I got Devil May Cry 4 for Christmas, and I have already cleared through the end of Chapter 9 already. Despite some early worries about the game's difficulty, Devil May Cry 4 has proven itself just as exciting and intense as it's predecessors. In fact, the designers at Capcom have made some noticeable improvements to the game that make the game's difficulty not nearly as big of a pain as in Devil May Cry 3, by bringing back an improvement made in Devil May Cry 3's Special Edition.
In the original version of Devil May Cry 3, as well as in the first Devil May Cry, the player needed to use up rare and expensive items called Yellow Orbs in order to continue from a checkpoint. This was always the thing that frustrated the most in Devil May Cry 3. The bosses in Devil May Cry 3 were almost always located at the end of long and difficult stages. At the same time, every major boss in DMC3 was very dangerous and difficult in its own right. For example, I originally died to Virgil four or five times, which means that I had to trudge through his stage five or six times in a row. Now then, I am someone who enjoys difficulty, but having to replay the same stage all of the way through multiple times is more annoying than fun. I have always felt that tough challenges are always more fun if you have the chance to try it again immediately after you fail.
The Gold Orb system, which was added as an option in Devil May Cry 3 Special Edition and returned in Devil May Cry 4, gives the player the ability to continue from a checkpoint as many times as he likes. It really came in handy for me when I challenged Bael, the boss of Chapter 4 in DMC4. I probably fought Bael around seven times before I finally managed to crush him for good. If that fight was in DMC3, I would have had to trudge through the entire stage over again after dying. Instead, I got to fight him seven or so times in a row without interruption. Not only did it take less time with less frustration, but it let me focus on experimenting and fine-tuning my strategy. In Devil May Cry 3, I usually just gave up after a point and ended up using items to help me beat a boss and just avoid the frustration; but in Devil May Cry 4, I was free to enjoy the challenge of the fight itself more.
At the same time though, Devil May Cry 4 still rewards those players who get through a stage without dying. After my seven consecutive fights against Bael, my score for Chapter 4 was absolutely terrible: I only got a D rank. Compared to my typical A and B ranks, that D is a blight on my record. So to improve my overall score, I will probably go back and challange Bael again, this time armed with knowledge gained from my earlier hard-fought victory. So, the challenge of beating a stage without dying still exists in Devil May Cry 4, but it is no longer a requirement for progressing through the game. I think that this is how it should be.