Is a distracting hairdo, a tenor voice actor and a massive stylistic overhaul enough to alienate fans of the original Devil May Cry series? According to some fans, the answer is, unequivocally, yes. The Devil May Cry franchise that began in 2001 is apparently dead. However, Devil May Cry isn’t the first iconic videogame brand to undergo such a distinct transformation.
So why does DmC in particular get disgruntled fans filing petitions to the White House, asking that the game be taken off store shelves? The petition itself states, “a majority of gamer’s [sic] are aggravated that this game has changed so much from its past predecessors”. It’s important to note that this petition only has around forty signatures at the moment, but it represents the most extreme form opposition to an issue that has old-school Devil May Cry fans all over the world creating YouTube videos and internet memes at the newest game’s expense.
Let’s put this in perspective by going comparing the game to another reboot and another re-designed protagonist from this generation.
In 2009, Konami set to reboot the Silent Hill franchise on the Nintendo Wii with Silent Hill: Shattered Memories. The original Silent Hill series relied almost entirely on atmosphere, immersion, and player interpretation to provide the kind of horror that made the franchise so popular. Long, arduous walks and featureless boat rides reinforced the player’s feeling of isolation and loneliness. Clunky, unresponsive combat combined with breakable melee weapons, sparse projectile ammo and rare save points provided tension and the feeling of helplessness.
Like DmC, the game rewrote the beginning of the Silent Hill chronology by retelling the story of Harry Mason, the protagonist of the original game, and his search for his lost daughter in the creature-infested town of Silent Hill. Like DmC, Shattered Memories was developed by a studio new to the franchise, and made drastic changes to the overall aesthetic of the series, using blizzards and ice where there was formally fog and rust. The clunky combat was replaced with no combat, only the ability to run away.
DmC is fundamentally built upon the same principles as its predecessors – over the top, unrealistic action for the sake of style. Building better combos gets the player more points, which can be used to purchase more moves and upgrades, in order to extend your combos further, and add more variety. Whether or not the game’s mechanics hold up to its predecessors, the fact is that DmC is not as much of a change from its previous incarnations as Silent Hill: Shattered Memories was.
So why has the backlash surrounding DmC become so volatile in comparison? Let’s turn again to the actual petition, which claims, “the game actually insults the consumers in-game”. This is most probably a reference to a scene in the first mission which was posted on the YouTube channels of several different gaming publications, including IGN; where a white wig serendipitously falls onto the new Dante’s head. Dante looks in the mirror, revealing a hairstyle very similar to the character’s original design and says “Not in a million years.”
It was the fan reaction to this scene that made me realize what it is about DmC that has people up in arms because I’ve seen the same thing happen before on a smaller scale where the fans won.
On June 4th, 2010, Sucker Punch Productions unveiled the sequel to their 2009 game Infamous, along with a drastically redesigned protagonist. Rather than a bald, leather-clad, raspy, baritone, Cole McGrath was re-revealed as a spikey-haired tenor with tighter, trendier clothes. Sound familiar?
Fans were so outraged by the change that Sucker Punch decided to re-redesign the character, bringing the model closer to the Cole from the original Infamous game. Despite the fact that the game had the exact same mechanics when it came to platforming, shooting lightning and liberating neighborhoods, the protagonist’s change in appearance was considered to be a deal breaker.
This is exactly what makes the DmC petition, and all the fan contempt it represents so ridiculous and shallow to me. Gamers with an attachment to a specific franchise are more concerned with what they see than what they play. If a character fulfills a certain escapist fantasy then any creative license taken with that character’s appearance is apparently worthy of complaint and, to some, even worthy of retribution.
I’ll leave you with one final thought – a spoiler, for those who will never pick up the new DmC due to their disdain. At the end of the game, Dante’s demon powers cause his hair to grow and turn white. The scene that “insults consumers in-game” is actually an example of foreshadowing.
Check our review here.