He's SO GOOD, though! OK, I have to write my first love letter (of many) to this game about our pal Dante, and it starts with an admission: I didn't like Dante in DMC4. I couldn't work him out. His traditional sword and gauntlet weapons didn't feel great to me, his new weapons for that game never clicked, and the triple-weapon-switching on a single button was just too much for me. When I had Rebellion out I never knew how many times I'd have to press the button to switch to Gilgamesh, and then again to get back to Rebellion, and that moment of confusion happening multiple times per fight just made him kind of a chore.
DMC5 Dante, though? Forgeddabouddit. 4's Dante was the deepest, most complex character action game character ever created, but he also came with a really high barrier to entry; he had a high skill ceiling, but a high skill floor. For 5, they've only raised that skill ceiling, but they've made so many really clever tweaks and changes that have lowered his skill floor, too:
- Standard dodge rolling/hopping flows so much more smoothly in and out of attacks. You don't feel like you need to switch to Trickster style just to have good evasive ability in the middle of combat, because now you can bob and weave and duck in and out of enemies' attacks with ease just with Dante's default abilities (this applies to Nero, too, of course)
- Without spoiling too much, Dante's new sword has a moveset closer to Nero's Red Queen, meaning you no longer have to switch to Swordmaster just to bang out an aerial combo. In DMC4, something as simple as trying to clobber a boss in the air and dodge an attack occasionally mean constant Style-switching between Swordmaster and Trickster, whereas here you can do the exact same stuff so much more easily
- You can set yourself loadouts of only two weapons, DMC3-style. Better yet, you can save like eight different loadouts and switch between them really easily on the Mission Start menu, which is really convenient. Keeping it to only two weapons per button, meaning you press the button to switch back and forth instead of cycle through a series, makes all the difference for me. I definitely wouldn't say I'm great with Dante, but at least I feel like I have my head above water
- Royal Guard's timing is a lot more forgiving. The window for a perfect block is wider, so you don't have to be a frame-perfect God to use it to the fullest, and getting your timing slightly off will subtract from your Devil Trigger gauge, rather than damage your health bar like it used to. It means you're still penalized for whiffing and encouraged to play well, but it isn't a matter of "get it robotically perfect every time or else". I've had so many amazingly fun fights with bosses where sometimes I'll just stand still and tank their massive attacks like a huge badass and I just feel incredible every time.
I also just LOVE his new weapons. MORE BULLET POINTS!
- Balrog might be my favourite gauntlets in the whole series, because it's two movesets in one. In Punch mode you get so many fun new boxer moves as well as all the usual Shoryuken stuff, and in Kick Mode you get incredible launching and crowd control abilities. You could almost play the whole game with nothing but Balrog because it's just so versatile. Even the act of switching between modes has a hitbox, too, so when you're really feeling it you can use it to parry an attack
- Cavaliere makes good on something Hideaki Itsuno has been teasing since DMC2. Dante rides a motorbike in that game, but he never does anything cool with it. In DMC3 Dante rides Lady's bike and has some of the best cutscenes in the game with it, but you don't get to use it in gameplay. DMC4 introduces Nero, a young hothead with a motorcycle engine inside his sword that you can rev to hit guys harder, but still no playable motorbike. Now here we are in DMC5, where you just have a STRAIGHT. UP. MOTORCYCLE as a weapon, and it's incredible. Slow, hard-hitting weapons can be risky in these games, because it's all too easy to end up with something like Bayonetta 2's Salamandra chainsaws that are objectively the most effective weapons in the game but very boring to use. Cavaliere is slow enough that you can't spam it whenever, and its attacks are really interesting so you aren't just mindlessly plugging away, and also there's the fact that IT'S A MOTORBIKE so it always feels awesome to use.
- King Cerberus is the triple-ice-nunchucks we loved from DMC3, only now it also turns into a fire-themed three-section-staff and an electric rope dart. They obviously hired real wushu dudes to motion capture Dante's animations for them, so it looks beautiful, and it's so much fun to use! I've wanted a staff weapon in DMC forever, and King Cerberus is exactly that, PLUS A BUNCH OF EXTRA STUFF! And the bossfight against King Cerberus where you get the weapon? Brilliant. One of the best in the game. I replayed Mission 16 a few times yesterday because you can't get all the collectibles from it in one run, and every time I fought King Cerberus I tried out something new and loved it.
- Remember when you got Kalina Ann in DMC3 and using a rocket launcher in a character action game was the coolest thing? Well there's a new Kalina Ann in 5 that's even better, but forget that because the original Kalina Ann is also here AND YOU CAN USE THEM BOTH AT ONCE! And I'm not just talking about dual-wielding rocket launchers (though you can do that), I'm talking about CONNECTING THE TWO ROCKET LAUNCHERS INTO ONE LONG SUPER ROCKET LAUNCHER!
Join me next time as I talk about how insane Nero is in this game and how they thought of so much new stuff to give him that they're still giving you tutorials during the credits and you only unlock half his moveset in your second playthrough.