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April 01, 2005

Review: Devil May Cry 2 - Cry? Feel free...

VGP Score


Improving upon Devil May Cry is a touchy subject. Nobody really wanted anything changed from the first game, yet at the same time, everyone wanted something different and unique again. Different and unique is what we got from Capcom, but it definitely doesn't live up the hype surrounding the game. Don't let these cryptic words fool you; Devil May Cry 2 is an excellent stand alone game, but with it's bigger and better brother Devil May Cry looming overhead, its hard not to try and compare the two, and find the faults in Dantes second outting.

Devil May Cry 2 is a delicate game to handle. It retains so much charisma from the Devil May Cry series, in terms of it's visual style, the ambiance, and the intuitive control, but it really doesn't stack up to the Devil May Cry mythology, or the excellent combat system that was in play therein. As the game progresses, the game gets very repetitive, but it also turns into a top notch "shoot em up". It's the hack and slash of the action-adventure genre. It really isn't too deep where plot is concerned, but it makes up for it in it's stylish and acrobatic execution. With a handful of improvements upon the original Devil May Cry, you're faced with the even bigger handful of degradations of the original.

The game starts off with Dante infiltrating a museum, where he fights off hoardes of demonic birds, concluding with an enigmatic conversation between the new mistress Lucia and Dante. Both Lucia and Dante are after key artifacts, known as Arcana, which they must hide from the "evil" Arius, who is also trying to collect them to let loose the immense power of Argosax the Chaos. As intriguing as it may sound, it's actually fairly anti-climactic, in that no real solution is ever found, and the games ending is open for interpretation. I'm not saying that's a bad thing, but it leaves a lot of loose ends that really should have been concluded by game's end. Both Dante and Lucia have their own versions of the story to tell. Think of it like Resident Evil 2, where the game is divided up into scenarios, where each character takes on missions unique to themselves, but also take on similar missions, as to intertwine their journey's, and show how the two leading characters are connected. Dante's missions primarily focus on collecting the Arcana, while making his way up to fight Arius. Lucia's missions deal with trying to save her grandmother and gather the Arcana. Its very simplistic, and it is over complicated with meaningless dialogue and pointless backstory, which really doesn't play any part in the games plot. This time around, the actual total number of missions is increased from the last game, but each character has a minimal portion of the total. Dante is restricted to 18 missions, and Lucia is even less with only 13. Even though it seems like it lasts longer than Devil May Cry, some of the missions are so easy, and so minimal, that two or three missions in Devil May Cry 2, equate to only 1 mission from the original. This is all do in part to the disappointing combat system.

In the original game, the combat was very free form, and an infinite number of combos could potentially be created. This was all do the fact that you could cancel your current combo and start fresh instantaneously by dodging from an enemy attack. This time however, there is no ability to cancel your current combo, which means a very limited number of performable combos, ie: a clunky and slow battle system. Even though this is potentially a great flaw in the games overall design, its actually balanced out with much easier enemies, though it comes with a price. With the dumbed down AI, and the enemies being minimized into weakling mini-demons, you can basically stand perfectly still shooting your guns and never have to swing your sword once. Though it appeals to the casual gamer who would not prefer to spend copious amounts of time on a game, it really doesn't do the hardcore gamer any favours, nor does it make the game more fun. Your handguns, Ebony and Ivory are incredibly powerful, and can pretty much be your only used weapons through the duration of the entire game. Lucia would use her throwing daggers, since she is without the use handguns or fire arms.

If there is one thing this game definitely has, it's style; but how practical the style is, is something to be judged. Dante and Lucia now have a whole new array of fighting techniques. They can now run along the side of a wall if backed into a corner, making it possible to escape from the clutches of your enemies. They double jump without any upgrade required, and Dante can literally turn upside down mid-jump, and let loose with a rain storm of bullets. Here is where the practicality comes into play. The ability to run along a wall, or vertically up one, is potentially one of the coolest things you'll see in this game, but you'll never actually need to use it. Its an almost pointless feature, since the enemies are so easy, you'll rip through them without having to take on step away from your starting position. Dante's rain storm is possibly the most impractical of the bunch. When Dante is right side up, he automatically aims for the closest enemy, much like the original Devil May Cry. However, once turned upside down to perform his rain storm technique, he can only shoot directly below him, and if there aren't any enemies in that small confined area, his bullets will hit nothing but air. I'm also leaving out the part where in order to perform said technique, you'll need to jump really high into the air, making visual confirmation of the enemy impossible, meaning you won't have a chance in hell of lining up a clear shot. Its this crazy style and its impractical uses that balance each other out. One good, for another evil. It doesn't help the overall game, but it also doesn't hurt it either.

The Devil Trigger has also been dumbed down a bit, with the new "Amulet" system. Both Dante and Lucia have their own Devil Trigger state, but unlike Devil May Cry, in this game, they each only have one form, and one form only, where the first game has 3 different Devil Triggers for Dante alone. It really dumbs down the strategy involved, but it also allows for some great customization. The Amulet system works like a typical RPG custom character setup. You chose which "hearts" you wish to place in the amulet, and once you activate your DT, the abilities of the hearts begin to take effect. The Healing Heart will steadily increase your health as long as you're in demon form, and the frozen heart will add the ice element to your physical attacks. This forms a new way to customize each character, so the gameplay experience is unique to you. If you're conservative you attach the healing heart so you can heal yourself while attacking from afar, and if you're an offensive player, you can equip the Quick Heart to increase the speed and frequency of your attacks. Again, its a give and take situation. You take away from the strategy involved in juggling the different demon forms of Devil May Cry, and you replace it with a new and innovative system, which is part of a greater "design your own game" element. Its intriguing for some, yet disappointing for others.

The game is definitely not hard to look at, thats for sure. The number of polygons has been increased tremendously from the original game, and all the non existent anti-aliasing from the first game has been remedied. With the beautiful (and sometimes sexy) character models of Dante and Lucia, comes the steep price of losing a lot of detail in the environments. The locations for each mission are wide and vast, so attention to detail is minimal, since it would go by unnoticed, as the camera is pulled so far back to give a better view of your enemies. Its the same song and dance, you add something, to have something subtracted on the other side.

One place where this game truly shines however, is in it's unlockables. Again, there are 3 different modes of gameplay, but there are now several unlockable characters and costumes, as well as a "Special Stage" known as Bloody Palace. You can unlock three costumes in total, which can be used in the actual game, as well, there are 3 unlockable characters. I won't spoil the best, but two of which are an evil version of Lucia, and Dante from Devil May Cry 1. Even though the unlocked characters are unique and have their own weapons and combo systems, it would have been really nice to see some exclusive missions for each, instead of just playing through the same game again as a different person. These hidden features alone will have you playing til your heart's content, as they add that incentive to keep going, and have fun while doing it.

Even though the game has some inherent flaws, it also comes bearing gifts with improved style, a customizable Devil Trigger form, and some of the best unlockables to grace the DMC series. If you were as hardcore as Dante was in the first Devil May Cry, you may only find this game to be average at best, but if you are new to the series, or just thought DMC was a great game, you may find some gold at the end of the rainbow in Devil May Cry 2.


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