Review: Devil May Cry 3: Special Edition - PS2

Amazing gameplay dumbed down a smidge

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Good: Gameplay just as amazing as ever, playable Vergil, Turbo Mode

Bad: Certain aspects of Vergil, easier difficulty, new continue system

Most ridiculous weapon in gaming history: The guitar that shoots out magic electric bats

When Devil May Cry 3 was released early last year, gamers and (some) critics complained about its extreme difficulty. Before the game came out, I started worrying about why they were saying this. Were the enemies cheap? Was it hard to control? Turns out, these people apparently just sucked at the game. It was a masterpiece of hardcore action gameplay, and was one of the more rewarding games to master of this entire generation. Yes, it's challenging. We're talking "beating Mike Tyson in Punch-Out" challenging at times. Dante Must Die mode could turn even the most experienced gamer into a dead man within seconds.

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Flash forward to January 2006, and Capcom has decided to drop the price and add some significant bonuses to the already excellent game. Most of these additions are welcome, but a couple are very disappointing. For instance, the new continue system is absolutely horrible, and completely destroys the challenge of the game. When you start a new game, you can choose between Yellow or Gold continue systems. Yellow is the standard, meaning that if you die, you have to restart the entire level. In this mode, you can purchase expensive yellow orbs that will allow you to continue from the most recent checkpoint. With Gold mode, you can ALWAYS start from the most recent checkpoint, with no penalty whatsoever. Even worse, you can get gold orbs that allow you to continue from the very spot you died on. Bosses become a joke with this addition of gold orbs.

In the original release, the Normal setting was the same as the Japanese Hard. This was the perfect difficulty for a first run-through, but Capcom has made Normal far too easy with this new version. In SE, the Hard setting is the same as the initial Normal. The back of the box touts a new Very Hard setting, but it's essentially the same as the original Hard difficulty. Dante Must Die is still enormously challenging, but it's disappointing that Capcom caved in to the critics that wouldn't take the time to get truly good at the game.

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There is a new Bloody Palace mode, which is a series of 9,999 arena battles. After each wave of enemies, you can choose to either skip ahead 1, 10, or 100 levels. It's a great way to collect orbs and practice new moves. The Jester character is now an opponent in a fairly enjoyable new boss battle. It takes place in a basic circular room, but he has enough interesting attacks to make it a welcome addition. Also new is Turbo Mode, which makes gameplay run at 120% speed. This takes an already fast-paced game, and makes it even more frantic and chaotic. I love it.

Without a doubt, the most significant update is the addition of Vergil as a playable character. He only has one style (Dark Slayer), and it's similar to Dante's Trickster. Unfortunately, he doesn't have a true double-jump, which makes certain sections of the game far more difficult. He has three melee weapons: Force Edge, Beowulf and the samurai sword Yamato. Many of the moves Vergil performs in his various boss battles can now be controlled by the player, which is great. Those familiar with DMC3's story know that Vergil doesn't use firearms. While Dante may still wield dual pistols, shotguns and a bazooka, Vergil uses only magical swords that he summons out of the air. They're slower than bullets, obviously, but also more powerful. When upgraded, these swords can surround and protect you.

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Unfortunately, a crucial technique in DMC3 was jumping into the air, and then using pistol shots to hover above an enemy (while simultaneously pumping countless rounds into them). It was a great way to dodge attacks while simultaneously getting some offense in. Considering that Vergil's swords have no recoil, he doesn't hover in the air at all when you hit Square. This is probably my biggest complaint about playing as him, as I lived and died by the old hover technique. There are a couple added scenes featuring Vergil, but they're disjointed and jarring from the narrative of the story. It makes no sense to see Vergil in a library, then in Dante's shop for some reason when the first mission starts. Throughout the 20 missions, there are three boss battles with Vergil (when you play as Dante). It would only make sense that you would fight Dante when you play as Vergil. Unfortunately, you simply face off against a red-clothed version of yourself.

While Vergil has only one style at his disposal, Dante still has his original four. Trickster is great for dodging attacks and moving quickly. Gunslinger features some ridiculously flashy shooting techniques (whipping your shotguns around like nunchucks, spinning in the air while firing pistols, etc). Swordmaster greatly improves the number of melee attacks you can perform, and Royal Guard is a defensive style. Gunslinger and Swordmaster are my personal favorites, but certain situations are helped greatly by Trickster. My main complaint with the original involves what I believe to be a total oversight by the developers. There are four styles, and it almost seems obvious that the D-pad should function as a means to switch between them. Instead, you can only switch them at the beginning of the mission or at special statues. The ability to switch them on the fly could open the doors for some extremely impressive combos, but this has sadly been forgotten once again.

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DMC3's story still features some of the most over-the-top cutscenes that I've ever seen. The video that plays before the first mission is still one of my all-time favorites, and all of these can be rewatched in the new Demo Digest mode. We've seen the evil twin brother character so many times in games and movies, and Vergil (or as I like to call him, "Liquid Dante") is no different. Everything revolves around an evil priest, a pendant that Dante possesses, sibling rivalry and a demon-hunting young woman. None of it is particularly interesting or deep, but the action in the cutscenes makes it worth watching.

Graphically, DMC3 isn't terribly impressive, but gets the job done. It doesn't look much better than the original DMC, but it's still packed with well-designed and visually interesting characters and enemies. It actually looks far better on a smaller TV, as playing it on a big widescreen HDTV really makes the 'jaggies' stand out. Voice acting is similarly average, and the music is still pretty awful. Enemy noises, gunshots and other sound effects are top notch, however.

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When it comes down to it, Devil May Cry 3 is all about gameplay, and it pulls that off better than 95% of games. If you invest enough time in it, you can get so good that you literally won't get hit even once. Other admittedly great action titles (God of War, Ninja Gaiden) feature the occasional cheap hit or undodgeable boss attack. With DMC3, you'll recognize enemy behavior, know which style to use and when to dodge. Landing the final blow on Vergil in mission 20 is still one of the most rewarding gaming moments of recent memory, and even moreso if you're on Very Hard or Dante Must Die. Don't let the naysayers and critics fool you DMC3 is the pinnacle of hardcore action titles. In fact, in terms of pure action gameplay, I'll go as far as to say it's the best of all time. It's still better than God of War. It's still leagues ahead of Ninja Gaiden. Do yourself a favor buy this game, set the continue option to Yellow and play on Hard your first time through. You'll get beat senseless for a long time, but your hard work won't go unrewarded.

Graphics: B

Sound: B

First Play: A

Last Play: A+

Gameplay: A+

Overall: 96% A

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