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How Devil May Cry's arcade inspirations shaped character action games

March 10, 2019 1 min read

One of the hardest things I had to accept growing up was watching my local arcades go out of business. I wasn't a social kid, but there was something fascinating and magical about seeing so many fellow hobbyists gather together, take turns on machines, and boast about their high scores. I always fantasized about sitting at the top of a local leaderboard, and while I never hit that goal, the opportunity to write my initials into the 50th place always inspired me to go further.

Now the only leaderboards I can access are online, where the competition is so fierce I've long considered any leaderboard spot worth reaching distant and out of reach (that or it's already hacked). Even though the original magic is gone, my passion for hitting new high scores remains. For years, I've mostly sated this thirst through traditional arcade genres like shmups. But one genre I've dived into more recently excels at the score attack experience despite packing modern gaming elements that wouldn't fly in an arcade game, such as cutscene-dense narratives and permanent character upgrades.

The recently acclaimed Devil May Cry 5 is an excellent example of how score attack design philosophies remain relevant in modern games, even without leaderboards. Every character action game I've ever played, from The Wonderful 101 to Bayonetta 2 to Devil May Cry 4 Special Edition, constantly encourages players to one-up their own records. That's because character action games iterate upon and refine everything that made the traditional arcade score attack so thrilling.

How Devil May Cry's arcade inspirations shaped character action games screenshot