Style is paramount to the way things are created. From statues and murals to BMX tricks and fighting game combo videos, you have to practice your art and utilize every tool at your disposal to create the most intense works you can possibly put together, all while attaining the satisfaction of having impressed not only your spectators but also yourself at your creation. That philosophy rings true in Capcom’s Devil May Cry franchise of games and the release of “Devil May Cry 4 Special Edition” gives fans more of what they love in the series’ layered combat engine, as well as an expanded set of characters and play options.
Chances are, you’ve played this game before in the last seven years and are aware of the story. You know of the story’s protagonist(s): Nero, the youthful, brash and headstrong knight, and Dante, son of the dark knight Sparda and resident series badass. Their paths cross amidst an unraveling of the truth behind the surge of demonic activity in the castle town of Fortuna, the shady workings of the Order of the Sword (of which Nero is a part of), and their even shadier figurehead, Sanctus. The essence of the game remains the same: advance through linear paths, uncover hidden paths with short, simple puzzles, stylishly defeat waves of enemies throughout your journey and slay the bosses that stand in your way.
In the Special Edition release, players get to do more of that with some new characters. Vergil, Dante’s tragic, power-hungry brother returns to the playable fold. His character is modeled mostly after his DMC3 Special Edition mechanics, but with a few hints of Ninja Theory’s DmC rendition of Vergil included, as well as a ‘Concentration Gauge’ that affects certain moves depending on its level. Trish, Dante’s partner-in-slaying, forgoes weapon-switching, as she did in her guest appearance in DMC2, and is now able to use all her combat tools without worrying about which weapon you’ve got set up. Equipped with the sword Sparda, she can toss it around and corral enemies in a multi-hitting vortex of pain while decimating many more with the choice of her twin handguns or her electrically-charged bare hands.
Arguably the newest addition to this Special Edition is the inclusion of Lady, the angst-ridden, bazooka-toting angel of vengeance from DMC3. She’s ditched the angst and has continued her demon-slaying work in the world of DMC4, except players can now experience how she ‘sticks to her guns.’ Armed with twin handguns, a shotgun, grenades and her trusted bazooka, Kalina Ann, Lady can wipe out enemies in a wide variety of close-quarters and ranged situations. Each of her firearms are built with an upgradable charge ability that increase shot damage and other enhanced properties, depending on the weapon.
I’ve never been one to exploit the DMC game engine to the extreme degree one would see in those high-octane, controller-/keyboard-breaking combo videos, but the time I’ve spent on playing each character and understanding their innate mechanics has been nothing short of satisfying. Throughout several playthroughs of the game in the past month, I ran through a range of emotions. I’ve found myself
cussing laughing at myself, becoming frustrated at a missed combo hit. I’ve found myself raging at the screen as an enemy hit me mid-combo, bumping me down from an SS-tier to a B-tier after having spent a good 30-40 seconds attacking everyone on screen. For myself, that is one of this game’s best qualities: its ability to make you re-evaluate your attack plan on the fly, how you’re going to achieve that spiffy little combo you’ve been practicing several times over… or how you’re going to survive the onslaught of the insane enemy count in Legendary Dark Knight mode. If you’re playing as Vergil, like I’ve been, there are ways of getting past such a hurdle.
…oh yeah… so satisfying. (You can stop by my Twitch channel to see some more!)
The game has so much going for it already: deep combat, engaging characters, tons of play variety, fantastic graphic fidelity that still holds up well after seven years, and an awesome soundtrack that remains largely unchanged from the original release. The EX colors you receive at the end of each campaign are another fun addition, as they let you play the characters in some really cool color schemes, including Nero with a blue jacket (we get it, Capcom, Vergil is CLEARLY his daddy!), a red-coated Vergil (another DMC3 Special Edition throwback), and, my personal favorite, a DmC-inspired color scheme for Dante! (Cussing not included.)
Considering all these positives, there are a few areas in which the package falls only slightly short of being a truly full package for me. I, for one, remember seeing several promo materials advertise that both English and Japanese voices would be included in the game’s release, only to find out that it was a feature limited to the Asian retail release. Not everyone can get behind the sound of someone other than Reuben Langdon and Daniel Southworth as Dante and Vergil, sure, but as a bit of a voice-over nerd, it’s exciting to hear the difference in nuance used in works that are translated between English and Japanese. It’s not an absolute necessity for me in a Devil May Cry game, but it’s definitely something that would have been a great inclusion.
Up until Ultimate Marvel vs. Capcom 3’s inclusion of Vergil as a playable character, I never got to appreciate the epic nature of his character theme and it’s heard through select parts of Vergil’s opening cutscene. I understand that the major composer of the game’s score, Tetsuya Shibata, no longer works at Capcom, which would make acquiring his talents for additional character-exclusive tunes difficult. But could it have killed Capcom to add a full song or two so as to make battles with the new characters that much more special and unique? Who knows.
These concerns are but trickles against the expansive sea of fun that I’ve had with this game and its world. The Devil May Cry cast stands out best in this game than it ever has before. Nero’s still a character that’s easy to pick up and play as, even if you still can’t get those mid-slash EX-Act charges down. Dante’s plethora of style and weapon switches continually sets him as one of the deepest characters to play, while Vergil’s emphasis on precision combat demands attention to detail in your attack plan. Trish and Lady make a fun pair, as Trish can use Round Trip to enforce crowd control mid-combo and Lady can reach SSS combo ranks with a well-placed, fully-charged Kalina Ann blast. Each character brings something unique to the table that one can’t really ask for too much more from this already sensational game. Suffice it to say, I’m absolutely crazy about it! (…sorry. I had to.)