The Devil May Cry franchise is an unusual one to say the least. Originally created to be the fourth instalment in the Resident Evil franchise, the game was considered too much of a departure from the tone of that game, and was instead turned into its own IP. And it was one that thrived. Thanks to the frenetic and dynamic action of the series, as well as some interesting character design, a complex story, and the ability to be open to a lot of replay, the series became a hit and received a number of sequels.
But, as can often happen with sequels, the series became more complex and even a little confusing as it went on, especially to new fans. Devil May Cry became a series that wasn’t easy to drop into with each new release, and required you to either go back and play them all, or to do some reading online. As such, in 2013 an attempt was made to reboot the franchise.
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DmC: Devil May Cry was announced in 2010 at the Tokyo Game Show, confirming rumours circulating in the games industry that a fifth entry in the series was being developed. However, audiences were left a little surprised when it was revealed that the new game would be a reboot set in its own, separate universe to the others. Despite Devil May Cry 4 being a financial success it had performed poorer than other entries, and Capcom decided that a fresh restart would be a good way to entice in newer players.
The British game studio Ninja Theory were hired to spearhead the new game, thanks in part to their work on the game Heavenly Sword, which Capcom believed would work well with the Devil May Cry series. The new game was given a brand new setting, a world where demonic forces existed in secret beneath the human world that they controlled through comforts like the media and our food. Living on the edges of society, Dante is a young demon hunter who has made it his mission to challenge these evil forces whenever he can. However, this has made Dante a target for the demons, and when they try to kill him he gets recruited to join The Order, a group dedicated to exposing and destroying the demon world.
The game not only changed the setting, but small parts of Dante’s back story too. As opposed to the original series where he was half human/half demon, here he’s a demon-angel hybrid. This change was made in part to introduce a new element into the game-play that not only allowed Dante to enter a demonic form, but an angelic one too. Players were able to switch between his three forms in combat at will, allowing them to create some impressive combos. However, the one change to Dante that seemed to rile up fans was his physical appearance.
The original Dante was designed from a Japanese perspective, and he fell in line with many of the visual styles that you’d expect to find in manga and anime heroes. One of the series producers, Motohide Eshiro, said that the original Dante was created to be what a Japanese audience would think of as cool, and that one of the things that they wanted from the new game was to appeal to a younger, western audience. This led to a pretty radical redesign of the character that received a lot of backlash before the game had even been released. Some fans hated the design that much that the team at Ninja Theory received death threats over it.
Despite this backlash, when the game was finally released it received a great deal of praise from both the games media and the public. The game was praised for the reboot, with outlets citing the newly revised story as being a lot easier to follow than previous entries, as well as more accessible to new gamers. The new combat system was also held up as something worthy of praise, with the frenetic action, the ability to create combos, and the easy to learn yet complex system seen as an improvement.
Despite the complaints from the ‘fans’ of the series, it seemed like DmC: Devil May Cry became something of a success. As time has gone on since it’s initial release the anger over the new direction has lessened, especially since Devil May Cry 5 has been released and returned players to the ‘prime’ timeline and characters. DmC: Devil May Cry is an interesting and enjoyable game, but is also an interesting look at how fanbases can react to new ideas being introduced into their franchise; though this kind of anger at change is something that we’re seeing more and more of in geek circles.
DmC: Devil May Cry was released in the UK on 15th January 2013.