Dear Ninja Theory:
I, Zack, am a fan of the Devil May Cry games. I like the varied weapons and how the ability to choose between different kinds of “devil arms” and guns allows for a surprisingly deep combat system. I like the cinematics, so lost in their ridiculousness that they eschew any kind of pretension and try to hurl as much fun, stylish, sword-swingingly, pistol-blazingly awesome stuff at the screen as they can. I like Dante a heck of a lot; in practice his actions are a wonderful mixture of camp and awesomeness, but now and then the occasional stop to consider his half-demon, half-human heritage makes him if not relatable, then at least endearing.
I am not going to sugarcoat this. I do not believe that you are the developers right for this franchise. I look at what you have presented, and it does not please me. I look at your track record, and I do not predict anything good. I completed your game Heavenly Sword and rather liked it, though the combat did not come off as anything too special, and years later I tried Enslaved only to find that the combat system had downgraded to “feels somewhat anemic.” The continued presence of Andy Serkis was a welcome surprise, but unless you plan to cast Andy Serkis as Dante, I don’t really count that as a point in your favor on this subject.
(I should point out that Andy Serkis as Dante could be pretty awesome. Discuss.)
But look, I’m just some guy. I’m not one of the people writing your checks, I’m not one of your investors, and besides, you don’t care what people have to say about you and your work anyway. So I’m not going to tell you to remake the game or redesign the character or any of that stuff- you’ve already come out and said “We’ve got our plan and we’re not changing it” – and I’m not about to tell you otherwise.
What I would like to do is help. Really! I mean it! Any and all snarkiness present is entirely of your own imagination, I promise.
Here are my tips to you (for free!) which should help make DmC a little bit more palatable to the Devil May Cry fans still raging at you:
1. Stop openly disparaging other elements of the series
In this interview over at 1UP about a week after DmC’s debut, creative director Tameem Antoniades said:
“The essence of Devil May Cry is all about ‘cool… It’s about Dante being cool and making you feel cool when you’re playing it, and so the combat and the style system and everything is integral to that. But, you know, what was cool 12 years ago — I think that was when the first game came out — isn’t cool anymore. If Dante, dressed as he was, walked into any bar outside of Tokyo, he’d get laughed out. What Devil May Cry did when it launched was it brought everything that was great about action cinema like the fashion, music — it was like a cultural melting pot — and I feel like now, for Devil May Cry to have that same impact, it needs to draw on new things. New music, new ways of cinematography, new fashion.”
Were I helming an incredibly controversial reboot to a triple-A gaming franchise and given the ability to speak publicly and address fans’ concerns, claiming that the character who fans love so much “isn’t cool anymore” and would “get laughed out” of any bar outside Tokyo would maybe not be too high on my list of “good things to say right now.”
In fact- excuse me if this is a bit out of line- I would regard that as a “bad” thing to say.
(I would also ask that he demonstrate some basic knowledge of the history of the franchise he is now in charge of, as the first Devil May Cry released nine years before that interview, not twelve.)
You see, the problem among those of us who are still not happy with this reboot is not the color of Dante’s hair.
I’m going to write this again, still in bold, so that we all get it.
The problem is not the color of Dante’s hair.
The problem is not the color of Dante’s hair.
The problem is not the color of Dante’s hair and very few on the “anti-DmC” side of the argument even bring it up anymore- only the people “pro-DmC” do it, seeking to trivialize the issue.
The biggest problem is a rampant lack of respect shown for the franchise. This issue is going to pop up multiple times over the course of this list, but this quote is most certainly the first instance. Saying “have faith in us and our design” is one thing, but disparaging the character who fans know and love is an entirely different ball game. Establishing Ninja Theory and its creation as the antithesis of the existing Devil May Cry games is counter-productive, particularly considering that it would be helpful if you would…
2. Start drawing connections between your game and the others
It has been said more than a few times that if the title of this game was not “Devil May Cry,” it would be difficult to tell that it is supposed to be a Devil May Cry game. I understand that a reboot is intended to take things in a different direction, but to use the Batman comparison you all seem to love so much, Christopher Nolan did not turn Bruce Wayne into a fat, balding oil baron whose parents are still alive and kicking yet were mildly neglectful to him in his youth.
Another comparison: James Bond in Casino Royale? Still a British secret service agent who uses guile and gadgets to woo femme fatales and outwit dastardly foes.
Another comparison: The Amazing Spider Man? Still about a young New Yorker raised by his aunt and uncle following the demise of his parents who gains superpowers from the bite of a radioactive spider.
I think you see where I’m going with this.
While we will soon see whether or not the Spider-Man reboot pays off, we can at least agree that the Batman reboot has been a resounding success. This was done by laying down the bare premise and themes of the existing franchise before taking the events in a totally new direction while remembering to respect and pay homage to the core tenets of the universe.
This is not what is occurring with DmC. The premise of the original Devil May Cry trilogy is: a half-demon, half-human man struggles to decide which half of his heritage to uphold while slaying the demonic hordes which would dare attempt to take action against his world.
The premise of your reboot is: a half-demon, half-angel youth with a rebellious streak attempts to not be killed by a city which appears to be both sentient and malicious.
Taking Devil May Cry in a more “serious” direction is fine; great, even. A step into a more mature direction is not a bad thing! The problem arises when what you are doing is not taking a series to its roots and trying to shine a new light on it, but instead wiping out nearly everything about the existing franchise and making your own thing while calling it a reasonable facsimile of what has come before.
What pathos was present in Devil May Cry 3 revolved around Dante grappling with whether he is demon or human, with the rivalry between himself and his brother Vergil serving as the representation of that conflict. Under your new premise, which completely rewrites the “legend of Sparda” core to the premise of Devil May Cry and Dante’s existence, Devil May Cry 3’s plot would, frankly, not happen at all.
Hell, the balance of demon and human spurs the conversation which gives Dante the name for his shop which gives us the title of the series.
So giving us something- anything– to indicate that this is at least part of the same franchise as the other Devil May Cry games could help quite a bit. And how would you be able to treat the franchise roots with authenticity? You could always…
3. Reach out to Hideki Kamiya
Hideki Kamiya, creator of Dante and Devil May Cry as a whole, once said that “If you can’t give your character a personality, give him a cigarette.”
Hideki Kamiya said in response to Dante’s redesign, “Whatever.”
Hideki Kamiya later said in response to someone saying they miss the old Dante, “I miss him, too.”
These are not words which you want to be flying around the internet in response to your take on his character and series.
A few weeks ago, I read an article in which the original creators of Max Payne weighed in on Max Payne 3, a game which was originally criticized due to a controversial redesign of the main character. You may find some similarities between that situation and your own! Here’s a big difference, though, and maybe it is relevant, maybe it’s not: people, including the original naysayers, are very positive about what we now see about Max Payne 3.
And that comes down to a matter of respect. Respect for the franchise, the character, and impressively enough, the original creators of that which Rockstar has taken over.
Y’see, if Hideki Kamiya comes out with a statement like “I’ve played DmC and it’s f***ing brilliant,” things will really turn around. That’s the kind of hopefulness, the voice of reason, which this whole debacle needs.
I do have to wonder why we haven’t heard from Kamiya, frankly. At the very least, showing him the game is the classy thing to do- you guys are taking care of his baby, after all. Isn’t it fair to hear his opinion on the game? You guys already marked his game as a competitor years back, and have- while still showing the game great respect- said that it’s “caricatured… and very ‘Japanesey,’.” Isn’t it fair, then, for Kamiya to weigh in on your game? Particularly when it’s his creation?
I feel that Hideki Kamiya is one of the main outside opinions we need to hear from on this matter. And on the other side of things…
4. We need to stop hearing from Tameem Antoniades
Let me preface this section with a few notes. I generally find Mr. Antoniades to be an intelligent, witty person. A quick scan of his twitter feed reveals a man with great taste in movies, a great appreciation for the fans who do support him, and a bit of a political streak which (without going into specifics) seems to mirror my own. He flies under the same banner as David Cage in his dedication to elevating video games into something “greater,” and I wholly respect and support this stance.
But I would really, really like it if we could roll out someone else to talk about this game.
Maybe it’s because of that image the internet likes so much of Antoniades’ face paired up with Dante’s.
Maybe it’s because of his incredible facility with riling up the Devil May Cry fanbase, as basically any critical or possibly inflammatory comments cited in this article came from him.
Maybe it’s because people put up articles like this one, in which he is dramatically referred to as “Devil May Cry’s unlikely saviour.”
Or maybe it’s simply because he is the face of the company at which Devil May Cry fans are so mad.
No matter what the reason is, however, there is something about Antoniades which angers people, and there’s a slight curve to that wry smile of his which indicates he likes it that way. “There’s no such thing as bad press,” after all, and the man has been a lightning rod for press on both sides of the issue.
Now and then it seems like he tends to Peter Molyneux things- you know, where grand claims are made and one wonders if they have any basis in reality or dramatic statements which are not particularly well thought-out. See the article linked above, in which Antoniades cites the Batman reboot as evidence of why “Nothing needs a reboot unless that reboot works.”
The example kind of falls flat, as anyone with working eyes and ears was able to tell that the Batman film franchise was badly in need of a reboot after Joel Schumacher fouled everything up pretty badly. On the other side of things, Devil May Cry 4 achieved pretty solid reviews and managed to become the series’ fastest-selling sequel.
Most of all, a different face on the marketing campaign could allow the skeptics and haters a visual fresh start, a way to learn about the game without being bombarded with tautology about how this one man is reshaping the franchise.
Because he’s not. And very much to his credit, Antoniades has never claimed such a thing. He has made it very clear that the decisions made have been the result of a number of different minds from different companies, and it is frankly unfair to lay all of the hatred at his feet. But that’s the way things look right now, and the best way to shift things up is to put Antoniades away for a little while.
So there you go. Four steps which should hopefully turn the angry DMC fans into excited DmC fans. Will it work? Maybe.
And, hey, if it doesn’t, you could always roll out Andy Serkis again.