Genre: Action Adventure
Format reviewed: PlayStation 2
How Capcom redefined the action adventure with Dante’s third adventure.
Following stiff reception of Devil May Cry 2, due to its off-key tone and moody characterisation of antihero Dante, Capcom was looking to get the series back on track. At the same time, however, the developers wanted to create a hack-and-slash title that had its own identity.
In an interview with GameDaily, Capcom’s director of marketing Tom Thorson summed up the company’s approach to reigniting interest in the series. “With Devil May Cry 2 they wanted to take the game in a different direction than the original, and the same with Devil May Cry 3… [the developers] came up with a compelling style system which really allows players to customise and define their own gameplay experience.”
This mentality brought back the accomplished art direction and daft humour of the first instalment, but merged it with a full-featured, RPG-esque progression system that extended beyond simply buying more combos. With better-paced levels and an experimental range of new options presented to players, Capcom succeeded in its attempt to differentiate Dante’s Awakening from both of the series’ previous instalments. The story, too, brought the trilogy full circle in explaining the backstory between the rival brothers Dante and Vergil, touched upon in the first game. Reception of Devil May Cry 3 was so positive that a Special Edition was released in 2006, a rare enhanced release from the Japanese publisher outside of its Street Fighter series.
The daft perfection of Dante’s Awakening is encapsulated by its opening scene – Dante, having just set up his as-yet-nameless mercenary agency and enjoying a nice pizza, shirtless, is suddenly attacked by a group of demons, who impale him from all angles with scythes. Basically unscathed, the antihero begins to beat them with his fists, before tossing on his coat, whipping his sword and guns into action and clearing them out, punching the sound out of a jukebox, riding a fan and firing snooker balls at his foes along the way. He does all of this while finishing his pizza.
That brash, entertaining ridiculousness in Devil May Cry 3’s story and humour is one side of its appeal. The other is the absurdly wonderful nature of its combat, a hyper-stylised upscaling of the original Devil May Cry’s hack-and-slash paradigm, taking the bare bones and tossing in loads more ridiculous weapons, as well as greater opportunity for customisation. The game’s four basic fighting styles – Gunslinger, Trickster, Swordmaster and Royal Guard (with two extra popping up later) – offer players the chance to adjust the makeup of the combat exactly to their method of play, rewarding them for it automatically through the game’s organic progression system. This demonstrated the incredible versatility within the combat.
Perhaps the greatest triumph of Devil May Cry 3 is the way the fighting empowers the player – the dynamism of the animation, not to mention the tremendously well-crafted controls, makes it one of the select few gaming experiences that operates 100 per cent hand-in-hand with your instincts, a necessity in the face of such punishing difficulty. Once you’ve mastered the controls, it’s simple and satisfying to bring even the most complicated moves to life on-screen – the combination of this intuitiveness and the behind-the-scenes progression means that overcoming the challenge of DMC3 is its own reward, not merely an endurance test. Like last year’s Demon’s Souls, Dante’s Awakening makes no apologies for being as difficult as it is.
The boss battles across the 20 levels are also some of Capcom’s most imaginative ever, from the relentless assault of an ice-encrusted Cerberus early on in the game to the fiendish, time-jumping fight with Geryon the Timesteed.
You die a lot. But, starting again after battling past the closing credits shows you just how much has been learned. Bosses that took five attempts and an hour to best are roundly trashed in the space of five minutes, due to your mastery of whatever style of play you pursued the first time around. This kind of skill-based replay value is near endless for anyone who wants to master every style and earn all the combos the game has to offer. You will feel superior.
Why It’s A Future Classic
Devil May Cry 3’s combination of style and hack-and-slash finesse will likely never be matched by modern day Capcom, which has ham-fistedly targeted the Western market this generation and let DMC wither on the side with a confused fourth instalment. Dante’s Awakening is a high point of hack-and-slash play that remains one of the most responsive and cathartic videogames ever made.
Despite its difficulty, Devil May Cry 3’s fair learning curve always gives new players something to aspire to, introducing extra weapons and harder enemies at just the right points in the experience.
It’s the personality of this third instalment that drives us to push onwards and master the ins and outs of its complex hack-and-slash kinetics, though – the daft chap in a red coat who uses a motorcycle as a weapon, the near-ludicrous rock soundtrack and the tongue-in-cheek dialogue lend Devil May Cry a unique identity that Capcom once applied to most of its productions.
Retro Gamer magazine and bookazines are available in print from ImagineShop