Devil May Cry HD Collection (PS4)

*Review copy provided by publisher*

Devil May Cry transitioned from being a Resident Evil sequel to one of the best new IPs on the Playstation 2. It inspired three sequels, a reboot, and the God of War and Bayonetta franchises. In other words, it’s a series that has earned some respect. Unfortunately, this HD Collection is merely a port of the 2012 HD Collection of the same three games with little in the way of new bonus content or quality of life features.

The Devil May Cry HD Collection consists of the still good Devil May Cry, the still terrible Devil May Cry 2, and the still excellent Devil May Cry 3: Dante’s Awakening Special Edition. Capcom also included concept art and a music gallery, plus there’s a slight graphical improvement over the 2012 collection, with a bump from 720p to 1080p in the console versions.

Dante is the cringy but loveable son of the infamous demon Sparda. He runs the Devil May Cry detective agency which specializes in hunting down demons, although we never see this outside of brief cutscenes at the beginning of each game. Dante doesn’t have much of a personality in the first two games. His dialogue is cheesy beyond belief and both stories are thread-bare. In the first game, Dante is hunting down the evil demon Mungus and in the second he’s going after a demon disguised as the CEO of a multinational corporation. At least, that’s what we’re told in the opening cutscenes. There’s not much in the way of story development after that.

The story in Dante’s Awakening is a huge improvement. It’s a prequel starring a younger, cockier version of Dante called upon to defeat his evil brother Virgil. Dante executes flashy moves when a simple one would do, eats plenty of pizza, and shows no fear in front of bosses. It would be painful to watch if it weren’t all so brilliantly choreographed. Scenes such as shooting the cue ball or fighting demons while falling from a building will stick long in my memory. There’s a cutscene at the start and end of each mission, so you finally feel like you’re going on the journey with Dante instead of just being there for select moments.

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Combat in the three games is based on the same foundation and yet feels completely different in each. You have one button to attack with your main weapon—typically a sword—and a second button to fire your guns. All of the games feature common moves like the stinger and high time, and combos work by repeated presses of the attack button, with occasional pauses to mix things up.

The first game broke new ground back in 2001, however it feels a touch dated now and much slower than the third entry. Combat requires skill to achieve S ranks, however it never looks particularly different regardless of whether you’re performing rank D combos or rank S. The fixed camera is an absolute mess, constantly flicking around as you try to line up your attacks.

You unlock new moves by spending the red orbs you collect as you move through the levels. You likely won’t collect enough to unlock all the abilities the first time around, but there’s a new game plus which throws you into a harder difficulty setting. You can also access additional playable characters and skins on the harder settings.

Devil May Cry 2 takes a huge step back. It’s embarrassingly easy compared to the challenge of the first game. Enemies are so apathetic to Dante’s presence that I occasionally wondered if their AI had broken and there’s an overreliance on airborne enemies this time around. Having lots of enemies in the air, plus much larger combat arenas, makes it far harder to string together decent combos. Instead of acquiring new weapons and moves as you play, you’re limited to three swords of varying length and a basic damage boost to each one.

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Thankfully Dante’s Awakening revived the franchise before it died a quick death. Combat couldn’t be more different while still being based on many of the same moves. Dante now has four different combat styles to choose from at the start and two more are unlocked later. Trickster style has a fast dash move with invincibility frames, Swordmaster and Gunslinger styles have special attacks for swords and guns respectively, and Royal Guard is a high-skill style that lets you punish enemies for huge damage if you time blocks perfectly.

There’s also a variety of weapons, including dual swords and a guitar that controls bats, plus you can buy upgrades for new moves. Whatever style you choose, combat is utterly thrilling and you’ll immediately want to jump into new game plus to up the difficulty and try out some new gear.

The special edition version of Dante’s Awakening also has a fair challenge and introduces an improved checkpoint system. In the first two games, you have to use a yellow orb to bring yourself back after a death. Yellow orbs are rare and expensive and if you don’t have any on you then you’ll have to restart the mission. In Dante’s Awakening, you can choose to play a “gold” version of the game which lets you always restart from the nearest checkpoint. This encourages you to master encounters instead of just stocking up on health items to brute force your way through tough fights at the end of long missions.

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Unfortunately, none of the improvements from the third game are carried back to the previous two. I would have appreciated a “gold” option in the first two games. Likewise, more difficulty options should be open from the start so that experienced players don’t have to play through on normal once again.

For some reason, the title screens and in-game menus haven’t been updated. They are still in a 4:3 aspect ratio with the bare minimum in terms of options. Devil May Cry 2 doesn’t even offer the same alternate controller set up that was in the first game. This is a dreadful first impression for players booting up the games for the first time.

I’m a huge believer in making older games accessible on new consoles, but the Devil May Cry franchise deserves better than another low-effort HD collection. Dante’s Awakening is still a great game that you should play if you haven’t already. However, the second game is terrible and the first game is a little rough due to the awkward camera. The lack of any extra content celebrating this great series is disappointing and makes this collection hard to definitively recommend for new and existing fans alike.

3/5

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