It’s been exactly ten years since Devil May Cry 4’s release and, while Devil May Cry 5 has been teased for years, it’s only now that Capcom is finally getting around to properly continuing the franchise. Taking into consideration that Ninja Theory’s 2013 reboot of the series, DmC: Devil May Cry, ended on a cliffhanger, E3 could have gone one of the three ways: no new Devil May Cry; DmC: Devil May Cry 2; or Devil May Cry 5. Thankfully, Capcom went with the lattermost, albeit featuring a trailer fairly reminiscent of DmC: Devil May Cry. Whether it be due to the darker color palette, Nero’s haircut, or the emphasis on more urban environments, one wouldn’t be at fault for thinking Capcom was actually showing off DmC: Devil May Cry 2 within the first minute of the trailer.
Although the rest of the trailer makes it very clear that the game is, in fact, a genuine continuation of the core series, its relatively ambiguous nature has left some fans confused. Nero resembles DmC Dante; there’s no gameplay shown for Dante, the series protagonist; and the new character, Nico, invokes Kat more than she does Trish or Lady. On a purely surface level, Devil May Cry 5’s trailer can be disconcerting to longtime fans. It shouldn’t be, however, as DMC5’s trailer actually shows off quite a bit to quell any fears that Devil May Cry would be anything but a return to form. Taking into account Capcom’s official announcement over on Capcom-Unity, all signs point to Devil May Cry 5 pushing the series forward in the same vein as Devil May Cry 3.
Of course, watching the trailer and reading Capcom’s press release only nets so much information. What exactly is Devil May Cry 5 offering that previous games in the series haven’t already? As the sixth game in the series, how does it distinguish itself in a franchise that arguably peaked three games in? Ten years in the making, there’s naturally quite a lot to expect from Devil May Cry 5. And the kicker? It actually looks like it might deliver.
Three Playable Characters
Every game in the series since the original Devil May Cry has made an effort to include multiple playable characters. Devil May Cry 2 features unique story modes for Dante and Lucia while offering Trish as a playable character; Devil May Cry 3: Special Edition added Vergil alongside Dante with an arguably even more complex moveset, and Devil May Cry 4 had Nero and Dante sharing a campaign with DMC4’s Special Edition adding Lady, Trish, and Vergil as playable characters with the former two sharing a story mode. With that in mind, it’s not so surprising to see Capcom announce three unique, playable characters right out the gate. What is surprising, however, is the approach Capcom is taking with the trio.
First and foremost, it seems that, like in Devil May Cry 4, Nero is once again the main protagonist. At the very least, it seems as though he’ll be the character players play as initially before moving onto Dante and the third playable character. Considering Devil May Cry 4’s rather rushed development, most notable in the game’s second half, it does make sense to put Nero back into the lead role. He’s an already established character who was robbed a full game; his character arc isn’t as complete as Dante’s, and his playstyle is conceptually fresher since he’s only been present in one game prior. It only makes sense to have him take the lead on DMC5, if only for just the beginning of the game.
As should be expected from any longtime fan, Dante is also returning for Devil May Cry 5. While he only appeared at the very end of the trailer, (and much older at that,) it’s been confirmed through promo art, and spot-on accurate leaks, that Dante will be playable in some capacity. That said, it was never a matter of whether or not Dante would be playable. Rather, the question is: will Dante have his own campaign? Dante only had seven playable missions in Devil May Cry 4 on account of Capcom abruptly rushing the title for release, but Devil May Cry 5’s seemingly longer development time will hopefully avoid such an issue altogether. Of course, only time will tell how DMC5’s campaign will work, but it’s perhaps safe to say that Dante will certainly have more than just seven missions this time around. Worth noting, the leak shows Dante wielding Sparda, making it the first time he’s used the Devil Arm since the original Devil May Cry.
The third playable character is easily the most mysterious as he, surprisingly, isn’t Vergil. At least not overtly. Known only as “V,” the leaks describe him as someone who can “summon demonic bodyguards… against your fiendish enemies.” From a combat standpoint, this is a rather new playstyle for the series. Action in Devil May Cry has consistently occurred in a close range setting, and V’s projected playstyle presumably keeps him away from the action, at least directly. Oddly enough, V’s novel playstyle isn’t what makes him so interesting. Rather, it’s the fact he looks nothing like Vergil. Dark haired and tattooed, V’s design, at least from behind, does not resemble what most would assume is his namesake. Devil May Cry 4 does explicitly show that characters can change their appearances with Gloria/Trish, so there’s a good chance V really is just Vergil in disguise, but all signs do point to V being his own character. For the time being.
The Same Stylish Combat
While it’s certainly exciting to see Capcom make an effort with three unique playstyles right out the gate, that hardly matters if the core combat isn’t up to par with previous entries in the franchise. For all its faults, DmC: Devil May Cry actually had a fairly unique and engaging playstyle with their interpretation of Dante. Unfortunately, the core combat of that game is bogged down by counterproductive enemy design that only ends up breaking the flow of battle. Nero could control great in Devil May Cry 5, but it doesn’t matter if the game and enemy design don’t follow suit.
Thankfully, from what little was shown of the gameplay, it seems as though Devil May Cry 5 is making an effort at staying as true to Devil May Cry 4’s combat as possible while also adding in a few notable inclusions of its own. As far as just the gameplay is concerned, Nero seems to control almost identical to how he did in Devil May Cry 4. Returning from his debut game are Red Queen and Blue Rose, his trademark sword and gun respectively. Red Queen is shown having its traditional combos, Exceed, and High Roller while Blue Rose has its traditional shot along with, presumably, its charged shot.
Replacing Nero’s Devil Bringer is the brand new Devil Breaker System, a robotic arm that seems to function identically to Devil Bringer, although with a few new twists. Nero can still use his Buster, Snatch, Hell Bound, and Hold, but now he can also detach his robotic arm to grind on it in addition to forcing out what appears to be an electromagnetic extension of his arm along with a grappling hook that might just simply replace Snatch and Hell Bound on a visual level.
All this is just gameplay though. How does the enemy design hold up? Although the trailer doesn’t show off much on that front, it’s worth mentioning that Lusts from Devil May Cry 3 are shown in the enemy lineup. If Devil May Cry 5 is utilizing enemies from the third installment, it’s likely that they’re only being changed up enough to make sense with Nero’s and V’s playstyles while keeping their core design intact. If this does end up being the case, which it very much likely will, DMC5 is already promising better enemy design than DmC: Devil May Cry which is what any fan can ask for at this point. With the inclusion of Lusts, it’s just as likely enemies from Devil May Cry 4 will make a return as well, fully capitalizing on all three characters at play. Already, that’s a major step up from both DmC: Devil May Cry and Devil May Cry 4
A Brand New Engine
Devil May Cry 5 seems to already be getting a bit of flack for its more realistic and “gritty” visuals, but it’s important to remember that Devil May Cry 4 came out a decade ago. It was never going to look like the previous entries in the series simply because graphical fidelity has come such a long way since. That doesn’t mean the previous games look back in comparison, but of course, Devil May Cry 5 was going to look more in-line with the type of content Capcom is currently making. Especially since Devil May Cry 5 is running on their proprietary RE Engine.
Easily one of the best things to come out of Capcom in ages, their RE Engine seems to be pushing Devil May Cry 5 to its limits in the same way it pushed Resident Evil 7: Biohazard. Not only does Devil May Cry 5 look downright phenomenal, it’s running at 60 frames per second, an absolute must for the series. Ninja Theory’s biggest misstep with DmC: Devil May Cry was assuming fans wouldn’t care or notice that it was running at 30 FPS so long as it looked pretty. Itsuno’s team is offering the best of both worlds in comparison: a visually stunning game running at 60 FPS. Devil May Cry 5 is shaping up the be the smoothest game in the series, if not the hack ‘n’ slash genre, and it’s all thanks to the new engine.
Acknowledgment That Devil May Cry 2 Exists
For the longest time, Devil May Cry 2 has existed in a continuity limbo where Capcom refuses to acknowledge it in-universe while also keeping it firmly put in the series’ overarching timeline. Devil May Cry 3 and Devil May Cry 4 were both prequels to Devil May Cry 2 with neither bothering to acknowledge that Dante would go on become totally stoic, carry around a trick coin, and inevitably cameo in Shin Megami Tensei: Nocturne. With every piece of Devil May Cry media post DMC2 ignoring its existence, it’s only natural Devil May Cry 5 do the same. Surprisingly enough, however, it seems like DMC5 actually takes place after the events of Devil May Cry 2.
At the end of DMC2, Dante drives right into Hell on a motorcycle. With the exception of an after credits scene that alludes at Dante’s return, but doesn’t explicitly show it, there has since been no direct confirmation that Dante does, in fact, return from Hell. Until now. At the very end of Devil May Cry 5’s trailer, a much older, and bearded, Dante is shown riding through the streets of Red Grave City on a motorcycle. It could mean nothing. It could just mean Dante’s older and driving a motorcycle for fun. Or, it could mean Devil May Cry 5 takes places after Dante escapes from Hell in Devil May Cry 2.
Taking into consideration that Devil May Cry 5’s premise revolves around demons escaping from Hell and overrunning the world, it’s only natural for it to take place after DMC2. While previous games haven’t given much of a glimpse into the day-to-day of civilization in the series, and the anime’s canonicity is rather questionable, it’s at least implied that society is still standing. Devil May Cry 5’s trailer seems to imply that mankind is on the brink with demons running amok. It’s entirely possible Devil May Cry 5 is simply taking inspiration from Devil May Cry 2 with the intent of retconning it, but it seems more likely that the series is finally getting around to acknowledging DMC2’s existence and moving past it in a way that makes sense for the narrative.
The End of an Era
Although Capcom-Unity describes Devil May Cry 5 as “the latest chapter of the ‘Sons of Sparda’ saga,” the leaks outright call it the “final chapter in the Sons of Sparda saga.” Immediately worth noting is the fact that “Sons of Sparda” is now being used as an arc name for the previous four games in the series implying that Devil May Cry will go on to cover different storylines in the future. Even if this isn’t the final chapter like the leaks claim, just the fact that Capcom is now branding the story in such a way is a massive sign that the franchise is changing.
Devil May Cry has never been particularly narrative-driven, but it has always had a story and a rather cohesive one at that. Throughout the four core games, there’s a consistent theme of “humanity” present tying the series together. There’s also a clear continuity to Dante’s story with arcs that have a payoff and continue into subsequent games. On top of that, character development tends to stick to the point where Dante did not have an identifiable character arc in Devil May Cry 4, not because it was rushed, but because his arc was done chronologically by the original Devil May Cry.
Narratively, there’s really nowhere else to go with a Dante-centric Devil May Cry than a situation that puts him on the backburner. Even if Devil May Cry 5 isn’t the end of the Sons of the Sparda saga as the leaks state, the mere fact that the debut trailer is emphasizing Nero over Dante is enough to show fans that the series is moving forward with or without its original protagonist. It’s a bit of a sad thought, but it’s one necessary for the evolution of the franchise. Devil May Cry under Itsuno has, first and foremost, always strived to push the series and genre further. If that means abandoning Dante in favor of genuinely embracing Nero as the main character then that should be welcomed by fans with open arms.
Hideaki Itsuno’s Finishing Touch
There are quite a few new, exciting, and familiar features to expect from Devil May Cry 5, but more important than anything else previously mentioned is Hideaki Itsuno’s return as director. Having worked on the franchise since roughly halfway through Devil May Cry 2’s development, Itsuno and his team are responsible for bringing out all the potential Hideki Kamiya laid down in the original Devil May Cry back in 2001. Devil May Cry 5 would still be exciting without Itsuno at the helm, but his lack of presence would be felt in the same way it was felt in Ninja Theory’s DmC: Devil May Cry.
At this point in the series, there is simply no one better to handle Devil May Cry than Hideaki Itsuno. Devil May Cry 5 could have been DmC: Devil May Cry 2 and it still would have been worth building hype for so long as Itsuno was the director. There’s a lot that defines Devil May Cry on a surface level, but Hideaki Itsuno, his team, and the love and care they put into each title is the lifeblood that keeps Devil May Cry alive, and what to look forward to most from Devil May Cry 5’s spring 2019 release.