There seems to be a silent debate between Capcom and Konami right now, addressing how best to bring previous titles to modern hardware as high-definition (HD) packages. While Konami seem to think players don’t need the whole story, able to jump in to a series at any point, Capcom seem to be of the opinion that these compilations can be used for more than just fan service, potentially expanding the established audience. Devil May Cry HD Collection is evidence of this, offering all three of the titles not previously available in HD.
Each of the three videogames included exists in their original form: Devil May Cry HD Collection is merely a HD filter, not a remake of the original titles in the same way that the GameCube updated the original Resident Evilon the previous generation. This is especially clear when considering the like of a widescreen optionfor both Devil May Cry and Devil May Cry 2. Given the fact that the releases of the three titles spanned half a decade, it’s clear to see the technical progression between each of the three titles, with the leap in visual design between Devil May Cry and Devil May Cry 3 being simply astounding. By the same stroke however, the gameplay design also evolved to a staggering degree.
The original Devil May Cry is a very slow starting videogame, especially when compared to modern action titles of the same calibre. Famous built to be a revision of the Resident Evil series but made into something of its character as it was too far removed from that template, Devil May Cry uses pre-determined camera angles and still has a heavy cerebral design. This isn’t just finding the key for the lock or killing all the enemies in the area to proceed, Devil May Cry gives players long winded objectives that can take several smaller challenges to reach their conclusion. The videogame like to show the player where they should be, and the route to get there, but then preventing them from travelling that road with one small, but significant blockade. The challenge in Devil May Cry doesn’t reside in the combat as much as it does in the lateral thinking.
Devil May Cry 2 follows this path, even less concerned with action and throwing ill-advised platform challenges into the mix. Offering the player the opportunity to play as either Dante or Lucia from the very start, Devil May Cry 2 adds further value to the proceedings by adding additional gameplay modes. That being said however, this sequel did set the precedent for the weapon level system, which arguably provided the basis for the different combat styles in later titles and their own upgrades.
Arriving at Devil May Cry 3: Dante’s Awakening, we find the Devil May Cry experience that is commonly perceived as the be-all-and-end-all of the franchise: this is an action videogame through-and-through. Swift of pace and stylish of design, Devil May Cry 3: Dante’s Awakening brings into play the combo-centric score system that Devil May Cry 4 later championed. The version of Devil May Cry 3: Dante’s Awakening included in the Devil May Cry HD Collection is actually the re-release, given the additional subtitle of ‘Special Edition’. This was the first release to feature Dante’s brother, Virgil, as a playable character, as well as adding the Bloody Palace Mode – an evolved version of an unlockable originally featured in Devil May Cry 2 – in which players had to fight through nine thousand nine hundred and ninety nine levels. To suggest that this third title is short on content is undeniably foolish.
That’s arguably the long-and-short of Capcom’s Devil May Cry HD Collection; it’s a generous package bringing together three aging titles. Some videogames stand the test of time better than others – there’d be very few who might suggest Super Mario World isn’t as absorbing an experience now as it was over twenty years ago – but the first three Devil May Cry titles are certainly showing their age. It’s not until returning to Devil May Cry 4 after playing these titles do you realise just how far the genre has come since, and just how poorly these titles play by comparison. That’s not to say the videogames presented on the Devil May Cry HD Collection aren’t enjoyable, indeed they are landmark experiences, but while the package may already be very generous, it would arguably take the inclusion of Devil May Cry 4 to convince modern gamers that the franchise is one in which they should become invested.