LETS ROCK! 18 Years of Devil May Cry 3: Dante’s Awakening

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LETS ROCK! 18 Years of Devil May Cry 3: Dante’s Awakening

It's been 18 years since Devil May Cry 3: Dante's Awakening blessed our screens for the first time. Let's talk about it!


Devil May Cry 3 has turned 18 today. Technically it turned 18 a couple of days but today we celebrate the North American release of this masterpiece because I missed the window of the original date.

There are many, many reasons to celebrate DMC3. While its legacy is alive and well, I fear that its name has slowly faded into obscurity. Even with Devil May Cry 5 ending the decade long dry-spell of the series in 2019, it's important we remember the one that started it all.

Devil May Cry 3 was the first game in the series, properly directed by Hideaki Itsuno, and meant to be an apology and soft reboot of the series after the rushed release of the second game almost killed it.

While the series will always be connected to its creator Hideaki Kamiya, it was Itsuno's expertise in fighting games that shaped the series into a benchmark for action titles.

And that's the thing I want to get across here loud and clear today, Devil May Cry 3: Dante's Awakening is the high bar any action game has to clear. It set that bar so high that it basically invented an entire subgenre we now recognize as the character-action game or spectacle fighter.

When you hear today that something isn't a character-action game and that is why it doesn't require a deep combat system. Devil May Cry 3 is the game that everyone wants to hide from.

It did so much right, despite still being attached to its roots as a Resident Evil spin-off that it should be the golden standard for action games. But let's just talk about the things that make it so great.

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Dante & The Pinnacle of Combat

If I think about video game protagonists of the 2000s, Dante is the one that encapsulates that entire era. Dante did a 360 kickflip over a burning car so Nathan Drake could run.

He's a charming idiot with a heart of gold that tries so hard to be cool. That it actually is cool and endearing at the same time. Even today he still sticks out as one of gaming's greatest protagonists by the virtue of this characteristic alone.

Back then he was the action game protagonist, everyone tried to make their characters either as cool as Dante or deliberately chose to go against it.

Normally the conversation would end here, but it's also his gameplay that sticks out. Once it's fully unlocked, Dante's basic moveset is deep enough to carry an entire game on his back.

But in Devil May Cry 3 he comes with a total of 6 fighting styles that modify and enhance his skills with all his weapons as well as give him unique abilities, like creating clones of himself or freezing time.

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This was impressive back then and still is today, as it turned Dante into the swiss-army knife of video game characters. There was nothing he couldn't do and then there was barely a limit on how you combined all those abilities.

In later entries, Dante would be able to switch between his combat styles. And he'd arguably be as deep as the entire Street Fighter roster rolled into one person.

Enemy Variety

A thing that gets often underrated in game design is enemy design and variety. Devil May Cry 3 has 9 standard enemies, some of them come with large subcategories so the real number is closer to 20.

What is important to mention here is that you don't get your usual standard slog of the humanoid basic enemy, the big heavy with strong attacks and a ranged one. As well as a collection of monsters that look really scary but charge you relentlessly.

Devil May Cry 3 indulges in some of these ideas, but they come with a twist. The slow-hulking enemy can quickly close gaps and finish you off immediately or the ranged Enigma will relentlessly pepper you with ranged attacks and often come in groups so you're always forced to move.

These getting mixed up with each other is already treated, especially when combat happens in special fighting arenas that'll often pose a challenge on their own.

Then there are the boss fights. These range from a little lame like the Heart of Leviathan to epic encounters like the fights with Cerberus or Beowulf.

Each of these fights has its own tempo and requires a lot of skill. While also being tuned to be fought with any combination of weapons and styles. There is one who sticks out though, and we'll talk about him in a moment.

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The Style Meter

If there is anything in Devil May Cry 3 that I want to see in almost every game ever, then it is the Style Meter. It is the smartest thing ever put in an action game even before we had deviously timed parried.

It works very simply, each combat encounter gets graded by the amount of style you show off. Style is affected by timing dodges, and hitting attacks and will degrade when you take hits or repeat the same combo over and over again.

In many action games, even today you'll find yourself relying on one combo and your special abilities to get the job done. Devil May Cry 3 on the other hand, keep in mind the style ranking only affects your score at the end of the level and encourages you to switch things up.

It's such a simple mechanic that could even do absolutely nothing and I'd still be chasing that SSS rating at end of combat. On one side it's because the combat feels so good to pull off, but the constant down-ticking of the Style Meter really encourages you to play harder.

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This also has a fun effect on gameplay. While your initial playthrough might be challenging, going back to encounters suddenly turns into a contest with yourself. Enemies are no longer a threat, you're the threat to them. And maybe Devil May Cry really is just the ‘Action Game Boss Simulator'.

Vergil

Vergil is the reason why Devil May Cry 3 ascended from a really great action game into the benchmark that it is today. He's a feat in both narrative and design that is often imitated but has never been duplicated.

He's your equal in every regard. Not only is the polar opposite of the player character Dante, an exact, precise warrior who has himself in check. He'll also test you throughout the game. Every encounter with him is unique because just like you, he picks up new weapons and skills through the course of the game.

In the story he is framed as an obstacle you have to overcome and the three boss fights you have with him are just that. They are literal walls that will halt your progression until you're able to live up to them. And the game is not afraid to pull punches when you go up against him either.

The highlight is the final encounter you have with him. While Dante has changed throughout the events of the game, Vergil remains the same. Still stubborn when it comes to reaching his goals even willing to go through Dante to get there.

In the last battle, you as Dante have to overcome him one more time and he'll try to overcome you. If you're not prepared to live up to him at the end of your respective journeys, he'll mercilessly destroy you. And there is not a battle in gaming that even comes close to this last clash of wills.

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Just Go Play It!

It bears repeating but Devil May Cry 3: Dantes Awakening remains to this day one of the best titles in all of gaming. Despite some of its older kinks, it has aged rather gracefully and you can still enjoy it today on most platforms.

You can buy it as part of the Devil May Cry HD Collection on PC, PlayStation 4, and Xbox One (so you can also play it on current-gen platforms) as well as on Nintendo Switch. The Nintendo Switch version even features local coop and lets you switch between styles!

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LETS ROCK! 18 Years of Devil May Cry 3: Dante’s Awakening
Timo Reinecke
Has once claimed that FSH is the only job in FFXIV worth playing and stands by that firmly. Top Guy, Smart Guy, Educated Speaker. (sometimes) Writer of all things FFXIV, FGC, News, Reviews and More