When I bought Devil May Cry 3 a few months ago, it was because I decided that since I already owned (and hadn't played) Devil May Cry 2, I might as well go ahead and get the whole series. Now, I had been warned of the audacious failure of the second entry and that I should skip it and go to the third, but that's not how I operate. I'm a firm believer in the idea of going through an entire series and experiencing the narrative as a whole, regardless of how some parts may differ in quality.
|Though there are some exceptions.|
The difficulty I had in getting into the groove of the original Devil May Cry coupled with how much I hated the sequel meant that this got pushed back more than a Valve game. After the steaming garbage heap which was Devil May Cry 2, my drive to get this one started was roughly the same as my drive to pound a flaming nail through my eyeball.
|The sensations are comparable.|
This game was so good it actually made worse games better. Of course the second DMC was so easy - it wasn't even a quarter as awesome, why should it be a quarter as hard? This game was almost like an explanation for how terrible DMC2 was; this is the kind of batshit insane adventure Dante was having before the first game, so no wonder he meanders, bored and uninterested, through the sequel. It all makes sense.
The very first level establishes that this game is going to be great. We join Dante just as he opens his demon exterminating office, still wondering what he should name it. Demons, sent by the brother we've only received the barest of hints about before this, attack his place of business. During the course of the fight we see cutscenes with more depth and emotion over a slice of pizza than the original gave us for Trish's "death."
|"I was supposed to bring your dark pepperoni into the light!"|
By the second level boss fight - a boss which turns out to be a normal enemy later but is hard enough at Mission 2 to qualify for "Boss" status - I knew I was in for a good time. The game handles better, responds faster, and Dante has a plethora of moves to experiment with and customize. His combat styles - evasion-oriented Trickster, attack-focused Swordmaster, defense-based Royal Guard, and self-explanatory Gunslinger - let you choose exactly how you want to approach each level, with the option to change your style available in most levels.
|Deleted Styles included Interpretive Dance and Mime.|
I've been working on this game for a long time, and by the end of the experience I'd put 30 hours into it. That's twice as much time as I spent beating the first two combined. Not a second of it was tedious or repetitive, either. Every level was tied into a greater narrative, so each new location gave you an actual reason to be there. The action starts outside of Dante's as-yet-unnamed shop. A giant tower from hell bursts up out of the ground in the middle of town, so it's a fight from there to the tower. Once inside it's a fight all the way up, then through to the core, then to the top again in a chain of events which never breaks, except for once when Dante is swallowed by a giant cartoon monster that shows up for no discernible reason when he's having fun. Like Barney, except a demon whale from outer space.
|A-hyuk! Heeeeeey kids! Who wants to go to hell?|
Though even in that instance, traveling through its brain, heart, and stomach to kill it from the inside out is somehow very rewarding.
In the interest of injecting a sense of order into this, I'm going to break down the experience of playing Devil May Cry 3 into its base elements so as best to describe exactly how it became so awesome.
First, the settings. Like I described above, every level in this place has a reason for being which ties into the story being told. The way these levels are designed makes them even better, as it creates the big-world feel Devil May Cry 2 was going for while maintaining the superior 3D platforming of the original. They are alternately large, open spaces with room to explore or tight, cramped corridors lined with dangers. The game is dark and the atmosphere tense, and you never know exactly what kind of danger lurks around the next corner. Is it a clutch of enemies who will appear from nowhere? A wall filled with shooting spikes and razor blades? Some sort of puzzle which involves hitting things?
|Dante could solve this in 5 hits.|
So from the innards of a space-whale to the top of a hellish spire to the strip club outside Dante's office, everything in the game is dark, gritty, and wholly appropriate for the tone of the game. Not only that, but when fighting starts, the heavy metal track which starts up and somehow never gets old adds the kind of blood-pumping death-lust you need to really bring out the most of each area.
Next, the combat. Devil May Cry was rough around the edges, and DMC2 was a boring crap-fest as far as the melee went. The third offering in the series is polished, hard-hitting, and exhilarating both in the speed and ferocity in which you can tear opponents apart and the variety of ways you're given to do so. The Styles in the game are only a part of the story - you can also upgrade each of Dante's 5 weapons in ways which can significantly alter gameplay. Plus, unlike the first where your options were up close or up slightly closer, DMC3 gives you short, mid, and even long-range melee weapons as well as the up close and personal bone-crushing gauntlets the second game was missing.
|I don't know how I got along without them.|
And can I mention the way you get these weapons? The completely skull-crushing, blood-boiling, soul-burning way you obtain each new weapon? You get them by beating powerful bosses so badly, so convincingly, that they give up their souls so you can use them as weapons. That's right - they're so impressed by how well you murder things that they gotta get in on that.
|Not good enough at killing without Dante to help him.|
Using this method you get triple-nunchuks, twin swords, the aforementioned gauntlets, and a scythe that is also an electric guitar and also a smoking hot vampire chick.
Yeah, you read that right. One of the weapons is an electric guitar made out of a woman.
This take one of my complaints about the second one and melts its face off. Devil May Cry 2 gave us impressive-looking foes that showed up without any explanation and vanish without being seen from again. The original game only really had 3 bosses that you fought over and over again. They were challenging and everything, but still only the three. This game combines the two; you fight a series of impressive-looking enemies that disappear after one fight, but an explanation is given as to why you don't see them anymore. Even the two bosses that don't give you weapons become new combat Styles which allow you to either control time or summon a doppelganger to fight with you.
|Another way DMC3 is like sex.|
Alright, so there's the game design, and the combat, so the next thing to talk about is the story. The almost universally face-palming dialogue and plots we know and love from Capcom games are . . . well, they're still there but somehow now they're awesome.
The story of Devil May Cry 3 doesn't just stand alone as a tale of Dante being a badass, riding motorcycles up straight walls until they explode, running down the sides of buildings as they explode, and slowly walking away from things as they explode without looking back. I wasn't really exaggerating when I claimed that his game was so good it made other games better. The story of DMC3 explains so much about the first one that things which didn't make sense at all now fit perfectly into place. Even the most pointless elements of the previous Devil May Cry entries are improved by fitting them into the tale we're told in this one.
|The most pointless.|
It's not Shakespeare - let's not kid ourselves. The dialogue is still terrible and some of the plot elements are ridiculous. What this game has that others lack are its moments - its like the writers knew they were terrible at coming up with any traditional story elements, so they filled every moment where they needed a cut scene with one-liners and explosions. The result is that Devil May Cry 3 is the Die Hard of action games. If Dante shouted out "Yippie-Ki-Yay!" instead of "Whooooo!" I wouldn't bat an eyelash.
And like Die Hard, it might never be nominated for an Oscar, but you can still watch it over and over again and love it every time. Playing through the narrative of Devil May Cry 3 led to many moments where it felt like I should be rolling my eyes, but instead they stayed affixed firmly to my screen, glued to it by all the crazy awesomeness happening on it.
Vergil makes a fantastic foil for Dante, Arkham's deplorable actions make him worse than Mundus ever was, and Lady is a far better supporting character than Trish or Lucia ever were. Plus, everything they're doing actually makes sense in context of the story, so that right there is a pretty big step up from the first two. The addition of Lady never feels superfluous, and her part in the story leads to some very fulfilling moments, especially when it seems like she might get cheated out of her revenge and then doesn't. Who cares if the dialogue is pedestrian? This is a game about being a badass. In this respect the entire cast delivers a tour de fucking force.
This is, without a doubt, the best action game I've ever played. The Secret Room challenges are actually challenging, the bosses are extremely difficult but not impossible, and on more than one occasion wrapping up a level meant throwing up the horns and shouting hurtful things about my enemies. I chronicled earlier the fact that the difficulty of the original DMC is what initially turned me off but then also made me enjoy it. The ease with which I beat the sequel was revolting by comparison. The third was so hard that when they later released a special edition, they toned down "Normal" difficulty to be what "Easy" would have been before, and made "Hard" as difficult as "Normal."
I didn't have that version.
|"Easy" was changed to "Touch Football."|
The primary reason this game took me so long was death. Lots and lots of it. More than I ever died in the first game. It took me 8 tries to beat Cerberus, the first boss. When the next boss, Gigapede, went down in only two or three attempts, I figured I was already improving. Then I met Agni & Rudra. Their only business is death, and business was booming when I attempted them. But I ultimately beat them, and then continued on. Nevan, Doppelganger, Beowulf - the only boss I managed to beat on my first try was Geryon, a horse that shoots missiles from its cart and can control the flow of time.
|Also available for moonlight rides through the park and petting zoos.|
The difficulty of the game was offset less by my determination to finish and more by the fact that no matter how much I died, I was still having fun. So I developed a formula. Go through every level collecting as many red orbs as I could, save my game, fight the boss. If I died, the game restarted from the beginning of the mission, but with all the red orbs I'd collected since the last time I saved. I'd buy more health or power up my weapons or change Style - whatever I had to do. Eventually, the combination of getting stronger and getting better resulted in triumph. Not only was I winning, I also managed to almost completely power up Dante, save for a few boosts to Nevan, which, though totally sweet, was sadly limited in actual battle.
|Then again, who the fuck cares?|
I made it through to almost the end of the game, Mission 18 out of 20, missing only one power up - the last blue orb piece necessary to cap out Dante's health. There was only one problem. Getting through Mission 18 requires you to beat at least 3 of the bosses over again - but to get the fragment you have to beat them all. After dying to Cerberus another 4 times, I began wondering if it was worth it. Who would know if I didn't beat all 8 bosses over again? Why did it mean so much to me to try?
|Because of him. Because of this bastard right here.|
GameFAQs got to me again - it had been done, so it HAD to be done. What surprised me the most was that after I actually got down to the dirty work, it took me only 5 continues to put all 8 bosses down for the count again. Devil May Cry 3 might torment you, it might attack you at every opportunity, it might haunt your dreams and try to suck out your very soul, but it will make you better at video games.
Not only is DMC3 the best action game I've ever played, it's probably one of my favorite games of all time. I loved the hell out of this one, and my only regret is that everything from here on out is going to seem easy by comparison.
Alright, I've rambled on enough about this for now. I've got some Ratchet & Clank to get through, and I've been crawling my way through Etrien Odyssey in my free time as well. Expect a full report.
Until next time, keep playing.