It's a crying shame.
Shinji Mikami, the creator of Resident Evil, is a hero to zombies everywhere. So in 2001, when he turned his attention to demons in the original Devil May Cry, I got very excited. Sure, they're not quite as cool as zombies, but Mr. Mikami did demons a very good turn. And when Devil May Cry 2 showed up, visions of the fantastic Resident Evil 2 (quite possibly the best one in the series) danced in my rotting head.
Which is part of the reason that I (and many of the other zombies) have been so disappointed with Devil May Cry 2. It's not that DMC 2 is a bad game, it's that it fails to expand and improve on the original in ways that seemed so...obvious. Which leaves us with a game that is better in some ways, worse in others, and, in the end, mostly the same.
I always like to start with the good stuff, and there's still some of it here. Dante is back, and he remains a force of destruction like few others. With his huge sword, fancy moves, matched handguns, demonic powers and stylish goth fashion-victim overcoat, he makes you feel like a nigh-invulnerable god. Joining him in the sequel (on her own disc) is Lucia. She's nimble as a cat, no less stylish, and equally demonic.
Lucia also fights a little differently, with a pair of short swords and a brace of throwing daggers. She's the classic female video game option: weaker, but faster. Both of them can still activate the "devil trigger" and turn into a powerful demon for a while when things get rough (or you just want to fly over some obstacles instead of jumping from platform to platform).
The pair of them are both questing for the same powerful ancient artifacts, hoping to find them before some sort of evil company does. That's about as much sense as I was able to make out of the plot. But fair enough, the first DMC was nearly as incomprehensible.
If the plot hasn't changed at all (or maybe it has, I'm not sure) the graphics have been fine-tuned. Movement is smoother, edges are seamless and textures on the characters look great...when you can see them. Too much of the game is played with the camera pulled way out, which means you can see Dante's new moves, like running up walls and flipping off them, but he just looks small and indistinct doing them. Same goes with the enemies he fights throughout much of the game.
Some of the enemies are pretty cool, but some of them are pretty lame. The T-virus showed us that we could make some fabulous zombie dogs, zombie worms, zombie spiders, zombie snakes, and many more. But DMC 2's zombie tanks and zombie helicopters just look stupid.
The areas are much larger than before, which should have been a good thing, except they are also more boring than before. The little details and the medieval flair of the first game are gone, replaced by bland urban backdrops. Despite some graphical improvements, I think the game has taken a step backwards artistically.
The audio is pretty much exactly the same as before. The sounds of combat are just great, with especially satisfying gunfire. The voices aren't terrific, but they get the job done, and the music ranges from some decent mood-setting orchestral pieces to some bad electric guitar combat riffs.
The really disappointing part is that they took the system from the first game of collecting magic orbs and using them to buy new powers and special moves and dumbed it down. I was expecting them to do the opposite, to expand it into a Castlevania-like system to really flesh out the game's depth. There are fewer weapons than before, and the "upgrades" you buy just make them do more damage without adding any new features.
Add to that the fact that the game is too short, easily winnable in a few days. Sure, there are two characters on two disks, but while their stories intersect, they don't influence one another like in Resident Evil 2. Lucia does have some unique underwater missions, but many of the locations are almost exactly the same on both disks, sometimes just mirror images of the same levels. Boring.
While technically polished, the artistic vision of the first game has been lost. There's just not enough style or substance to DMC 2. It reminds me of one of those sequels that skips the theaters and goes straight to video. This demon has lost its magic.