A couple days ago I finally completed Dante's scenario of Devil May Cry 2. I wanted to give this game the best chance I could, so I did my best to ignore all the reviews I'd heard. I went into this game expecting it to be Devil May Cry--to rock and let me pretend I'm awesome. With that goal in mind: Did it deliver? Well, yes. It is a DMC game, but there are some certain aspects that make it seem... different. Like the words of a song without the music, DMC2 largely just goes through the motions. But, let me start this post with a focus on the good.
First off, Dante is back, and he's better than ever! He has a dedicated dodge button, which is a welcome addition to the controls. His Devil Trigger is now customizable in three areas: movement, element, and "potpourri"--for random bonuses. It's fun to see his wall run make its first appearance, too, considering how much I enjoyed that silly thing in DMC3. For the cut-scenes and videos, Dante couldn't have looked more stellar. He made everything look effortless. From subduing a powerful piece of Amulet to jumping off a skyscraper, Dante did it all with style! The icing on the cake however is the Majin Form. There were some fights where I was waiting for just one more hit before activating DT, just so I go four-wings-of-glory-mode and laugh maniacally as I blast things to pieces!
I also really enjoyed the boss designs. There were some very creative people working on that design team, and I tip my hat to them. Nefasturris, Bolverk, and Trismagia were all incredible to behold and really rather creatively conceived. (By the way, buck you, Trismagia!) The lead-in cut-scenes were pretty good (on the whole), and would psych me up for a great battle. Also, some of the zones had certain areas in them that felt more like mini-games than just a stage on which the action happened. It was kind of neat to walk into an area and have to race a fire to the top of a skyscraper. Of course, climbing the outside of a skyscraper to get to the top was quite fun, too!
Now that I've built up the game, it's time to tear it down.
The zones, though they sometimes were clever, were largely bare. The space was ultimately underutilized. I found myself climbing over rooftops or running down streets, wondering, "What's down here?", only to find nothing. Just before the fight with Nefasturris, I actually turned around and spent over a minutie running around the back part of the zone, only to be rewarded with nothing. There was at least one room towards the end with an entirely useless second story. There was plenty of potential in the maps, but judging by the lack of orb caches and hidden goodies in the latter levels, it's as if the development team just ran out of steam. I know the intent was to make the game feel bigger, but all it really did was spread the action out. In a game designed for fast-paced action, the last thing players want to do is waste time hiking from one boss fight to the next.
And even those boss fights weren't incredible. As much as I enjoyed the designs, I couldn't say I enjoyed the battles. Although the cut-scenes did a good job of showcasing the boss' designs, they really did nothing to explain the boss or give it any relevance within the story. They were just these "things" dropped in front of you to simply extend the length of the game. And they weren't that hard, either. I managed to take out Furiataurus using only Ebony & Ivory. I may have landed a few melee hits on him in the beginning while he was in his charging phase, but after that initial bout of energy, he seemed to give up. He was perfectly content to stand on one side of the battlefield, surrounding himself with fire and swinging his hammer while I stood at the far end and pecked him to death with my handguns.
Furiatarus wasn't the only one to suffer from lack of enthusiasm, either. Bolverk's wolves, Freki and Geri, were more interested in jumping around like caffeinated ferrets than actually attacking me. Random encounter enemies were just as likely to stand around doing nothing as they were to swipe at me from well outside of their attack range. If they did manage to hit me, it was because they were attacking from outside of my field of vision and I walked right into it.
As much as I want to, I really can't harp on the camera too much: Devil May Cry 1 also suffered from less-than-ideal camera angles. But I can harp on the dialogue. Or, shall I say the lack thereof. You can get the main gist of the story from Matier's monologue at the beginning, provided you can stay awake through it. I don't know if the voice actors--all of them--could have done a worse job. I know Devil May Cry and its predecessor, Resident Evil, aren't known for their award-winning dialogue, but Devil May Cry 2 takes it to a new low. I get the feeling the voice actors didn't get to hear what the others were saying when they recorded their lines. I'm not even sure they knew what the others' lines were. Truthfully, I'm not even sure the writers knew what they wanted the actors to say when they did the recordings. It's almost like they handed the actors a page of lines and asked them to deliver them all with the same, flat emotion that could be applied to a variety of situations, then picked a few that could be shoe-horned into the scene and spliced them together.
Not only were the cutscenes poorly scripted, but they were few and far between. I clambered through an entire city, through subways, and up the side of a skyscraper to be rewarded with:
- Arius: "What is this?"
- Dante: "Do you even have to ask?"
- Arius: "Perhaps another time."
- Me: "Wait! I have so many questions!"
Then there's a boss battle with something Arius summons. Afterwards, I have to climb back down the skyscraper and hike across the city again... all with no further explanations. I bump into Lucia at some time, and somehow end up with the Arcana. I know I haven't played Lucia's scenario, so presumably how she acquires them is explaned there, but it still bothers me that Dante doesn't bother to ask anything. He just quietly does as told. He's so... distant throughout the entire game.
He also controls like a brick. He walks slow, falls like his boots are made of lead, and can't turn at all when in the middle of a combo. It is actually faster to dodge-roll than walk; and I found myself resorting to this dizzying strategy when trying to get to the other side of the overly large zones. When Dante did jump, Air Hike, backflip, or roll, he did so with a sense of effortlessness, however. Given how laborous it was for him to swing a sword and how hard he hit the ground from a fall, it gave the whole thing a disjointed feel. Dante's actions on screen didn't match the outcomes. And I'm only going to mention that swinging that sword got quite boring by the end, given that that was all Dante ever used. The guns were much more fun, and refreshingly unique.
On the whole, the game was rather challenging, just not in the same way as the first. In the first, you had to constantly dodge and weave and get your hits in whenever there was an opportunity: It was a cage fight every time. In this, the challenge is entirely self-imposed. It's very hard to get and keep a high style rank when your opponents are more concerned about taking a nap than fighting. Getting them to engage you is almost impossible, and you can certainly stand back and blast your way through them all with firearms, but that won't net you any style. You have to work for your score. And seriously, Capcom, would it have killed you to give us a Taunt?! I can't begin to tell you how many times it would have come in handy while I was waiting for my enemies to wake up and wander over to me. But, I guess the lack of a taunt just added to the difficulty in the end.
My final score, on a scale of blegh to buck-yeah: meh. While not as spectacular as the first, nor any of the sequels to date, Devil May Cry 2 was still a solid game. Is it a Devil May Cry? Sure. There are plenty of aspects that have DMC written all over it, and that the series has used since. Did they try some new things? Sure. I can't fault them for trying a different combo input system or upgradeable weapons. Ultimately they weren't successful, but we learn through our mistakes. I'd rather see a game series churn out a DMC2 once in a while than subscribe to a franchise of practically identical iterations. It means they're trying; that there's potential in the game waiting to be harvested if the right technique can be found.
- Edit: I forgot to mention the one thing about the game that left me scratching my head. The burning question I am left with at the end of this game, is; Where did that motorcycle come from at the end? Was Dante hiding it in a pocket of holding or something? It is seriously bothering me.