Enough shame. Enough mercy. That’s enough. We rise from the ashes. The lyrics of Never Surrender tells exactly what DmC tried to be ten years ago, photographing in words the only one Devil May Cry where the gameplay is not front man, but bass line.The speakers croak to the electro-industrial rhythm of Combichrist. Electronics merges with rock on that score where rock has always been at home. The sinusoids are hammered until they become square waves, the same fate that awaits those players who dare to insert the Apocryphal Gospel according to Ninja Theory into the readers of their consoles. DmC Devil May Cry è blasfemia, it’s subversion, it’s open protest. It is the fruit of minds that lived there where punk was born that as perfect gaijin take possession of an imaginary world and destroy it in their own image and likeness. DmC Devil May Cry is ideas and ruthlessness, a life on the edge to be consumed in about ten hours. DmC Devil May Cry is. And like it or not it still is.
BLAMING MYSELF FOR A WORLD ON FIRE
To understand DmC must understand Devil May Cry 4. Va played Devil May Cry 4, feeling that sense of inadequacy that only a game – literally – halfway like Devil May Cry 4 can convey. The petrol in the tank seems to be finished, we obsessively resort to solutions already tested in the first and third chapters. The second doesn’t exist, it never existed and Capcom itself even in more recent years will do everything possible to make it so – except to avoid re-releasing it three or four times. And then the only way out is the gamble of calling someone else to do your job, a transfusion of fresh blood into an anemic organism. Ninja Theory’s first impact with Devil May Cry is actually quite reactionary, or at least that’s what its Art Director Alessandro Taini told me years ago.
To understand DmC, Devil May Cry 4 must be understood. Devil May Cry 4 must be played, feeling that sense of inadequacy that only a half-baked game like Devil May Cry 4 can convey
There is the respect that the legacy of the previous four chapters imposes, the odd ones are real masterpieces. The answer that comes from Osaka, however, is dry. “We are capable of doing this too”. Capcom wants to go all-in. He wants one last rush, one last ditch that reminds everyone who and what Capcom was just a generation earlier, when enfants terribles were treated like child prodigies free to develop (in)hits like Okami and God Hand. Or maybe it’s just a sinister attempt to renew a tired series, looking for a new audience that is more numerous than the old one. The same thing that is being done in parallel with Resident Evil 6, on the other hand. Whatever the reason Capcom wants something Capcom wouldn’t be able to do. Ninja Theory takes them literally. And here the drama begins.
The design of the new Dante has been talked about for a decade. He’s too emo, he’s too punk, he’s too different. On the forums at the time someone had baptized him Donte, playing with the name of the protagonist and the word “don’t”. Someone else had preferred Dino, an acronym for Dante In Name Only. Regardless of the signifier, the meaning is clear: we really don’t like this new Dante. Today maybe some executives in the same situation would pull the handbrake. Ninja Theory instead decides to respond in kind, and does so in one of the first mission sequences of the game. At one point Dante finds himself in front of a mirror and a white wig identical to that of the traditional Dante falls on his head. The comment is an unequivocal “not even in a million years”, as the wig ends up on the ground.
The comment is an unequivocal “not even in a million years”
It seems like a gratuitous provocation, but in reality it is not: there is method in the lucid madness of the Cambridge study, and the color of “Donte’s” hair has a precise meaning. They must be black in order for them to fade as the experience progresses and Dante finally finds his place in the world. Because this Dante is a misfit, an outcast with no purpose who can’t fill his life even by abusing alcohol, drugs and women. An outcast who, in order to prove something, anything, practices self-harm and is forced to constantly live on the run from demons without knowing why. Without knowing who he is, who Eva and Dante are, two figures who instead for the traditional Dante are the magnetic north, a point of reference as immobile as the Earth in the geocentric system.
LET HATE PREVALE
The most subversive change by Ninja Theory does not concern Dante, but his parents. Sparda in the mythology of the series is the hero who saved the world from the conquest of demons, a messianic figure to whom entire doctrines are dedicated. The enemies that Dante faces smell his father on him and identify him as Sparda’s son, a legacy as cumbersome as that of the same series. In DmC the demons have won. They control our lives through public debt, they control our minds through advertising.
The most subversive change by Ninja Theory does not concern Dante, but his parents
Drink Virility to be slimmer, sexier, more virile, it doesn’t matter if this then puts you in the hands of Mundus with no one to stand against him. Sparda is exiled forever and cannot return and Dante has no memory of who he is, his powers sealed forever along with the memory of his mother – the same Eve that Mundus from the first Devil May Cry will use as a model to create Trish and influence The protagonist. This is why Dante’s hair is black. That’s why they will become whiter and whiter over the course of the various missions, until Dante finally becomes really Dante, a messiah for humans like his father from another timeline.
Level design differences have a different ratio. Playing the “numbered” Devil May Cry the echo of Resident Evil can still be heard today. The first Devil May Cry was supposed to be Resident Evil 4, but this is a story we all know. However, the reverberation of this anecdote remains in all phases where Dante is not grappling with some combo. To move forward you often have to go back, explore to find keys and pull levers that allow you to overcome the puzzle. DmC wants to be more linear. At the same time, however, it does not want to be static in the scenario like the classic chapters. The idea of limbo does just that: the sections played all take place in this dimension superimposed on the real world, but which does not necessarily coincide with it. Demons can warp it, splitting cities forcing Dante into platforming or dilating the corridors as the player traverses them, in order to keep the pace as high as possible.
DmC is above all Ninja Theory’s first step towards Hellblade
It also works from a more trivial aesthetic point of view, allowing artistic solutions inspired by Carpenter’s They live that contribute to the world building of the game without necessarily going through the movies alone. DmC is a game made above all of joints, of components that don’t limit themselves to undergoing each other but work together. It’s not yet the symphony orchestra that Hellblade will be, but a band, that absolutely yes. Joint game which is the backbone of the battle system, where there is not only the music to add or remove instruments on the basis of the score obtained, but the demons themselves collaborate with each other at the AI level, exchanging shields and trying to complicate Dante’s life not only by exploiting the number or their dangerousness as individual enemies. It’s not enough to make DmC as complex as the other chapters – after all, the idea was to look for a new audience, not just please those already on board – and this is the biggest sin for which Ninja Theory’s work is put in the Malebolge of the eighth circle.
SILENT WORDS FROM A BLEEDING MOUTH
One might say that only this is left of DmC Devil May Cry, pride to be swallowed with an overly swollen tongue. In reality there are at least two tangible legacies. Within the series DmC has irreparably altered the iconography of Vergil: already in the Special Edition of Devil May Cry 4 released for the seventh generation machines, Dante’s brother takes part of the moveset from the DLC The fall of Vergil, as then also happened with the edition of Devil May Cry 5 for PS5 and Xbox Series.
The idea of limbo serves precisely this: the sections played all take place in this dimension superimposed on the real world, but which does not necessarily coincide with this
Ma DmC is above all Ninja Theory’s first step towards Hellblade, where the idea that each component of the experience has an impact on the others explodes definitively changing the way we look at video games. It is impossible to put Hellblade on an operating table and dissect it like a surgeon would, because the battle system depends on the voices in Senua’s head like the puzzles depend on the design to the point that after a few hours it is the game world itself that suggests which runes will be needed for unlock the portal, before the portal is even located.
Ten years after DmC failed to take the revolution on record out of its coffin of plastic and paper. But somehow he left a trace, somehow even now that we can say he’s dead it stirs something. Ten years later we can say that DmC never really was surrendered. And as for me she has enslaved my soul.