Revisiting the Classics – Devil May Cry 3
Let’s take a little trip back in time, shall we? Snuggle your time machine safety helmet on, buckle your seat belt and… welcome to March of 2005. I would graduate high school in a couple of months (yikes!) and would receive a shiny new PSP as a present. The PS3 and the Xbox 360 are both announced just days apart from one another. Some of the best games ever made came out this year, too (Psychonauts, KOTOR II, PS2s Resident Evil 4, etc.). Damn good year if you ask me.
So how is it that Devil May Cry 3 gets chosen out of my pile to re touch and reevaluate, when I really could have done the same to any of them? The DMC series was in a nebulous state after 2003’s Devil May Cry 2. A lot more questions were asked than were answered. The series’ direction was unknown, for every advancement made in sequel, there seemed to be a sort of back step. There were many new weapons to choose from, and a new quick selection button so that you can re-equip on the fly. Variety of kill death and the ease in which to employ it would be one of the biggest series staples, and one of its best features, but DMC 2’s particular brand of toys were bland, and un appealing clones of each other. Other gameplay tropes like quick dodging and firing in multiple directions at once were both introduced in 2, but the game was so easy that you almost didn’t need it. A whole new character was playable, joining in the devilish fray, but she was a hollow shell, and unappealing both in design, game play, and story.
The story was also a big stumbling point, which is sort of sad, considering how paper thin the originals were. A business man using his means to summon the demon Argosax and bring about total destruction/ultimate power becomes Dante’s call to action. Not only would that make a better Ghost Rider story in the future, but it involved brand new aspects of the world the Dante inhabited. A fact that would be fine if the first game didn’t leave so many current questions unanswered. What’s the real deal with Trish? How did Vergil become Nelo Angelo (and who the hell is Vergil, for that matter?) What are the real repercussions of killing the king of Hell? Just skipping over these things completely is a frustrating ordeal for any devout of the first game. So, needless to say, Devil May Cry 3 needed to be a real face-melter to get the series back on track.
If Capcom does anything well, its rise to the occasion.
Devil May Cry 3 is one of the best series comebacks in gaming history. Revamped and revved up, this title was not to be trifled with. It is almost as if Hideaki Itsuno took personal offense to the North American claims to calling the game “too easy,” and in retaliation, made this game one of the hardest on the console. The Japanese “hard” mode became the American “normal” mode, something that was a bone of contention with a lot of critics stateside, and would be remedied later in the Special Edition re-release. Bosses were bigger and meaner than ever, and getting hit was something to fear, as there is no Super Mario-esque safety blinking after taking a big hammer blow to the face. You have to get right back up, or face that treatment again and again. You weren’t without your own set of fangs, though.
A dynamic variety of new weapons were added to the armory, each with unique combos and special abilities that could be linked and chained on the fly. These weapons ranged from the standard Rebellion broadsword to the outrageous demonic electric guitar, Nevan. Each weapon was fun, balanced, and offered its own, unique take on demon murder.
Couple that with Dante’s new “Styles”: Six different types of attack sets that enhanced how he battled. For example, Gunslinger Style would add unique special attacks to your guns, and allow for shooting in multiple directions, while Trickster allows for dashing and dodging more quickly. Each could be leveled up to unlock more abilities, and could be switched out at every checkpoint, so you can properly arm yourself for the task ahead.
Dante’s relationship with his brother, Vergil is the focus here, and for the first time in the series, DMC gets a legitimate story. A young Dante looks to open up his demon hunting business, when an ancient evil tower erects itself from the bowels of hell and commands his attention. Atop it waits Vergil and his right hand man, Arkham. The game then chronicles Dante’s Game of Death-esque journey to the top, to save the world and stop his brother. At the same time, Lady, a novice, but incredibly capable hunter herself, looks to chase down Arkham (spoiler: her father), Dante, and Vergil, as all devils are bad devils, to her. Not a super dramatic story, but the few characters that are present are really fleshed out well. Their motives don’t seem suddenly out of the blue and half addressed; they all have purpose and reason and drive. These genuine things are what make the plot so exciting; even if the overall story isn’t anything ground breaking.
The total package blew me away. Visually, it still is one of the most spectacular looking games on the console, and the character designs for Dante, Vergil, and Lady are clever and iconic. Temen-ni-gru is twisted and menacing, each floor more sinister and brooding that then last. The critters that need exorcising are creative and crazy, the bosses being an extra dash of disturbing.
The soundtrack bumped with the alternative grind-dustrial fare all the rage out in Europe and Asia at the time, keeping the pace fast and beating in your chest with your heart as you twitched and jolted yourself through the games almost 30 levels.
Redeeming the series is really an understatement, in retrospect. This game raised the bar for hack and slashes, as truly brilliant people were involved in its inception. If Platinum Games owed any one title its life, it would be this one.