In Defense of Dante

 

The new Dante

 

I want the developers over at Ninja Theory to know, that I love the new Dante. I could not be more excited to see such a dramatic change for such an iconic video game character. We don’t know yet if it’s a young Dante, or even a child of Dante, but fans are already beginning to furiously type that, “Dante should only have blond hair!” It’s not even necessarily the physical aesthetics of the new Dante that I love. It’s just the idea of a different Dante that I love.

 

Didn't Dante have white hair?

 

People will scream, people will shout, online petitions will be started and every message board on he web will be rife with angry comments, but please Ninja Theory — do not give into the pressure.

In the world of film, beloved franchises undergo reasonably dramatic changes and reboots every few decades. A new Bond is cast, Sherlock Holmes is played by an American and Batman’s bat-mobile has a different designer every third film. These things happen because the people who control these franchises, are willing to let passionate directors put their own spin on their properties. When you let a new set of creative eyes look over a known fiction, we end up with things like The Dark Knight. If you are reading this blog, it’s pretty safe to assume that we all consider this to be a good thing.

Video games, for the most part, have not enjoyed this trend. With a few rare exceptions here and there, the creators of successful franchises own and protect their own products. A Company will hold onto and develop its characters and games to a breaking point, and it is only when their worth has disintegrated, that it will let them go.

 

Sony was done with Crash, so it got rid of him

 

Take for example Crash Bandicoot. Sony dipped its metaphorical mop into Naughty Dog’s orange bucket, and cleaned every single corner of there expansive new kitchen with Bandicoot scented soap. Sony cleaned, rang the mop out, cleaned some more, rang the mop out again, and then when the water was finally filthy, and no longer usable, it abandoned its distribution rights to Konami.

It has only been in the last few years that game developers and publishers have started to let other developers take on their beloved franchises. Nintendo, as usual, is the pioneer in this regard. Nintendo let Capcom take the reins on three hand-held Zelda titles, it let Sega take the reins for F-Zero and it let a little unproven developer named Retro Studios create the Metroid Prime series. It’s not all good news of course. The less said about Namco’s Starfox Assault the better. The important thing though, is that Nintendo let new people take on its cash cows, and the home-runs outnumbered the fly balls.

Capcom, perhaps after seeing the success of its Game Boy Zelda titles, have decided to try the process out on its own. Capcom approached a proven development studio team and offered them the  opportunity to work on a highly respected franchise. Devil May Cry is a franchise made out of stylized action, set upon a foundation of passable storytelling. The narrative holds up the house of action, and even though it was built by an ambitious construction worker, he was ultimately inexperienced. He wanted the story and characters to be good, and it is holding the house up admirably, but the whole thing could collapse at any minute.

The house was built in 2001, and back then it was new and pretty, and people loved it and wanted to live there. In 2003, the house got hit by a powerful storm, and it teetered back and forth violently until 2005, when the original builder came back to fix it up. People liked the house, but many were frustrated by its difficulty. I know — that part of the metaphor doesn’t make any sense.  In 2008, they overhauled the whole house, and it looked new, but it still felt exactly the same as it did in 2001. It was nice, but we had already been there. Now the house is teetering again. It didn’t sustain the same amount of damage as it did in 2003, but the house is ready to collapse.

Just to clarify, the referenced  years correspond with the release years of the first four Devil May Cry games. I just blew your mind.

 

Conceptual art for Devil May Cry 5

 

Capcom has nervously watched Dante’s house sway slightly in the breeze, and decided that it needed to work on the foundation. Capcom went to a new company, one that works extremely well with story foundations (remember the first part of the increasingly ridiculous metaphor?) and said, “This house used to be awesome. We don’t know if you can make it awesome again or not, but we want you to try.” Ninja Theory decided to accept the challenge.

Capcom is taking a huge risk, and whether it actually works out or not won’t be apparent until after the release of this new Devil May Cry. To automatically devil-may-cry foul at the new style direction is a mistake. Immediately jumping to complaints like, “His hair has to be blond!” — an actual paraphrased comment I have read — or “That game doesn’t look enough like the exact same game I already played” — a complaint I made up for the purpose of this editorial — could scare other developers away from making bold decisions.

I want something new, but I welcome the elements of the great action game I am familiar with. I know, deep down in your jaded gamer heart, that has petrified into a spike covered rock over time, that you want the same thing. Don’t listen to what anybody says Ninja Theory. Keep heading in the direction your heading and we will withhold judgment until playtime.

What do you think of Dante’s new direction? Love it? Hate it? Didn’t even think Devil May Cry was still relevant? Let me know.