Delayed Ramblings about Devil May Cry V Part 1: The Technical Stuff

So it turned out Jojo’s hour long episode is NEXT week so I am now compelled to post DMC5 exactly in the middle of these seasonal anime posts because I got nothing else at the moment. The following intro blurb, as reiterated by the last sentence, was written way back.

Perhaps it’s my judgmental bias really kicking in but from the looks of it, many people that I’m seeing talking about DMC5 don’t seem to have kept up with the series, be it gameplay or storywise, for the longest time. Granted, DMC4 was literally 11 years ago and DMC4:SE was just 4 years ago but in the age of streaming reactions and bandwagoning, it’s tough to believe some of these people actually know what they’re talking about. This translates to, people who only follow hypetrains are annoying and I’m particular about showing genuine excitement.

Speaking as a guy who’s played everything in the series minus fully playing DMC2 and DmC out of morbid curiosities, I have a couple of things to say about Capcom’s recent redemption arc with the 11-year awaited DMC5 being its latest entry into the return of Capcom.

And lord jesus, I wrote that intro around April and here we are.

So where to begin? DMC5 itself makes a big point about its narrative a bit more than other games now that people have had literally a decade to get themselves attached to the characters and world. Whereas the plot of 1 is incredibly simple, 3 has a lot more going for it internally than most give it a credit for, and 4 mostly being a rescue mission that’s hampered by unrealized game design, 5 stands as the project with many years behind it to deliver fans what they always wanted from a Devil May Cry game and we’ll cover just how well they accomplished that.

I think the simplest thing to cover is the Presentation. The game’s visual inspiration has now moved past its gothic horror elements of its Resident Evil roots and have entered the modern age, a similar style to the failed reboot. I’m not too against this move since I feel that the change in pace would do the series good but my complaint involves the lack of variety in the second half of the game. Half the game takes place in Red Grave City’s streets, hotels, subway lines, and other ruined locales while the second half takes place within the confines of the Qlipoth, a demonic tree that houses our main antagonist Urizen. The cityscape has enough variety to entertain but when you enter the Qlipoth, the scenery gets old really quick. For the first time in the series, I forget which way I came into a room due to how similar the entry and exits are into a given area of the fight. This is most common in missions 9 and 12 where it becomes pretty annoying to move around and probably why the Hold R3 to highlight the way forward was added. This is the only real problem I have with the visuals though because the visuals are so top notch that my PS4 can hardly take the heat. While there’s a few things definitely lost from the anime-style charm the previous games had, I think most characters came into the photo-realistic style pretty well. It’s an understandable thing to simplify the clothes for this purpose since Dante has ditched all those belts he used to wear and now wears his signature red coat over a black shirt. In short, aside from a some repetitive visuals in second half of the game’s setting, the visuals are still top notch.

The gameplay is the finest the series has ever seen, with both Dante and Nero getting their playstyles further explored while a totally new playstyle is introduced with V. As far as basic mechanics go, the developers clearly understood the power of jump canceling so now they made Enemy Stop a purchasable skill instead of something inherent and made it one of the most expensive things in the shop below the 3 million orb taunts. Aside from that Air Taunts are a new thing that feel so natural that it makes you wonder why the series didn’t have these before.

Nero’s abilities are expanded thanks to the plot that had his Devil Bringer ripped off and his new crewmember and business partner Nico crafts him the Devil Breakers to make up for his lack of a right arm. The Devil Breakers replace the Buster ability while the Snatch ability is inherent meaning that even if you have no Breakers, you can still Snatch. The Breakers add a new layer of depth to Nero’s gameplay, especially seeing as how they’re susceptible to breaking if you use them while getting hit. Manually breaking your arm to avoid damage and shift to the next breaker in sequence also allows you to change tactics on the fly. While the concept is incredibly cool and fitting to Nero’s new style, the depth of the gameplay change really depends on the breakers and some of them are more useful than others.

  • Overture is the simplest one to use as it’s just another source of high damage. It’s Break Age is exceptionally good for cheesing bosses since you can stack up to three bombs on a single target.
  • Gerbera is the movement ability based breaker that gives you essentially an airdash that can go on indefinitely so as long as you have enough height to start with. It’s propulsion also deflects certain attacks. The Break Ages are a bit on the low-damage end and their usefulness really depends on the arena.
  • Punchline is perhaps the most difficult breaker to use. While it’s most basic function is essentially a Round Trip, Nero can recall his rocket arm to him and ride on it, giving him a new moveset to launch his enemies. This moveset takes a bit of work to really maneuver correctly but it was the Devil Arm that absolutely floored me when I tried using it to its full potential back in the demo. The Break Age is nothing to scoff at either since its Nero’s version of a Real Impact, be it angled up or down from where he activates it.
  • Helter Skelter in my opinion is even more straightforward than Overture in its overall function. Mashing the attack has the drill continuously deal damage to a target and the more you mash the larger the drill becomes. While it is effective in bypassing enemy guards, the time it takes for the bigger drill to come out makes it really awkward to use in higher difficulties when enemy aggression is just around the corner. It’s Break Age is also a bit underwhelming since it’s just a Wolverine Weapon X super without a satisfying final attack to it. Apparently, it does find a niche in upper level combos for it’s fully invuln Break Age.
  • Ragtime is perhaps the most abusable Breaker in the game due to its Break Age stopping time for a couple seconds for you to unleash a load of attacks on a boss or enemy. The normal ability is a lot less useful since aiming it is a bit awkward and its effects not lasting very long. An understandably gimmick-based Breaker.
  • Rawhide was an unexpected favorite of mine and it covers a wide area in a serrated chain whip which makes it the few AOE Breakers around. The attack is fast, has delayable variants, and also buffs your Snatch to reel in larger foes instead of reeling yourself to them. It’s Break Age is unfortunately a single target one, granted some enemies can be caught in the whipping while only one gets slammed, but it’s passive effects are a bit too useful to sacrifice in my opinion.
  • Tomboy is a difficult to master Breaker that sacrifices your ability to lock on properly in exchange for buffed melee and ranged attacks. The Red Queen gets supercharged and your regular melee combos are replaced with a 7-hit chain while your R1+direction options become limited but significantly more powerful. The Blue Rose also gets buffed and now requires manual aiming and it packs one hell of a wallop if it connects. The Break Age is unique in that it provides stronger bonuses to the buff and makes the Breaker immune to breaking until the allotted time, letting you go wild if you find the perfect moment.
  • Buster Arm is exactly as it sounds like and it’s just DMC4 mode, which isn’t a bad thing.

While these Breakers add a whole new depth to Nero’s playstyle, it doesn’t manage to do as much as I thought it would have when compared to the utter versatility of Dante’s Styles but maybe Nero’s style simply wasn’t meant to be as customizable to Dante’s degree. Even with that feeling though, Nero is incredibly fun to play and he retains his Exceed system as well as a reworked Charge Shot now being able to be stocked up to three shots. Nero also has a couple new moves in addition to his full kit from 4, this being Payline and Hard Way which grants him armor on start-up, allowing him to get even more aggressive with his offense. Beating the game unlocks a couple more moves for Nero and makes him even more powerful than he is now with the most game-changing mechanic being another Exceed System that keeps your enemies close to you instead of being knocked away from certain powerful attacks. Even if Nero gets around two moves on average with his Breakers, his gameplay feels like a natural evolution from his gameplay in 4 and that’s honestly all I ever wanted.

Dante returns in all of his Style Switching glory which fine tunes their functions up a little more from what we’re used to from 3 and 4. The least changed of which is Trickster which keeps all of its moves from before with the addition of the regular Trick move instead of just Air Trick. Dante’s Dash is now more invulnerable than ever so this can easily be spammed to dodge nearly everything so as long as you don’t move towards the attack like a certain boss’s attack that tracks you like mad. Royalguard got itself a significant change in terms of easing up its conditions as imperfect guards now take away Devil Trigger gauge instead of life, which leaves no-damaging runs that much easier. Keep in mind that Perfect Guards increase DT so you can keep this going near infinitely as long as you get a good guard in there somewhere. Gunslinger gets a couple more moves other than just fire faster and harder and now Ebony and Ivory can be fired independently, fulfilling the descriptions that Ivory was made for faster shots while Ebony was made for slower, more powerful shots. The Shotgun also gets an small dash-moveset as well to make Dante even more evasive and the rest of his weapons mostly get offensive boosts with it. Swordmaster finally got a break with the “primary sword” moveset now. Dante’s only aerial attack without Sword Master used to be limited to a single move like Killer Bee or Helm Splitter. After appropriate progression, the SwordMaster moveset becomes ingrained to Dante’s inherent moveset. So Aerial Rave becomes the new neutral air attack button while Helm Splitter is now R1+Back. Prop and Shredder also become a third combo route for the new sword moveset as well. To make up for these, the new Swordmaster style after a certain now allows for Dante’s owned summoned swords to be utilized. Dante’s Summoned Swords can be activated manually, holding down the melee attack button at the cost of two DT bars, or be activated just by entering DT. Their workings are involved with the Style that is active, and Swordmaster gives access to independent summoned-sword attacks that lash out against enemies. Holding it activates Round Trips that no longer take away your blade, R1+Forward and Style makes mini-stingers, and R1+Back and Style launches enemies up with a hands free High Time, notably mirroring Dante’s limited moveset in DMC1. In Gunslinger, the summoned swords shoot out like Vergils, Trickster gives access to further maneuvers in dashing and jumping, and Royal Guard swords help with reducing damage received.

As if Dante’s styles didn’t make him strong enough, he’s got access to a new set of weapons that all have their nuances to them. Balrog is the classic Gauntlet and Greaves weapon in DMC5 and instead of having an integrated moveset, you have explicit “modes” for punching and kicking. Blow Mode gives you rapid jabs which ignite the gauntlets in flames which increases damage and is all about quick attacks and evasive movement. Without Sword Master, most of Blow Mode’s attacks are focused on draining the enemy’s “stamina” than their HP. If you knock enough stamina out of an enemy, a white flash indicates their stunned state, which allows you to use slower, but more powerful attacks such as Rising Dragon and Real Impact. Using R1+Back Attack allows you to switch to Kick Mode which focuses on larger attacks that don’t auto-ignite itself unless you hold the button down to manually light yourself aflame. Kick Mode is also strong for its combo game and aerial attacks which is incredibly satisfying to use if you know how switch between modes. King Cerberus reprises its role as the triple ice-nunchuck weapon but now has the addition of fire and electric modes. All of KC’s attacks are ice while its style attacks are flame based. Holding a button in any of its attacks for a couple seconds activates its lightning attacks and releasing the button in neutral, forward, or back will change up which lightning attack comes out. Last but not least is Cavaliere, the insane buzzsaw motorcycle Dante made his glorious return in the first trailers for the game. While easily the slowest weapon in Dante’s history of weapons, the Cavaliere works off multiple modes of attacks but the simplest way to explain Gear Wheel is that you need to press a button as the motorcycle lights glow as the attacks is near its end. Mashing for successive attacks with the Cavaliere deals less damage and feels incredibly weighty to handle while well-timed attack presses rewards you with even more damage and faster transitions between attacks. It’s by far the most satisfying weapon to use grinding and chopping up enemies and makes for one of the most fun experiences I’ve had in the game.

On top of all this, Dante gains access to one new set of skills that have to do with his most powerful DT state, the Sin Devil Trigger. While it’s your usual “super state” which isn’t necessarily new to the franchise. Sin DT complete alters Dante’s moveset into incredibly powerful attacks singular attacks. You’re only granted a couple seconds in this form and charging it up requires spending the DT gauge in charging the separate Sin DT gauge but there’s another caveat to this ability that changes things up significantly. The ability Quadruple S allows for you to temporarily access Sin DT only when you’re maintaining an SSS combo and combo something to oblivion before manually turning it off before the actual timer for Sin DT counts down, forcing you to use it all. Maintaining high level combos and popping Sin DT was a brand new level of management and combo-juggling that I never felt before in the series. Somehow, Dante was made even stronger than ever before.

From the official DMC5 prequel manga featuring V

Series newcomer V breaks through the gameplay mold of the two above for a more subdued experience. As a human(?) with little constitution compared to the other two, he relies on his summoned familiars to do the fighting for him while he has the ability to finish them off in a weakened state. DMC1 fans will recognize the rage-inducing Shadow enemy as V’s melee attack button function while former boss Griffon is V’s ranged attack function. Both can be utilized simultaneously for an onslaught of attacks but V can choose to spend his DTto buff one or both of his familiars to go on auto-pilot and attack on their own, while also greatly increasing their damage output and constitution. V’s usage of DT also extends to quickly recharging it by pulling out his book of poetry and reading it aloud. Doing this on its own has no effect but doing it near enemies will rapidly recharge his gauge, allowing him to keep his servants buffed for extended times. He can also traditionally utilize his DT for his version of Devil Trigger where he calls upon his third summon, Nightmare. That’s right, that annoying ass blob that forced you to fight previous enemies and bosses is your ultimate weapon. Instead of some weird, melting slug though, he’s like a mud golem now and punches things. V’s moveset on his own is quite limited as the only purchasable skill is Royal Fork, a group execution skill that admittedly looks really cool but is expensive as hell. The rest are his Cane moves where he uses to execute enemies. Using it alone acts as a parry while he can also teleport around the battlefield by throwing and warping to the cane. As you can tell from the length of his segment, V’s the less complicated of the three characters and, for plot reasons, has the least amount of missions. The toughest part of playing V is that you need to commit to your attacks as your side-step and double jumps are tied to Shadow and Griffon respectively and they need to reposition themselves to start attacking properly again, which doesn’t always happen when you’re dodging like mad in higher difficulties.

As with most DMC games, the game is structured around 20 missions and a number of them allow you to go through them as different characters making your through the streets of Redgrave and climbing up, and eventually down the massive demonic tree. Honestly speaking, the game’s last quarter just becomes a series of boss fights so the real mission count is at around 14-15. Borrowing elements from DmC Devil May Cry, dynamic music makes things a lot more exciting now that the game audibly hypes itself up the higher your style rankings go. There isn’t honestly much to say about the music outside the 3 primary battle themes and a couple more battle themes towards the ends of the game.  Most boss fights themes weren’t all that memorable for me but I will admit I haven’t listened to them outside of my low TV sound settings. Aside from Silver Bullet, not many other boss fight themes were all that memorable. Granted, most bosses that tunes I don’t remember either but DMC5 boss theme’s weren’t all too characteristic to stand out either, maybe it’s all that wubbing. The usual Divinity Statues are replaced with Nico’s Vans who has an entertaining cutscene involving her making it across impossible terrain with her indestructible van to sell you wares either hand-made by her or by the miniature divinity statue inside her van.

The enemy variety is stronger than ever before, with callouts to previous entries in the franchise. You have your DMC5’s bog standard mook, the Empusas and their red, green, and queen variants. Reds are the most basic ones, greens are annoying little flyers that heal other enemies, and Queens are a bit annoying until you learn their incredibly telegraphed attacks and recovery times. Reprising the familiar aesthetic from DMC3’s Sin Scythe enemies, you got the Hell Cainas making up the secondary mook spot. Cainas are the equivalent of Hell Prides and Lusts with their armored charging attacks who are a lot more annoying than I ever anticipated in No Damage Runs. Similarly, Hell Antenoras are the Devil’s own creation as they have incredibly wide swings and become armored when they’re knocked down and do their wake-up attack, even starting to jump at you if you try and avoid them vertically. Hell Judeccas are the final tier of the Hell enemies who spend 80% of their time on screen teleporting away until they do their attacks, which aren’t as annoying. They also summon more Cainas which is the perfect time to stagger their asses. Repping DMC2’s forgotten mess, we have the simple Pyrobat and Hellbats that are mostly flying nuisances, with the latter taking a lot more hits to take down. I wouldn’t be so annoyed with these things but enemy spawners exist in this game and they also have a flamethrower attack that’s active as hell. Similarly, DMC2 seems to be the source of the annoying ranged enemies as Baphomets and Lusachias are also ranged enemies with significantly more ability and annoying attacks. Not to mention, Lusachias teleport. DMC1 reps show up with the Sin Scissors which are, for better or for worse, the only variant of these enemies with no Sin Scythes and Death Scissor/Scythes around. Thankfully they still retain their weak point one-shot-kill system where you can attack them in their vulnerable state when they need to spawn a new scissor and when they get parried. Last up for the DMC1 reps are the Nobodies, who retain their annoying attack patterns and weird looks but now have their myriad abilities tucked away with special masks they put on at certain times in the fight. Between its regular mask, the physical attack mask, and the eyeball mask, you can just knock the masks off its hands when it’s trying to put one on. It’s growth ability is not utilized though.

The lizard trio of enemies with the Riots, Chaos, and Furies are a bit redundant in design and they remind me of Assaults from DMC4. At first, Furies were incredibly annoying but I’d say Nero and Dante have easy ways to deal with them while V might struggle a bit. Riots are basically punching bags while Chaos can get a bit annoying when they start rolling. Thankfully, I’d consider them less annoying than an Assault with a Chimera on it. Working off more DMC4, we see the return of Angelos with the Scudo and Proto Angelos. They’re definitely not as synchronized as the Bianco and Alto Angelos but they are incredibly annoying to deal with, especially the Proto Angelos, they have way too much goddamn health. Last but not least are Behemoths that I don’t really think are from another game but are notably annoying to kill so there’s that. At higher difficulties, 4 hits from these things is enough to spell the end but they do have a lengthy recovery period after you break their chains.

While the enemy variety is well and good, I cannot say the same for the bosses. Although to be fair, in this rather delayed post’s creation, I did have to look through myself to know what the actually good bosses in this series were and I concluded that my nostalgic love for DMC3’s bosses were mostly because you got a spiffy new weapon and cool cutscene that followed. In DMC5’s case, this only happens three times when Dante receives the Cavaliere, Dr. Faust, and King Cerberus. It’s Nero who mostly gets the new toys to play with but unfortunately, he doesn’t have a cool montage for each new Devil Bringer he gets. Goliath has the most background transitions and effects going on while the likes of the Qliphoth growth by the bridge isn’t really worth mentioning. I was initially excited to take on the bosses like Artemis and Gilgamesh but they were honestly not all that exciting, the latter especially because it took way too long with such boring resistance to boot. Then you got V’s segment with Nidhogg which was oddly satisfying yet still awkward to make use of his vulnerable state when Nightmare is so goddamn slow and speaking of slow, Geryon Knight is such a hassle to fight and No Damage. You’re constantly dodging so doing any sort of consistent damage becomes an issue while Nightmare is once again too slow to catch the horse. Some levels don’t have explicit boss fights but toughened up encounters and these feature the Scudo/Proto Angelo squad for Nero and V while the latter fights the Nobodies in his solo mission, which I already talked about above. Cavaliere Angelo is one of the stand out fights in the game that is clearly inspired by DMC4’s magnum opus, Angelo Credo fight  and he’s a lot harder when he’s teleporting around and doing his annoying tracking lightning attacks. Malphas is an oddity whose never really explained but she’s quite the pushover if Nero has Rawhide equipped. King Cerberus is a damage sponge whose patterns become easier to recognize once you play this game as much as I did.

Urizen, whose identity shouldn’t be a secret anymore, is fought 6 freaking times (Prologue Dante, Prologue Nero, Nero’s rematch Phase 1, Phase 2, Dante taking over Phase 2, and fruit Urizen). Hell, if you count Vergil, he’s fought a whopping 8 times over the course of the game. Urizen sitting down doesn’t really do anything differently than his other incarnations so we’ll go over the first version that does something different. When Urizen stands up after nearly half the game goes by, he gets these annoying ass root attacks that mimic his movements and also chase you around incredibly accurately compared most other things in the game. When he eats the fruit, he mostly retains his magic spam abilities but also has his root attacks be replaced with his punch and kicks, as well as his super move that spawns spikes from the ground. Hilariously enough, this version is a lot easier than his rooted one. Not only is his tracking root attack gone, his protective Yamato crystal isn’t there to soak up damage for him so he goes down a lot easier. Big Vergil returns in all his glory with two proper boss fights between himself vs. Dante and then Nero to top it all off. It’s hard not to compare this fight with the ones in 3 but I will tell you, Vergil made me relive those times when he annihilated me in Devil Hunter difficulty during my first run because of one particular fact, he cannot be interrupted in his normal attacks. So trying to hit him out of Rapid Slash, Judgement Cut, or his basic combos will just end up with you getting smacked for your trouble. Speaking of which, Vergil more or less is his incredibly imbalanced DMC4 rendition with the expanded moveset of the Yamato, summoned swords, Devil Trigger, Judgement Cut End, and one his new moves which I just call the Shark Dive because it’s one of those cinematic attacks that he charges up and lunges toward you which I have conflicting feelings on. One, it makes for some fun set-ups to do against it but it also breaks the breakneck speed of the fight’s pace. Compared to final, rather narrow arena in DMC3’s final fight, the final stage for DMC5’s fight is a large open area with tons of areas to maneuver around but it definitely isn’t as interesting as a setting now that the demon tree is just floating in the upper atmospheres. Vergil’s combos tend to give you a window to escape but some times he can get a full combo off on you for the kill, even worse now that he has air combos that can mess you up quick and also utilizes summoned swords outside of DMD mode now. That said, Dante and Nero’s new tricks and infinite player creativity makes styling on what I just described seem like a joke against experienced players.

Before this posts gets even longer discussing the story, I’ll cut things off here and see you again in Part 2 where we talk about weird weird plot of DMC, which understandably has become an important thing given the 10 year wait.  If I forget anything, then an addendum Part 3 will be around.

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