DMC returned in spectacular style with the Devil May Cry 5 reveal at E3 2018. While a few were cautious at first glance, thanks to a new visual style and Nero design that could have easily been mistaken for DmC2, the return of the series’ original characters and story line lit a fire beneath the fandom. Of course, Nero’s new presentation and the darker tone of the game’s world has called into question fan’s hatred of DmC: Devil may Cry’s Dante, or “Donte” is he’s often referred to by DMC purists.
Now I can and have gone into detail previously about why DmC: Devil may Cry is a real step back in terms of overall gameplay compared to its immediate predecessor, the fact that DmC: Definitive had a 20+ page change log should be evidence enough of that claim, but we’re not talking about Ninja Theory’s misunderstandings of what makes a fun character action game. We’re talking about Ninja Theory’s complete misunderstanding of Dante’s core character, and how that poisoned their game before the gameplay issues were even a concern.
The fundamental idea behind Dante’s character is that he can be a cool character without having to smoke, do drugs, fling profanity around, or really do anything that would be a bad influence on an impressionable youth. Hideki Kamiya, director of DMC1, Resident Evil 2, Bayonetta, and a founder of Platinum Games, was adamant that Dante should be cool without having to rely on negative crutches. He’s a great man, and is essentially the person stereotypical, try-hard youth pastors want to be, except actually awesome…and half demon.
This is why DmC’s Donte (it’s easier to distinguish the two this way) is a terrible re-imagining of the Dante character. We’re first introduced to the foulmouthed Donte at a club for a night of getting wasted and having promiscuous sex. It’s not enough that this character comes across initially as a poorly written edge lord , his introduction craps all over Dante’s defining traits, right down to his iconic silver hair. Considering the animosity between hardcore DMC fans and DmC director Tameem Antoniades, it almost feels like a vitriolic stab at all that DMC fans adored about their hero.
Now while I agree Donte is an absolutely terrible re-imagining of Dante, completely antithetical to the character’s nature, I do not think Donte is a bad character. In fact, to this very day Donte stands as the most human and developed character to appear in a game with the words Devil, May, & Cry in the title, pulling slightly ahead of DMC3 Dante, which is hilariously ironic to me considering he’s the only version of Dante to not have a single drop of human blood.
Donte starts off as a foulmouthed punk, and we learn that this is caused by his tumultuous childhood: Donte grew up in a world that hated him for no other reason than the uncontrollable circumstances of his birth. Living in a world that literally wants you dead tends to make one bitter and angry, He spends all of his time getting wasted, having sex, and picking fights to distract himself from his crappy life.
This isn’t Dante, it’s an entirely new character with the name Dante hung on him like an albatross.
As the story progresses, Donte begins to change for the better. He establishes bonds with Vergil and Kat that slowly make him a better person, and after learning the truth of Mundus, he becomes a resistance hero of sorts, putting the safety of the world over his old, self-destructive ways. Donte’s new role as a hero is immediately tested after the fall of Mundus, with one of the worst heel turns ever.
Look, I know there were various hints throughout the story that Vergil was not the friend of humanity he portrayed himself to be while working against Mundus, but the sudden turn at the end was poorly handled, That said, it serves its true purpose marvelously: Donte must choose between his newly rediscovered, battle-forged bonds with his brother, one of the only two people in the entire world that actually care about him, or his new role as a protector of humanity, a race he’s not a member of and which has no idea of his existence as anything other than a terrorist they saw on TV.
Donte defeats his brother in one on one combat, and becomes a true hero at great personal cost. By the end of the story he has become something closer to the Dante we know and love. His character arc and redemption is the gleaming diamond in the rough of DmC: Devil may Cry, and it was overshadowed by the DMC name and the aggressively bad PR moves of Ninja Theory. That’s the true tragedy of DmC’s Donte.
With the engine change and the new take on Nero, it’s safe to say DmC had some clear influence on DMC5.
Donte fans can take some slight solace in knowing that while the reboot is dead, a piece of its spirit lives on: Hideaki Itsuno, director of Devil May Cry 5 and the father of modern “Cutscene Dante,” loved the good aspects of DmC and has incorporated them into the latest entry.