perjantai 17. tammikuuta 2014

REVIEW - Devil May Cry 3: Dante's Awakening | PS2 | 2005

GENRE(S): Action
RELEASED: February 17, 2005

I started it, I might as well go all the way; although Devil May Cry 2 didn't give me any extra motivation to do so, I headed straight into the third game after the previous one's invisible end credits to find a remarkably better game. Devil May Cry 3: Dante's Awakening is a prequel to the original Devil May Cry, once again directed by Hideaki Itsuno despite his previous butchery; everything that comes to its thematics and general vibe is a remarkable example of Capcom actually listening to players. The game has received many honours as one of the greatest PlayStation 2 games ever made, but it was also criticized for its tough learning curve in contrast to its ultra-high difficulty. After its initial release in February 2005, the game got a "Special Edition" (Platinum release) in early 2006, which featured revamped difficulty, the Bloody Palace survival mode from Devil May Cry 2, new optional fights, a Turbo Mode allowing for faster gameplay, and finally, the chance to play as main antagonist, Dante's twin brother Vergil. This version of the game has since become known as the "official" version of the game, despite originally being a budget release, as it was included in 2012's Devil May Cry HD Collection instead of the original game. So, because of that, and the fact I'm really not up to totally donating my ass to science, from the two choices I have, I'll take Devil May Cry 3: Dante's Awakening - Special Edition. It's still not easy, and it's ridiculous. But it is good.

Inferno rises

Reuben Langdon : Dante
Dan Southworth : Vergil
Kari Wahlgren : Lady
Adam D. Clark : Arkham / Jester
Mary Elizabeth McGlynn : Nevan
Lani Minella : Female Spider / Reaper
Larry Leong : Monsters

Young Dante has just set up his yet unnamed agency and gets a visit from a man calling himself Arkham, who extends him an invitation by his brother Vergil, to a final confrontation between the two - the last time the twins fought, it was the latter who prevailed, but failed to get his hands on what he wants, which is Dante's half of their mother's amulet. This relic has the power of connecting the human and demon worlds. Dante heads to Vergil's tower, unaware that there is another soul seeking revenge on Vergil's associate Arkham, and she, in all her distrust and recklessness, could prove to be another problem.

Settle down, Fido.
I got the Devil May Cry HD Collection from a special Halloween sale on PSN, it was kinda one of the many early Christmas presents I got for myself - hey, there's gotta be an excuse for every purchase! It was fitting 'cause I had just bought DmC for the PS3, and after getting the collection, I decided to hack these games through before taking on DmC. Along came Bayonetta, as well; I thought that if I played and reviewed that game, why not go all the way and get this Satan Might Weep series out of my system at the same time? The first game was a surprise, after all these years it still had power. If I had any of the same respect for it ten years back, it would probably be one of my favourite games ever. The second one was a horrible disappointment. Not even a disappointment - more like an embarrassment, which I'm still sure was carved off some totally unrelated stock draft of an action game. My hopes for Devil May Cry 3 were not very high - which makes it an even better throwback to the good old days. Those good, old, hard-as-hell days, with slick punchlines and cocky demonic antics to cap the deal. It all goes to extremes, but it's enjoyable nonetheless.

In a nutshell; Devil May Cry 3 is out to clean Itsuno's slate and make people forget all about how bad Devil May Cry 2 was, but at the same time, it's out to remind of but outdo the first game in every way, and cut every remaining loose tie to Resident Evil the series might have. Now that sounds like a mess, 'cause the game's familiarity to Resident Evil fans, how it was like a mission-based, much more tense and physical Resident Evil, was one of the keys to its huge success. So what's this like, then? More of those wide open, but also extremely repetitive and completely empty areas? No. Devil May Cry 3 takes a quite linear, but also constantly action-packed, extremely challenging, in a word: TIGHT, route. Let's get that challenge bit out of the way right now: even if this Special Edition is supposed to be easier than the original pressing of Devil May Cry 3, it does not tolerate mistakes. It's totally unforgiving from the very start to the very end. If you thought Devil May Cry was hard, and saw Devil May Cry 2 as what it was - ridiculously easy - then the good news are that Devil May Cry 3 is a step back to the extreme challenge of the first game. The "bad" news are, that it's much harder than the first game. No less than one of the hardest games of the last ten years; right up there with the different editions of the 2004 reboot of Ninja Gaiden; and let me remind you once more that this is supposed to be the "easy" version, kind of like Ninja Gaiden Black and Sigma. The first battle is easy, 'cause it's full of tutorials, but since the game is basically a run from battle to battle, and the second one takes place very soon - with just a cutscene in between - don't be surprised if you get your ass handed to you as early as in that one. I did. Embarrassing, considering I had just beaten both of the previous Devil May Cry games - but only natural, since despite better controls than either one of them, the game really is that much harder.

Blowing the roof off the local nightclub.
Few puzzle-laden buildings built out of backtrack aside, Devil May Cry 3 is pretty much a straightforward run through levels scattered with secrets, including the classic secret missions, which are just as difficult from the very beginning as the rest of the game - actually moreso, very much more. Of course, the "impossible" difficulty of the secret missions is only make-believe on the game's behalf on some occasions, 'cause you can return to any mission at any point with better upgrades to seek out the secret mission and nail it down. Returning to missions is a good idea to grind for red orbs, too. You don't have to worry too much about having the currency to buy stuff - but what you do have to worry about is trying to hold on to that stuff like dear life. That's hard. Although this version of the game introduced checkpoints to the mix - very generous, surprisingly well crafted checkpoints - once again any power-up you might've used before a sudden case of death is vaporware once you respawn. If the current challenge is simply too much for you to bear without those power-ups, and you cannot cope with just maximum health heading into the confrontation once more, there are two options left, as always. You either backtrack to the nearest Watcher (I've been scolded about this, it's officially called a Divinity Statue... whatever!) to buy some of those power-ups with your hard-earned red, or reset the mission.

Resetting missions was way easier on the mind before, I tell you - some of the missions in Devil May Cry 3 might be quite damn lengthy and brutal. Just like 90% of its boss fights - my mind travels back to a certain mission on _the first half of the game_ with a huge "puzzle" (relatively speaking), a couple of regular fights against annoying enemies which lasted for ten minutes each, and finally, two major bosses, of whom the latter was extremely likely to kick your ass if you didn't go prepared, as in knowing who or what you were going to face for starters. Not a mission I'd gladly do again... but I absolutely had to. My ass cries blood. The hardest thing about Devil May Cry 3, since it's "just another" hack and slash game? Well, in no other hack and slash game has a slight bump to the head munched away at a quarter of your health. In turn, there aren't many games from that time that gave you the option of changing the difficulty level to an easier one at any time - I think God of War was the first. Devil May Cry 3 lets you do that, and "Easy Mode" has never sounded so good. Still haven't been able to fight off my pride with that issue, I'm still struggling, but I find it very likely that I'll end up beating the game on Easy, just to see how the story "ends".

A dysfunctional family.
My biggest problem with Devil May Cry 3 is a wholly personal one. Devil May Cry was totally over the top, and Devil May Cry 2 was dry as a bone. So, they had to make an even flashier game than the first one, and about triple that flash 'cause the previous game was so bad. It's like Itsuno had to prove he knew what he was doing. So here we have the most annoying version of Dante ever - young, cocky, loud (WOO! WOO! WOO! WOO-HO-HOO!), just everything that everyone always expected. Everyone, except me. I was just fine with Kamiya's original creation. I also could've breathed a little easier if Dante didn't find amusement and entertainment in absolutely everything hazardous, and I definitely could've coped without a demonic guitar being added to your basic equipment at some point. I can't really explain what kind of a main character is a good one, 'cause I know it sounds like I'm always bitching about something especially when it comes to guys like Dante. Let it be known right now that unlike everyone else - who might've liked the game but hated their beloved protagonist's wholly different being, with only his demonic flash and bling intact - I LOVED the Western Dante in the DmC reboot. But, that's a story I'll save for later.

All that being said, I always liked the outline of this story arc of brothers Dante and Vergil - I just always thought it could've been presented better, with better cinematic vision and voiceover work. But, the outline is indeed good, and seeing how Vergil became what he was in the original Devil May Cry is yet another reason to play the game. You can also play this version of the game AS Vergil. A new intro movie makes believe that it's actually a whole different scenario, but unfortunately it's not - it's the exact same game, without cutscenes, and Vergil has instant access to all core weapons and abilities. The last boss is not Dante or Vergil, but a guy stylized like Vergil and dressed like Dante. Fans call him Vante - clever.

Vergil shows how shit's done. But his mode is
actually quite boring.
The only major gameplay change I would like to address before wrapping this baby up is that you have access to four different combat styles - five, if you count Vergil's Dark Slayer. Trickster relies on fast evasion, Swordmaster on effective melee combos, Gunslinger on guns (duh), and finally, Royalguard on neutralizing and countering enemy attacks. You can change your style between missions and at each statue, but the catch to embracing just one style and holding on to it is that you level up after a certain amount of kills - that certain amount being best described as shitload - earning new abilities. This colours up the gameplay quite a bit, even if we're merely talking about a change to one single button's functions. Devil Trigger isn't activated before far along the story, so you might want to check which style suits you the best early on - you're in for some tough shit before you get your hands on godmode.

The best thing is, that you'll want to keep trying, storming through that tough shit. If this game was built like Devil May Cry 2, I'm not so sure if you would've had the interest to push on. In terms of audiovisual presentation, Devil May Cry 3: Dante's Awakening is not my favourite game in the world, and I still prefer the level design and general structure of the very first game, but it's got an interesting plot outline, good controls - which can always be compared to another PS2 game of the same genre, but let's not do that, let's not be unfair - and it definitely does not miss out on extreme amounts of explosive action or legitimate challenge. It's not as good as the first game, but dozens of times better than Itsuno's last take.

+ Way beyond the first sequel in every possible way in terms of true Devil May Cry
+ Speed, tension, challenge
+ Checkpoints (only in the Special Edition, I gather) - gotta love 'em
+ The option to replay missions
+ Different combat styles available for different players
+ Great graphics, even today...

- ...Just the cinematics (including the music) are not to my personal liking
- A little too extreme and sudden changes in characterization; Dante, from lifeless zombie to attention deficit
- Awkward structure, switching between straight-shot linear and just confusing and disorienting - the latter feelings are mostly brought on by the STILL crappy camera
- It's still unfair when it comes to power-ups; use a health item in a boss fight, die, go back to the checkpoint, the item's gone. Though it's not that hard to stock up on red orbs in the game, a casual player still has to spend most of them on something else than useful, long-term upgrades.
- The chance to play as Vergil (exclusive to the Special Edition) is not as awesome as it sounds; it's just like Trish's extra "scenario" in the previous game 

< 8.2 >

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