Sequels. To this day, film, book, music and game authors continue to perfect the art of recapturing a single or multitude of experiences through a sequel. They incorporate modifications to the original formula through additions to story or mechanics, change nothing, or even go so far as to redesign it completely. And while many of these sequels are true testaments to their predecessor, others rob themselves of what was once a unique and interesting concept only to be left with an empty shell. What complicates this situation further is whether the author's intentions are to expand their works for themselves, their fans, or to pad their pocketbooks.
Something that specifically comes to mind is Linkin Park's latest release, Meteora. Which, if you ask me, should have been titled mediocre. I was a fan of their debut album Hybrid Theory, which is probably why I felt terribly duped when I purchased their newest CD last month. I looked forward the band furthering their music and artistic vision by expanding on the success of their debut album. Boy, was I off. They had 2 ½ years between original releases and all I got was a 35-minute set of music tracks that sounded exactly like their previous album with similar lyrics. C'mon guys, you've got to do better than that.
Unfortunately for Capcom, Devil May Cry 2 falls into this mediocre category as well. As a fan of the original, I looked forward to another round with the title's clichd lead character and its unparalleled sense of style. Even more so, I looked forward to improvements on the original's formula and some tweaking of the overall experience. Sound familiar?
Now, what made the original a hit in my eyes was its stylistic nature coupled with its fast paced and challenging gameplay, interesting characters, and artistic direction. I would like to have thought these aspects would be continued, or better yet, improved upon. Unfortunately, this isn't the case. The new development team decided to rebuild the series, and in the process, they stripped everything the first title did right.
The most monumental loss is style. Too keep combat from being tedious and boring, Devil May Cry utilized an intricate system that encouraged players to take out enemies in some of the most creative ways seen in games today. Players were rewarded based on how stylishly they dispatched of their enemies. The styling system has returned, but this time around it is completely lacking. Dante is left with only a few attack patterns and almost no variation on them. I was also disappointed to find that I could no longer learn any new attacks. I found myself stuck with the same boring combos for the duration of the game. The only changes I could make were to the weapons themselves by purchasing upgrades, and even that was little more than cosmetic.
This ties directly into my second complaint, the lost difficulty. Somewhere, someone decided the first title was far too difficult for the casual gamer. So, instead of implementing an easier difficulty option or mildly adjusting the difficulty on a whole, Capcom ripped away any challenging aspects to the game. No longer was I required to incorporate both sword and firearm into my entourage of combat. More often than not, I could sit in one place and let the auto-lock target the nearest enemy and blast away with Dante's handguns. Add that to the aforementioned upgrading available, and with firearms alone Dante is almost unstoppable. This title was made so implacably easy; I could fly through levels, defeat the boss creature and be on the loading screen for the next area in a matter of minutes. If all this weren't bad enough, the title is considerably short and can be completed over a weekend. For me, the greatest challenge was to keep myself from falling asleep whilst playing.
This brings me to yet another problem: loss in Dante's character. He was once a smart witted and at times amusing persona, but all of that is lost. Now he rarely speaks, and when he does it's completely dry and unimaginative. There wasn't any situation or mechanic placed in this title that even attempted to draw me into his perspective or ease my mind into some sort of emotional charge. I felt unattached throughout the entire experience.
Speaking of characters, to flesh out Devil May Cry 2's already thin chronicle, Capcom decided to add an additional playable character. While I'm sure their intentions were to add depth to the story, Capcom did nothing of the sort. The new character Lucia, a dual-sword baring femme fatal, just seems to appear from thin air. Her additions to the story aren't apparent until later in the game, and even when they do surface are weak at best.
There's one other point I want to touch upon before I wrap this up—the horrid camera system. I cannot believe Capcom thought it wise to use static camera angles. Now I can enjoy the greatest flaw of the Resident Evil saga in another title. It's so ridiculously out of place in this series. As I mentioned before, I could easily sit in one spot and knock off my opponents by using just Dante's handguns, and because of the poorly placed cameras, and I was forced to more times than I can remember.
I couldn't help but be reminded of my disappointing Meteora purchase while reviewing this game. Both shared such a remarkable contrast on how not to continue a career or series by removing or simply not implementing any form of evolution or improvement. Simply put, both Devil May Cry 2 and Meteora fail to be a testament to themselves or their prequels. In essence they remind me of a plastic Easter egg: hollow and lacking any substance. Capcom, the worst of the two, has managed to turn this once stylish and enigmatic series into just another cash cow. Fitting I suppose. After all, what could I really expect from the company that wrote the curriculum for "Franchise Milking 101"?