Dante and Vergil – The Rivalry That Would Define Rivalries

 

Devil May Cry is a franchise that has invented and defined the spectacle Fighter/Hack’n’Slash/Technical Fighter, whatever you may call it. DMC1 was at the time of its release a very inventive and experimental but also fun game. The second game, DMC2, was absolutely terrible. Just go look it up on Youtube, I don’t feel like talking about it here… However, DMC3 would bounce back from this disaster and present what would be a genre defining game, that has influences even today. One of the most influential aspects, was the rivalry between the two characters Dante and Vergil, the Sons of Sparda.

SPOILERS: This article will contain massive spoilers for the plot and characters of Devil May Cry 3.

Devil May Cry 3 is a Prequel of the DMC Series, playing before the events of Devil May Cry 1. Dante is in the process of setting up his shop for demonhunting, which he has not named yet, as he receives an “invitation” from his brother Vergil, delivered by a shady looking guy named Arkham. However, that invitation quickly turns out to be demon invasion inside Dante’s shop. Being unprepared as he is, he immediately gets impaled by 4 of them.

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Ouch.

Obviously no human could survive this, and the story of Dante ends here. What an amazing game. Revolutionary, Outstanding. 10/10 – IGN

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Obviously this is not true. The invitation from Vergil is merely meant to lure Dante to him so he can get his hands on Dante’s Amulet. Combined with his own amulet, it creates a key to the demon world, which Vergil wants to use to gain the power of his father, Sparda.

Dante proceeds to accept the invitation, and after he defeats the demons invading his shop, destroying it in the process as Dante is a giant show-off who loves taking demons down in a grand spectacle, a giant tower suddenly rises off the ground, ruining the city in the progress. On top of the tower…

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Vergil awaits

This Demon’s Tower contains a gate to the demon world, that can be opened by lifting the seal of Sparda via the amulets mentioned before. Dante would proceed to run up the tower to face his twin brother, seeing it just as an invitation to a “party” with his brother Vergil.

I will now go over all encounters you will have in-game with Vergil. I will merely sum up the way Vergil evolves over the fights and keep away from doing a massive combat analysis. I will also include involve a lot of narrative aspects, as the ties between gameplay and narrative makes this rivalry as intriguing as it is.

Little note here: I have only experienced this game in Normal and Hard Mode so far and currently playing it on Very Hard Mode, as well as planning to finish this game on the highest difficulty “Dante Must Die”. As far as I know, the last difficulty actually adds an element to the Vergil fights that affects the flow of the Vergil fights to quite an extent, I’ll be concentrating only on the basis in this article though.


 

First Encounter – Peak of Darkness

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The first encounter you have with Vergil happens in Chapter 7. Up until this point the narrative has established Dante’s character as the young brash show-off who thinks of most demons as a mere joke before he proceeds to take them out in a grandiose spectacle.

This even goes for the bosses, up to this point you have met 2 bosses, Cerberus and Agni&Rudra (The Hell Vanguard in Chapter 2 doesn’t count as he becomes a regular enemy later on.). In both fights, Dante behaves like a dick towards the demon at the beginning, treating Cerberus like an actual dog and mocking Agni & Rudra for not getting that he wants to advance through the gate they are guarding. However, as Dante meets Vergil on the top of the tower, the atmosphere is completely different. Dante doesn’t goof around as he converses with Vergil for the first time in a year. Actually, even though he does bring a one-liner, he actually gets countered by Vergil.

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This makes Vergil already stand out among the rest of the bosses and at the same time establishes how different, yet similar Dante and Vergil are. You can tell from a mere look at their clothing and hairstyle how different they are, and their choice of weaponry characterizes that difference very well:

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The greatsword Rebellion for the loud and brash Dante
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The Katana Yamato for precise and fast Vergil.

Dante is characterised through his tendency of over-the-top spectacle fighting, while Vergil is characterised through his precise and fast strikes. This directly transitions into the fight itself:

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The start of one of the most iconic rivalries in gaming narrative.

In this first fight, Vergil will only use a single weapon, his katana Yamato. His skill with this blade is superb, shown by the fact that he can negate your long-ranged attacks with his blade. As such, staying at a distant is not a good idea, you will have to go on the melee offensive. However, if you are stubborn and try to keep your distance, Vergil will instantly come to you via teleportation.

This is Vergils primary way of movement, he will teleport instantly next to you and will launch an attack. Due to him only wielding a single weapon, there isn’t too much variety in his attacks though. It’s the perfect opponent for someone who plays this for the first time, but his attacks still require good reaction and precise movement, especially on Turbo Mode, which speeds up the game significantly, but not into unfair areas.

However, if you to the offense, you will notice another unique trait of Vergil, his ability to instantly parry your attacks.

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The only other boss so far to be able to parry you was the Hell Vanguard, and for that enemy it happened only after you hit his guard several times. Vergil can in a short animation deflect any attack you throw at him directly.

This requires the biggest skill in reflex as of yet, as Vergil always follows this up with a counterattack. He can also teleport away and launch an attack from a distance. Like in true boss fashion, Vergil is dangerous due to his ability to attack from any distance as well as his ability to almost immediately close distances, following up with aggression by himself.

This is a common pattern of Vergil, which is introduced very well, as Vergil’s offense pattern never gets too complicated, yet is challenging enough for new players. However, Vergil will continue to evolve just like the player and as such, as we continue to encounter him in the game, he will become and increasingly difficult challenge.

Once you defeat Vergil in this fight, a cutscene occurs in which Vergil manages to defeat Dante. Followed by a peculiar question…

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In this cutscene one of the most interesting questions so far gets answered: What exactly makes those twins fight one another.

For that we have to go the very basic idea of the world of DMC. The difference betweens humans and demons, and the reason for the name “Devil May Cry”. When asked what the difference between demons and humans are, Hideki Kamiya, the creater of the DMC Universe and director of the first game answers with a single word:

 

“Heart”

Emotions, the ability to care about your loved ones. Vergil and Dante are the sons of Sparda, a demon, and Eva, a human. As such, both have experienced the advantages and disadvantages of both sides. However, after the death of their mothers, both twins grow apart in their philosophy.

Dante refuses to accept his Demonic side, even opening a shop to hunt down those demons.

Vergil meanwhile rejects his humanity, as he believes that the “heart” makes humans weak.

As such, Vergil is in relentless pursuit of the demon power, going even so far to raise a giant tower inside of a city, killing a lot of humans in that progress without even flinching. Vergil sees everything without power as worthless.

This plays an important role in this fight, as Vergil is at this point far more powerful than Dante, as Vergil has embraced his demonic blood. This is shown through a single sublte moment in the cutscene:

After Vergil imaples Dante…

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…twice… that’s the 6th time in the game…

…on the brink of death, Dante’s demonic powers awaken. Vergil responds with.. “I see, a devil has awakened inside you as well.”

To translate that into the gameplay… Vergil didn’t take you seriously enough to go full power. This is very subtle storytelling and just irks the player to get another shot at Vergil, knowing that he is even stronger than he showed.

Vergil leaves Dante as he doesn’t need to fight him anymore, as he has taken Dante’s amulet in his defeat. Dante, not being used to the demonic power can’t follow… however, in this process, he accepts his demonic blood and his abilities, recognizing he needs those to defeat his brother.

Dante, as he is though, can see the potential of his power almost immediately, as he starts showing off again with his new powers…

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…only to get eaten by a giant skywhale in the progress…

He would break out and chase after Vergil again….


Intermission – Beowulf

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Jesus, that thing looks ugly…

During Mission 11 you will fight a boss called Beowulf. Don’t worry, this is not a mutated Vergil or something, DMC3 doesn’t make that mistake.

However, why would this boss be important in the Vergil/Dante Rivalry?

During the course of the game, Dante has defeated big demons, who all acknowledged their defeat and turned into a weapon for Dante to use. Beowulf however is different, as he is dedicated to kill everything Sparda left behind.

As such, as you defeat Beowulf (after you blind him in a cutscene), he refuses to admit defeat and runs away, rejecting Dante the weapon he would get.

However, as he escaped he would run into Vergil out of all people. He doesn’t recognize Vergil as he is blinded and interprets the smell as that of Dante’s. He barely gets the opportunity to attack though, as his face gets sliced in a single slick motion of Vergil.

Beowulfs defeat by Vergil grants him the weapon Dante didn’t get, which plays a big role in the upcoming encounter.


Second Encounter – Lair of Judgement

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The Second Encounter happens at the Lair of Judgement, where the ritual to opening the gate to the underworld has to take place.

Vergil has tried to open the gate, for which the blood of Sparda as well as both amulets are required. As a son of Sparda, Vergil has the blood inside of him, and the second amulet he has taken from Dante at the Peak Of Darkness.

Thinking that more blood has to be spilled, Vergil accepts Dante’s invitation to a “game”, as both share the same blood. As such, Vergil uses this as an opportunity to spill more blood over the gate as a ritual.

This is the moment, where Vergil reveals to Dante the weapon that has been denied. Instead of drawing Yamato he instead readies Beowulf.

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Due to their interactivity with the viewer, video games have become a unique medium. This one moment is a very subconscious provocation to the player.

Throughout the game, the player grasps the concept of progression in the game. Defeat the boss, get a new weapon. However, in Beowulf, this reward gets denied for the player, which would leave a mark on him. Moreover, Vergil now wields the weapon the player was denied, as such, Vergil becomes a very direct target for the player.

This guy stole your weapon you worked so hard for, and now is using this against you. Are you just gonna let this stand?

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This fight is massively different from the first fight. As Vergil now mainly uses Beowulf as his weapon, his moveset is different from before. However, his basic pattern still exists: Parries, teleporting, counterattacks. The new weapon just modifies the offense he has. It also not so easy to catch Vergil off-guard with a precise attack anymore, as he’ll often counter your attacks even if you manage to use an opening.

That said, a very interesting rule of this fight is that Vergil is more likely to have a down-phase, where you can freely do a lot of combo damage, after he performs a more complicated combo, that is more difficult to avoid. Obviously if the player can’t manage to use the opening after such an attack, Vergil will move on to his next action. It’s a simple high risk, high reward system in works here.

Vergil sees no reason to hold back after you have gained your Devil Trigger, the demonic power within Dante. During the fight Vergil will unleash his own Devil Trigger, while calling out “You are not worthy as my opponent.” The Devil Trigger for both Dante and Vergil works similarly, as it makes both unstaggarable for a short time, as well as increasing their abilities. In addition to that, Devil Trigger also regenerates their health.

In other words, you are facing a massive obstacle in this second fight, as Vergil has becomes much more difficult to deal with in this fight, due to more extended attacks and his ability to temporarily support that offense by being unstaggarable.

Once you reach the last third of Vergil’s health, it serves pretty much as proof that you have learned how to deal with Beowulf. In the final stretch, Vergil brings out Yamato again, forcing you to remember your first fight with him, and switches regularly between his two weapons.

Now you two truly fight as equals. You both have two melee-weapons, regularly switching between those and the devil trigger ability that is limited for both of you. For  short moment, you fight Vergil at his true potential, giving you the opportunity to overcome him.

After you win this fight…

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…you get interrupted by Mary, the daugther of Arkham, who deliverd the invitation in Chapter 1 as well as the person making Vergil aware of this tower.

After more fighting, Dante and Vergil are both so exhausted, that the interfering Arkham, can easily take all 3 down, revealing that there was the need of one more type of blood to open the gate.

Dante, Vergil and Mary are all kicked off the top of the ascending tower. As Vergil falls down, Dante and Mary are able to catch themselves again.

As you start the next level, you will notice your reward for defeating Vergil:

On the place he fell down, he left behind the weapon he stole from you, Beowulf.

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Arkham and Sparda’s Legacy – Mission 19

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After the second encounter, Arkham’s true motive becomes clear. He wants the power of Sparda and intends to become a “god”. Unfortunately, he forgets that he lives in the age of Monotheism, so he couldn’t possibly exist alongside me.

Haha.

Anyway, this boss is actually really bad, and I hate fighting it. I won’t get into details why this boss is terrible, however I want to talk about the second half of this boss.

Narrativewise, Dante is having  a lot off trouble facing the mutated Arkham who has no control over Sparda’s Power. That is a third person interfers….

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Vergil makes it immediately clear that his target is Arkham as well. At this point in the game, Dante has evolved to a point where he stopped not caring about his fathers heritage. He started caring about his family and the responsibility he has as the son of Sparda. Experiencing what Mary has to go through with this father Arkham made him realize that, and as such he couldn’t just let Arkham go on with his plans.

Vergil on the other hand is still on the pursuit of the power of his father Sparda, however, similarly to Dante, he cannot watch how Arkham makes a mockery of his power, not to mention that he has one of the keys to the Power of Sparda: the sword Force Edge.

Having a consent enemy, Dante and Vergil fight Arkham in its mutated form. the player controls Dante and Vergil at the same time here, one button input will let both characters perform a similar action at the same time.

A very cool fight if it wasn’t for the fact that Dante is restricted in his moveset for…. no reason, he can’t even use Devil Trigger. I assume they thought they would be overpowered otherwise, but considering how the boss still focusses his attacks on Dante, is almost unstaggarable and even has an invulnerability phase where you have to deal with his annoying minions, it makes close to no sense why that decision was made.

Anyhow, Dante and Vergil Defeat this abomination as Brothers. Working together perfectly they deliver one of gaming’s most badass moments.

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Yes, that is Vergil holding one of the guns of Dante.

It’s once again showing how similar these two actually are. Even though their weapon choices are completely different, they can easily wield each others weapons, even though it doesn’t really suit their character.

After the Spardabomination is finished, the Amulettes and Force Edge fall down to the Edge of the Underworld. Vergil is reminded of what he seeks immediately follows it and Dante notices what is about to happen….


 

Final Battle – Unsacred Hellgate

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On the way down to the Unsacred Hellgate Dante and Vergil catch their amulets again. They land, with Force Edge in the middle between them, Vergil being able to grab the sword before Dante can.

Immediately both know what is up. Even though they both defeated Arkham just now, Vergil refuses to give up his pursuit of power, but Dante refuses to give him the Amulet he needs.

At this point, this fight is more of a matter to Dante than just a challenge by his brother. At the beginning, Dante just sees this as a “party” Vergil has him invited to. However at the Unsacred Hellgate, Dante is not that kind of guy anymore. They could have been perfect allies if it wasn’t for the death of their mother Eva and what it had done to their philosophie about their demonic heritage.

Dante realizes that he doesn’t want to see his brother go down this route. It is the only family he has left, and if Vergil completely embraces his demonic side, for the sake of never letting anything like the death of his mother happen ever again, he would lose the rest of his own humanity. Because of that, Dante is determined to stop Vergil’s relentless pursuit of power… even if it means killing him.

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Get used to seeing this…

The final fight of Devil May Cry 3 is the hardest fight in the entire game. Vergil has no reason to hold himself back anymore and uses everything he has against you, including Force Edge, the fastest weapon he wields at this point.

This fight is just excellent. Vergil’s attacks are fast and furious, and will punish you hard, if you slack. It is a fantastic final test of your skills, building on the previous encounters while still being perfectly fair and challenging.

There isn’t much I can say about this fight gameplaywise anymore. Everything has been said. Force Edge gives Vergil yet another moveset you have to get used to, but now he will constantly use Yamato unlike the second fight where he started using it at the very end.

Vergil is at this best here, and the player has to be too to finish this feud once and for all. It is a perfectly executed final fight and also the hardest fight of the game.

Two brothers, half-demon, half-human, fight on the edge connecting the demon world and the human world at odds over their heritage. One embraces his humanity, while the other embraces his demon. Nothing matters more to these two than ending this for good and at the end, the victor will emerge…

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At this point, Dante says something, the Dante at the beginning of the game would have never said.

“I have to stop you, even if it means killing you”

Dante doesn’t want to kill Vergil. However, he can not let do Vergil as he wishes. He doesn’t want to see Vergil loose his humanity.

Vergil looses the fight, but holding on the amulet, he goes closer to the edge of the underworld.

Dante wants to stop Vergil, but he holds him back withe words:

“Leave me, if you don’t want to be trapped in the demon world. I am staying, this was our fathers home…”

Vergil, at the dge of the underworld is expressing his own wish for Dante here. He wants Dante to stay human, but he has alreay decided that his fate would be different… as Vergil falls down to the underworld, Dante makes one last effort to save his brother, only to be met by one last act of defiance with a clear message to Dante.

“Don’t follow me”

There isn’t a lot of dialogue needed after that… you know what Dante feels after he sees his only family falling down into the demon world…

He clutches his fist Vergil has cut, grabs Force Edge and leaves the Unsacred Hellgate.

Dante returns to the Human World, recognizing the responsibility he has to protect the humans from demons, as a Son Of Sparda.

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Vergil on the other hand, would confront Demonking Mundus, the killer of his brother, in the underworld. Unable to defeat him he would turn into a Servant of Mundus fighting Dante in DMC1 as Nelo Angelo.

This is the end of the story of Dante and Vergil.


 

People like to say that Devil May Cry strength never lied in storytelling, but DMC3 proofs to be that one counterargument against that.

DMC3 tells a story about the relationship from 2 brothers that grows from resentment to mutual respect. However, even with that growth, the conflict would be inevitable, as Vergil would not let go of his initial goal. In the end, the brothers cared more about each other than initially, which is why it is almost heartbreaking to see them being seperated and seeing Vergil run into his inevitable doom.

This storytelling is greatly transferred into gameplay, as Vergil is always your equal in the game. Fighting him was the greatest challenge of the game and was the reason you would push further into the tower, before Arkham would reveal his true motives. But even then, the player would just uncunciously now, that another fight with Vergil would be coming. It was furthermore supported by the fact that Vergil would get weapons ina similar way Dante does, by defeating bosses inside the tower. Beowulf as well as Arkham granted him a new weapon you had to deal with, so the encounters keep being fresh.

As such, Vergil is in a sense, the perfect rival, and also the best boss in the game, unsurprisingly. With being the great antagonist he is in DMC3, he was able to leave such an impression, that the influences of this rivalry are seen in a lot of later action games after DMC 3’s release.

 


Aftermath – The influence of Vergil

The rivalry of Dante and Vergil was one of the most genre defining moments of Action Games, as many games afterwards would include a story of rivalry into their games with clear traces of DMC3’s story. For example…

 

Yakuza 2

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Goda Ryuji and Kazuma Kiryu

Now, this is mostly a theory as there was only 1 year inbetween the release of DMC3 and Yakuza 2. However, traces of Vergil and Dante’s rivalry can be seen here.

Kiryu Kazuma is established as the “Dragon of Dojima”, a feared ex-member of the Dojima Family of the Tojo Clan. He still is feared even though he isn’t part of the Yakuza anymore.

On the other side we have Ryuji Goda, known as the “Dragon of Kansai”. As Kazuma would escort the Tojo-Clan to a meeting with the Omi-Alliance, to avert a possible war between those two factions. However, Ryuji Goda takes over the Omi-alliance, with the intention of starting an all out war against the Tojo-Clan.

However, his own pride as the “Dragon of Kansai” also makes Kiryu a point of Interest for him. He wants to defeat him because he believes that there is “only place for one dragon” and wants to ascend to being the “Dragon of Japan”.

Ryuji himself is a very honorable person. He believes that this fight with Kiryu has to be settled in a straight up fight, However, his ambitions would get undermined by his own allies in the Umi-Alliance….

Ryuji is clearly the rival characterof Yakuza 2. You fight him 3 times throughout the game, and everytime it is made clear, that both Kiryu and Ryuji are pretty similar and even could be allies if it wasn’t for the circumstances. They even share the fact that they have the tatoo of a Dragon on their back.

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It’s even pointed out on the Japanese Cover of Yakuza 2

Just like DMC3, Yakuza 2 pulls through with the rivalry till the very end, making Ryuji the final boss of Yakuza 2. It is a very satisfying ending for this game, and goes much more in-depth than I have shown here.

Ryuji takes some clear cues from Vergil, mainly the honorable fighter trait and the fact that he and Kiryu are both “Dragons”. He even wields a Katana in the second fight, but that doesn’t have the same meaning to his character than with Vergil.

Similar to Vergil, Ryuji becomes stronger with every encounter, and you have to get used to a new moveset everytime, while the foundation of his design stay the same.

Ryuji is probably my favourite villain of Yakuza so far (I only played 1 and 2), as his character very well executed rival and works very well in the environment of Yakuza.

Going more in-depth at this point would stretch the article a bit too far, so let’s move on to the next example…

God Hand

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“If you’re the God Hand, then I am the Devil Hand”

God Hand is very subtle about the fact, that Azel clearly takes inspiration from Vergil’s Rivaldynamic with Dante.

His themesong is called “Devil May Sly”.

Very subtle indeed.

Let’s be straightforward, the story of God Hand is very simple and is not meant to be taken very seriously. However, on a gameplay level, I’ll just say…

“Hell yes, you’re the best bossfight ever.”

It takes the rival aspect of DMC3’s Vergil and turns it up to maximum when you fight Azel, as he uses the exact same moves as you, with a minimum amount of differences.

Azel tests you on how well you know your own moves and abilities while providing the hardest and arguably most fun challenge of an action game up so far. I am not ashamed to say that on a pure gameplay level Azel even surpasses Vergil from DMC3, while storywise it can be pretty much summed up with “Azel wants the God Hand, for more POWER”.

Unfortunately, they didn’t pull through till the very end with Azel, as he is “just” the pre-final boss…. instead, the actual final boss is a buttonmashfestival that takes way too long, which is a bit sad… However, Azel makes more than up for it! One of the if not the best bossfight in an action game so far!

I have written about God Hand in another article, go check it out!

https://mranimefan.wordpress.com/2016/11/25/taking-a-look-at-the-combat-mechanics-of-god-hand/

 

Bayonetta

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Bayonetta is widely regarded as one of the games that rivals DMC for the current Action-Game Throne.  Directed by the inventor of the DMC franchise and arguably the genre, it takes many cues from Devil May Cry, yet managed to find its own characteristic and unique flow.

At this point, a rivalry is a must in an action game. Jeanne is…

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Fucking look at her, she could pass as either Vergil’s sister or Ex-Girlfriend!

Once again, you fight as equals. Jeanne, using similar abilities than Bayonetta tests your skill in a superb manner, making you use every ability you have. Constantly evolving moveset keeps the encounters fresh and always on your toes, especially in the fantastic last encounter.

Obviously, I do not want to go too much into details. You fight her 4 times in the game, first time in a flashback, in which you get restricted to only a single weapon, which is a very interesting way to start this rivalry off, and also intensifies the “Growing” Part of a Rivalry.

As for story… errr… I want to be honest, I have trouble understanding what exactly was going on there. From what I understood Jeanne was a former friend of Bayonetta, who then got mindcontrolled by the main Antagonist Balder…. I think I am wrong, but unfortunately the ending to this rivalry is not exactly satisfying because of those reasons. One of my criticpoints of Bayonetta always was that the story seems unnecessarry complicated.

However, gameplaywise, the Jeanne Encounters are 10/10.

Jeanne might, just like Azel, get her own spotlight in a seperate blogarticle, as both deserve a closer look due to them being some of the best bosses in gaming.


 

Closure

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We have finally arrived at the end of this article.

Vergil left such an inspiration for future Action Game titles, that the influences of his rivalry with Dante can still be seen today. As the DmC: Devil May Cry reboot was announced, people immediately know, that Vergil was going to be in it. In general, Vergil is seen as one of the best villains of gaming.

However, the reboot “DmC: Devil May Cry” managed to mess up Vergil’s character big time… and I sure as hell am not going to talk about this now. Instead, watch Hyperbithero’s video about it.

Actually… watch his video about the DMC3 Rivalry as well! I took a great portion of information from his videos, so go check him out!

 

I want to believe that this wasn’t the end of VErgil though. I would like to have another DMC game revolving around or including Vergil, especially now that it is confirmed that Nero, the protagonist of Devil May Cry 4, is Vergil’s son.

Now that DMC5 is unofficially confirmed, one can hope that something might happen in this direction.

However, up until that happens, just remember one thing.

Devils Never Cry.

See ya, Bye Bye Then~

 

 

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