Some characters are iconic: Mario, Sonic, Master Chief; all of these protagonists are immediately identifiable to most gamers and even to a lot of people that don’t play games or haven’t in a while. There’s nothing inherently wrong with not changing a design if that design works spectacularly.
There are just as many characters that have undergone design changes from game to game. I’m thinking of guys like Ratchet, Jak, the various protagonists of Resident Evil. Even Solid Snake underwent a massive change for the release of Metal Gear Solid 4: going from his original design to Old Snake. There’s nothing wrong with change when it’s warranted or done to serve a greater purpose while also making sure not to lose sight of what makes the character unique to begin with.
That’s why the redesign of Dante for the upcoming reboot of Devil May Cry (now called simply DmC) is so, very, infuriating.
Dante is hardly an esoteric character; plenty of people are aware of him through either playing his games or some of the ones that he’s made appearances in including Marvel vs. Capcom 3. He’s had redesigns, sure, but a few things have always remained: the white hair, red coat, and if you ignore 2 (which most do) his fairly nonchalant attitude regarding most things most of the time.
I had thought that Capcom might have learned its lesson after the Dante of Devil May Cry 2 - a stoic, almost silent hero in comparison to every other one of his incarnations - was cited as one of the games most glaring faults. Without the cocky wisecracking attitude it’s not really Dante. It is, after all, one of his defining traits.
So when the reboot was announced and everyone got a good look at the new Dante fans were understandably pissed. This is a character as far removed from his heart and soul as you could get.
The thing about this Dante is that, well, it’s not Dante. There’s nothing that is immediately resonant in this character that points to anything we seem to know about him. Sure, he has a sword and guns, but so do a lot of people. Some trailers seem to show a more “original” form as a possible Devil Trigger, but the fact that it only appears briefly and seemingly only exists to try to appease fans doesn’t help matters.
Such a redesign can work. I’m sure that people were shocked at Old Snake in Metal Gear Solid 4. But his appearance and presence worked as they were explained by the story. It might be the same in this case. However, if you look at Old Snake, you can still tell that the character you’re looking at is Snake. The bodysuit, the facial structure, the bandana and the fact that he’s still voiced by David Hayter are all connections that firmly establish this character as being in the same continuity. With new Dante, none of these things seem to be the case.
I can understand wanting to make a radical departure. But honestly, the way that both Capcom and Ninja Theory have handled this smacks of a certain attitude: something that seems to say “We know what you like more than you do, so shut up and take it like good children.”
Just look at the comments in this article or, if you want the choicest bit, the idea that, “"The people who are skeptical secretly want to like it," Antoniades added, "and our job is to prove it's Devil May Cry in essence."”
No, I think the people who are skeptical “secretly” want a protagonist that they can actually fucking recognize as Dante.
The sad thing is that from the gameplay I’ve seen, I actually think that this DmC does hold potential. But Dante’s design is just so radically removed from any seeming sense of sanity that it makes it hard to look past it.
Gamers are a fickle but sometimes sadly ineffectual bunch, so while a lot of people are complaining about Dante’s new look, most of them might still buy the game. I won’t be among them. As much as I love the series and even if the gameplay is fantastic, I cannot support Capcom and Ninja Theory in this decision. Since buying the game is the surest way to prove that you do support the changes they’ve made I can't buy it, because nothing talks like the almighty dollar.
You might remember that Cole from inFAMOUS was slated to undergo design changes in the sequel, and that gamers balked at the changes. Sucker Punch opted to take the backlash to heart, and while not giving something that was completely the same as the original character, gave enough so that he was still recognizable as Cole. DmC seems to be taking the opposite route, what with the announcement that Dante is not only half demon, but half angel as well in this game (something which clashes with the original backstory as presented until this point).
Maybe I’m wrong and everyone else is wrong, and this new Dante will either be or become something that we all love and longingly anticipate playing as again in the future. But a lot of people, if they stick by their guns, won’t be finding out because it’s just too much to stand. We’ve already had a young Dante, the Dante of Devil May Cry 3 who was a more apathetic but still instantly recognizable character, and his journey from just being on the fringes to actually wanting to make a difference was - here’s a shock - actually conveyed well in that game. So to take all of what has happened to this point and say “Nope, doesn’t mean anything, you like this guy now.” is just asking too much of a crowd that stuck by the game because of its protagonist almost as much as they stuck by it for the gameplay.