Why Vergil from Devil May Cry Is the Greatest Character Ever
The first entry in Capcom’s genre-defining Devil May Cry franchise actually began life as a sequel in the Resident Evil series. The first DMC game certainly made an impact after its 2001 debut on the PlayStation 2, but it wasn’t until Devil May Cry 3: Dante’s Awakening that the series really found its identity. It is this third game that truly solidifies the series’ place as a leader in the hack-and-slash genre, but it’s also where a lot of the iconic ridiculousness of the franchise, and especially its protagonist Dante, is established.
It’s always perfectly balanced fun, however, providing enough cheese for several pizzas while still not feeling excessive. Maybe that’s why the series’ dramatic story works so well.
At the heart of this very silly franchise is a beautiful but tragic story about trauma and family. And while Dante is the series’ protagonist and from whose perspective we experience each story, it’s his twin brother Vergil that turns out to be the saga’s most interesting character.
It just takes a couple of games — or five — to get there.
The Inciting Incident
Dante and Vergil’s father Sparda was a demon of legend, a devil who turned against his own kind to protect the human world from being invaded. This enraged the other demons, especially Mundus, the general who had been plotting the invasion and under whom Sparda served. When an opportunity to seek revenge against Sparda for his betrayal arose eons later, Mundus didn’t hesitate to take it. While the Legendary Dark Knight himself was missing and presumed dead by this time, the family he’d left behind wasn’t any safer for his absence.
The twins are children, barely eight years old, when demons descend on the unsuspecting family at their home on the outskirts of Red Grave City. By the time the surprise attack is over, the manor is burned and crumbling, and Dante and Vergil’s human mother Eva is dead. What’s worse, each brother believes the other is dead as well, only adding to the tragedy of the event.
This is where their paths diverge and where their opposing ideologies form, keeping them in conflict for their entire adult lives up to the events of Devil May Cry 5.
“Might controls everything.”
Devil May Cry 3 is actually a prequel, and it’s the first time we meet Vergil … well, sort of.
The game introduces Vergil in its opening cinematic, showing an epic battle in the rain between him and Dante. It’s the first time players ever see Dante lose a fight, and it establishes right away that Vergil is a formidable opponent. Many demons whom Dante struggled to defeat are easily felled by Vergil. It’s intimidating (and extremely cool, but that’s neither here nor there), and it impresses upon the player that Vergil, up until the very last fight of the game, is the stronger of the two.
Vergil in DMC 3 is quiet and calculated, a complete opposite to Dante. Unless he’s taunting his brother, Vergil says only as many words as he needs to make his point. He ensures his enemies are defeated with swift, critical blows. With Vergil, there are no wasted words or extraneous actions. This shows him to be single-minded — he does what is necessary to achieve his goals and eliminates anything that might get in his way with extreme prejudice.
Searching for Sparda’s Power
As this game’s antagonist, Vergil is attempting to raise the Temen-ni-gru, a tower that serves as a portal between the human and demon worlds. By raising the tower and unsealing the portal, he hopes to retrieve the power his father Sparda used to first seal it away thousands of years earlier. To achieve this, Vergil is working with a man named Arkham who practically worships demons and revels in the destruction that will be wrought once their plan is executed. However, Vergil makes it clear that he doesn’t care about any of that at all. His sole concern is obtaining the legendary power of Sparda, and anything that may come of it is merely a consequence.
The more we see Vergil though, the more obvious it becomes that his single-mindedness has become his greatest fault. Obtaining power isn’t just a concern to him, it’s become an obsession. During that fight in the rain from the opening, Vergil questions why Dante refuses to gain more power for himself. It’s in this moment that the motivation (ha!) behind everything that Vergil does begins to emerge.
“Without strength you cannot protect anything,” he insists. “Let alone yourself.”
That last bit is the key to everything, but it will take 14 years’ worth of context to make that importance clearer.
“…I was alone. My only choice was to survive.”
Since Dante was in the house with their mother Eva when the demons attacked, she was able to hide him and save him from harm. But Vergil had been playing outside by himself and was brutally attacked. He waited for his mother to come and rescue him, but she never did. In his desperation to protect himself, the young boy both summoned the Yamato and activated his Devil Trigger – a demonic form that increases his speed, strength, and healing ability — for the very first time, completely by accident. By the time he was through fighting, tiny eight-year-old Vergil had slain every single demon that attacked him.
Finding Safety in Power
Vergil came to believe that Eva abandoned him to save Dante. But what stayed with him the most about that day was the terror he felt in the face of his own helplessness. His endless pursuit of power, his insatiable need for it, is born the moment he’s set upon by those demons and no one comes to save him. He determines that with ultimate power, he’ll be strong enough to protect himself and therefore never feel that overwhelming fear again.
But his desire to protect himself begins to distort the more he obsesses over it. It mixes with the resentment he feels towards Dante once he realizes that his brother survived the fire. Eventually, it becomes something cancerous that leads him to commit his worst crime yet.
This crime is the story told in 2019’s PlayStation 4 release Devil May Cry 5. And it is here that all the setup from Capcom finally pays off on the path to revealing one of the most finely crafted characters in the whole of the franchise. Check out Part 2 of our Devil May Cry blog series!
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