The Devil May Cry series saw a resurgence in popularity last year, thanks to the success and critical acclaim of 2019’s Devil May Cry 5. Due to this popularity, Capcom was forced to re-release the original PlayStation titles 2-era series on Nintendo Switch. Now that the first two have been out on console for a few months, it’s time for the one that most fans have been waiting for, Devil May Cry 3: Special Edition, to get its turn.
Over the past fifteen years, the game has become one of the best Devil May Cry games, and one of the best action games in general. And while DMC 3 Special Edition has seen many re-releases, with the latest release in 2018, the version now on Switch has some new features and extra polish that make it the strongest port of the game.
First released in 2005 as Devil May Cry 3: Dante’s Awakening, this game marked the point when the series, which had gotten off to a solid start with DMC 1, really hit its stride. This is where the main staples of the series’ hack-and-slash gameplay are first introduced, most notably the combat style system that allows players to enhance protagonist Dante’s base melee and vary attacks that have different abilities, giving them more options in battle.
All of this is wrapped up in a prequel story that follows a younger, brasher Dante as he starts out as a demon hunter and fights to keep his twin brother Vergil from literally unleashing of Hell on earth. Story-wise, the game keeps things simple enough to serve as a good entry point for newcomers less interested in the series’ mythology and more in its penchant for the epically absurd and over-the-top. that action.
Actually playing the game, however, is another matter entirely. The original release of DMC 3 earned a reputation for being one of the hardest games ever, something that the Special Edition addresses with some major balance changes. However, the game is no cakewalk, as it starts off challenging and only escalates from there, with hordes of primary enemies that hit hard and brutal bosses that hit even harder.
Making things even more confusing for newcomers is the way the game, in true DMC fashion, asks players to not only defeat enemies, but to do it in style. By stringing together different combos, they fill a style gauge that ranks up from “Dope” to “SSStylish” if they can chain together fast enough and not take damage. Aside from rewarding players with more Red Orbs (the currency used to buy items and unlock additional skills), this is the main way players get a high rank at the end of every mission.
Players can have a lot to juggle in the heat of battle, and even a simple battle against grunting enemies can involve multiple transitions between melee combat, ranged combat, combinations of melee that changes depending on the time and length of button presses, attacks that can only be used when locked onto an enemy, and unique abilities tied to each of Dante’s fighting styles. It can be very intimidating to do this in any amount of style, but what makes Devil May Cry 3 work so well is how it encourages players to evolve, to learn the nuances of each weapon, combo, and ability, and experiment with how to link everything in an over-the-top dance of death.
There are so many possibilities, but previous versions of the game limited the amount that players could access at any given time. Previously, players could only equip two melee weapons, two ranged weapons, and one battle style, and if they wanted to change them, they had to head to the Divinity Statues (typically stores/customization menus game) scattered throughout each level. While this isn’t a gamebreaking limitation, it does lead to more backtracking than is ideal, especially since some of the game’s most important items require specific weapons to unlock, players may not be equipped with weapons when they see them.
This problem has been neatly fixed by new features currently exclusive to the Switch port of Devil May Cry 3. Here, players now have the option to play the game in “Freestyle” mode, giving them the ability switch between styles during battle (like in later games) and access all of Dante’s available weapons via the new wheel menu. Not only does this make for a great convenience, it completely erases the combat limitations that the game used to contain. Given enough time, players can effectively access Dante’s entire arsenal and moveset at any time, and with that the combo potential goes from impressive to simply staggering.
Of course, this is still a game from the PlayStation 2 era, and these additions, while welcome, don’t change the fact that it’s still a product of the technical constraints of the mid-2000s. Even in 2020, DMC 3 deals with common camera issues from that era, especially the fixed angles used in almost every game. These can sometimes make it difficult to gauge the distance between Dante and enemies, and even the occasional moments where players can control the camera (mostly boss fights) are often to be sluggish, something that can be a problem when someone is cornered by a hard hit. and fast moving behemoth. For the most part, however, the game is designed around these limitations enough to prevent them from seriously impacting the experience in a negative way, even if they remain a constant, less-than-ideal presence.
To reiterate, these nitpicks don’t really take away from what works so well here. Aside from the simple fun of learning to kill demons with skill, perhaps the best thing about DMC 3 is how it values players’ time. Everything they do with the 12-15 hour story mode and the tournament-style Bloody Palace mode (which now supports local 2-player co-op, another Switch-exclusive feature) can go -unlock new content, whether it’s new skills and upgrades, higher difficulty levels, or the ability to play as Vergil. Along with secret challenges that are often well hidden in the game’s levels, these actually serve to incentivize players to dive back in for another playthrough beyond the challenge of getting a higher rank.
Devil May Cry 3 is certainly showing its age in its most recent port, but it holds up incredibly well regardless, thanks to some of the most challenging yet enjoyable combat of any game in the last fifteen years. There’s a reason fans of both action games and the DMC series remember Dante’s Awakening as one of the best, and with the new features the Switch port brings to the Special Edition, one of the best action games has been better.
Devil May Cry 3: Special Edition is now available for Nintendo Switch. Today Technology was provided with a Switch code for this review.