The Best Game Ever (Pt.1)

Devil May Cry 3

Capcom, 2005

PS2

The adventures of a narcissist with OCD on a quest to beat up his brother.

When you were a kid, someone – probably a well-meaning elderly relative or aunt or something – told you that no one likes a show-off. It’s one of those things everyone had to go through at least once. Well, Grandma Hilde, I’m afraid to say you were so horribly wrong. Showing off may not be big, and it may not be clever, but it is awesome and it makes you awesome. This is Scientific fact, and trying to say otherwise makes you a fool. Just look at Dante.

Dante, as I’m sure you’re all aware, is the walking personification of Awesome incarnate. Everything he does and says has to be as OTT as possible, no matter how mundane, and, as a result, he winds up reeking of the Awesome, and possibly pizza. Or strawberry sundaes, if the anime’s to be believed (which we’re all hoping it isn’t). Devil May Cry 3 is a prequel to the series as a whole, detailing the events some time prior to the first game. While setting up his titular (as yet unnamed) agency, Dante receives an invitation of sorts from his long-missing twin brother, Vergil. Seems he’s planning some shenanigans, and wants Dante to come along with party favours for all his friends! Except by ‘shenanigans’ he means ‘summoning a demonic tower in the middle of the city’, by ‘friends’ he means ‘demons’ and by ‘party favours’ he means ‘violence’. So, Dante, never one to miss a shindig, ventures forth to figure out what in the hell his brother is up to. And, I dunno, stop another demonic incursion into our world if possible, or something.

This is the intro to the very first stage:

That tells you just about all you need to know about the game. Over the top acrobatics? Check. A cocky main character just the right side of obnoxious? Check. A fantastically thumping soundtrack? Check. Riding enemies like the devil’s own skateboard, firing and whooping like a lunatic all the while? Oh hell yeah, check! Of course, if the game were all improbable sword-slinging and nothing else, it’d be a pretty piss-poor show. Thankfully, the DMC3 has the chops to back up its boasts, with chutzpah to spare.

So, after the intro, and once you’ve stopped laughing at how insane that opening is, you finally get to take control of Dante himself. And it’s good. The controls are as fluid as you could ask for, and while they do take some getting used to at first, once you have them down, pulling off the myriad combos will be child’s play. It’s okay if you start feeling every bit as cocky as Dante when you start facing down the legions of enemies ahead of you, we all do it ourselves from time to time. Even better though, showing off actually has a practical application in the game. The style meter, trademark of the game, makes a return appearance. As you beat up on demons, the bar fills. The more impressive the combo, the more red orbs, the game’s currency, you get after they die. In the grand scheme of things, you don’t have to invest much in the combo system: it makes things easier for upgrading and the like, but, other than investing in a couple of key moves and some extra health, you can easily murder your way through the underworld with the same basic attacks. The very existence of the bar, however, almost guarantees that, like it or not, you’ll be driving yourself to reach the upper ranks as often as possible, for no other reason than the fact that you can. After all, you’re Dante! No way in hell he’d do anything less than the craziest moves known to man or demon!

The soundtrack is similarly fantastic. The ambient music that makes up the majority of it is inoffensive and fits into the background easily. Not that you’ll really be hearing it that often, as the game’s main battle theme, Taste The Blood kicks in each and every time you encounter an enemy. And there’s a hell of a lot of enemies. If you’ve played games like, say, Persona 3 and 4, you’ll know it’s hard to have a battle theme with lyrics in it. It’s a nice idea in theory, but it all falls apart when you remember that your average player’s going to be hearing it several hundred times during the course of a normal game. More so if they’re grinding for whatever reason. Thankfully, unlike the Persona games, Taste The Blood and its variants work well as both a stand-alone piece of music and as a battle theme, probably due to the emphasis being on the music rather than the voice (and due to it fading in, rather than crashing in with the same repetitive intro every time). The boss battle themes are, likewise, of a high calibre, being, at turns, dark foreboding pieces, as in the case of the Cerberus fight, or frantic electronica when you’re fighting the succubus Nevan. The game’s overall theme, Devils Never Cry is easily the standout piece. It accounts for what seems like half the tracklist by itself, showing up in various remixes and rearrangements and as a piano version on several occasions. Give the song its due though, it’s a fantastic track, and while your mileage may vary, it’s not a bad piece of music to riff on.

Devil May Cry 3 was eventually re-released as a budget-priced special edition. While there were a few extra modes – Bloody Palace, a 9999 level endurance mode, extra costumes and art and so forth – two spring to the forefront most clearly. First off is the ability to play as Vergil. While this is touted as a separate storymode, that’s actually something of a lie. There’s a few extra cutscenes as Vergil, mostly at the start and end, but between stages, there’s nothing. There’s not even any difference between the stages or the order you tackle them in – the first stage takes place in Dante’s office, note for note, for God’s sake! Vergil mode basically amounts to little more than a palette-swap with a new set of moves and no story, rather than a ‘true’ new gameplay mode, and while it’s a nice addition, it’s really nothing to get excited about.

What’s more interesting is the re-jigged difficulty levels. We all know how crushingly hard the game gets on account of the difficulty levels being moved up a notch during the translation to Western Shores – our ‘Normal’ is the Japanese ‘Hard’, our Dante Must Die mode doesn’t even technically exist over there, and so on. With the release of DMC3SE, they decided to throw us a bone and moved the settings closer to the original Japanese settings. The end result is a game that’s not exactly easier, as much as it is less frustrating. Lots of people out there wanted to like the original, but were put off by the monumental challenge it offered, even on the sarcastically offered Easy Mode (to unlock: die. That’s it). With this, and a few refinements and tweaks here and there, the game is finally within the reach of even the less than godly of us out there.

DMC3, if you haven’t already guessed, is a phenomenal game, and easily one of the best ever seen in the action genre. The cutscenes are wonderfully overblown, and there’s a healthy vein of self-mocking humour running through it from end to end – anytime Dante does something cool, and takes a moment to congratulate himself on it, events never fail to remind him that he’s still an utter goofball. The controls, the gameplay, the graphics, voice acting and characters all come together to produce an absolutely amazing finished product. It’s even more amazing considering it came out after the second game in the series, an offering so laughably poor, even Capcom themselves are doing their best to distance themselves from it. When a company is more ready to consider a cameo in another company’s game (see Shin Megami Tensei: Nocturne) more canon than an actual instalment of the series itself, it gives you some indication of just how dire that offering must be. DMC3 puts you in the boots of a qualified badass and lets you go wild with some of the most demented attacks and weapons you’re ever likely to see – if you can find a weapon more spectacular than an electric guitar that doubles up as a scythe that also fires electrically charged bats with every riff that, fyi, was also originally a virtually naked succubus not ten minutes ago, for the love of all that is holy, keep it to yourself, less its magnificence tear the very fabric of the universe asunder!

Devil May Cry 3: Dante’s Awakening is, without a doubt, the craziest party you’re ever likely to visit. Let’s rock!

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