Devil May Cry was the first game that made me cry. A 7-year old Rami Tabari visited his cousin’s house and started playing a game about a stylish demon hunter in a red coat. They were stuck on Devil May Cry’s first boss, the Phantom, which was a giant spider asshole with a scorpion tail. I decided to give it a shot myself, and I lost. I tried again -- lost. I lost, lost and lost again to the point where I cried out of frustration. I left my cousin’s house visibly upset.
Emblematic of how I live my life through spite, I demanded that my parents take me to Toys "R" Us the next day so they could purchase a copy of Devil May Cry for me. A fictional video game enemy wasn’t about to make me cry and get away with it. I wanted vengeance.
While I eventually got my revenge, I was granted something more in the process: inspiration. The future of my creative writing had been directly inspired by Devil May Cry and the impact that game had on me as a child. I loved every bit of it, between the badass action, the heartfelt moments and even the story. Was it cheesy? Yes, but it’s exactly what my child self needed in his life. Dante taught me that whatever you’re struggling with does not define who you are. And because of that attitude, he’s one of my favorite characters of all time.
It’s 20 years later, and we’re six games deep in this amazing franchise that taught me the value of family, humanity and badassery. Here’s why I love Devil May Cry.
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Devils never cry
Dante’s father was a devil and his mother was human, but he was orphaned at a young age. His entire family, including Vergil, was killed by the demon emperor Mundus, the antagonist of Devil May Cry. The game begins when the mysterious woman Trish, who looks uncannily like Dante’s mother, comes to Dante’s shop to tell him that Mundus plans to cross over to the human world, escaping his prison.
Look, I know Devil May Cry’s writing was downright corny at times, but I loved every second of it. Devil May Cry is a beautiful tale about family, loss and vengeance. Between the cheesy one-liners and the cocky attitude, it was hard not to be charmed by the stylish demon hunter. However, that’s not what sold me on the character. It was Dante’s incredibly human and vulnerable moments that kept Devil May Cry in my thoughts for years to come.
A moment that still sends chills up my spine is when Dante saves Trish right after she had betrayed him, and Trish asks why. Dante responds coldly, “Because you look like my mother.” You see, this man has layers. He’s not just a hero that does hero things. He has complex emotions. Even when Trish tried to approach him afterward, Dante snapped, “Don’t come any closer you devil. You may look like my mother, but you’re nowhere close to her. You have no soul. You have the face, but you’ll never have her fire.” That’s a pure impulsive human reaction from a person with demon blood inside of them.
And later in the game, Trish saves Dante’s life by putting herself between him and Mundus. If this title taught me anything, it’s that whatever you struggle with does not define your character. It’s not about your past, family and health –– your heart and your choices make you who you are. Even if you’re a supposedly evil, soulless devil, you can cry. Hence, the name of the franchise.
We almost didn’t have a Devil May Cry game or franchise, because the title was actually meant to be Resident Evil 4. You can see some of the inspiration it took from Resident Evil, namely the static camera angles. But, of course, Devil May Cry doesn’t match Resident Evil’s style.
Thanks to that, Devil May Cry became one of the few games to help popularize an entire new genre of video game: 3D hack-and-slash. The form is similar to a beat-em-up except with swords. There are specific genre staples apart from being 3D, like the entire combat system relying upon looking as badass as possible and a scoring system to tell you how well you did in combat.
A unique gameplay mechanic that kept me hooked was how the gunplay combined with the swordplay. Not many games have implemented that sort of hack-and-slash play. It worked amazingly well because it gave the player a sense of control over the environment. If enemies are close, melee is easy, just throw in a few shots from your guns for crowd control when things get hectic. Enemies that are seemingly out of range can be pulled closer or peppered to death with your weapons. No matter where you are on the battlefield, there’s an option to unleash mass destruction.
One of the most memorable gameplay environments happens after you get the grenade launcher and you’re in that wide-open space with lizard creatures called Blades (post-Griffon fight). A foggy mist overwhelms the area, and you have to run around the Blades to nuke them with your grenade launcher from afar because they’re too threatening up close. Blades not only hit like a truck but were also super fast.
But I can never forget the bosses in Devil May Cry. There weren’t many, but you have to fight them multiple times before taking them out for good. The Phantom, a.k.a. that spider asshole, was such a tough first boss battle when I was younger. He’s the reason I bought Devil May Cry in the first place. I remember retrying that fight so many times. The Griffon and Nightmare were unique and fun to face, while Nelo Angelo was the coolest fight solely because of the reveal that he was actually Vergil, brainwashed by Mundus.
Then there’s the big guy himself, Mundus. This was the best boss fight in the game because each of his three stages were unique cinematic experiences. The first one involved flying in a different realm of existence, firing magical demonic balls of death at Mundus. The next stage took place on the ground, in a volcanic hellscape where you had to hop on rocks to reach Mundus and cut him to bits. It seems like Mundus is defeated after that, but then you have to escape the collapsing castle until you find yourself in the sewers, where Mundus tears into the human world. That stage involved killing a nasty-looking Mundus as he crawled his way to you. It was more cinematic than gameplay-heavy thanks to Trish hopping in and imbuing Dante’s fire powers with lightning. Fire off your handguns Ebony & Ivory a few times, and that queues Dante’s famous line, “Jackpot,” before sending Mundus back to hell. Ugh, I love it.
Apart from the gothic art style, what made those epic moments in Devil May Cry was its soundtrack. In between combat, there was the suspenseful dark music like ST-01 (Old Castle Stage), which featured the bombastic piano stings to keep you on your toes.
When combat finally broke out, there were hardcore rock songs like PUBLIC ENEMY (Regular Battle 1), which would hit most Devil May Cry fans with a heavy dose of nostalgia. The atmosphere of Devil May Cry was a harmonious blend between creepy gothic that played well with hardcore rock and over-the-top nonsense. It was quite the clash of genres but it somehow worked.
My favorite moment (Spoilers, duh)
The wonderful parallel between Dante saving Trish’s life and Trish saving Dante’s life reveals how human they both are. And my favorite moment, while cheesy as hell, is right after the second stage fight with Mundus. Dante kneels over Trish’s body, and says, “My mother risked her life for me. And now you too. I should have saved you. I should have been one to fill your dark soul with light.” Dante’s tears fall onto Trish’s face and the sad piano kicks in.
Ugh, my heart doesn’t care how silly it was, I loved every moment and I was filled with emotions. Dante then proceeds to leave his mother’s amulet and his father’s sword with her body, leaving his family to watch over her. Trish was born a demon, but died human. And you could say that it was her humanity that sparked her soul back to life. Although, we don’t actually know how she came back to life (Capcom has never been a fan of explanations).
Why Dante is one of my favorite characters
Dante has an inherent evil inside him. Something that he holds back to embrace his humanity. You could say he’s more human than a full blood. But the battle inside of him between human and devil always felt more metaphorical than literal. I like to compare his demonic side to anxiety or depression. A person struggling with these conditions desperately fights back to present the person that they want to be to the world.
As someone who struggles with anxiety and depression, Dante inspires me every day. I may have adapted the cocky attitude along the way, but at the core of Dante’s character is someone who fights the darkness inside himself. Your anxiety, your depression doesn’t make you who you are. You make yourself who you are. I have written characters in my Dungeons & Dragons game that are directly inspired by Dante. Characters who, despite their inherent nature or how they were born, fight everyday to be the people they want to be.
There are plenty of people to credit for why I fight every day, but Dante was the first on that list.
Should you play Devil May Cry in 2021?
Hell yes (pun intended)! Devil May Cry likely won’t mean as much to you as it does to me, or someone who grew up with the franchise, but the game holds up to this day with its fun, fast-paced hack-and-slash gameplay.
Devil May Cry is also more accessible than ever. You can buy it on Nintendo Switch for just $20. It’s a bit much for a game that old, but it’s sure as hell worth it. If you get yourself sucked into the franchise, every game is worth playing except Devil May Cry 2 (just avoid it, trust me).
Dante and the Devil May Cry franchise will always have a special place in my heart. I’ll never forget this series, and I am hella excited for the next installment whenever it gets announced. I have at least one idea for what it’ll be about. I’ll leave you with this final conversation between Dante and Mundus:
“Dante, I will return. And I will rule this world.”
“Goodbye. And when you do come back, give my regards to my son, will ya?”