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Dante was super cool when he first appeared in Capcom’s original Devil May Cry game back in 2001. With white hair, a red leather jacket, a big sword, a pair of pistols, and a habit of making snarky comments to self-serious demon villains, he was the textbook definition of a video game badass… in 2001. Four sequels and an attempted reboot later, Dante—who has gone largely unchanged in the 18 years since—is just trying way too hard. He has white hair and a red leather jacket and a big sword and guns and he constantly makes snarky comments? Come on, dude. Maybe leave some aesthetic tropes for the rest of us?
2008’s Devil May Cry 4 introduced Nero, a new playable character who looked a lot like Dante but was more immature and unsure than the other demon hunter, making him feel slightly less totally-in-your-face-radical while still being radical enough to feel at home in the series (like if Poochie were done right). There’s also Dante’s dead brother Vergil, who, despite also looking just like Dante and also tying most of his personality to the fact that he carries a sword, is actually awesome. Unfortunately, he’s also evil, and he’s typically only playable in these games if you pay extra money. That may not be the character’s fault, but it reflects poorly on him.
Now, with the recently released Devil May Cry 5, Capcom has unleashed a new playable character who makes Dante, Nero, and Vergil look like normal dudes who you wouldn’t necessarily hate hanging out with. His name is V, he looks like goth Adam Driver, he wears flip flops and a black leather vest, and a core element of his game-play involves hiding in the back of a demon fight and reading William Blake poems. On paper, he sounds like the worst. In the game, he’s only slightly less insufferable than that, but, against all odds, it kind of works for him. Like Vergil, he’s cool despite every attempt to make him seem cool—and there may even be a reason for the connection between them, but I certainly won’t spoil it here even if it is extremely obvious.
Every Devil May Cry game is about building combos as you fight monsters, including receiving a grade at the end of each fight based on how “stylish” your fighting was. For Dante and Nero, that means rushing in and being as aggressive as possible, launching enemies into the air, juggling them with your guns, and deftly dodging incoming attacks to avoid breaking your combo. V’s gameplay is completely different, with him summoning a trio of demonic creatures to do the fighting for him while he hangs back until a monster is injured enough for him to fly in for the killing blow.
In story moments, V speaks with a low whisper and leans on his magical cane (an extremely hipster affectation, even if there’s a reason he carries it) while every other character tries to have the biggest personality in any given room. Still, his mere presence dominates every situation the game puts him in, partly because it’s impossible to ignore a guy who looks like that and acts like that, and partly because one of the creatures he summons is a wisecracking bird who somehow makes even more sarcastic comments than every other character in the game who also makes sarcastic comments.
If this all sounds overly negative—and I get why it would—I should make it clear that I really do like V. The developers at Capcom were going for a specific thing with him, and they absolutely nailed it. He’s a character who embodies so much of the Devil May Cry vibe that it keeps Dante and Nero from appearing as silly as they might in any other situation, sort of like how having Captain America wear tights in The Avengers makes every other character’s super hero suit look a little more natural. Also, the gimmick of being an indirect participant in combat is very clever and surprisingly refreshing for this series, even if his story sections don’t pop up often enough to make it feel as truly revolutionary as it would have if he had been playable from the start.