Capcom is currently in the middle of pulling itself out of a slump. There’s no greater proof of this than how good—and scary—Resident Evil 7 is. Whether intentionally or not, the publisher paid attention to its audience. But now it’s time for two of their other series to redeem themselves: Devil May Cry and Mega Man. Fans blasted Capcom for the well-reviewed but different DmC Devil May Cry along with the publisher’s general disregard for Mega Man. But if my early demos of Devil May Cry 5 and Mega Man 11 are anything to go by, it looks like Capcom has heard your cries, for better or worse.
Devil May Cry 5 Preview: Fans May Cry (With Joy)
And in Devil May Cry 5’s case, it heard your cries to make its Crys more like Devil May Cry 3 or 4. Devil May Cry 5’s short playable demo at PAX West felt like some sort of faux apology from Capcom. Nero, one of the three playable protagonists, felt like he could just turn to the camera and do the inverse of the infamous “Not in a million years” scene with the wig in DmC Devil May Cry, but with Nu Dante™’s hair instead of classic Dante.
Instead of being the sad personification of emo buttrock like he was in Devil May Cry 4, the demo showed a new, snark-filled Nero reminiscent of Dante from the Devil May Cry 3. It’s an odd pivot that does him more tolerable, but one that just feels more like a frantic overcorrection in response to DmC. I did prefer his new jokey style, but it does give off the vibe that Capcom is scared witless to stray outside of their comfort zone in fear of pissing off the DMC trilogy diehards.
Combat is arguably where these diehards will be the most invested in and DMC5 feels like a smoother version of the previous mainline game but with a few adjustments. Air juggles and ground combos use the same cadence and button layout from that prior game and, hence, made me feel right at home. I was popping up enemies, throwing them around, and pulling them towards me with little downtime between slashes like I had never missed a beat.
It’s both good and just slightly alarming how easy it was to slip back into groove. Yes, it’s great to juggle some demon into next week but it also didn’t have much that I hadn’t already seen much of before. I was not able to visit the shop to buy new skills, but I was hitting some of the same gravity-defying sword combos and arm grabs that I had been doing since Devil May Cry 4. The new disposable Devil Breaker arms give you new abilities to experiment with like an extra aerial dash and electric blast, but it was not outside of the realm of what we have come to expect from Devil May Cry.
And that familiarity worries me. Even though it was only a short demo in game we haven’t seen much of, everything about it looked designed to entice players who only cared about Capcom’s in-house entries. It could just be the enclosed demo but the presentation, sound effects, and bland environments all directly reminded me of Devil May Cry 4, which was a dated game when it came out in 2008.
It’s why Capcom felt the need to give it Ninja Theory to reboot it in the first place. Devil May Cry 5 will be released on March 6, meaning Capcom has plenty of time to show off what makes this game new and exciting. And even though I enjoyed my demo and want to play more, I hope Capcom is crafting an experience that it wants to make and not just trying to check off a list of what it thinks fans want.
Mega Man 11 Preview: Nostalgia Man
Mega Man 11 is less apologetic about what it is because that fanbase has been starved for a far longer period of time. And while Mega Man 9 and 10 were unsubtle ploys at nostalgia, Mega Man 11 is more contemporary looks to be riding that line between old and new quite well.
Aside from the perspective, the difficulty is the most old school thing about Mega Man 11 that pulled no punches. It had the tricky platforming, dastardly enemies, and tough boss fights but also gradually introduced more mechanics throughout the stage and started layering them in to amp up the difficulty. This is a sign of great platforming level design and is one way the game is modernizing its blueprint.
And Mega Man 11 is trying to spice up that formula even more with its gear system. The demo had a Power Gear and Speed Gear that juiced up your attacks and slowed down time, respectively. Each is dictated by the same meter, meaning you’ll how often you use them so you don’t overheat. It’s an invaluable system that makes the core gameplay a bit deeper by adding a welcome layer of strategy over the top of it.
Mega Man veterans can utilize the Gear system for tactical advantages but it also intelligently doubles as a way for newer players to acclimate to the game. It had been a long time since I had played a proper Mega Man so the Speed Gear was essential to learning the timing of certain enemy attacks and patterns. Gear recharges quickly and that ensures that you can use it liberally without fearing that you’ve wasted it in a room without a huge, menacing boss.
Although the Gear system is not the only way the series is welcoming in newer players. It has multiple difficulty settings that help those who just want to see Mega Man 11 but don’t have sharpened platforming skills from the early 1990s. Normal is pretty god damn difficult and is probably what Mega Man is for most people. The game is still an asshole and while it was still a little frustrating, it gives you the tools to succeed if you can use them effectively.
Casual adds in checkpoints and more generous item drops while Newcomer also gives the player infinite lives and protection from spikes and pits. While the latter is a bit extreme, I appreciated the amount of options because not everyone comes to games for the same reason. Dipping into Casual at PAX to avoid clogging the line is not replicable at home, but taps into a similar notion of being able to customize your experience to suit your needs. It doesn’t seem to be sacrificing its hardcore base either since Normal was a tough, draining experience. I don’t even want to think about how hard the grayed-out “Expert” mode.
It can be dangerous to solely make games for the fans. While they do buy the games, developers are the professionals that should try to give us what we don’t know we want instead of what we think we want. There can be a happy medium and, from what I played, Mega Man 11 strikes that balance a little better than Devil May Cry 5. There still is a lot we have not seen and its early demos may be playing it safe to not ward off DmC haters, but I want to see more of what makes this game so special. Because, given Capcom recent successes, I have faith that it’s in there somewhere.