Capcom has slowly been bringing over classic and beloved games over to Switch and Devil May Cry is no exception.
Originally released in 2001, Devil May Cry started off as what would be the next entry in the Resident Evil series, Resident Evil 4. Shinji Mikami, director of RE4, assigned RE2 director Hideki Kamiya to write a first draft of the game and Kamiya was given almost complete freedom with the project. He came up with a game that rebelled against the established identity of the franchise.
Horror and survival gameplay were switched out for a hack and slash game style featuring a super natural protagonist called Tony.
This project couldn’t just be scrapped so Mikami reworked the game into an original title, Devil May Cry.
So how well does Devil May Cry hold up after 18 years? Let’s find out.
This marks the first appearance of Dante, the ultimate devil hunter. He is the son of a demon and a human which gives him otherworldly power and a consistent immunity to death by swords(you’ll see).
Dante takes on a mission from the mysterious Trish to travel to Mallet Island and defeat Mundus, the king of the underworld. The job is personal for Dante since Mundus murdered both this mother and brother.
And you start off on your journey through the island while Trish disappears and leaves you to clear the castle by yourself.
As you can probably tell by the short summary of the story, Devil May Cry is all about the action. After the opening cut scene, there is barely any dialogue and most of the text that you’ll be reading comes from Dante interacting with items or artifices around the environment.
So most of the focus is clearly on the combat which involves Dante using different guns such as his iconic Ebony and Ivory for long range, swords such as Alastor, and items to boost his damage or heal him. Weapons can be upgraded to increase their damage and range by paying Power-Up statues with red orbs.
Dante’s signature ability is Devil Trigger. The Devil Trigger mechanic allows him to acquire increased strength, speed, and reduced damage taken for a few seconds. This is basically necessary to defeat mini-bosses and other enemies that will attack you. So you have to use it wisely since it recharges by damaging enemies which can be difficult if you can’t get in quick.
My approach to hordes of enemies was to jump and slash down or to shoot in the air which auto locks onto the closest enemy in range. Once I got the stinger ability I could just plow through enemies on the ground and I felt so powerful when using those techniques along with activating Devil Trigger.
But it took me a lot of trial and error to understand how any of these moves worked because the game just throws you in with very few instructions on how to fight. There’s a nice sense of discovery with this design though it makes it easy to die if you aren’t clear on how to optimize your moves.
For example, I died several times to the first boss in the game until I search online for how other people were defeating it. I was apparently not buying the correct moves and items from the upgrade screen but once I obtained it and combined with Devil Trigger, I was ready to go. This is when I realized how much of a reliance you’ll have on Devil Trigger for boss battles because you will often have small windows of time to attack and you have to make it count.
It was fights like this one and the few platforming sections and really made me aware of the limitations that fixed camera angles present to the gameplay. Avoiding damage takes up most of the time in the battle while you wait for Devil Trigger to recharge which means a lot of jumping around. While I get that it makes sense to use Dante’s jumping ability in situations other than combat, the controls and vision of the player are not optimized enough to include areas that require precision. So those could be a bit stronger in design and control specificity.
The puzzles and backtracking felt reminiscent of Resident Evil so there are still some relics from its Resident Evil roots are definitely present. I’m interested in seeing how these features have improved since then.
Before you start each mission you can power up by spending red orbs which can also purchase items. While some levels have statues that let you upgrade mid-mission, you won’t always find those and have to hold onto red orbs for a long time before being able to use them.
While Xbox, Steam, and PS4 received the DMC collection which includes the first three games of the series in HD, Nintendo only got the HD version of Devil May Cry on the Switch which I mention as an observation and potential value comparison that can be made. Devil May Cry on Switch is $20 while the collection is $30 and contains three games.
The game suffers a bit from the font that appears on screen when reading items or when characters are talking. It just looked like a poor choice because of its bulky size and slow speed but isn’t too much of a hinderance. I list that as one of its weak points in terms of presentation.
In regards to the voice acting and music, neither seem particularly stellar but do the job well.
There are different orbs around the game that can be found when defeating enemies or destroying objects in the area. These include:
Red- a currency that can be used for power ups or to open doors. You are rewarded with a large amount of red orbs for killing enemies without your guns which incentivizes melee combat. The amount of red orbs you find also affect the ranking you receive at the end of the mission.
Green- an orb that heals you immediately.
Blue- These increase your Vitality Gauge so that you have more health. You’ll often find fragments of them and once you have four fragments you’ll create a whole orb. Fragments function the same way that heart pieces do in Zelda.
Yellow- Revives Dante at the last checkpoint and are basically the number of lives you have. Once you run out, you start at the save point.
Purple- Restores Devil Trigger charges which increases how soon it can be activated.
The orbs are depicted on the menu screen as having the same face but with different colors which seemed boring and unpleasant to look at. I’m not sure if this was designed to fit the aesthetic of the game or just a simple rendering that could be done at the time.
Digesting the Soup
Devil May Cry is undeniably a historical adventure that popularized a genre which delivers visceral satisfaction in any era. It was fun to see how this whole series started and to see how far it has come with games like God of War, Bayonetta, and many more.
It was definitely fun to explore the world of Devil May Cry on Switch but knowing what other games have come since its initial release and how far the gameplay in this genre has really evolved in the last 18 years, it’s a hard comparison to make.
There is a clear sense of game being a start for the genre and is just at the edge of being considered retro by this year. So it’s difficult to compare this game to others that are coming out in the present. While it’s not necessarily as polished or packed with content as a modern game, it’s value and length are still reasonable.
Normally, seeing the short playthrough time of about 6 hours and the clunky controls would be a clear negative for the game but this would have looked and played pretty good compared to other games that were released during the 2001 era. And the HD graphics touch up the visuals more effectively than I expected. I just wished Capcom had taken an opportunity to add some changes or improvements with this port.
Given its historical significance I was excited to see this first step in the Devil May Cry franchise come to the Switch. The game goes for $20 which seems like a decent selling point given that it has been boosted with HD graphics. But once again, it’s important to note that PlayStation and Steam do have the Devil May Cry HD collection which contains the first 3 games and sells for $30. Though I do feel closer to being a well versed gamer by delving into the original of a recognized series that hasn’t been on Nintendo systems before.
Portable version of a classic
Fun Destructive Gameplay
Action focused story
High speed progression
Fixed Camera Angles
Lack of guidance
Better price options on other consoles
Could use updates
Final thoughts: If you’re just looking to try out the series and want to understand one of the games at the root of the hack and slash genre on the Switch, this is an awesome opportunity. But if you are just trying to play through Dante’s adventures and don’t really need it for when you’re on the go, there are better options for you to access this game. I recommend doing some research on the mechanics and even watching part of a playthrough to spot approaches and secrets to obstacles. You will also save time while solving puzzles since there are a good amount of challenges.
A review code for Devil May Cry was provided by Capcom for the purpose of this review.