Can you believe that some people are still put off buying the Xbox 360 because they're worried that their need for quirky Japanese games won't be fulfilled? Because in a big hard slap to the face of Monsieur Logic, the 360 is fast becoming the place to flock to for all your importable tat.
The upcoming release list looks like someone's spilled the insides of a Forbidden Planet store all over it. Fans of girls with eyes bigger than their abdomen will be serviced by titles such as Eternal Sonata, the new RPG from Baten Kaitos coders Tri-Crescendo, while those of you near-suicidal over the lack of giant bumblebee men in F.E.A.R. will no doubt be sated by the news that Gitaroo Man creators iNiS' next game is Xbox 360-only. That Xbox is escaping its comfort zone of Cars 'n' Guns and embracing this new magical land of diaper-wearing penguins is a real heart-warmer of a tale, the sort of masterclass in diversity and tolerance that no doubt John Lennon would have campaigned for if he were still with us. But despite this new 'It's A Small World After All' vision of the future of Xbox, we're still found ourselves genuinely surprised to see Devil May Cry 4 spring up onto Billiam Gates' blocky offspring. With its so-gothic-it-poos-bats anime exterior, Devil May Cry is one of the most quintessentially Japanese videogame franchises there could be possibly be.
FROM NERO TO HERO
Meet Nero and Dante, the barbie-doll-crotched stars of Devil May Cry 4. Dante, for so long the series' lead, takes an antagonistic role in the early part of DMC4's storyline, brutally murdering several members of the Order of the Sword, a state of affairs that new kid Nero, a member of the Order's Knights, decides just will not do, frankly. So off he trots to hack and slash his way through everything and everyone who stupidly stands between him and vengeance. But... hello, what's this? New shots show that Dante, too, will be playable at some stage? What sick twists await us along the way? Do you know? DO YOU?
Well, truth be told, it doesn't matter a big deal. As is Devil May Cry tradition, there's an overblown, sub-A-Level standard plot that casually tosses out 'The Divine Comedy' references like a surly docker rattles off Daily Express headlines, but DMC's main draw is the gameplay. What we've seen of the PlayStation 3 version suggests that this will be the pinnacle of a series that has already had two brilliant titles (ignore the second) under its belt.
As a primer, Devil May Cry is a hack-'n'-slash game. It's a much-maligned genre, mostly because it's so hard to get them right. The likes of Eragon were as disengaging as they come, mostly involving sitting down whacking random buttons as frantically as an unemployed man who's discovered that Timmy Mallet has infiltrated every channel on his TV. DMC does things more intelligently than that. Firstly, each particular type of enemy requires a different approach - you can't just latch onto your favourite move like a limpet and hack your way through the levels. Secondly, each move is readily accessible - just a flick of the analogue stick and a couple of button presses should be enough to initiate each of the vast array of swanky moves available to you; there's no brain-breakingly recursive combos that look like the chord chart of a typical Meatloaf seven minuter.
THERE'LL BE TEARS BEFORE DEADTIME
In other words, you have to think with your brain - the importance of which is highlighted by the fact that Devil May Cry 2 (the easy one) was about as much fun as having your eyelids removed with a sandblaster. Part of what made the other Devil May Crys so good and yet so very infuriating was that it had the kind of difficulty level that causes heads to be bashed into walls, with a vertical learning curve to boot. The developers have indicated that getting the curve right is essential for the fourqual, it starting out gently before exploding into the kind of evil madness that'll have your thumbs begging for amputation.
So, should you bother chaining combos together? The answer is: very yes. A sidebar grades your progress, from D to SSS, with each kill replenishing the slowly diminishing counter. Chaining together stylish kills will impress your enemies so much that they'll explode into a pile of red orbs, which you can use as a messy form of currency at level's end to swap for continues and other things that you normally take for granted when the game you're playing isn't developed by Capcom. DMC4 isn't a game that'll stretch your 360 until its faceplate pings off. But what it is, is an excellent example of a type of game we Xbox owners were starved of during the Xbox 1's life. The prospect of this and Ninja Gaiden 2 on the same console is one that has us teary-eyed.