Devil May Cry 4: Special Edition may have an identity problem. Despite being a numbered entry in the Devil May Cry series, Dante is something of an afterthought, included simply because he is expected to.
The freshman protagonist, Nero, is a much more interesting character. He brings in more focused gameplay, and serves as the crux of the plot which revolves around a demonic church, his romance with a choir girl, and hell coming to earth.
It’s strange to think that Dante, the main hero of the Devil May Cry series, is really more of a cameo and fan service character in Devil May Cry 4. Nero is the real hero here, and not only steals the spotlight when it comes to the plot, but also in gameplay.
His Devil Bringer arm and Red Queen sword make him a much more fun and varied character to play as. The Devil Bringer allows Nero to pull either himself or enemies closer from a distance, as well as deal massive damage during key moments of boss fights. It proved invaluable in continuing combos and raising up my style rating, an essential part of any Devil May Cry game.
His Red Queen sword has an exceed gauge that you rev like a motorcycle, building up an intensity that you can unleash in a flurry of high impact slashes. Meanwhile Dante, though he receives more weapons than Nero, spends a shorter amount of time playable. This condenses the appropriation of skills, and he treads the same exact areas and boss fights that we had already ran through before.
Nero, despite having a limited amount of weapons, feels more varied in combat than Dante. His Devil Bringer arm truly is invaluable, as Dante has nothing that quite matches the ability to fling myself at enemies at the other side of whatever arena I was fighting in. Instead, he can swap between four different fighting styles, which only change up the function of the [B] button.
Nero gets additional melee and ranged weapons, and switching between them during the middle of a combo increased my chances of obtaining the coveted SSS ranking, but wasn’t as satisfying as slicing up and throwing down enemies as Nero.
His focused approach — splitting precious Proud Souls (the currency used for upgrades) between the grab, ranged, and single melee weapon — was much more appreciated than Dante’s three melee and three ranged weapons.
Enemy variety leaves something to be desired, though the game is short enough that you won’t realize it until you’re close to the end. You learn enemy patterns and weaknesses quickly, since the game introduces new units and mechanics pretty organically. Whenever a new enemy is brought in, the game will take the time to introduce it, and then give you a one-on-one arena to fight in so you can learn the move set.
Boss battles attempt to differentiate themselves from one another with a combat gimmick, such as having to use the Devil Bringer to grab and throw sword enemies or whittle away a shield. However, they boil down to using the grab button to get in close and wailing away, only to flee when the enemy starts up their attack animation. Repeat the process until they’re visibly stunned and move in for a special grab attack that will deplete a significant portion of their health.
This is also what made Dante’s combat feel weaker in comparison to Nero, as he lacked the ability to pull himself in close to enemies. This caused boss fights to become much more drawn out than they were before, especially since Dante takes on the same exact bosses you did as Nero earlier and the gameplay differences are much more pronounced.
Thanks to an auto-skill system broken between orthodox, varied, and novice, I was able to adjust my gameplay approach frequently, though I quickly became comfortable in the varied skill set. You can still freely experiment with different weapon and skill upgrades, but the curated list of skills offered is something I didn’t want to pass up, especially without an adequate training grounds to test out newly purchased abilities.
Additionally, Nero’s story of a punk demon hunter in love with the church girl is ridiculous but very self-aware. Thankfully the awareness isn’t something comparable to say Deadpool which can be very in your face about it. Instead, characters take everything in a laid-back style.
Early on Dante is thrown across the room and just ends up being pushed into a bench and just lays back on it like nothing. Nobody feels in danger, and play off the end of the world scenario in a very passive manner, like they’ve been through this several times before. Some parts of the plot are annoying, such as Kyrie, Nero’s love interest, barely having any dialogue.
However, I still enjoyed the overall storyline of a corrupted church seeking to bring about a demon as a god in order to obtain absolute power. At least I think that was the plot. While entertaining, the main descriptor would be serviceable.
This is a re-release of an older game that might actually be justified, seeing as the “Special Edition” isn’t just some moniker thrown on as a replacement for “Game of the Year.”
In this edition you get to play as Vergil, Lady, and Trish, each with different approaches to combat than each other. Vergil is quick on his feet and precise with attacks, while Trish is much more the heavy hitter, slow to strike but when she does it makes a heavy impact. Lady is somewhere in between, with great ranged weapons and stun attacks that leave enemies open for the more complex moves.
Each also has their own introduction, though Vergil’s is a rehash of Nero’s, and Lady and Trish is simply an alternative/expanded look at a cutscene that occurs mid-game. Each will run through the same game you have just played but now with their own unique fighting style, and Proud Orbs are shared between all game modes and characters, ensuring that you won’t be once again steadily gaining more and more options as you play.
Not only are new playable characters introduced, but a new game mode, called Legendary Dark Knight, ups the difficulty and throws a large amount of late-game enemies at you straight away. Many beginning areas that only contained three to four enemies now have numbers reaching beyond 10 at a time, filling the screen.
This allowed me to achieve higher style ratings, but also opened up a higher chance of failure due to more enemies being able to attack me at anytime and set me back. For those who are hardcore action game fans though, this difficulty is the way to go. What was once a steady build up to larger and more brutal encounters now starts early with the challenge.
Then we have Turbo Mode, which was also introduced earlier this year when Capcom re-released DmC: Devil May Cry. Turbo increases the speed at which gameplay is, well, played. The difference is very noticeable, and requires more finesse when inputting button combinations as the usual pattern you might have fallen into before has to be relearned for this higher speed.
Make no mistake, graphically this game is simply a retuned and cleaner version of the original game. Models and buildings can have rough edges that stick out, but nothing that made me consider the game ugly. Colors could be a bit less muted, as I saw a lot of bland hues of brown, green, grey, and yellow throughout my journey.
Devil May Cry 4: Special Edition stumbles when it comes to the latter half of the game, but the implementations of new difficulty levels, Turbo mode, and new characters unlocked from the start make it worthwhile to try out whether you already played the original 2008 release or just enjoy third person action titles.
Nero is certainly the star of combat, and I just wish you could play as him throughout all 20 chapters of the main game.