The news that Devil May Cry was to get a renovation was probably the most controversial announcement of this year's Tokyo Game Show. The words 'series reboot' are enough to jangle any fan's nerves, and the trailer proved divisive.
A younger Dante – angsty, slightly ungainly, with black hair worn in a lanky emover – and a new, UK developer? Even the series' original creator, Hideki Kamiya, weighed in on Twitter.
But Capcom's Hideaki Itsuno, who's worked on all four Devil May Cry games, has confidence that Ninja Theory are the ones for the job. So does producer Motohide Eshiro and Capcom America's Alex Jones, both of whom are intimately involved with managing the project. Ninja Theory's co-founder and chief creative chap Tameem Antoniades had a chat with us too, to offer the developer's perspective.
Eurogamer: Let's be absolutely clear – is this a different Dante, or the same one we know and love?
Alex Jones: We're not going to be definitive about a lot tonight, but one thing that we can be definitive about is that this is the same Dante - just younger. We're looking at a retelling of his origin story.
Eurogamer: So this is before he started experimenting with peroxide?
Alex Jones: Maybe you'll find out!
Eurogamer: You're sure you can't give us anything specific on the hair? It's a burning fan issue.
Tameem Antoniades: Well, if you look closely in the trailer, you can see he has a white patch.
Eurogamer: Ah, so he's prematurely greying?
Alex Jones: Or is he? We shall see.
Eurogamer: I'll look forward to it. Can you tell us exactly how this collaboration between Ninja Theory, Capcom Japan and Capcom America works?
Alex Jones: Capcom Japan is in a creative oversight role, to make sure that we hang onto what's essential about Devil May Cry. Then there's me, from Capcom America. I've got management of the project on a logistical level, and then Ninja Theory are the creators.
Motohide Eshiro: To build on what Alex has said, one of the things that we want to try with this new development method, with three studios working in tandem, is to work closely with Capcom America and be able to blend the best of both of our methods.
There's an American producing and management style and there's a distinct Japanese style, and we want to work together in a way that draws out the best of both styles, resulting in a unique product.
Eurogamer: Did Capcom approach Ninja Theory with the idea, then?
Alex Jones: Actually, what happened was that Capcom Japan came to Capcom America and said, "We want you to explore a new direction for Devil May Cry." They didn't give us any mandate as to whether it had to be a sequel or something else, and we had people in our office who had had previous positive experience working with the guys at Ninja Theory.
If you play Heavenly Sword and some of their previous games, a lot of their core competencies are in line with what makes Devil May Cry special. They seemed like a natural fit.
So we approached them, and then we brought on our partners from Japan once we were sure that these were the right guys for the job. The idea of doing a reboot honestly just came organically out of working together with these guys over five or six months. It didn't start out like that.
Eurogamer: What do you mean by 'reboot'?
Motohide Eshiro: Well, taking Devil May Cry 4 as an example, including the PC versions we sold 2.7 million of that particular game, but we looked at the market and saw that there were other action games selling four million, five million, all these copies.
One of our goals for this game is to create something new and fresh that keeps the old fans but also catches new people, so that we can increase our overall appeal, our sales and our audience.
When we say rebirth, part of our goal is to go back to the roots, dig deeper, and try to expand upon those ideas to make the series accessible to a wider audience. We want to give the series a fresh, new standard – a literal rebirth.
Eurogamer: What are those roots for you? What do you feel defines Devil May Cry?
Tameem Antoniades: From my perspective, Dante has been the centrepoint of DMC. There's just something about the character – it's a stylistic element, like action cinema, and an attitude that I think is quite special. We've got to preserve that. We've got to make it current, but we've also got to preserve what made it special in the first instance.
But the game is about the combat. It's about the complexity, the depth, the style system that was introduced – it's about the fact that you can do these amazing long-chain combos. It draws you in, making you play from beginning to end. There's not many action games that can make you do that.
The collaboration with Capcom Japan was about getting as much knowledge as we could from people like Itsuno-san, who's worked on all four Devil May Cry games, into our studio, and what we're about is repackaging it in a way that makes it feel current again.
It used to feel current, but things are different now – a lot of games have now copied what DMC did back then. So we have to invent it in a totally new style that maybe doesn't even look at other games, in terms of the visuals, the music, the fashion, but which looks at popular culture, at what's on the ground now in places like London, New York and Berlin, try to impart that youthful energy, and back it up with a great story.
Hideaki Itsuno: Dante's cool is the centre of Devil May Cry. But the key is, it's not just Dante that's cool. You're controlling someone who's so cool that you feel cool.
Eurogamer: Doesn't making him more youthful, with less finesse, machismo and swagger, undermine that cool a bit?
Tameem Antoniades: It depends – if you you think of Rocky 3 versus Raging Bull, it's that kind of difference. He's younger, he's rawer, he's cool in his own way. But it's different.
Alex Jones: When you see the Casino Royale remake, you see Bond before he's actually killed anyone, and it's a really traumatic event. He's rough-hewn, he's not polished or debonair, but you can see the essence of what that character will become. That's what we want to do with Dante. The core of him is there, it's just a rougher version. It's a becoming. He's not fully actualised.
Eurogamer: Do you think fans might be a little worried about this reboot?
Tameem Antoniades: Oh, they are. Big time.
Eurogamer: Why do you think that is, and what would you say to reassure them?
Tameem Antoniades: It's a new developer doing it, isn't it? I think Itsuna-san is best-placed to answer this question about how to reassure people.
Hideaki Itsuno: Of course long-time fans are worried about us handing over such a big title to another company, another development team. But what myself and Eshiro-san want to convey is that people shouldn't be worried or concerned, it's nothing like that.
We've worked with Ninja Theory for a long time in pre-development, and we've seen that they're really talented and they have a lot of know-how, and we know that they're very serious about making this game good.
We've conveyed what we're looking for, and all of the knowledge and experience that we have, and now it's up to them to take it in a new direction. We feel that they have the confidence and talent to do that.
We don't really know how the final product will turn out. Nobody does. But we're going into this very positively, and we're looking forward very much to what Ninja Theory can make out of this title. We're looking forward to it, and we hope that the fans will also look forward to it and feel positive.
DmC is in development for PS3 and Xbox 360. A release date is yet to be announced.