Alright, you guys! Are you ready? The time has come (and so have I) to talk about the greatest video game ever made: DEVIL MAY CRY 3!
I've just finished it for the first time in years, via the new PS4 HD Collection (which is an utterly barebones cashgrab that I'd really only recommend buying on sale some time down the line, but is nonetheless a faithful HD-ization of this game), so I'm ready to come at you with my fresh thoughts on this game. Does it still hold up, even thirteen years after its original release? Surely it's been outdone by something in the intervening years? Surely it must be showing its age by now?
Well, I'm not going to lie to you: it definitely shows its age. This is a Playstation 2 game, and there's no ignoring that. It's a game where the camera frames you from fixed camera angles about 90% of the time, and the remaining 10% of areas that give you a little bit of manual camera control come with an inverted X-axis that you can't un-invert. The level design consists entirely of 'Explore until you find a locked door, find the key to that door, then backtrack to the door'. Its economy of earning orbs and buying upgrades is so stingy that it'll likely take two or more full playthroughs to actually buy all the moves you want to use. Platforming is straight up horrendous, and the game wants you to do more of it than you could ever enjoy. Secret Missions come from an era where you weren't supposed to find them without a guide, and even then you weren't supposed to actually beat them without a hundred hours of experience with the mechanics under your belt. The game is difficult, and its checkpoints are pretty unforgiving.
And even certain aspects of the combat fall short. I feel like the later DMC games have always suffered for their insistence on sticking to the original Devil May Cry's control scheme. Your evasive roll is a matter of locking on, pointing your analogue stick sideways (relative to the way you and your enemy are oriented), and then pressing the X button, which is just awkward. The original DMC didn't have any aerial attacks, but when DMC3 introduced them it confined them to the Swordmaster Style, which is a combat style you have to select from a menu before you start a level; same thing with being able to block attacks or dodge in mid-air, they're both exclusive to different Styles. Then DMC4 came along and let you switch Styles on the fly, but it didn't really solve the problem of it being really clunky to have to switch gears in the middle of a fight just to attack while in the air or dodge without using three buttons. Bayonetta, for example, lets you do all that in one perfectly simple and elegant default control scheme, and so does Ninja Theory's DmC for that matter. One of the reasons I'm so excited for DMCV is to see how Itsuno brings DMC back into the modern era with stuff like this.
So, with all those complaints, can DMC3 really be called the greatest game ever made? Well, I think it can, because I still absolutely loved playing this game all over again. It is hard to go back to being restricted in certain ways, especially coming off replaying both Bayonettas last month, but you get used to a different rhythm of dude-fighting pretty quickly, and DMC3's combat is just as sublimely beautiful today as it was way back at launch. It's the nature of video games that new ones build off the old ones, and I feel confident in dragging out the old quote that if Bayonetta has seen further it is by standing on the shoulders of giants. Giant, fantastic action video games. Named Devil May Cry 3. The greatest video game of all time.
God, it's so good, you guys! YOU GUYS! You don't even know! This is a game that starts with a cutscene of Dante effortlessly destroying a room full of demons, then cuts to gameplay with an enemy already attacking you as if to say "OK, now you try". It dares you to get good, and it constantly tests your mettle. "Oh, you can fight basic enemies? How about a boss? How about a boss for the next three levels in a row? And the third boss is two bosses at once, and when you kill one the other one gets superpowered!". Forget your lame Dark Souls; DMC3 was doing Ormstein & Smough years earlier.
It's constantly giving you new tools to play with, new melee weapons, firearms and Styles, and then throwing you up against new enemies to test them out with. The game sets up this rhythm of pitting you against a giant, intimidating boss, and then rewarding you with a new weapon forged from that enemy's soul when you defeat them. Pass the test, get a reward. That is until you come up against Beowulf, a giant winged dog creature who stomps Dante flat and scarpers rather than die and cough up his soul like all the rest. Instead, Beowulf is defeated by Vergil in a cutscene, and then Vergil takes the weapon for himself, and the next time you fight Vergil HE USES THAT WEAPON AGAINST YOU! It's the most amazing moment in all of video games, and I just love it so much. "Oh, you thought you'd worked out the pattern? Try this on for size, pal."
And let's talk about Vergil, because he's the best rival character in all of video games. Character action games need a rival; it's all well and good to fight city-sized mechs or horrible blob monsters, but eventually you're always going to want to pit your skills against your own equal. Sword against sword, gun against gun, team of 100 tiny heroes against team of 100 tiny heroes, whatever the case may be. These fights are almost always the highlight of the games they feature in, but no highlight is higher or lighter than Vergil. Because, while most rivals are merely the second-in-command, the lieutenant of the main bad guy, Vergil transcends them all to become the driving force behind the game. DMC3 teases you with Arkham, the heterochromatic generic bad guy with a bad guy plan (DMC3 might hold the record for highest percentage of main characters with two different coloured eyes: three out of five ), and indeed you do fight him at the end of the game after he absorbs the ultimate demon power and turns into a gross blob... but halfway through the fight Vergil zooms in, declaring that you, the player, "can't possibly think that he deserves to be our main event". You fight alongside Vergil for the remainder of that fight, and then Vergil himself steps up as the real final boss of the game. It's still one of the best bossfights ever designed, for my money.
So, there you have it, the greatest video game of all time. I might have finished it on Normal difficulty, but that's just the beginning. There are no fewer than four further unlockable difficulty modes, each not just altering enemy health and damage values but changing up enemy placements and AI routines, with the hardest mode even giving enemies the same superpower Devil Trigger mode you yourself have as an incentive to kill them quickly. DMC3 is from an era where developers liked to pack a game with unlockables, so each difficulty unlocks cool new costumes to play with, and there's a whole extra mode called Bloody Palace where you fight your way through hundreds of waves of enemies. And then when you're done with all that you can do it all over again as Vergil in his own playable campaign, with an entirely new gameplay style just as deep as Dante's. And that's not even mentioning the absolutely insane skill ceiling this game has if you want to start digging into the mechanics. Back in the day we all learnt to jump cancel from watching tutorial videos on early Youtube filmed off actual CRT TVs with actual video cameras. I still remember the first time I watched Hell Sloth is Dead, the combo video that started them all:
Alright, well, I said I was going to do it, so I guess I have to follow through: a reverse-order playthrough of the Devil May Cry series doesn't count if you don't suffer through DMC2. Oh boy. See you guys next time.
- Maverick-Werewolf likes this