DEVIL MAY CRY / Capcom / PS2
Devil May Cry is a game designed completely and totally for the generic 12-year-old American male. Now granted, that's the primary demographic for a lot of games, yet the rest of us find things to enjoy about them too. But with Devil May Cry, I've never been able to fathom how anyone other than your typical 12-year-old boy could possibly enjoy it.
Let's start with main character, Dante. Appearing out of nowhere with little backstory or explanation, Dante is a bounty hunter by day who also just happens to be a MONSTER bounty hunter by night. You see, he's got supernatural powers, conferred upon him by being the son of some warrior that protected the world from evil or something. He lives in a bar named Devil May Cry, with a big neon sign with a shilouette of him holding guns. The bar is decorated with disgusting bloody monster heads nailed to the wall by swords and ridiculous amounts of empty liquor bottles lying around, as well as nudie pinups, drum sets and electric guitars. The game starts with some leather chick dressed like the Matrix crashing through his door with a motorcycle (after we've just seen her descend from the heavens right outside sans motorcycle.) To which he reacts with complete nonchalance.
Does this not sound like both your typical 12-year-old suburban boy power fantasy and conception of "badassedness", and about the caliber of writing you would expect from a 12-year-old boy attempting to set his power fantasies down to paper? It'd be fine if it was done in a totally over-the-top, self-aware way like Resident Evil 4 ... but no, like a 12-year-old boy creating an idealized badass version of himself, this is all Very Serious Business. Now, I'm not some elitist liberal wuss douchebag. I am one of the world's foremost proponents of Badass Platforming, after all. But there's well-done badassery, and then there's cringeworthy Trying Too Hard. This is completely the latter.
Anyway, this would be an irrelevant side note if the game didn't play like it was pitched to 12 year olds alone as well. The game was basically designed with Capcom's Mega Man X fanbase in mind - kids with a shit ton of free time on their hands, and the willingness to play the same section of games over and over and over and over until they master all the demanding nuances (and get adjusted to the gameplay jank and cheap hits).
Devil May Cry actually came out of Capcom as a glitch in the development cycle of the original Resident Evil 4 concept, basically farming out all the glitches they were actually having fun with (like knocking monsters into the air then air juggling them with gunshots) to a new franchise, and basically taking the engine of Resident Evil 1-3 and making it more action-oriented. While you now have free movement rather than irritating "tank controls", and Dante is quite agile and can jump high and wall-jump all over the place, a lot of the flaws of Resident Evil are inherited with the pedigree.
The biggest problem is the camera. As with Resident Evil you move between a fixed series of camera angles rather than having free control. For an action game that's fast-paced and involves tons of enemies coming at you from every angle, this doesn't work at all. The camera frequently and unpredictably cuts to a new angle as you're moving about, instantly switching up your directional controls, and the monsters are absolute masters of hiding outside the current camera angle and throwing range attacks at you. Taking chip damage from cheap off-the-screen shots you can't see or prepare for wouldn't be as big of a deal if Dante weren't so fragile - four or five good hits from anything fully deplets his life bar, and you have to defeat a good pile of enemies just to get a partial recharge.
This leads into the next major problem - a limited save/continue system akin to Resident Evil's "ribbons", but even worse. When you die, you burn a Yellow Orb to revive on the previous screen with full health. Problem is, yellow orbs are few and far between - as well as opportunities to replenish your health. The game is seriously difficult, not necessarily a bad thing in itself, but very bad when the camera is so iffy and the ability to save/continue is so constrained.
The game's structure and pacing are also problematic. The whole game basically consists of boring "fetch Sigil A and return to Statue B" puzzles whilst mashing on reams of samey monsters (who do respawn en masse in areas you've previously gone through.) There's some visually impressive boss fights here and there to break up the monotonous routine, but the camera is at its absolute worst in the ones that I played. And then there's the story, which, well ... this sums it up better than I ever could.
The "Style" system also praises you for killing enemies in a stupid drawn-out way and taunts you for fighting effectively and dispatching crowds quickly. I've got thick skin and can live with the game calling me "dull" for isolating monsters and taking them out with quick, simple attacks, but you get less of the "upgrade orbs" if you aren't jumping around like a crackmonkey and drawing out every enemy's death painfully by using a long-ass sequence of the weakest hits possible, which may necessitate "orb grinding" later in the game. I'm not a hairdresser, game, I get shit done.
I get the feeling Devil May Cry is, for most people, one of those games they remember overly fondly because they were 10 or 11 the last time they played it. The camera system is an obnoxious mess and much of the game is a tedious slog through samey hordes who take too long to bring down and do too much damage.
* Gameplay Video
* The original treatment of the DMC script