The devil gone down to Capcom.
If you cannot achieve the pinnacle of undead perfection, the zombie, I think being a demon would probably be your next best choice. The advantages are obvious: inhuman strength, dark powers, and near immortality. Sounds like a pretty good deal to me.
Apparently it also sounded good to Shinji Mikami, the creator of Resident Evil, and therefore a personal hero of mine. His latest game, Devil May Cry, takes us away from the land of zombies and Special Forces agents and into the realm of demons. The result might not be scary, but it sure is a hell of a lot of fun.
Our hero, Dante, is one such demon. His father was even a particularly important and powerful demon. After a couple grammar and spelling errors, the game opens to discover Dante, a freelance undercover mercenary, relaxing at the "Devil May Cry" detective agency. A scantily clad woman shows up in order to stick an electrified sword through his chest. It seems this sort of thing happens to Dante all the time, because he shrugs it off and throws a motorcycle at her. Once they've gone through these opening pleasantries (my uncle Morris always greets people the same way), they pack off together to a spooky castle where Dante is supposed to kill someone or something.
OK, so the plot is a little disjointed at best; maybe it makes more sense in Japanese. Fortunately, we leave most of that nonsense behind and start kicking ass Hades-style almost immediately. And oh, what an ass kicking it is.
Dante has a pair of matched handguns and a great whacking sword right off the bat, both of which he can use with lightning speed. He can leap enormous distances, coming down on opponents with demonic force. He can swing his sword in a powerful uppercut, knocking an enemy a dozen feet in the air, draw his guns and blast away, keeping his enemy twisting above the ground with an endless volley of bullets. Sweet.
And he looks good doing it, too. Devil May Cry is a testament to the power of the PS2 as programmers get the hang of the machine. With anti-aliased backgrounds (nerdspeak for smooth and seamless), cool shadows and weapon lighting effects, it puts last year's PS2 games to shame.
Dante and his enemies both look fantastic. Dante's moves are smooth and quick and everything is well detailed, right down to the little shells ejecting from his guns. The enemies are tremendously varied with an endless stream of marionettes, scissor-wielding ghosts, spiders, wicker men, giant eagles, lizard men and others, all of which look great as Dante thrashes them.
The sound is a bit more of a mixed bag. Some of the music is good, but the "battle music" is a pretty lame electric guitar riff. Sound effects, however, are nearly perfect with very satisfying clings, clangs, grunts, groans, and gunfire that will bring a smile to the corner of your mouth. The voices are pretty mediocre; that is, when you can understand what they are saying. There's a big lava-spider-scorpion-thing that sounds like it's talking with a mouth full of gravel.
Fair enough. I'm not in it for the dialogue, anyway. I'm here for the gameplay, and Devil May Cry serves up some positively delicious action. An action game at it's core, this is where it excels. The superhuman running, jumping, dodging, flying and shooting are all crisp, accurate and surprisingly easy to learn. A couple dozen special moves are even worked into the mix when you really want to rain a little hell on your enemies. Simply put, this is the closest feeling you'll ever get to being a god.
And as a bonus to flesh out the action, there's a little bit of puzzle solving and just a dash of RPG thrown into the pot. The puzzles are straight out of Resident Evil: put the raven crest in the raven crest door. It's just enough to make you explore the whole environment without really challenging your gray matter.
I really like the RPG elements a lot. During the game you collect red orbs that you can use to buy bonuses like more strength, greater demon power, or new special moves. You can also discover a number of new weapons (both guns and hand-to-hand), all of which have unique properties as well as specific powers and moves. It reminds me of the classic Castlevania. Fantastic.
Still, every demon has to have a little corruption under the skin. What holds this devil back from truly challenging heaven, from receiving that coveted GR "A?"It's really a bunch of little things. The control as the camera angle changes can be a little hard to get used to, especially during combat. The plot is a little weak, and you would think that a multi-million dollar production would have had someone check the spelling (Note to Capcom: It's "Millennia," not "Milleniums." Sheesh.) I would have especially liked it if the RPG aspects could have been fleshed out a bit more, with more weapons, armor, and abilities like Castlevania: Symphony of the Night.
However, I only really complain because it's my job to complain (this porridge is too hot, dammit). Don't be fooled - Devil May Cry is pure gold for the PS2 and easily makes my short list of must-have games. So unless you're ready to draw a pentagram on your floor and plunge a magic sword through your chest, go get this game instead and experience Dante's demonic powers through your TV. It's nothing short of exhilarating and far less painful.