Is it just us, or is there some kind of behind-the-scenes mandate within the game industry to make over gruff supermen as waifish teenagers? First, InFamous’ Cole MacGrath was transformed from a scowling tough guy to a smirking punk (which was later reversed). And then this morning came the announcement of DmC: Devil May Cry. Not content to simply replace him with the more youthful Nero, DmC completely re-imagines Dante – the buff, charmingly arrogant half-demon who single-handedly defined PS2-era badassery – as a skinny, narrow-jawed, emo-looking teen with barely so much as a single white hair.
While our UK counterparts appeared to be indifferent to the change, the knee-jerk reaction in the US office (and at other parts of the internet, apparently) was immediate and negative. Yes, we get that it’s showing off Dante’s origins, which – given the path he takes later in life – probably weren’t all that cheery. Yes, we know that many people who grow up muscular weren’t that way in high school. And yes, we know that most people with premature white hair didn’t have it as kids [Edit: and while we at first mistook that dusting of white hair on New Dante's crown to be a light reflection, it still doesn't count]. But some things are sacred, and the appearances of gaming icons are among them. Besides, do we really need a Devil May Cry: The Phantom Menace? A Devil May Cry Babies? Do we really?
On the other hand, that trailer looks pretty badass. And as much as we’d like to keep the increasingly whiny fires of our own nerd rage stoked and hot, we’re intrigued to see where developer Ninja Theory goes with this.
Above: See? It might not be the end of the world after all
To be honest, the series has needed a shot in the arm for a while now. Devil May Cry 4 was good, sure, but nowhere near as good as the first and third games (and having to double back through the game after getting halfway through didn’t help, either). And if we had to pick a developer whose job it would be to revitalize the series, Ninja Theory would be high on our list. While it maybe didn't reach the biggest audience, NT's PS3-exclusive Heavenly Sword proved the developer could do a fantastic job with stylish brawling, which is essentially what DMC has always been about. And more recently, positive previews for Enslaved: The Odyssey West lead us to believe the studio hasn't lost its edge.
The thing is, as cool as its pedigree and its announcement trailer are, we're still left with lingering doubts. It's always possible this could turn into another disappointment along the lines of Final Fight: Streetwise and Bionic Commando – both, incidentally, produced by DmC publisher Capcom – and certain details in particular leave us a little suspicious. We always got the impression Dante operated in a world that wasn't quite like our own, where soaring Gothic architecture was commonplace and monsters showed up in public frequently enough that fighting them wouldn't land someone in a nuthouse. Hell, we've never seen so much as a police officer in any of the games, so the idea of an acrobatic powerhouse like Dante being arrested, even as a wet-behind-the-ears kid, is suspect by itself.
So we're uneasy, but it's our job to keep an open mind. And to be fair, what we've seen so far (especially removed from its Devil May Cry context) looks awfully damn promising. We'll wait and see whether this wiry punk claiming to be Dante is the series' salvation or its death knell; in the meantime, you may want to check out the rest of the new screens.
Sep 15, 2010