Game Description: Devil May Cry 3: Dante's Awakening Special Edition revamps the classic Devil May Cry 3, giving you more action and adventure for a lower price. In this prequel to the original Devil May Cry, you'll play as Dante—and acrobatic, energetic half-demon with a powerful fighting style all his own.
There's a moment halfway through Devil May Cry 3 when protagonist Dante battles a prostitute made out of bats (yes, a prostitute made out of bats). After defeating her, he's cradling her body in his arms when—poof—the bat-prostitute suddenly transforms into a purple electric guitar (yes, a purple electric guitar). What does the ever resourceful Dante do? Of course, he launches into an impromptu guitar solo. He does a painful-to-watch white-man dance across the screen, while the adoring camera circles him and geysers of sparks magically soar into the air all around him. This MTV-circa-1985 moment ends with Dante sliding across the floorboards on his knees a la Eddie Van Halen.
How did I feel watching this moment? I felt red-faced with embarrassment. No kidding. Who did I feel embarrassed for? I felt embarrassed for the character of Dante, embarrassed for the franchise, embarrassed for the developers for having such poor instincts for deciding that this would be "cool," and, most of all, I felt embarrassed for myself for playing the game. And no, this wasn't the first time, or the last time, that Devil May Cry 3 embarrassed me.
Some games inadvertently embarrass themselves. (Need For Speed: Underground 2, with all of its "hey, bro!" and "get out there, dawg!" faux street lingo comes to mind.) But Devil May Cry 3, in its sweaty, desperate bid for "coolness," seems downright determined to embarrass itself. Trust me, this is one game that's not afraid to dive headfirst into the very cheesiest end of the corny pool.
With its swords and red velvet top coats and gothic architecture, the series has always sort of been a Spinal Tap song brought to life. In the same way that Spinal Tap both celebrates and parodies heavy metal, the Devil May Cry games, never more so than in this third installment in the series, celebrate and intentionally parody action games. At least I certainly hope it's intentional….
Devil May Cry 3 is a prequel to the first game in the series. (Clearly Capcom wants me to forget the supremely awful Devil May Cry 2.) The game's storyline concerns a conflict with Vergil, Dante's older brother, and his attempts to pilfer a blood-filled amulet that Dante possesses so he can open a gateway between the demon world…oh, the hell with this. While the narrative is pap, on the plus side, it's told via a series of high-spirited cutscenes. Directed with a great deal of aplomb and energy, Devil May Cry 3 contains some of the most dynamic, over-the-top action cutscenes I've seen in a videogame. Even on my second (and third) run through the game, I still found myself compulsively watching the carefully choreographed shoot-outs and slow-motion martial arts sword battles. They're that good.
Devil May Cry 3's gameplay certainly isn't anything new; I've been chaining combos through spawning enemies for nearly a decade now. Yet, there's something about the game that I found inherently appealing and compulsively playable. That said, the game and I certainly didn't get off on the right foot. It took a few nights for it to really grow on me. Indeed, Devil May Cry 3 does not make a very good first impression.
Much of this can be attributed to the unbalanced difficulty. The game seemed, at least initially, punishingly cruel. (I remember complaining to Chi, who was asking me for the review, that I simply couldn't get beyond the third level.) And Devil May Cry 3 was hard…until I figured out how the game is intended to be played. Players can go back—and absolutely must go back—and replay previous levels multiple times to stock up on red orbs (the game's currency for upgrades), raising their experience levels before proceeding. Capcom really could have tried a little harder to make this play mechanic less obtuse. But once I managed to deduce this—as I said, it took a couple of nights—and upgraded (and armed) myself appropriately, Devil May Cry 3 isn't really any more challenging than the average action game.
But beyond obtuse play mechanics, what makes the game so initially unappealing is how utterly unlikeable Dante is as a character. He is—there's no other way to say this—a dickhead. He dresses like he's enroute to a renaissance fair. He has quite possibly the worst one-liners in videogame history. He constantly refers to the game as "one crazy party!" He behaves like a teenaged misogynist. (When he catches a female character after she's been tossed off the side of a building, he says, "Now this is my kind of rain!") If anything, I found myself growing increasingly fond of the stoic, tight lipped Vergil, and secretly wishing that he were a playable character in the game. (He's not.)
Despite Dante's ugly personality, despite bat-prostitutes turning into purple electric guitars, despite the starched camera (yes, it's still starched) and all the other inherent problems the game obviously has, Devil May Cry 3's gameplay kept me coming back for more. It's scintillating. Cartwheeling through the air, raining gun fire down on a horde of enemies, then whipping out a monstrous sword and driving it into the ground like a rocket, and then—yes, and then—finishing my opponents off with a few whacks of my purple electric guitar (yes, it's a weapon) is exhilarating, giddy fun that always made my palms sweat and my heart pound.
Indeed, Devil May Cry 3 turns violence into a kind of kinetic poetry, elevating it into a crude artform. The game gives me the freedom to express myself with weapons like no other game in the genre. I've tried other third-person action games over the years, always looking for something on par with a Devil May Cry-type experience. I tried Nano Breaker. I tried Castlevania: Lament of Innocence. I tried Bloodrayne 2, Star Wars Episode III: Revenge of the Sith, and Otogi 2, among others. With the exception of Sony's God Of War, nothing comes close.
In Brad's recent GunValkyrie second opinion, he writes that he "prefer(s) the kind of game that revolves around what you do, not how you do it." Unfortunately, Devil May Cry 3 is the type of game that had me performing virtually meaningless tasks in a stylish fashion. In other words, this is exactly the sort of style-over-substance endeavor that Brad would no doubt despise. That's a shame. Because there's one hell of a third-person action game to be found here—quite possibly the best in its class—for anyone willing to look beyond the game's off-putting exterior.
It's interesting that Scott mentioned my quote about preferring games that revolve "around what you do, not how you do it" in regard to Devil May Cry 3 (DMC3) because I think this is one of the rare times when my usual stance doesn't apply. Frequent readers of the site will know that I have no love of this series, and I'd say that the original Devil May Cry is one of the most overrated games in recent memory, its numerous flaws and rough edges granted a complete "pass" by fans the world over. However, after playing through Dante's Awakening, I think I can finally see what people like about this series… though I would argue that it wasn't really there until now.
Before going further, my second opinion is based on the Special Edition of DMC3, released domestically under the PlayStation Greatest Hits banner. There are a number of differences between this version and the version that Scott reviewed such as a new boss encounter, the ability to play as Dante's twin brother Vergil, and a bonus mode with a 100-floor dungeon. However, all of those things pale compared to the most significant addition: adjustments to the difficulty level.
I tried playing the first release of DMC3 and was completely put off by the absurd challenge present. I know that Scott said it wasn't very much different from any other action game, but I would have to strongly disagree. I don't mind some difficulty, but I'm also not in the market for a stress anxiety disorder. I thought that Capcom was crazy for some of the choices they made, but everything I didn't like the first time around has been completely rectified.
With the simple inclusion of mid-mission checkpoints that should have been there in the first place, almost all of my frustration was completely eliminated. Besides that, the Easy difficulty is now even easier than it was before (for those who want it) and the new Gold Orb restart system lets players continue the battle exactly where they died. Since all of these changes are optional, the same level of challenge is there for players who crave it, but it's only a good thing to have more options. I can't stress enough what a significant improvement in design and accessibility these new changes are, so huge kudos to Capcom for that.
Now that my thumbs and blood pressure can finally take a break, it was a lot easier to appreciate the things that Dante's Awakening brings to the table. The variety in weapons is excellent, and Dante has butter-smooth animation to bring his ferocious attacks to life. Like I said earlier, this game is one rare example where "how I do it" actually takes precedence over what I'm doing. Switching on-the-fly from whirling nunchuks to sparking pistols to flaming uppercuts and finishing a group of reapers with a french kiss from a rocket launcher is entertaining enough on its own to make up for the simplistic goals of each level, although I must say I am a bit surprised to admit it.
Impossibly, the cutscenes are even more over-the-top than the action, and while I don't usually appreciate this sort of Goes-To-Eleven approach to videogame virility, I have to disagree with Scott and say that it works here. Similarly, I thought that the game's attitude towards characterization and storytelling were equally effective—neither will win any awards or stand out as an example of excellence in writing, but there is a strange release in experiencing something rabidly, offensively gonzo and being okay with it.
Devil May Cry 3: Dante's Awakening still has some issues. Regardless of the difficulty, I don't think I will ever be a fan of going back and repeating stages for the sake of collecting upgrade points, and the developers should invest in a copy of God of War to learn a few things about good camera placement. However, I can't deny that DMC3 is a runaway freight train crashing through the walls of moderation with a load of nitroglycerin and testosterone in tow. And besides, I thought that purple bat-shooting hooker-guitar was pretty cool.
Disclaimer: This review is based on the re-released special edition of the game.
According to ESRB, this game contains: Blood, Suggestive Themes, Violence
Parents are strongly cautioned. This game is one non-stop hyper-violent moment after another. The main character's lame "rock-and-roll" attitude, lack of wit and intelligence, foolish behavior, and sexist disposition is not something impressionable teens, or young adults, should be exposed to. The game tries its best to be nightmarish, but for the most part its all done in a cartoonish vein. There's a fair amount of blood and gore splashed about. (In one particularly disturbing moment, Dante bursts forth out of a dead monster's eyeball.)
Fans of action games should be right in their glory with Devil May Cry 3.
Fans of the series should be extremely pleased, since this disc actually brings some much needed dignity back to the franchise.
All cutscenes are subtitled, making the game playable for Deaf And Hard of Hearing gamers.