Monday, April 2, 2012

Devil May Cry 2 - This Devil Cries In The Corner

Continuing my coverage of the DMC franchise has led me to Devil May Cry 2, the first sequel in the series, released in 2003 for the PS2. After the success of Devil May Cry, Capcom decided to make another, but this time without the input of the original director, Hideki Kamiya, or Team Little Devils. In an attempt to make a game that would respond to every criticism with the first game, as well as add new ideas to hopefully make it even better, they had instead managed to create what remains the undisputed worst game in the franchise.

The story in this installment begins with a woman named Lucia being attacked by demons while trying to obtain a mysterious item. After Dante rescues her, he follows her to Dumary Island, where he meets her mother, Matier. There he learns about a man named Arius, a corrupt businessman who wishes to gather objects called the Arcana to resurrect a great evil named Argosax, considered one of the strongest demons in all of hell. As the story goes on, I couldn't help but notice it take many cues from its predecessor, including plot twists that were probably meant to be shocking but instead left me with a rather blank expression forged from recognition on account of the first game. Granted I had already played this game before, but since I had forgotten a lot of it I should probably have been more surprised than I really was. On the other hand, not remembering a lot of this game until injecting it into my PS2 again is maybe a bad sign. In any case, the story seemed to have more meat in it than Devil May Cry, yet at the same time it was very weak and felt more anorexic with time. I really wish they could have expanded it further or been a tad more original to help it stand out.

Also disappointing are the character portrayals. Dante is no longer a wise-cracking badass, opting to be more of the stoic and silent type instead. This I felt took away from his character rather than add to it, since even though he still has his own moments of badassery here, the absence of his virtually trademark personality and one-liners left me wanting more out of him. Lucia felt like kind of an interesting addition to the universe, but her origin held me back a little from fully embracing her. There isn't really much to say about Matier, but Arius felt more like a cardboard villain due to the fact that we are given no insight into his motivations for trying to bring forth Argosax. Mundus at least had the motive of wanting to get revenge against Sparda by going after Dante, but the villain here is more generic than anything and seems to just be there to round out the basic requirements of the cast. What may not have helped for any one of these characters is the voice acting; it's great for Dante, but if Lucia or Arius talk, though it hardly ever happens, they can't seem to fully decide which accent they are using. I also couldn't help but laugh later at one particular line from our villain, which is so hammy you can't help but do so.

The graphics are, to put it bluntly, unimpressive. Environments are much bigger than before, but almost every inch of the locations looks the same, as well as more low-res, and I just couldn't dig it as much as the Gothic architecture and sometimes organic locales of Devil May Cry. While making the environments bigger is perhaps a technical feat, traversing them is a pain since it takes forever to go from Point A to Point B even if you're dodge rolling the whole way. This problem unfortunately translates to the character models, which look pretty decent unless it is an enemy. Enemy design is a variable mix of interesting, impressive, or completely uninspired, and I wish that it didn't take as many tactics to beat them as I ended up needing, which was exactly one.

Combat is another thing here that doesn't help my opinion of the game. The controls feel a little more natural by following more conventions set by other PS2 games, though admittedly it is a little difficult adjusting to it at first after what you have to go by in the original. This translates well into using square to shoot and triangle to swing your blade, but the translation gets lost in the heat of an encounter. Problems arise first of all with setting up combos due to the guns firing in bursts of three instead of perpetually, which makes setting up combos extremely difficult, not helped at all when your enemies can go down pretty quickly. The game seems to try to make up for this by spawning more for what seems like forever, making every fight more infuriating than fun. In my playthrough though I didn't need to worry about setting up complex combos because the game can actually be gotten through with only one singular all-encompassing tactic: Just pound square!

An Artist's Rendering
I'm not joking when I say that I literally made my way through both campaigns without swinging my sword even once, except of course to break objects for more red orbs. This also works on the bosses, where all I really needed to do was mash the fire button to death (it's faster than simply holding it) while dodging the easily avoidable attacks. The bad design is furthered by the AI, which is so idiotic that they require little to no strategy to get around, and sometimes when you're at a specific range they'll do absolutely nothing about it and essentially drop the victory in your lap, even the final boss. If you also have a pretty good Devil Trigger gauge, you could easily beat some of the weaker bosses in mere seconds, and those with more resilience will be able to repeatedly give you more Devil Trigger guaranteed. Aside from Argosax and Arius, as well as a surprise cameo from Phantom, none of the bosses are particularly memorable and seemed to just be there to fill up space and pad the length of the game.

Dante and Lucia both seem to have a distinct lack of weapons in this installment compared to the first, with only three Guns or four "Arsenal" and maybe three swords each. What's even more disappointing about the blades in particular is that they are all functionally identical. Nothing helps them stand out from each other since you need to uneventfully locate them physically in the levels, making it possible to completely miss the opportunity to try to wield something different. You can actually upgrade them, but all it does is change their damage modifier, which doesn't really help if all you need to do is upgrade the basic gun or throwing knife to make the game go by even faster.

My two biggest complaints however are the length and difficulty. I've already talked about how the fire button will help you breeze past even the Normal mode, but I haven't mentioned yet that the game is also unfortunately short. If literally all you did was do nothing but play Devil May Cry 2 one day, you'd probably beat both discs, especially from the fact that Lucia's campaign has less missions than Dante's. Since her missions are also basically Dante's but with minor variation, it just makes playing through the whole thing even less fun in the long run.

On a lesser note, I had some mixed feelings about the music. At times it sounded okay, but when heard by itself, the guitar riffs sound very muddy and incomprehensible. The rest of the score though was pretty decent.

Overall, Devil May Cry 2 is a very average game. I'll admit that it did have some interesting ideas and concepts, but they weren't fleshed out very well and the design seemed to take more steps back than ahead. Compared to the first game it's a colossal disappointment, but on its own merits it's just an average title. Only think about playing it if you really feel like your Devil May Cry experience would be incomplete without it, but otherwise this chore of a game is best skipped.

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