Learning combos in Devil May Cry 5 is not so different from learning a musical instrument; you start out by practicing the simple building blocks and, eventually, you can chain together a stylish set of button-presses that will blow everybody away.
On Kotaku Splitscreen this week, we discuss the ’90s leather-clad aesthetic of Devil May Cry and the rhythms required to master its intricacies.
First up, we talk about games we’re playing; Kirk is replaying Breath of the Wild (8:43) and Jason’s playing Destiny 2's Gambit Prime mode (12:30). Then I tell a harrowing story about my car troubles (19:18) and how the only game I felt like playing after that ordeal was Mario Odyssey.
After some Devil May Cry 5 talk (24:45), we break for discussion of this week’s news (37:01), including the announcement of the Nintendo Labo VR kit, EA’s decision not to have an E3 press conference, and Valve’s nonsensical statement about pulling Rape Day from Steam.
In our off-topic section, we start by answering an email from a listener asking for advice about how to work from home (1:00:59), then we wrap up by mentioning the TV and movies we’ve seen and listen to Kirk’s music pick.
Get the MP3 here, or read an excerpt:
Maddy: I drove to Gamestop and I picked up a copy of Devil May Cry 5, the fighting game player’s single player game, as I like to call the Devil May Cry series. A series that invites combo tutorial videos from all of its fans, as well it should. I really enjoyed it. Kirk, I’m curious what you think about Devil May Cry.
Kirk: I’ve played a couple of hours of Devil May Cry as well. I just tried to play some before I hit the road. I’ve never been a huge fan of this type of game. Bayonetta was the one that won me over to whatever you want to call it, the 3D combo — it is like a single-player fighting game maybe. But I’ve never had the amazing skill... I’m sort of a button-masher. I played the Ninja Theory DMC. I played a little bit of one of the older ones, but never really played those. And then I really liked Bayonetta and Bayonetta 2. So, I downloaded this game on Steam, started playing it. And yeah, man. It’s definitely refreshing. It actually would be a really great counterpoint or followup to Bloodborne, because it’s in some ways vaguely similar but so completely different in other ways. So anyway, I’ve played a few hours. It’s very entertaining, it’s very ridiculous. God, it’s so this embodiment of the video game aesthetic in so many ways.
Maddy: Or what people imagine the video game aesthetic is?
Kirk: Right. I guess I put those in capital letters and it’s kind of in quotes, because it’s not—there is no one video game aesthetic. But if it were one, it would be extremely handsome male model-looking guy in a long black trench coat cartwheeling out of a car in mid-air and shooting monsters with a huge gun while flipping around, and things explode while nu-metal rock plays.
Maddy: I was thinking about that, too, but then I was also like, Mario Odyssey and Bloodborne are also versions of what people think a video game is. I’ve been playing all of these video game-arse video games lately.
Kirk: ...So, let me ask. A lot of things about this game are charming. I don’t have a super strong grasp of —
Maddy: The lore? Well, you don’t need it, really.
Kirk: That’s true, I don’t really know what’s going on but, exactly, I don’t feel like I need it. But also of the game. I’ve played some of it. I’m not very good at it. I read Heather’s review. People should probably read that, on Kotaku. She really liked it and played the whole game a lot. Her tips post has actually been really useful as well. It breaks down which skills to get because I always feel a little overwhelmed when I start unlocking skills in these games. because I’m kind of a button-masher, but I like playing with more style, and this game is all about rewarding style. It seems like you can just slash your way through everything, but the idea is, you’re supposed to be doing the coolest shit. And then, I love how the game goes, “Bad-arse!!!” Just this ridiculous voice tells you what you’re doing.
Jason: Very ‘90s.
Maddy: The way this game works, basically, is that you can learn different combos as the game goes along and unlock them with things that you collect. The game will show you the combos that you can do or learn in order to unlock them. And that’s a really nice way to teach somebody how to do combos in a game, I think. I mean it’s easy for me to say, since this is the kind of game I like.
Jason: Yeah, you’re a combo expert already.
Maddy: And Kirk, maybe you’re saying it’s too hard for you, I don’t know.
Kirk: My brain isn’t awesome at combos. I’m not great at remembering them in the heat of the moment, which is just something that I’ve never practiced.
Maddy: Yeah. I think it’s actually easier in these games than it is in a fighting game where there’s no real ramping up and you have to figure out what combos you personally are gonna do. There’s usually a tutorial with a lot of them, and then there are many many YouTube videos with even more of them that you watch, and then you just try to memorise your own favourites on your own.
Jason: I’m surprised that... your brain isn’t wired for them, because it’s like music.
Maddy: Drum fills. They’re drum fills, yeah.
Kirk: No, it is. But actually, I increasingly find that I have a limited — this is actually a separate conversation that I’ve been thinking about a lot, but I have a limited amount of brain space for stuff like that, and I’ve been practicing so much music lately that I find myself unable to dedicate — it is the exact same part of the brain. And I’m like, I don’t have it in me right now to also memorise these button inputs. Though, Monster Hunter World was a game where I learned a lot of combos for that. I’ve played games like these. It’s just, it’s not always my thing, especially the way that I think that it is for you, Maddy.
Maddy: I just think it’s fun to learn a game that works in that kind of way, which is part of why I got this DMC, because I knew it would be pleasurable to my brain. I just enjoy the building blocks nature of it. You also have a robot arm, and you can get different versions of your robot arm that do different things, and that’s a fun new element.
Jason: Such a video game thing. Oh, yeah, you’ve got a robot arm!
Maddy: You’ve got a robot arm, and you’ve also got a sword that you rev like a motorcycle.
Jason: Or a demon arm. It’s either a robot arm or a demon arm.
Kirk: Well, he has a robot arm at the beginning, and it becomes a demon arm. It’s both.
Maddy: Of course! Duh!