After Capcom’s Devil May Cry hit the scene with its stylish action and cool-as-hell protagonist, fans were hungry for more from Dante and company. To say that the sequel didn’t exactly live up to expectations was an understatement. Gone were Trish and Dante’s iconic one-liners and attitude, and in their place we had Lucia and a Dante that was more concerned with coin flips than cracking smart. In the years since the release of Devil May Cry 2, Capcom, much like the fans, has acted as if the first sequel never happened. And really, looking back at the game now, it’s plain to see why.
After battling demons at a museum with the aid of a mysterious woman named Lucia, Dante is invited to Lucia’s homeland of Vie de Marli, an island sanctuary. There, the Uroboros corporation has installed itself, looking to harness “special ores” found on the island. In reality Uroboros is headed by a man named Arius who seeks to absorb the power of a demon named Argosax for his own purposes. Dante sets off to stop Arius, while Lucia seeks to gather the Arcanas, holy relics that are found throughout Vie de Marli that Arius needs to summon Argosax.
As you might have guessed, rather than only having Dante to play as this time around, in Devil May Cry 2, players can also choose to play as newcomer Lucia, who wields dual swords and throwing knives. Playing almost exactly like Dante, Lucia is quicker than the Son of Sparda, but also deals less damage. Still, as a trade-off, Lucia’s speed can help with juggling foes during your combos (and netting more of those red gems as a result). Regardless of who you choose to play as, the characters do meet up along their respective journeys at certain points, and also share stages.
Having multiple characters to play as isn’t the only new thing in DMC 2. Devil Hearts are a new feature that augment your Devil Trigger, and can be used by either Dante or Lucia. The Devil Hearts grant you new abilities such as flight, enhanced speed, or augment your attacks with elemental damage. There are nine hearts in the game, though Lucia is the only one who can make use of all of them (since she’s the only one with a water level).
Along with the Devil Hearts, there are also new weapons available. Dante can find guns such as a shotgun, dual machine guns, and even a missile launcher to complement his sword. Lucia, on the other hand, can find crossbows and “Cranky Bombs” that can function like a grenade or a mine, depending on how they’re used. And as in the previous game, you also have upgradeable primary weapons for each character, though none of the weapons Dante wielded from the first game make an appearance here.
Rounding out the new stuff is the ability for Dante and Lucia to make use of a wall run, that when combined with being able to double jump or jump off of walls, allows for some cool-looking acrobatics as you dish out punishment on your enemies. Dante can also now use his guns to push himself further into the air, or keep himself airborne while firing on enemies. You can even aim and fire in two opposite directions, perform somersaults and overall make combat look like something out of The Matrix.
Sadly, that’s probably where the good things about Devil May Cry 2 end for many players. Once you get past the flashiness, the game’s problems and shortcomings quickly become apparent, as the sequel just can’t build on or capitalize on what the original brought to the table.
The problems with Devil May Cry 2 began from its inception. While Capcom made the smart decision to begin development on a sequel to Devil May Cry while that game’s production was winding down, the execution was full of missteps. Instead of being helmed by Hideki Kamiya ( director of the first Devil May Cry, and the legendary Resident Evil 2), the sequel was handed off initially to Noritaka Funamizu, whose experience at that time was in fighting games. Indeed, the entire team that was first assigned to DMC 2 had almost exclusively worked on fighting games.
To be fair, you would think with a background in fighting games, the team would be able to harness some of that frenetic fast-paced action, and incorporate that into DMC 2. Heck, just keep what the original had and build on that. That sadly wasn’t either case. In the first game, Dante’s stylish and speedy combat style focused on you juggling enemies with guns and swordplay. This was all balanced by an upgrade system for your weapons and abilities that made for some great customization. In the sequel, we now get a slower style of gameplay that throws off your timing for combos, and attacks that while stylish, are no longer unlockable. Instead, you just upgrade the existing attacks for greater damage. Heck, you don’t even get a taunt button this time to extend your combos!
Making the payoffs for combos even worse is the game’s AI, which for some reason is woefully inept this time around. Your foes will literally stand around as you walk up to whale on them, or you can literally just run past them, avoiding some fights altogether. It’s even worse when it comes to the bosses, which unlike the first game, don’t require that much strategy to beat. You encounter a returning Phantom from the first game (aka that giant spider boss), which this time around, has none of the patterns you have to memorize to score a hit and avoid damage. You can literally walk up to him and unload your guns in his face. To say that there’s a distinct lack of challenge when compared to the first game is pretty appropriate.
Graphically, DMC 2 is a mixed bag. While the team did carry over the gothic look of the first game, the environments themselves look and feel repetitive. It doesn’t help that as mentioned before, Dante and Lucia’s quests overlap locations, making the sameness more apparent. The environments are larger, but there are also stretches where you’re literally just running from one end to another to get to the door, with no enemies popping up to break the monotony.
Speaking of enemies, they’ve also been given a bit of a downgrade graphically, but that seems only to allow for the game to have more of them onscreen at once, and with more variety. As for Dante and Lucia, their character models models look pretty good. And if you ever wanted to see Dante or Lucia rocking Diesel jeans (seriously), you can unlock these costumes by completing the game with that respective character.
To top off Devil May Cry 2 litany of disappointments is its story. Admittedly, Devil May Cry never had the greatest story, but it was made up for by Dante’s cocky attitude and one-liners. Here, the story just breeds confusion and nonsense, and Dante’s personality is non-existent. No wise cracks, and hardly any of what made fans fall in love with him in the first place. You could sort of justify this reserved Dante as a result of having some sort of emotionally-scarring event that affected him in between this game and the first. But, that would have required some sort of explanation by the writing. Instead, we now get a Dante flipping a coin to determine his next course of action, and one quip. Lucia doesn’t far any better. Her character development is as undercooked as Dante’s. And what we do learn about her is pretty cliché.
Time really hasn’t been kind to Devil May Cry 2. There are certainly some good ideas that would be fleshed out in later installments, but the overall experience just feels hollow when you compare it to the original. The gameplay ups the stylish aspect, but combat becomes a chore and a bore to play once you scratch below the surface. Dante just isn’t the character that we loved from the first game. The upgrades system has taken a step forward with the new Devil Hearts mechanic, but the new weapons don’t feel worth the effort to upgrade. With Capcom barely acknowledging Devil May Cry 2 as the series has gone on, that’s probably a cue to skip this one and move on to Devil May Cry 3.