I’m super happy Devil May Cry 5 is a thing that gets to exist, even if Capcom went and hired a band fronted by a lame sex creep man to do a bad theme for Dante. Maybe that’ll change, since the song vanished quickly into the night. Anyway, I’m happy this game exists, because for the longest time, I was convinced it never would. Devil May Cry felt damaged, both in the actual “things aren’t looking great” way and the “Joker from the bad Suicide Squad movie” way. Yet here it is, a real sequel and an actual continuation of a plotline I thought was abandoned. I’m totally here for it. But is everyone else? I hope so, because if not, well, I worry this might be it.
I worry about Devil May Cry 5 a lot because I still remember the narrative surrounding Devil May Cry 4. People were kinda weird about it! And it wasn’t all unfounded. As awesome as that game is, it was admittedly weird in some ways. For one, Nero was an age-old example of “game series replaces main character, people don’t want a new main character." Second, there was the whole Dante being playable, but in a weird retread of the levels and against bosses you already played. That was some bizarre padding, and the game was called out for it. Also, I feel like games in general were in a weird place, with a lot of extra flack landing on Japanese franchise games because the HD era made a lot of people antsy about things that had been around for a while.
In my mind, Devil May Cry 4 is an incredible game from the mechanical perspective. It’s not as wild and all over the place as Devil May Cry 3 was, but it was more measured and deliberate. With Nero, things were dialed back a bit in some ways, but Nero’s more singular toolkit allowed for some serious stuntwork that didn’t need to involve a ton of weapon switching. It was more accessible, but also just as deep and layered as combo music video-makers loved. Plus, Dante was there too, and adult Dante is the greatest. His antics alone showed how Capcom and the creative handlers for the series have always been thinking about ways to play with this world and these characters.
Dropping sales of Japanese games and the meteoric rise of Western games led to some dark times at Capcom for all its titles outside of Street Fighter and a few other happy accidents like Dragon’s Dogma and Asura’s Wrath. This is the generation that brought us Bionic Commando and Steel Batallion on the Kinect after all, and Dead Rising being Capcom’s new cash cow. But towards the end was DmC: Devil May Cry, an abomination in my eyes. That sounds harsh, but I really wasn’t down with anything that game was trying to sell me, and seeing the ghost of Devil May Cry 4, which history wasn’t kind to at the time, made it even worse.
But now we’re months away from that game being not only the surviving narrative thread, but one that people seem to be really excited about! A lot of it, I feel, has come as a byproduct of Japanese games being cool again. The pool of content in video games is evening out more, with games in general being more successful now that people have money again, and trends settling down into normalcy with different styles of games finding healthier niche audiences than before. And all of that led to some real great stuff coming from Capcom, including the revival of Mega Man as well, something that in retrospect seems even less possible than a new Devil May Cry. And, as if the ice cream sundae of Smokin’ Sick Style needed a cherry on top, Castlevania series producer Adi Shankar acquired the rights to a Devil May Cry series.
Now it’s just up to sales, and that’s where the weirdness kicks back in. While I’m not worried about Devil May Cry 5 doing well, I’m worried about it meeting “expectations.” So many games that seemed like great successes have been contributing to a narrative of earnings calls of games not meeting expectations, because only making some of the money is never good enough when investors want all of it. Because you can rattle down a list that includes Resident Evil, Monster Hunter, Destiny, Tomb Raider, so on and so forth, all of these games selling multiple millions of copies, and all of these games being the subject of “wait, these massive games everyone’s playing didn’t hit target?” headlines.
This is why I’m worried about Devil May Cry 5. How big does Capcom expect this game, with its rocky recent history, to be? Are they looking for Monster Hunter: World numbers? Resident Evil 7? Hopefully the publisher has reasonable aims, and we won’t be hearing about the future of the series being in jeopardy once again.