And I don't just mean his grubby appearance.
Reboots and reinterpretations are always going to ruffle a few feathers. People understandably get attached to the original characters and storylines – making this happen is the job of any good writer, after all – so any attempt at sweeping what’s already been established to one side rarely sits well with the majority of a series’ fan base.
Few reboots have been quite as controversial in recent years as Ninja Theory’s re-interpretation of Dante, the pizza-loving, gun and sword toting demon killer of the Devil May Cry franchise.
The backlash started the moment their redesign went public – visually the new Dante couldn’t have been more different to the original, with his black hair, grubby look and overwhelming air of emo angst. That alone was enough to put many fans off him right from the start but the problems with this new Dante are much more than skin deep, and that’s not even when comparing him to the original. As a character in his own right, he’s simply awful.
For starters, his personality is so dour and oppressive that he’s simply not fun to watch. The original Dante, particularly the Devil May Cry 4 version, was so popular largely due to the sense of fun and amusement he carried with him. He was bombastic at times and seemed to have a sense of how ridiculous the world around him was, which he approached with a certain playfulness that never descended into parody. DmC Dante, on the other hand, is too moody and miserable to ever be truly likeable. At his best he’s bearable, at his worst he’s outright intolerable. It wouldn’t be so bad if he was a villain, or at least a character who’s written to be unlikeable, but the way his character’s written shows he’s clearly supposed to be the coolest cat in town. A shame, then, that he comes across as a bratty and foul mouthed thug for most of the game.
His personality also has a habit of veering wildy between the morose new Dante Ninja Theory obviously wanted to create and the original character, presumably to try and appease fans of the original games. Take his Devil Trigger, for instance – in DMC Dante’s hair turns white and his coat becomes red, making him look more like the Dante we all know and love. It smacks of unoriginality and feels forced and out of place.
Speaking of forced and unoriginal, the writing in DmC is simply painful.
Speaking of forced and unoriginal, the writing in DmC is simply painful. The original games were never going to win any awards for stunning dialogue, but many of Dante’s lines in DmC are wince-inducingly bad, not least of all his propensity to use the word ‘fuck’ in every other sentence as a way of sounding cool. The game’s age rating suggests it’s aimed at an older audience, but since most people stop finding excessive swearing cool before leaving high school, you have to wonder who thought a constant barrage of expletives would make the character seem ‘cool’. The original Dante was cultured and approachable, while this new version just comes across as arrogant and yobbish.
Had the game gone completely in its own direction, things might not have been so bad, but the constant allusions back to the original character show a clear lack of respect for him. The reboot refuses to move on completely from the original series yet treats it with the sort of contempt a bitter former lover may show to their ex. This reluctance to carve a completely new path, and to treat what came before with the respect it deserves, leaves the game and indeed the character stuck in a weird kind of limbo. It holds the character back and makes him feel needlessly disjointed.
But then again, given how badly written the character was, perhaps it’s best that DmC’s Dante was held back a bit.
One thing’s for sure though – if this game truly was made to better appeal to Western gamers over the original Devil May Cry series as Ninja Theory once claimed, then we as Westerners should all be very worried about how our culture looks to the rest of the world. Because the evidence to hand suggests we like our media trashy, crass and woefully devoid of class.