Devil May Cry 3: Dante’s Awakening Special Edition is an enhanced version of the original 2005 release of DMC3. It was sort of a GOTY edition before publishers called their re-releases GOTY editions. The Special Edition added a few new difficulty modes, a Turbo mode with 20% increased speed, a “Gold” mode that allowed you to continue without restarting the whole level after dying, the Bloody Palace mode, and made Vergil a playable character. The PS3 HD remaster that I played for this review is basically the same game as the PS2 version, but is displayed in 16:9 and 720p.
Devil May Cry 3 is a prequel to DMC1 taking place before Dante has even named his demon hunter for hire business. You play as a younger Dante trying to stop his brother, Vergil, from opening a gate to the demon world and obtaining the power of the twin’s father, Sparda. It's the first game in the timeline, but it doesn't really feel like an origin story. I think game does a good job of setting the table for DMC1, but it feels like the sequel to a game than never existed. There are many references to previous battles between Vergil and Dante, and even times when they have teamed up, but they never really spell out what led to them fighting. This is actually the first DMC I’ve ever beaten, so maybe some of this stuff is explained in later games, but right now, I feel like I walked into the theater halfway through the movie.
When asked what the genre of his new games was, DMC creator, Hideki Kamiya, called DMC a stylish hard action game. It’s an action game with a focus on chaining together cool looking combos while killing monsters. The more varied your combos are, the better your rank will be when you finish a mission, and the more red orbs (the game’s currency) you’ll get to buy more moves with. There is a big emphasis on style, but it would be a bit misleading to say that's all the game is about. You don't have to be stylish if don't want to. You can completely ignore the grading system if you want. You have the choice to be boring and simply survive through the game, too.
DMC3 isn't a survival horror game, but it still has some of those Resident Evil elements from DMC1. DMC1 actually started out as a Resident Evil sequel prototype. Most of DMC3 takes place inside Temen-ni-gru, a demonic tower that shifts and twists around like a Rubik's cube as the game goes on. Even though the game is split up into missions, you'll often revisit old areas in new missions because of how the pieces of the tower move around. There’s also a lot of looking for key items to place in specific spots to open doors and even a few puzzles. That aspect has been toned down quite a bit since DMC1, though. All the item puzzles are fairly straightforward and there are no multi-part item puzzle chains. Most of the Resident Evil style background elements with cryptic flavor text are also gone. Part of me feels like maybe the game would be better if it just stuck to the action. The excitement certainly takes a dive whenever you're forced to backtrack to go get an item to to put in a slot to progress.
DMC3 builds upon the original idea of stylish combat by giving you a lot more options to play around with. You can now equip 2 Devil Arms (melee weapons) and 2 guns, and switch between them at any time with the press of a button. You also get 6 different fighting styles to choose from. What all this amounts to is a lot of new ways to look like badass while killing demons.
You start the game off with Rebellion, a beat up broadsword not to be confused with the Force Edge or Alastor swords. When you beat a boss in the tower, you either get a new weapon or a new fighting style, kind of like in Mega Man. The melee weapons include Cerberus, a pair of ice nunchucks; Agni and Rudra, a pair of fire and wind swords; Nevan, an electric guitar that shoots bats and lightning; and Beowulf, a set of light magic greaves and gauntlets that gives you hand to hand combat moves straight out of Street Fighter, including a dragon punch and a dive kick. Each one of these weapons uses the same basic inputs, but they all look completely different and allow you to do different things. Some weapons can do damage to crowds of monsters, some are better for closing distances, and some have better range or faster attacks than others.
There’s also 5 guns in the game, which you usually find hidden around the levels. You start off with Dante’s handguns, Ebony and Ivory. There’s also a shotgun; Artemis, a Mega Man-like laser arm cannon that looks like something out of Halo; Spiral, a high powered rifle; and Kalina Ann, Lady’s rocket launcher. Like the Devil Arms, different guns are good in different situations. Ebony and Ivory are great for juggling enemies and keeping your combos going, while Kalina Ann is great for blowing up groups of enemies, and the shotgun is perfect for blowing demon’s faces off close range.
After your first fight with Vergil, you’ll unlock Devil Trigger. Devil Trigger turns Dante into a devil that looks like something straight out of Devilman. His speed and attack power increase, and he can do the Air Raid move with Nevan, which lets him literally fly for a limited time. Devil Trigger uses a special meter, similar to a fighting game special meter, which you fill up by landing attacks on enemies.
The different fighting styles are all about putting a spin on the Devil Arms and gun combat with abilities that totally change how you play. You can’t change fighting styles on the fly like you can with weapons, though. You can only change styles before starting a mission, or at one of the Divinity Statues found in the levels. You start the game with Trickster, a style that’s all about dodging attacks and closing the distance between you and the enemy. It lets you dash both on the ground and in the air, and gives you a wall run. Leveling this style at least once is required to get the air dash and be able to reach one of the blue orb fragments hidden in the game.
Swordmaster gives you an extra attack button for all Devil Arms. It’s not just for swords. It’s really good for putting together longer and more varied single weapon combos, which you’ll have to do to break open statues with blue orb fragments hidden inside.
Gunslinger is all about doing cool moves with your guns. It lets you shoot at multiple targets, charge your guns like Mega Man, and do a cool spinning gun attack in the air with the handguns, twirl the shotgun around like nunchucks, shoot homing rockets with Kalina Ann, ricocheting shots with Spiral, and a charged multishot with Artemis.
Royalguard is all about blocking and countering enemy attacks. This style gives you a block button on Circle, which blocks pretty much any attack. As you block attacks, a gem by your life bar will light up, and when you fill it up by blocking 3 attacks, you can do a powerful special move called Just Release with R1 + Circle. This move does even more damage if you use it like a parry.
Quicksilver is one of the 2 styles you get later in the story. It lets you slow down time for enemies at the expense of Devil Trigger meter. Most enemies are practically frozen in time, so you can run around and attack freely. However, this ability eats up meter very quickly, so it doesn’t last long. You can use Devil Trigger while slowing time, but since it uses the same meter, you won’t be able to use them at the same time for very long, even with a maxed out meter.
Doppelganger is the last style you get in the story. This style lets you call a Devil Trigger shadow clone that mirrors your attacks. This move can also be used with Devil Trigger active, but it uses the same meter, too.
Once you beat the game with Dante, you’ll unlock Vergil. You can use Vergil in both the story and Bloody Palace, but his save is completely separate from Dante’s, and none of your progress carries over into the other's game. Vergil gets a different opening cutscene in the story, but gets no cutscenes at all after that. Vergil only gets one fighting style, Dark Slayer. This style is similar to Dante’s Trickster, but Vergil teleports around instead of dashing, he can’t wall run, and he can use a same place teleport to completely avoid enemy attacks without moving away from the target. Unlike Dante, Vergil can carry 3 Devil Arms and switch between them whenever he wants. He has Beowulf, Force Edge, and Yamato. Beowulf and Force Edge play similarly to Dante’s Rebellion and Beowulf but with slightly different moves. Vergil’s main weapon is Yamato, a Japanese style Samurai sword. Yamato gives you that sort of delayed slice effect, like in an anime where the Samurai cuts down the enemy and they don’t notice until he sheaths his sword.
That's a lot of stuff to play around with. Sounds great, right? Well, there's a lot of work required to collect and fully upgrade all this stuff. You start the game with nothing but the handguns and 2 handed sword. You have to play through the game to collect the rest of the weapons, you have to buy gun upgrades to max out their power, and you have to buy new moves and upgraded moves for every one of the melee weapons on top of that. A couple of the fighting styles are also acquired by playing through the story, and all fighting styles have to be leveled up twice to get all the moves. Leveling a style to the max takes forever, too. I only managed to level 2 styles before I beat the game. You also have to buy 6 of the health upgrades and all 7 of the Devil Trigger meter upgrades. And don't forget that Vergil's game is on another save slot, so you have to upgrade all his stuff separately. I guess you could say that's a lot of replay value, but I'd want to move on and play another game long before maxing out both characters.
Bloody Palace is basically a gauntlet mode. There's 9,999 levels, and they're all either a bunch of enemies on a circle platform floating somewhere in the nether, or one of the bosses from the story. After clearing a level, you're given the choice of taking 3 portals; fire, water, or lightning. Fire always moves you up 100 levels, lightning 10, and water 1. Taking a water portal always rewards you with a health orb and lightning always rewards you with a Devil Trigger orb, so there's more strategy than simply picking the fire portal every time to beat this mode as fast as possible. All experience and red orbs acquired in this mode carry over to your main game, so this is a good place to farm orbs, too.
There are certainly some rough looking spots in this game, but overall, it looks alright for a PS2 game in HD. There are a bunch of cutscenes that look very ugly and pixelated, like they weren't touched up at all for this remaster, and they really stick out, but the actual game looks fine. The dark gothic atmosphere comes across really well and the character, enemy, and weapon designs are all very cool. I really love the art direction in the game. Everything has bat wings, a devil tail, or a skull on it, and a lot of the characters look like they're straight out of a Go Nagai anime. The over the top, Matrix-like cutscene animations are also pretty amusing. One thing that really bothers me is the Resident Evil style fixed camera angles. There were too many times when I would be running towards the camera, or running around and the camera angle would change and I would be pressing one direction on the stick and running in another direction.
If the straight out of the Matrix animation wasn't a big enough hint that this game was made in the 2000s, the soundtrack is a dead giveaway. Devil May Cry 3’s soundtrack is the most mid-afternoon Ozzfest main stage band sounding music I've ever heard in a game. If you told me this is actually Powerman 5,000, I'd believe you. This is what heavy metal sounded like when Korn and Rob Zombie reached the height of their mainstream popularity. It does fit the tone of the game, though. The voice acting doesn't sound bad, but the dialogue is pretty corny. Dante is an action movie one liner machine. Everything he says is like something out of an action movie trailer. Which I guess is fine, because of course teenage Dante would be super annoying and full of himself.
DMC3 is definitely the best DMC game in the original trilogy. DMC1 was the innovator, but DMC3 is where the series really comes into its own. My biggest complaint about the game would have to be the huge amount of stuff there is to buy. I feel like these games are the most fun when you have all the moves unlocked. That's why I used amiibos in Bayonetta 2. Getting everything is just too much work. DMC3 in particular feels like a real struggle when you're starting out with only a few moves because the game is no cakewalk either.