Fantasy Fun

Devil May Cry 4" is a titanic epic that succeeds at being many things. It’s an action film, an adventure spanning vast castles and jungles, a literary parable criticizing dangerous religious cultists, and a war of fire, ice and blood.

It’s lacking only a better romance, although a few women prance around in barely-there underwear, while straddling bad guys’ heads with leg splits.

That reminds me of my Rule of the Lower Half: Games are usually good if they feature scantily clad women who perform cheeky splits. This isn’t because I’m a perv. Simply put, game designers who covet naked women try harder.

As the "4" in the title suggests, this is a fantasy sequel in the popular hack-and-slash "Devil May Cry" series. Unlike previous "Devils," this one does not star Dante, the half-human/half-demon mercenary in the long red jacket.

No, this one features blue-coated Nero, who is similarly demonically human in a good way. For a long time, Nero thinks Dante (a side character) is a villain. But then he realizes they must both save the universe from a hellacious cult of magical jerks.

This "Devil" is an artistic beauty, enriched by intricately drawn castle halls, where grated shadows of light fall on cracked rock walls and on gold statues of dog-human demons adorned with breasts.

Tremendous old drawbridges extend out of gray, rocky mountains. Jungles glow green with leaves, grass and hills. These splendid sets are so vast, they dwarf Nero as if he’s an ant sprinting across the Sistine Chapel.

The game play is familiar to "Devil May Cry" fans. As Nero (and sometimes as Dante, in a supporting role later), you swing a big sword, shoot a double-barreled revolver and grab-and-toss demons constantly.

The challenge is to fight so well that you acquire stronger bullets and sword oomph, to take down small demons, like the penguin-type creatures swinging their sword-feet at you, and big bosses, such as a bird-man-demon thing.

It’s really quite the ambitious marathon, but the ease of conquer is more suited to casual gamers who believe they might be ready for this slightly hard-core game, because I, for one, never feel like I’m in danger. I can play eight hours without dying.

In fact, "Devil" should merit four stars for all its blades of glory, but I’m giving it three and one-half stars because it’s a "This again?" experience that recycles those sets, as in, "Didn’t I just kill six demons in this same room four times, an hour ago?"

Also, a few gaming traditions irritate. To become more commanding, you collect gems by beating up demons but also by destroying furniture, forest eggs and random melons. Destroy a wooden chest, say, and collect a gem.

There’s an art gallery and other cultural spots along your journey, so you even annihilate rows of antique chairs. And these are nice chairs, pretty little things you might see in a museum. They’d fetch big bucks on eBay. Why must chairs die?


("Devil May Cry 4" by Capcom for PS 3, Xbox 360 — Plays fun, if somewhat repetitive. Looks great. Moderately challenging. Rated "M" for sexual themes, violence, blood, language. Three and one-half stars out of four.)

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