Capcom‘s latest HD revival of the first three entries in the Devil May Cry series has Dante looking a little worse for wear. First released in 2000, Devil May Cry has proven to be a mainstay of the PlayStation lineup as living proof of how far the PlayStation 2 has gone in its years. Unfortunately, this collection doesn’t quite do Dante the justice he deserves.
Devil May Cry is a true action game in every sense of the word. Dante is a a one-man (well, half devil) army, bringing both blades and guns to a fight with the finesse to switch between the two at a moments notice. The term ‘stylish action’ that developers like to throw around their new games may very well have been coined from Dante’s experiences
Each entry of the three received a similar treatment in the Devil May Cry HD Collection. Character models were given a bit more definition, menus received a graphical touch-up, and some cutscenes got a little more polish in their presentation. While the added touches are nice, the whole package feels like it wasn’t given the attention DMC deserves, especially when compared to what Sony has done with four different God of War titles.
Many of the cutscenes presented in each game are presented in their original, unaltered form. Instead of getting smoothed out and looking on par with the rest of the game, most of them instead detract from the experience. Some of the scenes in DMC1 are the worst offenders to this. When a new item is picked up for the first time, the cutaway to reveal each item is shown with an extremely letterboxed scene. Most of them are so compressed that they only take up the center half of the screen.
While some cutscenes are scaled down to a standard definition television’s 4:3 aspect ratio, others are distorted and stretched out. Again, even some of these stretched movies have letterbox formatting to keep them in line. There just isn’t much justification or reasoning behind which cutscenes will receive a particular treatment, if at all. Worse yet is how many of the cutscenes in the first two titles are so poorly formatted that Dante and the rest of the cast all look a lot slimmer; this was one of the first problems developers had with pushing something that was rendered in 4:3 and updating it to 16:9. What might have been a good chance for Foundation 9 and Capcom to give these games a nice overhaul to really show how good they could’ve been falls flat instead. In the end, this treatment gives off an impression of just how poorly these past twelve years have treated Dante.
Perhaps the single most important update to the original Devil May Cry is a slight remapping to the controls. Jumping is no longer mapped to the triangle button, an oddity even when it was a new release. Combat feels a little underwhelming when compared to later entries, but I’m willing to let it slide this time. DMC is a classic and actually created a foundation for games like God of War, so it’s to be expected that some things aren’t up to the quality that gamers today are accustomed to. The difficulty in the first entry is so brutal and unforgiving that just trying to brute force your way through any old encounter may find you staring at a game over screen faster than you can say ‘showtime.’
The second entry in the chronicles of Dante, Devil May Cry 2, was panned by many consumers for being so radically different from the first. The lowered difficulty and simplicity of the gameplay deterred some fans from wanting to give it a try when the game first hit shelves. Puzzle solving and boss strategies were two aspects that Capcom practically nullified with this new refined version of Devil May Cry, and while the former might have been a good thing to remove in a stylish action game, thankfully the latter returns in full glory with later entries through some devilishly hard encounters. Devil May Cry 2 is a prime example of dumbing down (well, mainstreaming) a series for a wider audience before it was cool.
Devil May Cry 3 might have received the least attention of the three, but thankfully the third entry has aged well enough that sometimes it didn’t need it. While the cutscenes certainly look their age, Capcom has given the main game enough attention to might make up for that. It’s a shame that there’s such a jarring contrast between the two whenever a cutscene interrupts gameplay.
One of the worst issues to plague the series, and something that lasted all the way through the fourth entry for PS3 and Xbox 360, was the use of pre-rendered locales and limited camera control. Players may find themselves scrambling to hit the right analog stick to no avail while the camera swings around almost of its own accord. Even worse are some areas in the first two titles where the camera can pan so drastically between what might have been a couple of steps. For a game like Resident Evil where movement is supposed to be limited, this is acceptable, but not in a game where combat is fluid and being able to evade is a necessity.
After playing through the Devil May Cry HD Collection, my longing for a similar treatment for Onimusha waned. If getting a remastered version of Samonosuke’s legacy means playing through more lackluster ports, I’d rather just plug in my old PlayStation 2 and enjoy the originals.
As a whole, nothing in Devil May Cry HD Collection really stands out as a must-have collection. With much of the game feeling stale, even without comparison to the latest entry to the series. However, players that skipped these the first time around can still find enjoyment as long as they can handle some dated mechanics. Two of the three titles (DMC2 is one of those things that should never be spoken of in public) should prove to do a good job of tiding the fans over until Ninja Theory‘s take on the franchise comes out later this year.
The Devil May Cry HD Collection is a good way for folks to catch up on the popular series. It has good sound design and improved texture work and two of its three titles are well-worth playing.