It’s been several years since I played through Capcom’s Devil May Cry trilogy that was released exclusively on the PS2, starting in 2001. Since the debut, the demon-slaying series has gone on to generate multiple sequels (although chronologically speaking DMC 3 is the first), as well as an anime and novels. The HD Collection, brought to us by Pipeworks and Capcom, includes the PS2 games, namely DMC 1, 2, and 3 Special Edition, and also a ton of additional content. In preparing for this review, I did not budget the thirty-plus hours of time it would take to replay through all three games, but I did spend a few hours in each to get a good idea of the effort that went into bringing these classics to the HD-age. For full, in depth reviews of the actual games themselves, I would encourage you to look into vintage reviews on Metacritic or other avenues. That said, most folks would agree that the Devil May Cry series is one of the premiere third person action franchises out there. That’s not to say the series is perfect, but it was evolutionary at the time of its origin, and remained fresh and entertaining all the way through the 2008 installment.
In reading about these games more recently to jog my memory and get a better sense of their place in gaming history, the Devil May Cry titles were some of the first games to position the player as a powerful being versus numerous weaker ones. And while much of the non-boss combat is pretty easy (at least on Normal), there are plenty of boss encounters that will give even seasoned action gamers a sweat. Obviously, many games since then have used that type of design, although I’m not saying that’s all due to Devil May Cry.
Still, the fast-paced, stylistic, infinite ammo, one versus many design is a staple and defining feature of the series. Other similarities shared between all three of these titles are Dante’s matching pistols, Ebony & Arrive, and his sword, Sparda. The inventory and upgrade systems persist from game to game too, while DMC 2 and 3 add some significant additional gameplay elements such as the very high jumping and alternate playable character in 2, and the ability to customize and upgrade individual Styles in 3 (Trickster, Gunslinger, etc).
Parts 1 and 2 suffer somewhat from aggravating camera problems, but that was not at all uncommon back then. I see the camera snags as more of a reminder of how games were a decade or so ago rather than a deal-breaker that would keep me from enjoying these classics all over again. Bear in mind that as annoying as the camera problems can be from time to time, they’re never so bad that you can’t just deal with them and move on. Besides that, the gameplay, despite the variety of combos and upgrades and such, will get repetitive after some time (a few hours for me, but your mileage may vary). Still, this is a very rewarding series to play and actually replay if you are in pursuit of the 99 Achievements included here or just want an S rank for every mission.
As far as the Collection itself goes, it begins appropriately enough — after the company logos, a cool select screen appears and you hear a female voice announce “Devil May Cry .. HD Collection,” in homage to the memorable female voice used for the title of the original DMC. From here, players can select from DMC, DMC 2 (and whether you want to play as Dante or Lucia), DMC 3 Special Edition, or Vault. Any selection other than Vault will warn you that if you want to return back to this selection screen, you will need to quit back out to the Xbox dashboard and relaunch the disc. For those of you who have played some of the other HD Collections out there, you know that this is not an uncommon requirement, and it didn’t bother me that it was also the case here.
Launching any of the three games fires them up as though you were jacked into a PS2. Company logos pop-up and then the opening pre-rendered cutscenes, which are visually raw and untouched. I will say that DMC 2’s opening, with Lucia being attacked by the vulture-like demons (whose name escapes me), was HD-ified and it looks crisp. I started off with the original DMC though, and while the opening cutscene had me just a bit letdown, when I actually started gameplay I was quite impressed. As you may recall, the original DMC begins on a remote island and within moments you enter a large castle. Pipeworks did a really great job with the lighting and the resolution of the textures. Much of the castle is lit by torchlight and combined with the color saturation, everything looked great. Visually, I thought that what Pipeworks was showing me with the original DMC could have honestly passed for a new release title today. Maybe not a AAA title, at least in terms of the graphics, but given the age of the source material, the translation here was solid.
Enriched visuals are almost, but not quite, a given in an HD Collection; but the quality of the improvements made here had my interest piqued. I was eager to get into battle, which almost always feature the protagonist, Dante, versus two, four, six or more enemies at one time. I wanted to see how the framerate would hold up — a bad port might give me improved visuals, but sluggish framerates. Fortunately, and this is the case with all three games, the framerate has stayed consistently smooth.
At this point, the value of this HDC was essentially cemented for me — three outstanding action games, with significantly improved visuals, on a single disc, for a relatively low price. Plus 99 Achievements which I will never completely unlock and a ton of artwork available right at first launch from the Vault. With the Vault you will discover art and music for each game. There is around 150 renders and art for DMC 1, including about fifteen images of previously unreleased enemy concept art. DMC 2 has about twenty-five pieces of art, while there is about eighty for DMC 3. A Bonus section includes ten pieces of fan art from the Capcom Unity community, which is a nice touch.
Additionally, you get a lot of music: eighteen tracks for DMC 1 (7 BGM, 11 Battle Music), seventeen for DMC 2 (3 BGM, 6 Battle Music, 6 Boss Battle, and 2 Last Boss Battle tracks), and eighteen for DMC 3 (9 Battle, 9 Boss Battle). Several of these tracks, including the very opening track of DMC 1 (which is also the HDC’s menu music) are memorable and provoking; it’s great to see all this included here.
To the summary…