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E3 2012: Does Ninja Theory Understand What Makes Devil May Cry Special?

Posted on June 7, 2012 AT 09:30am

The Big Question: Does Ninja Theory truly understand Devil May Cry? There are reasons to believe that Ninja Theory has a better grasp on the franchise than we first thought.

Midway through a battle through a psychadelic demon nightclub—modeled after a real life club in Berlin—it occurred to me that Ninja Theory had reversed the polarity on the series. Where a red-jacketed, white-haired, completely fabulous Dante once crept through drab castles and dank streets, his more subdued alter-ero battles through levels with seizure-inducing amounts of colors. More importantly, it works.

The art style—long a point of contention with the Devil May Cry reboot—is certainly distinct, and it seems a better fit for the series than I first thought. I mean, of course Dante would fight game show-loving succubi in hellish nightclubs. Hell, he would probably stick around the club afterward for a beer and a slice of pizza when he was finished.

All of this is to say that DMC does not stray as far from its roots as I first thought. In fact, it actually feels like an origin story of sorts—a chance to explain how Dante became the wisecracking, demon-hunting badass we all know and love. In fact, according to creative director Tameem Antoniades, part of DmC’s story is leading up to how exactly he got “the white hair.”

In that sense, DMC feels rather like an extension of the original series, rather than the straight-up reboot we thought we were getting. Ninja Theory is even inviting Devil May Cry enthusiasts to their studio to try and tune the combat so that it captures the technical mania the series is so well-known for. And indeed, when I saw Dante knock an opponent into the air and kick off a combo utilizing his scythe, his sword, and finally his guns, I suddenly felt like it was 2004 all over again.

What I like though is that Ninja Theory seems to taken the kind of zaniness that once had Dante surfing on a pizza box, and spread it to other aspects of the game. I refer again to the demonic nightclub, full as it was of meta references to Street Fighter (“Round 1! Fight!”) and disco fever-like lighting. It’s not mind-blowing or anything, but it is a reminder that the environments of Devil May Cry never quite matched its attitude. That seems to have changed in the reboot.

All in all, it seems that I may have underestimated Ninja Theory a bit. I never doubted their ability to make a solid action game—Heavenly Sword is proof enough of that—but I wondered where they would take Devil May Cry. Would it become more like God of War? Would it lose the over-the-top ‘cool’ that defined the original? It seems that I had nothing to fear. Devil May Cry looks better than ever.

Ninja Theory takes on Capcom’s classic action series. But do they truly understand what makes Devil May Cry a great action game? Or are they out to impose their own vision?

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