Saturday, April 7, 2012

Devil May Cry 3: Special Edition - Kicking Ass And Taking Names

I am now at the point in my DMC coverage where I play Devil May Cry 3: Dante's Awakening. While I don't have the original release on hand, I did play the Special Edition, which I believe will serve the same purpose here. Following the release and criticism of Devil May Cry 2, Capcom got a mostly different creative team on board to create a prequel to original Devil May Cry. The end result is a game that will easily rid anyone of whatever taste was left over from the previous installment.

Dante is younger in this installment, having just opened his shop without a name. A man named Arkham walks in one day and presents him with an invitation from his brother Vergil in the form of a demon attack. After Dante rids the shop of the demons, destroying his establishment in the process, a tower rises up from out of the ground not too far away called Temen-ni-gru. He senses Vergil's presence on the tower, accepting it as a challenge to battle. As the story goes on, he realizes that he's in for more than he realized, with plenty of suspenseful twists and intriguing characters to shape all of the events within the tower.

I really enjoyed the story, since it helped to clearly flesh out Dante's character while defining the world as well. It helps that the characters introduced are all interesting and the events are all coherent enough that anyone can follow without having to piece everything together. I enjoyed Dante's cocky and arrogant personality, which not only delivered great funny lines, but also gave a good starting point for his overarching character development over the course of his life. Vergil also serves as an intriguing polar opposite to Dante, putting more thought into his actions and believing in a true warrior spirit that does not allow for the kind of behavior enacted by his twin. The new female character, Lady, is also a good source of character development in a way that shows how important she actually is to the plot and the growth of Dante as a person. Arkham is a mysterious man with an agenda of his own and Jester proves to be an odd yet strangely enjoyable character to watch. Overall, I found it fun to see these differing personalities breath strong life into the game through the cutscenes.

Dante's controls in this game are a bit more complicated than they were before. While the setup is similar to the second game, the purpose of the circle button is now reserved for a brand new gameplay mechanic that allows Dante to perform special moves based on what combat style the player chose. There are a total of six different styles that can be chosen, including the Trickster, Gunslinger, Swordmaster, and Royal Guard styles; Trickster allows access to more evasion abilities, Gunslinger powers up his guns, Swordmaster increases his prowess with a bladed weapon, and Royal Guard emphasizes defense above all else. While I did end up using Trickster most often in my playthrough, the multiple styles increases the replay value of the game by encouraging experimentation with different ways of clearing each mission by finding the most effective one.

The number of weapons in this game is also impressive, especially considering that each and every one handles differently. Choosing the right combination of weapons is also fun, although I did eventually settle on what I thought to be the most effective. The upgrade system for the weapons is also improved upon, as now every weapon can be augmented with brand new moves that increase their effectiveness rather than simply increasing their damage, with the guns also getting their rate of fire improved as well. Since helpful items can be bought as well, and will sometimes be required, I sometimes found myself trying to figure out exactly how I wanted to prioritize my red orb spending.

I also liked how the architecture and enemies were designed. Everything stands out from each other and there is a much better balance of color with the palette used, especially when multiple things were onscreen at once. Enemies look a little intimidating in places and they look appropriately hellish without sacrificing uniqueness. The environments, though mostly within a single tower, do a really good job of feeling different from each other and all seem to have their own personality, including one mission with an organic feel. The effects were also impressive in helping to convey a sense of power or speed as created from the appropriate source, including Dante having a blur whenever he performs the Stinger attack with his iconic Rebellion sword. At times however, when a certain level of effects and enemies are in one spot, the game will lag during a kill.

The music is another thing that sees vast improvement, with an appropriate level of heavy metal during the action and an impressive score that highlights certain scenes or missions expertly.

Two major additions to the Special Edition from the regular version are the ability to play as Vergil as well as access a rather enjoyable Bloody Palace survival mode with 9999 floors. Playing as Dante's twin presents an interesting challenge during play; since Vergil refuses to use guns, he focuses exclusively on using swords and hand-to-hand combat. The fire button makes special glowing swords materialize and fire, an ability which can be upgraded in a similar fashion to the other guns of the game. His arsenal otherwise is limited to the Yamato, Force Edge, and Beowulf weapons. While all three are fun to play with, the lack of options is thankfully almost completely remedied by having more upgrade depth than Dante's.

However, I am a little disappointed in the fact that, while fun to play as, Vergil's campaign is literally his brother's minus most of the cutscenes. Even the bosses are the same, though they recolor Vergil's coat red in an attempt to pass him off as representing Dante. It seems that since he also has a major side in the campaign separate from what's already available, there was a missed opportunity to tell more of that side. Then again, I suppose that trying this may not have turned out that well, so I'm satisfied anyway with what I have, though I'll admit that replaying every mission in the campaign gets a little tiring. Perhaps it is best that the game isn't played in a marathon with both characters.

Devil May Cry 3 is a really great return to form for the series and a fitting way of expanding upon previously established gameplay. The story and characters are all enjoyable and the graphics still surprisingly hold up from its original 2005 release (the Special Edition was released in 2006). I would whole-heartedly recommend Devil May Cry 3: Special Edition to any fan of action games, as this title represents a level of commitment on par with the original Devil May Cry to create a memorable experience worthy of anyone's time.

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