Dante: Accidental Depth

As a hardcore Devil May Cry fan, I’ll be the first to admit that the stories aren’t exactly high cinema or anything like that. They’re goofy romps that serve the gameplay more than the gameplay serves it. Still, they’re plenty fun, and the characters within them are more than memorable.

Except you, DMC: Devil May Cry. Except you.

What I find interesting is how all of these disjointed, practically disconnected storylines actually somewhat come together in some ways. Each game jumps all around the timeline, with mostly no plan on how it would connect to those that came before or those that will come afterwards. Yet somehow, whether intentionally or accidentally, they managed to create a genuinely emotional and genuine arc for its hero: Dante.

Before we dive into how this was done, though, we need to have a look at the proper timeline for the games. Despite how they were released, the proper order of events looks more like this:

  1. DMC3
  2. DMC1
  3. DMC2
  4. DMC 4
  5. DMC 5

First, we need to have a look at how each version of Dante behaved. DMC1 Dante was more or less a prototype of his younger DMC3 counterpart; goofy, but with some serious (if poorly executed) dramatic moments. Meanwhile, DMC2 Dante is a stone-faced plank of wood who flips a coin to make decisions… for some reason. Rewind time to 3, where Dante is at his youngest and most ridiculous. Fast forward again to 4; we initially see him acting quiet and cold, but then Nero shows up and he starts acting like the Dante we knew from 3 again. And that more or less carries over into 5, although we do see a slightly more mature take on him in that game.

Hey, I said slightly. Dante is still Dante, after all.

When playing through these games in release order, Dante’s character seems to jump all over the place. Because it is. They didn’t figure out what would actually make him likable or popular until 3 came out. Afterwards, they more or less stuck with that.

But when you play the games in chronological order, things feel a bit different. Almost like the various teams behind each game somehow, accidentally, gave Dante an entire arc.

Think about it. In 3, Dante is young, goofy, and uncaring. Then he loses his brother, Vergil, and he matures dramatically. We see the balance of mature and goofy in DMC1, where Dante is mostly straight-faced and dramatic. During the events of the first game, he discovers that Vergil was not in fact dead, but that he was possessed by the main villain.

Until Dante had to kill him. Again.

Understandably, that dealt a pretty big blow to Dante emotionally. Which might be why he acts so cold and lifeless in 2. The dude has had to kill his brother, his only family, twice now. On top of that, he’s basically the only one of his kind, a nigh indestructible hybrid of human and demon. Yeah, you wouldn’t exactly be hopping around and acting goofy after that.

Then the events of 4 happen. He discovers Nero, Vergil’s son. Suddenly, Dante isn’t alone. He has family, a nephew. We can see him visibly start to warm up in the first cutscene as he starts to play around with Nero, seeing what the kid is capable of. Then, throughout that game, he more or less acts like the Dante we knew and loved back in 3.

Afterwards, 5 happens. Here, we get a much more natural, and likely intentional, arc for Dante’s character. Vergil is back and now he has to go back and deal with the ghosts of his past yet again. While he still has his goofy moments, he’s more or less taking everything seriously and fights Vergil with the full intention to kill. Fortunately, Nero was there to ensure he didn’t have to.

If you look at it that way, Dante actually has a pretty compelling character arc. Suddenly, Devil May Cry stops being a game about a goofy idiot fighting demons and becomes a story of a man who loses everything and has to mature through his suffering.

Again: this was most definitely not intentional. The games were developed without an overarching story in mind, with each game being handled by completely different teams with totally different writers. All of this is basically just overthinking the entirety of Devil May Cry.

But you know what? I’m sticking with it. Whether intentional or not. Because dammit, that’s a cool ass character arc!

Way cooler than Donte from the reboot. I’ll be throwing shade at that game for the rest of my life.

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