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Bargain Bin Title: Devil May Cry
There's no doubt about it: Capcom's Devil May Cry is a landmark title in video game history. Not only has it sold well over two million copies worldwide to date, it has spawned over three sequels and all but originated the slick, stylish, uber-bloody hack-and-slash subgenre that has gone on to give gamers such favorites as the Ninja Gaiden remakes and the God of War series in their favorite fighting games series. If it hadn't been for this seminal, M-rated, 2001 PlayStation 2 title, which reportedly started off as a Resident Evil sequel, some of the most popular and most critically acclaimed action games of the past two console generations might never have been conceived. So as a piece of gaming history, its place among the elite is secured. But how has it aged as a game over the past seven-plus years? And should you pick it up out of the action games bargain bin?
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As the game starts off, we learn of an past conflict between the human world and the demonic underworld, one that was eventually ended thanks to the efforts of a warrior named Sparda, a demon who turned against his own breed to side with the humans in the conflict. We then fast forward to the present, where Dante, Sparda's son, works as a bounty hunter while trying to track down the demons responsible for the murder of his family. Conveniently, he is visited, attacked and then subsequently recruited by a mysterious woman named Trish, who tells him that Mundus, the king of the demon world who had been defeated by Dante's father centuries before, is returning. He is the one Dante blames for the loss of his loved ones, so he agrees to travel with Trish to Mallet Island so that he can face off against the returning demon king. On the whole, it's a fairly interesting premise, but the writing isn't particularly engaging on the whole.
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Considering how many games have tried to copy or build upon Devil May Cry's core gameplay, you know it has to be pretty solid. You spend your time exploring Mallet Island, and in particular one large castle-like structure located there, but the game is broken up into different missions which must be completed to advance things along. Fighting and platform jumping rule the day here. Dante fights with both swords and guns, and switching between the two is often the key to success, especially during the intense boss battles. The focus is on pulling off incredible combos and felling enemies with panache, and along the way, you need to collect various types of orbs, all of which have different functions. Red orbs, for example, are used like currency to purchase upgrades and new attacks, green orbs heal you, blue orbs can increase your life bar, and so forth. Be warned, this is a very challenging game (another aspect copied by many other similar games obviously inspired by this trailblazer). If you struggle too much, however, the game will allow you to switch to an easier difficulty mode, which is a nice addition. On the whole, this is an enjoyable and intense, though somewhat repetitive, gameplay experience.
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While the controls are reasonably responsive on the whole, I do have some major issues with them. For one thing, there is only one control scheme. You cannot customize it whatsoever. As if that wasn't bad enough, the developers decided to map the jump function to the triangle button and made the circle button, not the X button, responsible for attacking. It doesn't feel natural, and it takes some getting used to. Also, the fixed camera can sometimes shift angles suddenly and without warning, meaning that you can sometimes wind up pressing in the wrong direction. You cannot move the camera angle on your own, and there's no way to lock-on to enemies, which can be a serious irritation at times during the heat of battle.
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Graphics and Sound
Considering how old this game is, it has held up surprisingly well graphically. The in-game characters are large and fairly well detailed, and the various locations and environments are well crafted. The cutscenes are the one part of the visuals that are lacking to some degree. The music is suitably up-tempo and should definitely get your blood pumping, and the voice acting is pretty good on the whole. I like Dante's voice especially, but conversely, Trish's actress left me a little cold. She didn't do the best job capturing emotion. Compared to some of the software available today, it looks and sounds pretty average, which speaks highly of how impressive the presentation must have been when this game was new back in 2001.
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Regardless of its age and in spite of some flaws with the controls, Devil May Cry still features some fairly intense and visceral hack-and-slash action and should provide a decent challenge to those looking for some bloody good fun. Other games have taken the core formula, improved upon it and added an extra layer of polish, but this was the originator, and that alone makes it worth playing. You could rent it, but considering that it should be readily available at most used game retailers for right around a five-spot, there really is no good reason why you shouldn't just go ahead and pick it up, especially if you're a fan of the God of War or Ninja Gaiden games.