Devil May Cry HD Collection
It's blatantly obvious to anyone who glances at the release schedule that HD Collections are all the rage lately. God of War started and continued the trend but we've also seen the likes of Prince of Persia, Shadow of the Colossus and Ico, Metal Gear Solid and Silent Hill emerge from the remnants of people's rose tinted glasses. Some have been great successes (hello Metal Gear Solid), resurrecting the format perfectly for both newcomers and old hands. Problematic conversions such as Silent Hill haven't helped matters. So, where does Devil May Cry HD Collection fall? Somewhere in the 'solid conversion but lacking in imagination' camp. It's a fine place to be but you could quite happily get by just fine with the PS2 originals, assuming you still have the relevant hardware.
Of course, not everyone played the Devil May Cry games back in the day. They were (and still are, mostly) brilliant examples of the hack n slash genre. The Ninja Gaiden series owes a lot to it, Bayonetta even more so given its director's involvement in the first Devil May Cry game. With the exception of Devil May Cry, they provide a fearsome challenge but one that rewards the player the more time they put into mastering it. The main protagonist in each game, Dante, uses a combination of guns and melee weapons to defeat his foes - demons. To get the most out of the series, it's worth taking the time to learn to string combos together, creating increasingly wondrous attacks that are also graded. Much like when pulling off a fantastic string of moves in a beat em up, nothing quite beats the satisfaction of defeating a number of demons with style and panache.
Devil May Cry 1 is the predictable starting point to the game. For newcomers, this probably isn't the wisest of moves. It's not the weakest of the titles in terms of content but it is the most dated to look at, understandable given its age (it originally came out in 2001). It is however an ideal introduction to the series, storyline wise. Further adding to the dated feel is the grim realisation that we're now molly coddled for the most part, games all too happily tell us where to go next. Something that Devil May Cry doesn't bother with, instead leaving us to figure out the right way to solve puzzles. The combat isn't as spectacular as Devil May Cry 3's but it can still give many modern hack n slashers a run for their money. It's a tough path to take at first, given more recent releases and their dumbing down of the challenge, but immensely rewarding. There's no denying that Devil May Cry set things up perfectly for the genre, even if it's beginning to show its age.
Devil May Cry 2, like the first time round, is the weakest of the three. It might offer the choice of playing as either Dante or femme fatale Lucia, but it's considerably easier than any other game in the series. Boss battles, right from the outset, lack the strategical edge that the series offers in such abundance usually. Worst of all, it's dull at times and formulaic.
Fortunately, Devil May Cry 3 is phenomenal once more. So good in fact that alone, it makes the Collection worth the 25 price tag. It is swear inducingly difficult but oh so sweet to master. Much of this is down to the addition of different combat styles. Six are available in all, each lending themselves to different behavioural traits. Trickster appeals to the player focused on dodging blows, while Royal Guard allows the player to riposte attacks. Mastering each style and appreciating which works best in which situation is important for success, and great for adding to the relative complexity of the title.
Devil May Cry 3 is the Special Edition variety, offering players the chance to play as Dante's brother, Vergil, as well as two modes of play to choose from - Yellow or Gold. Yellow means that once killed, the player goes straight back to the start of the level, while Gold is slightly easier with the option to restart at various checkpoints. The addition of survival mode Bloody Palace adds further to the challenge with 9999 (!) levels to fight through.
In terms of HD upscaling and all round extra shininess, the Devil May Cry HD Collection is much like it was before. The camera in both Devil May Cry 1 and 2 shows its age, awkwardly restricted by modern standards. Even in the sublime Devil May Cry 3, it'll grate at times. While most of the visuals have been given a minor HD makeover, the pre-rendered cutscenes haven't been and they jar awkwardly with the rest of the game. Another irritance comes in the form of switching between games. The only way to do that is to relaunch the disc. There's no in-game menu to retreat to another title, not even to just switch characters. It's true to the nature of the original trio but annoying compared to how things are dealt with nowadays.
That's pretty much Devil May Cry HD Collection all over. It's a dependable bunch of titles that haven't been changed in any pivotal way, nor had any fan service of note added (there's some but it's hardly worth mentioning), but the strength of the titles still shine through, just like a classic title should. The camera might be annoying and the graphics may be dated, but at its budget price, Devil May Cry HD Collection shows some of the young upstarts just what the hardcore hack n slasher is truly about.