Delayed Ramblings about Devil May Cry V Part 2: Family Matters

Welcome back to the second part of my ramblings on DMC5, this time, about the story and how it was handled. Now, for most non-fans or for people just viewing the fandom from the outside, plot seems like a relatively minor thing in the DMC series. To be fair, there is some merit to that since action games don’t tend to have all too great of a plot and it isn’t really until 3 that the series’ story really started to shine in any way. While DMC1 laid the ground work of the series’ universe with Mundus, Sparda, Dante’s past, and his fixation with his late mother, it was 3 that let the groundwork develop even further by multiplying the  depths of Dante’s character.

I won’t go into that much detail regarding the change in Dante’s nature in 3’s beginning to how he becomes at the end of the game but let’s just say that it’s quite the impressive change and an example of how gameplay and narrative go hand in hand with each step of Dante’s arc culminating in a battle against Vergil and how Lady’s story completely mirrors their experiences. The quality of the story in 3 hasn’t been rivaled thus far by the escapades in DMC1, 4, nor 2, and I don’t think 5 reaches those heights either. 11 years of waiting certainly had many people’s expectations of the story reach some high levels, and understandably so, fans of the game embrace every bit of the content and enjoyable characters can take a thin plot and make it enjoyable.

5 starts out on a powerful note, a challenge which Dante is unable to beat. Our damn near invincible hero who faced down countless demon lords and Mundus himself who brushed it all off as all in a day’s work is soundly defeated, with his blade Rebellion shattered to dust. Nero and newcomer V, whose backstories on what they were up to between 4 and 5 are covered in the official novel and manga respectively, arrive at the top of the demonic tree to witness Dante’s defeat. Nero and V are forced to run while Dante’s unsuccessful round 2 has him blasted off the tree’s top and into the ruined city below where he enters a month long coma while during that month, Nero who had since lost his Devil Bringer, has a new combat-oriented prosthetic and arrives in Redgrave again to meet up with V and deal with the threat. The game starts here and there isn’t really much to go by at the start since it’s mostly hunting demons around the area to make a clean entry into the tree again. The story picks up when a flashback scene by the midway point reveals that V hired Dante to defeat the demon lord Urizen and later reveals that both V and Urizen are the human and demon halves of Vergil, who was freed from Mundus’ control but left him dying and weak. The rest of the story is chasing down Urizen from the top of the tree to the absolute bottom and the truth is told to Nero about his family and Dante seeing no other choice but to kill Vergil for the 3rd time instead of having Nero kill his own father. V’s secret however is only kept between him and Trish and his eventual arrival moments before Urizen’s death have the two merge back together to reform Vergil.

The true peak of DMC5’s story begins here as the main players of the story are finally assembled. The story between two brothers, and now a story between father and son. The game itself lampoons Vergils as another addition to the deadbeat father roster. Up til this point though, it was V who was getting the most narrative attention when it’s his scenes that invoked the true nature of that fateful day when Mundus’ forces attacked Eva and the twins’ home. Eva saved Dante first while Vergil was out farther from the house playing by the park and Eva died before getting to him. Dante did as his mother did for a time and changed his name while Vergil thought that he was abandoned by his family and sought to grow stronger to protect himself. V admits that all Vergil wanted was to be loved and protected and in a way, Vergil redeems himself as a human by openly admitting his weakness and mistake in letting loose demons into the world for the sake of his personal gain.

Dante’s story makes sense once you factor in the novels tying the games together. Dante’s former life as Tony Redgrave illustrate him as a depressed and uncaring individual who thought all of his family was dead. He finds a confidant in Nell Goldstein but she too is killed by demonic hands. It’s important to state that Dante led an unhappy and aimless life aside from killing demons to exact vengeance towards Mundus for taking his family. A man with no friends or family until the news hits his ears that his brother is alive. From there we know how the story plays out, Dante gains purpose in life and fully lives up to what the deeds of his father obligates him to do and is forced to defeat his brother and watch him descend into the demon world alone. Dante then gets the chance to close the book between his family and Mundus, kills his brother again, but is successful in avenging his mother and brother. Even with new companions, Dante’s depictions in the now-canon anime and particular bits of the novel still portray his outward flippancy and joking attitude as fronts to conceal that he’s still incredibly distraught by the fate of his family. Some true glee is put back into his life when he finds that Nero could only be the son of his brother with how the lost Yamato was reclaimed by him.

Dante’s escapades in DMC2 has him pulled out of hell and then given the job from V with Vergil’s name being uttered which gives Dante all the motivation to stop him for the 3rd time.  Nero being thrown into the mix unaware of the true nature of Urizen only finds out 2 missions before the finale and is told by both Dante and Lady that killing a family member is something you don’t get over. Nero being the “third guy” does his job in the end cease the fighting and force the two reunited siblings from killing each other as Vergil’s motivations have already been met with eating the fruit to obtain power, apparently enough power to unlock his own Sin Devil Trigger and Yamato’s true form. All that’s left is to prove who is better and Nero convinces both brothers that instead of fighting to the death, they can just fight until the inch of their life. The two do exactly that as they fall to hell together to sever the demon tree’s roots and conclude the threat once and for all, with them going for continuous sparring sessions soon after. The age old conflict between the two is stopped by Nero who has now completely unlocked his demonic heritage and is entrusted in defending the human world while Dante and Vergil are busy fighting in hell.

So, I wrote all of that but it can all be summarized as “Vergil fucks up again big time but actually gets power, while his other half literally humanizes his character and redeems his acceptance that he fucked up without Vergil himself actually admitting it”. Then it’s just a sprinkle of “Dante doesn’t want Nero to kill his own father” and “Nero tells both of them to stop acting like man-children”. The biggest accomplishments by the conclusion is that Dante is cured of his depression, Vergil learns some fucking humility, Nero gets his DT and delivers some acknowledgment to his upbringing with Credo and Kyrie. Honestly, the prospect of Dante’s biggest challenge thus far being a full demon Vergil was a bit disappointing since I was hoping for Urizen to be a proper demon on his own but to be fair, everyone and their mothers wanted an HD rematch against Vergil as the final fight since he’s one of the best things to grace the series and gaming as a whole, but I guess it was too expected of an ending to fulfill a wish many people wanted, bring Vergil back but don’t kill him off as the final boss again.

To reiterate, DMC shouldn’t really be judged on the quality of its story but the reason DMC3 still shines brighter in my eyes is that it provides an entertaining and effective combo of story and gameplay. DMC5 to me is 90% gameplay while the story is carried by the weight of its characters while the setting is mostly a rehash of 3. V’s development is mostly shadowed by Vergil’s return, who at least calms down from his complete lust for power but the depth added by what V reveals to us about Vergil’s side of the past does add more to his character. I couldn’t have asked more myself, Vergil is one of my favorite characters and bosses in the medium yet I feel a bit disappointed that the game didn’t try to do more but there truly is nobody else that can give Dante a challenge than his brother. The elements were there to make a good story, but when the last quarter of the game feels so rushed (with missions 17, 19, and 20 being just boss fights) I feel as if there was a lot of stuff they could have added to go beyond what the game already has.

What kind of stuff could they have added? Well the months of delay has admittedly hampered on what my concrete thoughts of improving the game would have been but consider this, the prequel novels and manga add so much more flavor to the game’s universe that I feel the game would have benefited from them if they were in the game, make the package more complete. Just so we’re on the same page, the Before the Nightmare novel told us that

  • Dante escaped from Hell due to the shards of the broken Yamato cutting open gates between the two worlds
  • Dante was called back to Dumary Island to help Lucia fight Balrog, where he loses Cerberus in the process
  • Nico created the Devil Breaker Overture after being inspired by watching Nero fight a Blitz
  • The Qliphoth grows every 1000 years and it was not entirely Urizen’s doing as he only opened the way through for the tree to feast on human blood

What DMC5 didn’t fully execute properly in its grand plot were the tons of smaller things that added so much game’s glorious return. Morrison made is first game appearance and even Patty from the anime showed up as a voice. Even in V’s manga, it reveals that V had a run in with Phantom, who could have completed the Mallet Island bosses party. As far as fan service goes, DMC5 knocks it out of the park like no one’s business but I wish certain elements were in the game proper instead of outside material but oh well. I think I’m just disliking the amount of repetition the game itself presents itself with. We spend way too much goddamn time in the tree, the scenery hardly changes inside of it despite the primary colors going from dark red to blue, the timeline of event goes back and forth which means more demonic tree scenery, Urizen is some sick joke about how you keep rematching bosses throughout the series, and the rushed quarter of the game certainly didn’t help make things easier to take in.

While I may have my let-downs, DMC5’s gameplay more than makes up for the slight disappointment in the story department and I think whatever hang-ups I’ve previously had when the game’s impression was fresh in my mind has faded, which is disappointing but it clearly must not have meant that much if it was enough to forget by time. The game’s combat is still the most engaging, stylish, and just down right fun to mess around with. Here’s hoping for Vergil Mode someday.

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