Devil May Cry 2

Review by Skinny Minnie
March 2003

I want to have Capcom's baby. I already knew this when I played their Onimusha series of console third-person action/adventures, so I guess I'll have to birth twins for them now. And maybe I'll even name them Dante and Lucia, sexes permitting, in memory of Devil May Cry 2's dual protagonists.

I do realize that this second game in the DMC series is standing in its elder sibling's satanic shadow. The original Devil May Cry, spawned in 2001, instantly possessed the souls of countless PS2 owners with its fiendishly addicting third-person action/adventuring. Although I bought it, I somehow wrongly sentenced DMC to a not-played purgatory. Only last night did I release it from its otherworldly coma and target it as my next game to haunt, but I have unfinished business to attend to first in the form of this DMC2 review.

Most of the DMC2 reviewers seem to have played the first game in the past, so I thought it might be enlightening to review DMC2 solely on its own blessings and curses, without its Jan having to cry "Marcia, Marcia, Marcia!" so to speak. Although that said, even Capcom itself seems to assume that players have already experienced the first game, as there is only the briefest back-story about how Dante's demon father, Sparda, turned against his origins and single-handedly stopped a demonic uprising from consuming earth. How Dante inherited his father's devil-hunting sword and his human mother's protective amulet are never clarified, but an old woman calls upon Dante to target a power-hungry demon camouflaged as a human corporate conglomerate head, and so you head off to Redmond ... er, I mean you are then flung right into 18 levels of hunting this demon's many different types of minions, his minibosses (which aren't mini in size but aren't usually hard to beat) and the demon himself. (A second CD harbors 13 levels featuring Lucia, a fellow devil-hunter whose life meshes more closely with Dante's than he realizes when they first meet; their paths do cross at various points during both games, but Lucia's moves, weapons and some of the levels are unique to her game. Even the levels of Lucia's that are staged in the same general locales as Dante's contain different elements like swimming and mechanical repairing, and they play out differently.)

Now, I know what you're thinking. "It's maniacal killer Skinny playing another bloody slasher game." Well, here's a news flash: I'm not a maniacal killer and I don't play bloody slasher games! Much like Capcom's Onimusha series, Devil May Cry 2 has a plethora of provocative puzzles to go along with its almost gore-free demon hunting. Its heroes also have more moves than hell has fire, and they're available to you right from the get-go. You can climb walls, jump into the air and then hang upside down while firing dual pistols, roll, dodge, flip, slide, walk, spin in the air and throw daggers or darts, run, perform attack combos with multiple swords and guns, and even fly to your heart's content. And don't worry, because you'll be doing it all with a few simple button commands. Both Dante and Lucia also auto-lock onto targets and keep firing if you hold one simple button down, and they can even plummet off ten-story buildings without taking damage! So to those who might give me flack, I say, "Don't knock it until you try it!" While experienced action gamers can perform advanced combos to earn more powers, even the reflex-challenged will be able to get by with more basic moves. While you start the game in normal mode, an easy mode can be unlocked early on for those having trouble, and the more adventurous can unlock two higher difficulty modes after playing through the game the first time in normal mode.

The best third-person action/adventures contain many elements besides fighting, of course. And after such recent disappointments as Lord of the Rings: Fellowship of the Ring and Dark Angel, whose dual representation of adventuring constitutes picking up brightly glowing inventory blobs off of the open streets and then being text-prompted on how to walk five feet and put them where they belong, well, Devil May Cry 2 presents a refreshing alternative. The ever-changing settings are gothic and colorful (albeit somewhat grainy in some of the large, outdoor locales), and new twists constantly await you. You enter one highly explorative scenario after another, facing devilish traps, medieval statues, and even wall etchings that all harbor secrets you must uncover to move on. Ancient artifacts confining devils must be taken from conglomerate-demon Arius's clutches before he can use them, and puzzles must be solved to open up new areas. For example, you may saunter into a new scenario, only to have colored translucent tiles float up from the floor in a timed sequence all around you. You must then decipher their pattern and determine how to open that new gateway before time runs out or the puzzle scrambles and completely changes, leaving you to start from scratch on another round. There are timed physical runs, leaps and flights, as well as globe gateways that you must figure out how to unlock, but moving both Dante and Lucia around is much easier than moving Lara Croft is, and new challenges abound throughout the levels. Certain benign-looking objects like paintings or locked doors also hide secret areas where additional demons can be fought to earn health and spell power ups, as well as red orbs that can be used to upgrade weapons or gain new powers.

And yes, there are spells in the form of gems you will uncover throughout your travels. Remember that amulet that Dante's mother gave him? Well, Lucia mysteriously has one as well. I'll leave the "how" for you to guess, but both amulets can house gems that increase running speed, add lightning and fire attacks to weaponry, add additional attack spells, or allow their wearers to fly. Certain amulet gems even refill lowered health when activated. Both Dante's and Lucia's amulets themselves are called upon for use via one button, called the "devil trigger." As both Dante and Lucia are part devil themselves, their amulets allow their demonic powers to surface for limited times on an as-needed basis. They both sport life bars as well as devil gauges, too. The life bars slowly drain with enemy attacks, of course, while the devil gauges drain with devil-form use and are refilled by the felling of demons. Demon slaying also produces red orbs, which can be used for the aforementioned upgrades, as well as for purchasing health increasing stars, extra lives, poison-cleansing potions and the like. Red orbs are also hidden about the landscapes, as are blue orbs and blue orb fragments, which will permanently increase the length of life bars once in inventory. Any yellow orbs that are found give extra lives; otherwise, the game can be saved at each level's end. (There are a few midlevel save checkpoints in the longer levels as well as right before boss fights, though, reducing standard console gaming repetition.) And lest you violet lovers feel left out, yes, there are purple orbs as well, and these permanently extend the size of the devil trigger gauge when collected.

The music is excellent, ranging from new age in exploratory mode to rock and roll during fight scenes, but it especially complements certain of the backdrops that are more modernized and industrial looking. (Why Dante's world fluctuates between the medieval and the futuristic is beyond me, but at least it makes for a lot of visual variation!) As for the view itself, although the fixed camera system is out of your control, there are only a few instances where you can't see enemies in front of you, the most notable one being while fighting a possessed helicopter boss. The camera does have a tendency to lurch forward as either hero runs across the screen, and when it changes angles, sometimes game pad controls must change direction in response. This is annoying, but it's something I've run into in other third person action/adventures as well.

Overall, Devil May Cry 2 is an exciting and diverse experience, easy on the beginner yet providing harder modes for the more experienced player. Even though enemy AI wavers, sometimes being quite tight and responsive and sometimes not, the deluges of devils vary greatly in appearances, attacks, and movements and are usually susceptible to certain attacks while being immune to others. The larger outdoor areas allow for strategic physical maneuvering, while the indoor locales dictate shorter-range weapons and moves, but this overall variation, along with the puzzle elements, are DMC2's greatest strengths and make for enjoyable game play.

I am awarding this game a solid Thumb Up, its main flaws being the at times grainy graphics (although the in-motion blur of the screenshots don't look nearly as good as the actual game does—sorry!), and also its lack of continuing story and character interaction. (I think Dante and Lucia together couldn't have spoken more than 100 words apiece throughout each of their games!) There is a decent premise here, and if Capcom had set up the tale to stand on its own instead of its obvious reliance on past familiarity, this could have been a Gold Star title. The End

The Verdict

The Lowdown

Developer: Capcom
Publisher: Capcom
Release Date: January 2003

Available for: PlayStation 2

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