Favourite Moments in Fiction #19 – Nero VS Dante, Round One (Devil May Cry 4)

WARNING: The following article contains spoilers for Devil May Cry 4

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I don’t know how Devil May Cry fans felt when playing Devil May Cry 4 for the first time, but I imagine that they’d at least be rather confused. In retrospect, DMC 4‘s opening was kind of ballsy on Capcom’s part. It’s a brand new game but, instead of the beloved Dante, players are put in control of the seemingly less cool Nero who, while still kick-ass when it comes to fighting demons, is first seen running to a church so he can see his girlfriend sing – very different to how Dante is usually introduced. And then when Dante does appear, it’s by crashing through the ceiling and murdering a harmless, old priest.

In my opinion, this is a pretty great way to open the game. It may seem silly to some, but there’s something cool about seeing an established character be introduced via the eyes of the new protagonist. Seeing Dante’s intro from Nero’s perspective paints him in a very different light. This iconic and well-known character is suddenly presented as an antagonist and it immediately raises questions and sets up a decent mystery. Any new players with no familiarity with the character are naturally confused, whereas long-time fans who know Dante are also puzzled as to why this otherwise heroic character would just kill an old man. And then he wails on all the soldiers that try to stop him, rather brutally and not with the stylish flair he’s known for, reinforcing his status as a powerful fighter.

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But the best part is when Nero dropkicks him in the face and you get to actually fight him (with some kick-ass cutscenes interspersed throughout, as well). For the first time ever, players get to fight Dante himself, which is pretty cool on its own. Thing is, it’s also a tutorial fight so a lot of the hype is kind of drained since Dante goes easy on you for the sake of letting you learn how Nero plays. Thing is, though, this does also work in context. You could attribute this to Dante going easy on this newcomer, possibly because at this point, he already suspects a connection between the two due to how similar they are in appearance and Nero’s devil arm.

And once the fight’s over, after spending the majority of it in uncharacteristic silence, he just leaves with his recognisable swagger, waving goodbye with an “adios” to show that this is still the Dante we know and love, making his actions all the more baffling until the reveal later on in the game.

The rematch between the two is probably more exciting since it means you get to have a proper duel with Dante, symbolising Nero’s growth, but a game like Devil May Cry 4 needed a strong opening hook; one with style and intrigue. Fortunately, it did.

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