Devil May Cry 3: Dante's Awakening

Devil May Cry 3: Dante's Awakening
Devil May Cry 3: Dante's Awakening Cover
Platforms PlayStation 2, Windows
Genre Over-the-top underworld brawler
MtAMinutes to Action 7
Keep Playing? Definitely
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The video game industry isn't as surprising as we'd like to think. Sequels rule the sales charts, and even new IPs tend to be paint jobs of proven gameplay schemes. It's easy to point the finger at developers and publishers, but let's take a look at a few of the bigger gambles that companies have taken with their properties.

Back in 2001, the first footage for the next Legend of Zelda caused some serious uproar when, rather than an updated Ocarina of Time fantasy setting, the new game went with a wholly cel-shaded, cartoony art style. Many had been won over by the charming new Link by the game's release, but I bet that just as many swore off Nintendo for good after this "kiddie" debacle. Later in 2001, those who had recently purchased Metal Gear Solid 2 were appalled to find the game had pulled a bait-and-switch, tossing the series' longtime protagonist Solid Snake aside within the first hour of the game for a never before seen pretty boy. The ensuing explosion of discontent was megaton in proportion.

Nintendo and Konami have had their share of death threats on message boards for these switcheroos, and now it seems Capcom's neck is on the chopping block. The long-rumored Devil May Cry 5 was finally made public at TGS 2010 as "DmC," and fans were shocked to see that it would reboot the series with a new, barely recognizable, adolescent punk version of cocky anti-hero protagonist Dante. Further, Capcom itself isn't even spearheading the development of the title, leaving Heavenly Sword developer Ninja Theory in charge. The response has been almost entirely negative.

Amidst all the noise on message boards and in video comments, I realized I hadn't spent any quality time with the old Dante myself, despite how much I enjoyed the modern Ninja Gaiden action games that are often compared to the Devil May Cry series. I borrowed a copy of the franchise's most acclaimed game, Devil May Cry 3 (which also happens to be the earliest in the series timeline) to serve as my official introduction to the outrageous half-demon. It's hard to empathize with the gamer rage that DMC fans feel at the moment, but will I change my tune after walking a mile in the old Dante's boots?


Minute by Minute

00 - New Game. A woman is narrating about the legend of Sparda, the demon who rebelled against his own kind for the sake of humanity. He closed the opening from the demon world into the human world, sealing his own incredible power in the process.

01 - The woman knows Sparda existed because she met his two sons. They fight each other in the rain, in slow motion. One in a blue trenchcoat, the other in red, each with white hair. Blue impales red!
Devil may cry 3 Rain
02 - "But in the end, only one was left standing." Flash to the present: A phone rings. Dante walks in and answers it, saying he's not open for business yet.

03 - A man walks in, asking if Dante is the son of Sparda. He comes with an invitation from Dante's brother. He abruptly kicks the table at Dante, who flips over it and draws his guns. He does everything so stylishly.

04 - A bunch of grim reapers zoom in and stab Dante with scythes! He isn't phased at all. He smacks them away and walks across the room with the scythes still stuck in his body. "This party's gettin' crazy! Let's rock!" He slams the jukebox until it starts playing heavy metal.

05 - Dante sticks a piece of pizza in his mouth and lays into his attackers with his bare hands, his guns, and their own scythes. He even uses billiard balls like a grapeshot cannon. Yeah, that was cool. Dante is cool. I wish I was cool, like Dante.

06 - A tutorial pops up: Select from 4 basic styles: Trickster, Swordmaster, Gunslinger, or Royal Guard. Press Circle to perform the style attack. Each style can level up twice and learn new actions each time. You can change your style between missions or at special statues within.

07 - Mission 1: Crazy Party. I'm at the menu now and can select my style. I'll go with Trickster for now, which appears to focus on acrobatics and dodging. I have a dash and can run up walls now.

08 - I can check out my equipment as well, which right now consists only of Dante's black and white pistols, Ebony and Ivory, and his broadsword Rebellion. I can purchase new attacks for his melee weapons and buy upgrades for his guns. The tutorial for controls shows up. They appear pretty complex, with no button going unused.

09 - The action starts, and I tear apart the scythe-wielding enemies with my guns and sword. Melee combos differ based on the timing used when hitting the one melee attack button. Firing Dante's guns while in mid-air will cause him to float a bit.

10 - Dante can roll out of the way by targeting an enemy (R1) and pressing the jump button (X) in a direction. Clicking the left trigger will cycle the lock-on between enemies. I'm not sure what good the Trickster dash does when I can roll-dodge anyway.

11 - The camera view leaves plenty of enemies off-screen. I can't see when they're ready to pounce. A few off-screen attacks leave me with half health already.

12 - Cutscene: Dante's shop is wrecked from the mayhem. He grabs his red trenchcoat and heads outside. "I can already tell, this is gonna be one hell of a party!"

13 - Mission Clear: I'm graded on mission time, red orbs collected, Stylish points, damage taken, and items used. My hunter rank for the mission is B, and I get 2000 bonus red orbs for that ranking. Red orbs can be used to purchase upgrades for weapons and new items. Stylish points go towards leveling up Styles.

14 - I save my progress. Turns out I can replay earlier missions while playing through the story. That's pretty cool. Mission 2: The Blood Link.

15 - I'm back in the pre-mission menu. I decide to keep my Trickster style instead of changing it. The dodge function is pretty handy. I don't have enough orbs for any items, or upgrades, so let's move on.

16 - Cutscene: Dante kicks the door out from his shop. Scythe-wielding demons are waiting outside. "You guys totally wrecked my shop, and I haven't even named it yet!" Dante sneezes, and the whole place comes crashing down.
Devil may cry 3 Point
17 - Special moves: target the enemy, hold the control stick away from them, and use melee attack to launch them into the air. I can keep them suspended in air with gunshots. That's pretty cool. I'm using that word a lot..."cool."

18 - Still fighting. I'm not big on this targeting system, it feels kind of complicated. Maybe I just have to get used to it.

19 - An enemy that looks like a tumor on legs appears. If I shoot it, it explodes, taking out any enemies nearby (or me, I assume).

20 - One of the enemies coughed up a green orb instead of the regular red ones. It restores some of Dante's health.

21 - Cutscene: Portals show up on the roofs, and more enemies emerge. One of them is a larger Grim Reaper, laughing and wailing. I guess it's a boss, there's a life meter at the bottom of the screen. It teleports around and emerges with some pretty fast scythe slashes.

22 - Probably shouldn't get in too close to this guy, so I'm staying away and chipping away at its health with my guns. Had some health taken away, so I guess I'll use a healing item I found earlier. It gives me about half of my life back. With that safety net, I take out the enemy.

23 - Cutscene: An earthquake rips the street apart, and a huge tower emerges from the ground. Convenient that it's right next door. Dante's brother Vergil is standing on top of it. Dante says it's been almost a year since the two last met.

24 - The Grim Reaper enemy retreats up the tower, to Vergil's side. There's also some kind of giant fish-dragon floating around the top of the tower. Mission complete: this time I got an A rank, with bonuses for my stylish performance and for beating that boss.

25 - Cutscene: A man emerges from the tower and approaches Vergil. His name is Arkham. Apparently this tower, Temen-ni-gru, was built to re-open the portal between the demon world and the human world. Arkham seems really happy about it being back.

26 - Vergil is unconcerned with that, and only wants to know if Dante had "it." Arkham says he does. The Grim Reaper from earlier approaches Vergil as well, and he simply slices it in half without even looking.
Devil may cry 3 Vergil Demon
27 - Elsewhere, a woman on a motorcycle pulls up to the tower. Demons approach her. She revs up the motorcycle, and flames from the engines burn up the demons. Mission 3: The Devil's Tower.

28 - I'm in the pre-mission menu again. This time, I think I'll switch to Gunslinger. Rather than the dash and wall-runs, I can now shoot my guns faster, target two enemies at once with the pistols, and use charge shots. To go with this, I guess I'll upgrade the power of Ebony and Ivory.

29 - Cutscene: some kind of demon archer with one eye in the middle of its body appears. A tutorial message lets me know I can double jump off of walls to reach greater heights, like the areas where these archers are perched.

30 - I dodge some arrows and respond with gunshots. More demons appear, like those scythe demons and some explosive walking tumors as well. It's tough fighting these guys on the ground while archers rain down arrows.

31 - The pounding heavy metal goth-rock music stopped, so I guess they're all dead now. I explore the alley a bit, but there doesn't seem to be anything to find. The stubborn camera and plenty of invisible walls make exploration difficult and fruitless.

32 - I head into a bar. It's empty inside. A blue seal forms over the door, meaning there's a puzzle inside to solve. I bust up some bar stools and tables to get some red orbs.

33 - There's a red circular stone tablet mounted on the wall behind some slot machines. Hitting it several times with my sword makes the blue barrier go away. That's not even really a puzzle, is it? Near the door is a shotgun mounted on the wall, and I grab it for my first new weapon.

34 - I can change my firearms on the fly by pressing L2. Since I have the Gunslinger style selected, I can charge my shotgun blasts as well. The style attack makes Dante twirl the gun around his body like nunchuks, firing it randomly around him. It's stlish but doesn't seem especially useful...
Devil may cry 3 Shooting
35 - I head into the next room, The Love Planet. Looks like a strip club, but nobody's here so it might just be an elaborately-decorated fire hall. A tutorial pops up, explaining that using a variety of attacks and not letting up on enemies will reward me with more style points. That seems fair. These enemies are smaller, quicker versions of those scythe enemies from earlier. They dash in especially quickly from off-screen, giving me little time to react.

36 - And I'm dead. That was kind of frustrating, the camera makes it tough to see where attacks are coming from. I'm back outside in that alley, dodging arrows, slashing demons, and shooting explosive tumors. The burning trash cans in the alley can also be exploded.

37 - Looks like restarting the mission erased my upgrades and style changes, because I'm back in Trickster style. I guess that's so I can try using a different style or buying different upgrades.

38 - Back in the bar again, slicing up stools and grabbing that shotgun.

- I've found that I can switch quickly between my pistols and shotgun on the fly, canceling the reload time between shotgun blasts. Seems like something worth exploiting to rack up damage faster.

40 - I'm back in the Love Planet, fighting those quick demons. Shotgun blasts are good for keeping them at bay, they tend to ignore the pistol shots. I can swing around the pole and launch myself at enemies, that's kind of cool. And a little kinky.

41 - And I'm dead, again. Thanks to the camera.

42 - Alright, let's buy a Blue Orb this time. That extends my life bar. The price of the item raises after I buy it. I guess each successive one costs more. I decide to try Royal Guard style this time as well. Circle now acts as a block button, and pressing it right as an enemy attacks fills up a counterattack gauge.

43 - Can I counter the arrows? Let's try. After a few unsuccessful attempts, it works. A circle near my life bar is blinking. Apparently I can release built up counters into an attack by targeting an enemy and pressing circle.
Devil may cry 3 Dash
44 - I've noticed that the quick, red demons dodge backwards before they lunge in for the attack. I use the recognized pattern to counter an attack, and unleash the stored power at him. It's a very short ranged, hand-to-hand attack, but it kills the enemy immediately!

45 - I still take damage when I block, though not nearly as much. It's like chip damage in a fighting game. That said, I'm down to half of my health now because of some unsuccessful counter attempts. I head into the bar again and find the shotgun...again.

46 - Back at the dreaded Love Planet. Let's see how I fare this time...

47 - It's easy to miss with the counterattack, considering how close I have to be to the enemy to unleash it. Objects in the environment frequently get in the way as well.

48 - Yes, I finally killed them all! I'm liking this Royal Guard a lot. It's nice to have a block button to reduce the damage taken, even if I can't counter every time. I bust up some couches and such to grab some orbs and head out the backdoor.

49 - There's all kinds of debris in the alley. Dumpsters have red orbs in them. A trash can has green. Good things can be found in trash cans.

50 - I head into a door at the side of the alley. Secret Mission 1: The Exorcist. I have to kill all the enemies within a time limit. I'm having a lot of trouble seeing approaching enemies...

51 - Secret Mission failed. I guess time ran out. And I'm down to half health for the rest of the mission now. I guess maybe those secret missions are a good reason to go back and replay previous story missions. Maybe there's a reward for finishing it. One that would be easier to get with later weapons.

52 - I bust up a statue in the alley and it gives me a fraction of a Blue Orb. I guess three more will extend my health bar. I find another Blue Orb fragment up on a balcony.

53 - I found a Divinity Statue in this alley as well. I can't save here, but I can upgrade my weapons, change my style, change my equipment, and buy items. I grab a Vital Star S, which refills a bit of health. The price goes up afterwards.

54 - I decide to buy the Stinger sword technique as well. It causes Dante to dash at an enemy with a powerful stab attack. I can upgrade the attack another time, but I don't have enough orbs.

55 - The next room is called the "Ice Guardian's Chamber." I don't like the sound of that...

56 - Cutscene: Dante walks up to an enormous Cerberus, trapped in ice. It breaks free and warns Dante that mortals are forbidden and unworthy to set foot in this land. Dante mocks the Cerberus, treating it like a puppy, then gets ready to fight it.

57 - A boss fight, now? Ugh, after all that...anyway, I shoot its icy protection away from its three heads and two exposed legs. Seems smart to stay away and just keep shooting, it's probably got some powerful close-range attacks.

58 - My pistols and shotgun barely chip away at its health bar, even after dozens of shots from each. Still, I've managed to stay out of harm's way so far, so maybe this is smart way to fight it.

59 - Nope, it just lunged out and hit me! I've got to use my healing item, which refills less than half of my life. The ice reappears over the Cerberus, protecting itself from my bullets. I break it off with some more gunshots, though.

60 - I've made a decent dent in its health, but I'm almost dead myself after a few swipes from the Cerberus. It summons some icicles from the ceiling, which finish me off. A message pops up: "Easy Mode is now selectable." Way to rub it in.

Devil may cry 3 Pistol

First Hour Summary

Minutes to Action: 7

What I liked

Slick moves
: The cutscenes feature some of the most creative and over-the-top fight choreography I've ever seen, in videogames or any other visual medium. That stylish flair translates right into the gameplay as well, with Dante's sword and gun combinations looking and feeling badass to pull off.

Video: The mix of gothic and urban slum settings and styles makes for a gritty setting. It's a bit ugly up close, so maybe that's why the camera is so restricting. The framerate never dips with all the action on-screen, an important detail. Character models and animations look quite good for a late PS2 game.

: Dante's party boy one-liners sound like something the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles would come up with once reptile puberty set in. And I mean that in the best way possible. The gruff vocals and distorted guitars give a rather cheesy metal vibe to the music, but it actually meshes very well with Dante's corny swagger and the drab settings. Gunshots, demon screams, and steel collisions sound fine.

: Devil May Cry's combat has always garnered the utmost praise, and now I feel like I'm starting to understand why. My fingers aren't fast enough to make the most of the complex battle mechanics yet, but I feel like I'm getting the hang of it.

What I didn't like

Camera shy
: The camera is terrible at times. Enemies often lunge at Dante from off-screen with no warning at all.

Busy thumbs: I'm still trying to wrap my head around the controls, especially regarding the targeting system. I feel like I've got the basics down, but this is very complicated in ways that I'm not sure it should be. I suppose the complexity of combat might demand for some of the odd decisions here.

Other thoughts

Narrative: I'm not really drawn into the whole demon/human conflict right now. Neither is Dante, so that's kind of entertaining.

Challenge: The game is tough, no bones about it. It's discouraging at times, thanks to the inadequate camera angles, but not quite enraging.

Pacing: Most time is spent slaying demon hordes, as it should be. Some light puzzle elements show up as well. Cutscenes and light customization break up the action, and it's all enjoyable. I'm expecting to retry missions over and over again to make progress, but each one seems fairly short thus far, so tedium hasn't really set in yet.

Would I keep playing? Definitely. It's not perfect, but it's already head-and-shoulders above almost every action game I can think of.

Devil may cry 3 Standoff
Words from beyond the First Hour: I've since finished Devil May Cry 3 on Normal difficulty, and it is indeed worthy of being crowned the king of the "Extreme Action" genre that the original DMC created. The only competition in my mind is Ninja Gaiden. Each has its strengths, and it's tough for me to choose a favorite between the two. Someday I'll get around to playing Devil May Cry's spiritual successor, Bayonetta. Maybe I'll change my mind again then.

It's not all sunshine and daisies in DMC's gothic horror landscape, though, as the camera never quite feels perfect. A few boss fights in particular feature some of the worst vantage points I've ever seen in a game, making for some controller-smashing irritation. Once I grew more familiar with enemy tendencies and Dante's own strengths and limitations, the curiously-placed camera was rarely a nuisance. The camera is one of the only blemishes I can find in this excellent package, however. If you enjoy action games but haven't strapped on Dante's belt...bra...thing yet, you owe it to yourself to check out Devil May Cry 3, no questions asked.

As for the reboot, I'm taking a wait-and-see stance. I'm all for a new artist's rendition on an established character, but I can't say I really like what I've seen of DmC so far, especially compared to the current Dante. The one who tries so very hard to be that cocky dickwad 90s brand of cool, and I'm not sure if he's charming despite that or because of it. That said, Ninja Theory seems to be sticking to its guns in the wake of fan criticism, and the game has Capcom's blessing in its current form, so I'll definitely keep an eye on it for the time being.
Devil may cry 3 Clash