated the hype and early praise that it did.
Unfortunately, though, aside from those elements, there are several problems that mar the overall experience.
As Mike points out in his critique, the battle system allows the player to master a multitude of moves and combos. While this is certainly a good thing (and brings in elements of numerous fighting games), the fact that you can essentially run through the game without using the majority of the moves makes learning most of them seem pointless. The game would have been far more interesting had it required the gamer to master all the moves instead of just re-using the same few combos over and over. Further compounding that problem is the combo rating system. Killing enemies in the most stylish way possible earns you more of the red orbs that function as the games currency—and once you master one impressive combo, the game doesnt give you many reasons to deviate from it throughout the rest of the adventure. This can make the games combat quite repetitive.
Several of the other problems stem from Shinji Mikamis involvement with the Resident Evil series. While the control scheme is much more natural than Resident Evil's, the camera is just as annoying. The problem is that the camera cant be adjusted—it adjusts automatically, making it really easy to get spun around in rooms or hallways, and making combat occasionally more difficult than it has to be because you cant see whom youre fighting.
The other problem is less bothersome, but still a negative. The game features numerous puzzles that are so simple and generic (again, like Resident Evil) that calling them puzzles is probably giving them too much credit. The game sends you on a variety of fetch quests in order to acquire items that you need to advance to the next area. Disappointingly, the game eliminates the need to use your brain entirely—whenever you go up to something that needs an item to be put into it, the game asks if you want to place the specific item in the slot. Theres not even any need for trial and error since the game spells it all out for you. Granted, most gamers probably werent expecting a bunch of brainteasers, but why include it at all if its going to be relegated to such a minor role?
Im sure it probably sounds like I was unhappy with Devil May Cry, but thats not really the case. Mike did such a great job of pointing out the things that the game does well (and mentioning some of the problems that Ive tried to expand upon here) that I figured it was better to spend some time pointing out the flaws instead of just writing yeah, what he said and being done with it. While the game certainly does have some kinks in terms of the combat system, the camera, and the puzzles, theres no denying that its a good game overall. Honestly, this is what Konamis attempts at a 3-D Castlevania game for the Nintendo 64 should have looked like. While Devil May Cry's atmosphere, graphics, and button-crunching gameplay more than make up for the majority of the titles shortcomings, its flaws should not be overlooked. One can only hope that Capcom will tweak the formula a bit for the inevitable sequel.