They say from humble beginnings come great things. Dante is the prime example of a humble beginning from Capcom that wasn’t even intentional. What began as the blueprint of Resident Evil 4, a corridor-based fast-paced shooter that continued Capcom’s traditional fixed camera angles and intense difficulty, evolved into what would become the Devil May Cry series as we know it (Capcom of course overhauled the Resident Evil series shortly after). At the center of it all was a young, silver-haired mercenary sporting a red leather trench coat, two guns and a massive sword built for slaying demons. Let’s take a look at one of gaming’s most iconic hack-and-slash protagonists, the ever charming Dante.
2001’s Devil May Cry introduced the gaming world to an unlikely new hero. Dante, a mercenary and private investigator specializing in cases of the paranormal, acted as a hired gun to exterminate demons that have broken out of hell and terrorized the Earth. Dante starts up a business (which would later be called “Devil’s Never Cry”), along with his new business partner, the demon-hunter Trish, who formerly worked for the devil king Mundus that Dante had to take down, who also happened to have control of his twin brother, Vergil – if this sounds complicated now, I’d hate to try and explain the plot of Devil May Cry 2, a far inferior sequel that did nothing to prove its worth. Devil May Cry was a resounding success thanks to its fluid, fast-paced combat system and overwhelmingly boisterous sense of style. Yet, Dante’s persona never really seemed to fit the world yet, appearing as more of a stoic, serious specialist without much in the way of a defining personality.
However, 2005 saw the release of Devil May Cry 3: Dante’s Awakening, serving as a prequel to the first game and featured a younger and cockier Dante that we all know and love today. The game, widely considered to be one of the greatest of all time, told the story of Dante squaring off against his twin brother, Vergil, who appears on Earth via a giant structure emerging from the ground called Temen-ni-gru. Backed by the legions of hell and a mysterious priest named Arkham, Vergil sought to obtain the power of Sparda (their demon father) by reopening the portal to the demon world. Despite all the chaos unfolding around Dante, he still remained a wise-cracking smartass in the face of danger. He constantly taunts his enemies before engaging in battle, often condescending them to the point of anger and outrage, giving the fights a personal intensity only fit for someone who runs their mouth a bit too much.
With the unprecedented critical and commercial success of Devil May Cry 3: Dante’s Awakening came a burst into stardom as he headlined the hack and slash genre, competing against the likes of Kratos from God Of War and Ryu Hayabusa of Ninja Gaiden. This paved the way for the eventual sequel, Devil May Cry 4, which placed less focus on Dante (for the most part) and followed the journey of Nero, another mercenary demon hunter with a striking resemblance to Dante and Vergil – coincidence? I believe that’s for another discussion. However, Capcom found a winning persona with Dante’s exaggerated cockiness from the third instalment and built upon that in the fourth game too, shortly before developer Ninja Theory controversially rebooted the series, giving Dante a new look.
2013’s DmC: Devil May Cry was a complete reboot of the series, taking place in an alternate universe and featured a redesigned Dante with short, black hair and a new trench coat. The redesign of Dante’s iconic image was heavily criticized by fans before the game launched, despite the new Dante still retaining the same cocky persona that made his character memorable. For all its worth, Ninja Theory didn’t do a bad job, introducing new combat mechanics and an irresistibly tongue-in-cheek sense of style and humor that overhauled the rather darker tones of the previous games. Nonetheless, Dante certainly sounded and felt like the original but never quite matched up to his predecessor.
Fans have been calling for a true sequel to Devil May Cry 4 for years now, featuring the old Dante that became such a staple in gaming history. Dante and the Devil May Cry series have skyrocketed into mainstream fame, pushing Dante’s charming but hilariously cocky personality front and center. What began as Resident Evil and evolved into Devil May Cry is a transformation that I’d personally like to see unfold behind the screens, particularly how Hideki Kamiya’s oddball demon-slayer came to be.