Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Devil May Cry 2 - Devil May Let You Down

As I detailed previously, by the end of the original Devil May Cry I was quite enamored with the game.  Overcoming my initial struggle with the difficulty barrier became an achievement rather than an arduous task, and I reveled in each new victory.  I had heard Devil May Cry 2 was inferior to the first, but I was expecting at least more of the same challenge regarding regular gameplay.

I was let down, to say the least.

Devil May Cry 2 is the game that started my DMC collection.  I found it at GameStop on sale and decided to pick it up, with the expectation that I'd be able to find and purchase the first one at some point.  It's a good thing I waited, because if this had been my first experience with the series I may have never wanted to pursue it further.  Anyway, DMC2 sat on my shelf unplayed for years as I continually passed over the first part of Dante's adventure.  One day, however, I found Devil May Cry 3, also at GameStop, and for about $10 less than what I had purchased its precursor for at what I considered a bargain.  With two of the three in my possession, I finally dedicated a little effort to my search and found a non-Greatest Hits copy of the original.  I don't have many hang-ups about where I'll buy games, but my one caveat is that I won't buy anything not in the original case.


My purchasing quirks aside, after Devil May Cry I was excited to pop in the sequel and discover what new challenges it had to offer me.

The answer was none.
The landscape of Devil May Cry 2 challenges.

In thinking about exactly how this game failed to live up to its predecessor, I was reminded of a song which could better describe the situation.  This song makes use of a number of promises of what it will never do, all of which Devil May Cry 2 ignores.  Watch it, and then I'll explain.

The black guy is Ayn.

How it Gave Me Up

The game didn't really give me up, but it did give up on me.  Did Capcom receive too many complaints about how difficult the first one was and decide to just take out everything hard?  Nowhere in Devil May Cry 2 did I feel challenged in the same way as the original.  There were certainly points where I thought "this is harder than other points in the game," but none of those points could hold a candle to the harder parts of the first Devil May Cry.

If you take too long to kill him, he just dies on his own.

Now, I know Devil May Cry made me a better video game player.  The fact that I could even beat it shows that I improved drastically from the time I started playing it to the time I made Mundus suck down a face full of devil-powered bullets.  I got better because the game wasn't about to let me win if I didn't - it wanted me to improve.  Devil May Cry 2 gives its players none of that same credit.  The enemies are weaker, slower, and easier to kill.  The first game didn't make me that good.

 How it Let Me Down

Visually, DMC2 makes the sort of advancements over the original that you would hope to see.  The levels are larger (though not necessarily in a positive way - more on this later), the graphics are sleeker, and the controls are easier.  One-button dodging and the new ability to run up walls and double jump from the start add a nice level of intuitive control Dante that the first game definitely lacked.  That is, until you want to search for something, and end up running up the wall five times before Dante finally looks at it, but that's probably more my issue than anything.

Where it let me down is that it takes such effort to expand upon the environments of the first and then does absolutely nothing to make me care.  In the first game, there were essentially only three bosses before the last fight; Phantom, Griffon, and Nelo Angelo.  They each have a few cutscenes where Dante demonstrates what a badass he is by taunting these demonic foes before mixing it up with them.  As stunted and lacking as the story in Devil May Cry was, at least they made you care a little bit about your enemies.

I invited him to my bar mitzvah, I hope he accepts.

In Devil May Cry 2, the first boss emerges from a building in a great cutscene, stretching out glass and cement until this gargantuan ghoul bursts free, composed of the building itself, and starts shooting bats, fire, and lasers all over Dante.  The fight was disappointingly easy, following the "run away and shoot if it gets hard" strategy that everything in this game falls prey to, but that wasn't my problem.  My issue was that with this epic boss reveal, better than anything they gave us in the first, Dante never says anything, the boss never says anything, and when it's over, that's the end of it.  He never comes back.  He was there just to be an impressive-looking foe for Dante to steamroll over.

Not a noteworthy sight in Dante's life.

This game let me down because in everything I hated about it, I kept seeing the glimmer of vastly more potential which is never realized.

How It Ran Around

It gave ME the run around.  Like I said above, the stages of the game are greatly improved over the original in terms of size and scope.    They took the haunted castle premise of the first game and made it an entire city, an idea that is, I believe, completely without precedent.

So they give you this big expanded world and then they just . . . don't let you do anything in it.  You can't revisit old areas.  Large sections get blocked off specifically to prevent you from backtracking.  They include Secret Rooms you can stumble upon, the equivalent of DMCs Secret Missions - only totally not.  Whereas the first one gave you interesting and challenging requirements to fulfill, the Secret Rooms are just you standing in a square room and killing enemies until a door out appears.

Capcom spent a lot of time making sure Devil May Cry 2 was aesthetically superior to the original, and then concentrated the rest of the design on making sure you were always running straight forward like it was a 2D platformer.
Early concept art for DMC2.

How it Deserted Me

The final estimation of this game is that the creators of Devil May Cry 2 just flat out abandoned their fanbase.  I hear that Devil May Cry 3 is the best of the series, better than the first one and the allegedly also well-done 4th entry.  Maybe they were working on that and shoved this out so we'd have something to fill the gap in between 1 and 3.  This game feels like they just pumped out a quick sequel with marginal improvements to the controls and cashed in.  At this point, I've put more thought and effort into writing this review of my experience with the game than I did actually playing it.

There were parts of the game where I had fun.  There were parts I found challenging.  There were glimmers here and there of a really great game in the making.  It kept stringing me along with its promise and then deserting me after getting me to play along.

An issue not helped by hiring these guys as the lead design team.
Devil May Cry was a lot of things, and it evoked a lot of emotion in me while I was playing it.  Whether I loved it, hated it, or was somewhere in between, it never left me bored.  I honestly considered just leaving this one on the backlog several times before just cowboying up and beating it.  And by cowboying up, I mean making myself stand the game for more than 30 minutes, because after I sat down and got to it, I went from mission 6 to the end in one playthrough, not dying once until the end.

I think that's the same definition he used.

So now this one is gone and beaten, never to return again.  I won't even get into how atrocious the story is - let's just leave it at that I beat it and now it's over.

I'll be taking on Devil May Cry 3 next, and really hoping it lives up to everything I've heard about it.  In any event, this game is dead to me, and I'm glad its dead.  The only thing that makes me regretful is that Capcom dragged out its tortuous demise in such a brutal, sadistic faction before finally finishing it off.

Until next time, keep playing.

Okay, I lied a little - I'm TOTALLY going to say a few words about the story.

First off, WHAT fucking story?  Who is this Lucia chick?  She's the daughter of some decrepit old crone who knows a story about Sparda that's somehow worth Dante working with them to fight this evil demon-summoning CEO.  Only then it turns out the CEO made Lucia?  And she's a devil?  Was there any point to that besides letting Dante use his "Devils never cry" line again?

No!  There wasn't!

Never mind the fact that not a single one of the bosses, or areas, or the two supporting characters really have any backstory applied to them.  Dante himself, who you'd think would be pretty easy to write for, completely fucking fails to deliver even a memorable one-liner.  He fought this whole game to hear a story about his dad, and then ends up deciding it doesn't interest him?  Which is fair, I guess, because it didn't interest me, either.  What kind of story was being offered?  Was the old woman going to sit him down and calmly explain "Dante, your father, the Dark Knight Sparda . . . he really loved bananas.  I mean like, in almost a sexual way.  It kind of creeped us out, to be honest."

"Sometimes he'd take the mush and . . . ugh, I don't even want to talk about it."

Those three sentences comprised more effort than was actually taken to write the story for this game.  And does Dante die in the end, or what?  Is he just going to ride his motorcycle around hell forever now?  What happened to Trish?

I'm told that when I get around to playing Nocturne, a title also on my backlog, Dante's role in that will explain a lot of what happened in DMC2.  You know what I say to that?  I shouldn't have to play another title, made by another company, to understand what happened in your crappy game.

Eat a bag of dicks, Capcom writers.  This third game better be fantastic.

1 comment:

Ayn said...

Actually I disagree: Dante had ONE good line, and that was only towards the end. It was something like:

Arias: No, this isn't so! I was supposed to be king!
Dante: ..Yeah. And here's your crown. ::gunshot to the head::

I mean you have to admit, that line was pretty good.