I'm not too sure if you're talking about checkpoints and if so, they surely could be more "gentle" with the player. I think a bad ranking is enough punishment if you die, but maybe the classic beat 'em up DNA would be ruined if they lower the punishment after a death.
By the way, how high do you think VJ's skill ceiling is? Is it comparable to DMC1's one? I feel, especially during boss fights, there are really strong and dominant tactics (Slow-Zoom->Punch->Slow cancel->Punch for the shark). Every action game has better moves than others, but I'm just curious to hear if your tools are more limited here or not.