‘Devil May Cry 3’ – A true hack-and-slash masterpiece


Tiger Media Network

Starting in 2001 and created by Hideki Kamiya, Capcom’s “Devil May Cry” series has become one of the most beloved and popular franchises of all time. The first “Devil May Cry” is still a solid action title despite showing its age, while “Devil May Cry 2” is quite possibly the worst sequel of all time. Meanwhile, the 2013 reboot is just a weird and contentious point in the series. Even so, the game still holds a large fanbase due to its stylish gameplay, amazing characters and witty charm. All of this is perfectly exemplified in “Devil May Cry 3: Dante’s Awakening.”

Directed by Capcom legend Hideaki Itsuno, I seriously can’t sing the game’s praises enough. Even with its crushing difficulty and a few hiccups here and there, “Devil May Cry 3” is an absolute masterpiece from start to finish. This is not only due to its fantastic hack-and-slash gameplay, but it’s endlessly entertaining story, action setpieces, and characters, with the game containing, in my opinion, two of the greatest characters in video game history. I can say that “Devil May Cry 3” is one of my new all-time favorites, and “Devil May Cry” is looking to become one of my favorite series. 

  • Released in February of 2005 for the PlayStation 2
  • Directed by Hideaki Itsuno, who co-created the series alongside Hideki Kamiya. 
  • The “Special Edition,” featuring adjusted difficulty levels and additional content (Including a new boss fight and the ability to play as Vergil), was released in 2006. 
  • The Special Edition of “Devil May Cry 3” was later bundled for Xbox 360 and PS3, and then Xbox One and PS4, as part of the HD Collection
  • A Nintendo Switch port, featuring even more modes and content, released in 2020. 

“Devil May Cry 3” serves as a prequel to the entire series, focusing on the series’ main protagonist Dante, a half-demon and the son of the dark knight Sparda, who served humanity centuries before the events of the games. “Dante’s Awakening” sees a much younger, cockier Dante opening up his devil-hunting business, only to receive a mysterious invitation from a man named Arkham, coming from his estranged twin brother Vergil. Soon, Dante is attacked by demons, and Temen-ni-gru, a massive demonic tower sealed away by Sparda, erupts from the ground. Taking this as a challenge, Dante ascends the tower to combat his brother. The majority of the game focuses on the rivalry between Dante and Vergil; all the while Dante slowly begins to realize his place in protecting humans from demons, as well as the importance of family.

The first two “Devil May Cry” games (especially 2) really didn’t have stories to write home about. They mainly just gave context to the world and reason for the players to proceed. “Dante’s Awakening,” on the other hand, actually contains a great story that manages to be both absolutely ridiculous and incredibly well written. A massive highlight of the game is its characters; I’m not exaggerating when I say that Dante and Vergil are two of the best characters to ever grace video games. Dante is an absolutely phenomenal protagonist; a cocky, incredibly laid-back demon hunter who never runs out of quips to spout at powerful demons. Vergil, meanwhile, is the complete opposite: cool, calculated, threatening, and able to kill anything with one motion. The rivalry and interactions are simply gold. This is amplified by fantastic performances from Reuben Langdon as Dante and Daniel Southworth as Vergil, both of whom would respire their roles in future games. 

The cast is rounded out by Lady, a fellow demon hunter who helps Dante realize the importance of protecting humanity and family. Arkham, while certainly not my favorite character, does leave a lasting presence. The characters and writing add so much charm and entertainment to this story that I honestly feel kind of bad skipping cutscenes in subsequent playthroughs. I really can’t praise Capcom and Itsuno for how they handled the story here. 

Now, if I were to go over every single aspect of “Devil May Cry 3”’s gameplay, we’d be here all day. But just know that this game contains some of the best combat mechanics that any action game has to offer. Another thing to consider is that this game, especially the original version, is insanely difficult. Even the Special Edition, which tones down the difficulty modes, can be absolutely brutal at times. But that’s a big part of what makes “Dante’s Awakening” so great for me: the game actively rewards players for getting better. The actual gameplay of “DMC 3” sees you defeating various demons with both swords and guns, with more weapons being unlocked as the game progresses. The weapons, known as “Devil Arms,” Dante acquires range from a pair of nunchucks powered by ice, a pair of swords with fire and wind elements, a pair of gauntlets and boots, and a literal electric guitar that shoots electric bats. Players also acquire a few new firearms, although I usually just stick with the default pistols, Ebony and Ivory. Other guns include a double-barreled shotgun, a sniper, a laser cannon, and a rocket launcher. You gain the devil arms by defeating the game’s bosses, which will absolutely rock you on your first playthrough. When you actually know what to do, the boss fights, despite still being difficult, are still incredibly fun. The fights against Vergil, in particular, should be the gold standard for boss battles. 

The game emphasizes stylish and diverse combos through its style meter: Players are actively ranked on how well they do in combat, with a letter grade from D to SSS. Mindless button mashing will not cut it in this game; you need to actively change up your fighting style and use different moves to do better. The game also allows you to change weapons on the fly with a push of a button, making combo potential that much more significant. And let me tell you: there’s really nothing quite as satisfying as managing to get that coveted “SSStylish!” rank in the middle of a combat arena. At the end of each individual mission, players are graded based on their style points, damage taken and completion time. This awards players red orbs, which they can use to upgrade their gear and acquire new techniques. Later on in the game, Dante also acquires “Devil Trigger,” a powerful new form that greatly increases speed and attack power, and gradually regenerates health. 

Players also have access to four different styles, which alter Dante’s moves in various ways. All of these styles are viable and really fun to use, and what you choose is strictly down to personal preference. Each style can be leveled up by killing demons, and your style can be changed either before each mission or from Divinity Statues, golden statues found throughout the levels. Two other styles, Quicksilver and Doppelganger, which can be used at the cost of Devil Trigger gauge, are unlocked through the story. The four main styles are as follows:

  • Trickster: Focuses on mobility, giving Dante an invincible dash that can be used to evade enemy attacks. Leveling grants Dante an air dash and later a full-on teleport. Perfect for both new players and those who prefer an evasive playstyle. 
  • Swordmaster: Grants your weapons a new, unique attack that can be performed. Leveling up grants even more powerful alternate attacks. Great for those who want to take their combo game to the next level. 
  • Gunslinger: Pretty much the exact same concept as Swordmaster, but with Dante’s firearms. He gains even more powerful alternate attacks as the style levels up. It also allows you to target multiple enemies at once – good for those who really want to see the true potential of guns. 
  • Royal Guard: Emphasizes defense, giving Dante a block ability. Blocking normally reduces damage, while blocking just before an enemy attack nullifies any damage and performs a parry. Blocking and parrying gradually increases a bar that allows players to use Royal Guard Release, an extremely powerful move that can wipe out enemies. Easily the most difficult style to use, but very rewarding for those who stick through it.

Aside from hacking and slacking, “Devil May Cry” also has players exploring linear set levels to find keys or to progress to different rooms, fighting demons along the way. In these missions, you can find various different items by exploring, such as Secret Missions, which are optional challenges hidden throughout the level. There are also various orbs to collect aside from the red orbs, which each have different properties:

  • Green orbs: Restore health
  • White orbs: Restore Devil Trigger gauge 
  • Gold orbs: Can be used to revive Dante upon death
  • Blue Orbs: Increase Dante’s maximum health. Found in shards hidden in levels, as rewards for Secret Missions, or purchased from Divinity Statues. 
  • Purple Orbs: Increase Dante’s maximum Devil Trigger Gauge. Can only be purchased from Divinity Statues.

All of these mechanics go a long way into making “Devil May Cry 3” such a phenomenal game. However, I do have some criticisms to share. 

My biggest gripe has to do with the original version of “Dante’s Awakening.” Now, full disclosure, there is absolutely no reason you should choose the vanilla version of this game over the Special Edition. Aside from the adjusted difficulty, the Special Edition contains so much more content and is more accessible. But if you do decide to play the original, this is where my enjoyment stopped: how deaths worked. Basically, in the original release, if you died without a gold orb to use, you would start the mission over from the very beginning. Just imagine getting through the level to the boss fight at the end, dying because you’re not sure what to do yet, and then getting sent back to the beginning. I remember vividly playing the PS2 original and dying to the first boss, Cerberus, at least a dozen times, and starting the mission completely over. This is not fun, it is simply tedious. The Special Edition remedies this with the inclusion of mid-mission checkpoints, as well as Gold Mode, which gives you unlimited continues. If you want the original experience, you can pick Yellow Mode. That is one big reason I can wholeheartedly recommend the Special Edition over the original any day. 

Other criticisms: 

  • Some of the enemies are just annoying to fight
  • Platforming in this game is beyond janky
  • The fixed camera in certain sections is really annoying at times. 

At the end of the day, however, I can’t speak highly enough about this game. It is next to “Bayonetta” in terms of being one of my favorite hack-and-slash games ever. While its difficulty may alienate some, to me, the process of actually getting better at the game’s combat just makes it worth it, even if I die so many times. Plus, with its absolutely phenomenal characters, especially Dante and Vergil, great story, and incredibly charming and fun tone, you have a game I can never get enough of. This just makes me all the more excited to play some of the other games in this series. 

Nick McCoy is a senior at Fort Hays State University, studying digital media and journalism. An avid gamer and music listener, he reviews video games and songs and hosts the radio show “The Understanding of Nick” for KFHS.