Review: Lady oh Lady won't you marry me now...whoooooo!
Almost 4 years ago, Capcom wowed PS2 owners with Devil May Cry, an old-school action game that was the closest thing we had to a good 3D Castlevania at the time. It inspired a rash of clones and even brought games like Ninja Gaiden back from the nether regions of 8-bit gaming, and gave birth to Sony's huge project, God of War. The combination of cool lead character Dante and extremely challenging combat earned itself a huge audience and had actually helped many PS2 owners recover from losing the Resident Evil series to Nintendo. Not long after that, Capcom gave us Devil May Cry 2. While not a horrid game, DMC2 was still a massive disappointment ? Dante was stripped of his coolness, the game was stripped of its challenge, and the gothic stylings that made it unique was replaced with boring locales and situations. Much has been discussed about the origins of DMC2, but no matter, many feared DMC2 killed a once-promising series rather than advancing it. Which is likely why Devil May Cry 3: Dante's Awakening hasn't really had the hype or anticipation compared to the original. Despite everything that had been said, the doubters still were there. It's this reason why perhaps DMC3 is a pleasant surprise to so many ? not only does it regain the lost potential the original game carried, but it even improves on it drastically, making DMC3 one of the very best action games on PS2. It's definitely not for everyone; the very high difficulty curve surely will run off those who aren't interested in being challenged as hard as DMC3 will demand. Dante is back in rare form though, and hopefully the Devil May Cry franchise will continue to go forward now that it's back on the right track.
Unlike its predecessors, DMC3's storyline plays a large role in the progression of the game instead of being a backdrop to demon killing. Like Metal Gear Solid 3, the game is a prequel, going back to the origins of Dante and his brother, Vergil. When the game begins, Dante (in wisecracking, badass form) is just opening up his shop as a demon hunter, when a strange person delivers an invitation from his brother to 'a party' of sorts. Soon after, you're thrown into the thick of things with hordes of enemies in his office. When Dante gets to exit, a huge tower rises to the sky, and Dante heads towards it, for his confrontation with Vergil. Meanwhile, a grenade launcher-clad demon hunter known as Lady arrives, hoping to destroy the evil force behind this tower and get revenge for an unknown (at the time) reason. It's a bit more complicated than it sounds, and full of twists and turns to keep you going. The relationship of Dante and Vergil is told very well and has depth you might not imagine. Much of the story unfolds in cutscenes before and after each of the 20 missions, and there's even a bonus extended ending if you know how to get it.
The combat of Devil May Cry has always been deep, with tons of special moves to use for each of the weapons you acquire. DMC3 takes this an extra step with not only more weapons to use but the concept of fighting styles. There's four total when you first begin: Trickster, which emphasizes evasion thanks to smooth dodging moves, Gunslinger, that showcases Dante's gunplay, Swordmaster for those who like using the various melee weapons, and Royal Guard, which is the 'defensive' style for those who like blocking and parrying enemy moves. There's others you can unlock as you go along; Quicksilver for messing with the flow of time and Doppleganger, which is pretty self-explanatory. Each style has unique moves that unlock as you level up a style, which is done in an RPG-esque way with experience handed out for beating enemies. Just in terms of different ways to fight, you can make DMC3 a different game every time you play through it.
In addition, Dante's arsenal is more varied than ever. Though his trusty Rebellion sword and Ebony & Ivory guns are mainstays, he can acquire many other weapons, usually acquired after beating boss characters. The sword-style weapons (including a guitar...I kid you not) all have unique moves to use, and are more useful than the guns save for Kalina Ann, the baddest grenade launcher in the business. Smartly, Capcom has instituted a way to swap weapons on the fly, with a small catch, that being you can only equip two weapons from each class at a time per mission, and you can only change them between missions or at a God of Time statue. Though you could theoretically play through the whole game with just the default weapons, you'll still want to play around with all the cool swords and see how Dante uses them. For an action game, DMC3's depth is pretty much unparalleled in terms of weapon choices.
Of course, the Devil Trigger makes its return and the function of it is a main focus of the game. For the first half of the game, Dante is on his own, but after a pivotal battle roughly midway through, he gains access to his demon form, which works just like it has in the past. The DT can be upgraded by buying purple orbs and getting devil stars to restore lost DT in a hurry, and new to the game is a white orb that restores it on the spot without going through the menu screens. Dante's demon form becomes extremely vital late in the game, when challenging bosses really come out to play and you need the extra speed and added bonus of health recovery to come out alive.
DMC3 definitely skews towards the original in terms of gameplay style; cramped rooms and hordes of insane enemies at almost every turn. There's few places where you actually can get any peace from combat; expect to be fighting something in pretty much every room. The controls are more like DMC2, though can be customized to play like DMC1 if you see fit, but either way you get responsive movements and actions to help you get through the challenging missions. Because yes, as mentioned by many a million times, Devil May Cry 3 is a pretty hard game. It might be the most challenging game on the PS2, what with its intense, constant action and tough boss battles that require precision and exact pattern learning to conquer. Like always, if Normal proves to be tough the game unlocks an Easy mode, but don't expect an Easy-Automatic mode like the original; Easy is barely any different from Normal. However, you can get around the difficulty if you have patience; DMC3 has the ability to replay missions at any time without sacrificing your own progress. Thus, you could spend time playing the first three missions or so (which are the easiest and shortest unless you count Mission 6), farm red orbs, and purchase vital stars & holy water to give you an edge in a tough fight. It might be 'cheap', but remember, Capcom put it in the game, so take advantage of it if a fight is too tough. Beating the game once on Normal unlocks Hard, and eventually you can unlock Dante Must Die and the newest mode, Heaven or Hell, which is a one-hit kill game, a battle of who hits who first between Dante and the hordes of enemies. At the end of the day though, if you're not into being challenged by a game, you should pass and play the more accessible God of War instead.
The graphics of DMC3 are much more like the original than the 2nd game: Instead of the wide-open, boring locales of DMC2, the tower of DMC3 is gothic and creepy, and the environments are great to look at thanks to all the weird details. In a lot of spots, PS2 tricks can be found in surprising ways; great lighting effects in spots, solid texture work, etc. Enemy design is great, though there's not a ton of unique enemies, they're freaky looking things and are better than the generic DMC2 enemies. Dante is quite different looking than you remember, but has been animated really well and has hordes of crazy moves to wow you. The static camera returns though you now can adjust it slightly in certain spots, but times do arise where you have a blind spot open for attacks from off-screen enemies. Usually though, the camera is pretty good and gives off a nice view of the action. And when there's tons of action the framerate never slows down...unless of course you're using Quicksilver intentionally.
With a more focused storyline you need decent voice acting, and DMC3 does so. Though the game itself is still a cheesefest, the VA's do a good job, and thus must get credit for their abilities. Dante sounds way off from the older versions, which is weird, since nobody's voice changes so much in a short period of time unless this game is way, way, way before DMC1, which is not really mentioned. There's a lot of players in DMC3 and they're represented well. The soundtrack consists of the usual cheese rock for fights (which is actually really good, mind you) and gothic, Castlevania-style music for exploring the tower. For the most part its pretty subtle; you can hear it but it never gets in the way. But when the music goes away and changes into the battle music, you know what's coming...which is a very nice touch.