You Need To Play Devil May Cry 3 Again
There are few periods of gaming history I find more fascinating than the works of Capcom from the '90s to the mid-'00s.
Between Resident Evil, Street Fighter, Monster Hunter, Ace Attorney, and probably another half-dozen hidden gems and fan favourites, it is hard to think of another company with a better output than Capcom had at the time.
Among all of them was a franchise that was never supposed to happen, a series of games that came about by pure happenstance, and one that would define my taste as a young fan of games.
The History Of Devil May Cry
Devil May Cry is the franchise that was never meant to be. For those of you unaware, the original Devil May Cry actually came about as an offshoot of the development of Resident Evil 4.
One of the many prototypes developed for the upcoming tentpole release had Leon S. Kennedy arrive on an island, explore a gothic mansion and fight a horde of monsters. Those monsters became demons, the island mansion became Mallet Island, and Leon S. Kennedy, with his spiffy new red leather jacket, became Dante, the demon hunter.
The game was a surprise hit, for what was essentially the leftovers of a cancelled Resident Evil 4 prototype. It was followed up by an underwhelming sequel two years later, then returned to prominence with 2005's Devil May Cry 3: Dante's Awakening.
This prequel was neither the leftovers of another project nor a rushed sequel. This was a full and true exploration of what Devil May Cry could be, and the findings were very promising.
A Tale Of Two Devils
Devil May Cry 3 tells the story of how Dante set off down the path that would make him the devil hunter he would become. Dante, just 19 years old, opens a shop with the goal of becoming a demon hunter. While he remembers little of his childhood, he knows he is no ordinary human. The only things connecting him to his family are the amulet given to him by his mother, and the sword, Rebellion, left to him by his father.
Before Dante can even come up with a name for his shop, he is attacked by demons, sent as a message. Dante is invited to Temen-ni-gru, a massive tower that has erupted from the ground in the middle of the city. His twin brother, Vergil, awaits him at the top of the tower. Dante knows he is being challenged and sets off to the top of the tower to face off against his brother.
What follows is an action-packed adventure through a mystical tower, fighting all kinds of monsters, both big and huge. Dante and Vergil face off multiple times, the heat of their rivalry matched only by how damn cool their fights are. The story is one of self-discovery; one brother begins to walk his path through life, while the other discovers he may already be on the wrong one.
Hitting Its Stride
Devil May Cry 3 is the game where the series found itself. Specifically, this is where the tone, the style, and the action that Devil May Cry is known for really came into itself. Dante was a lot more serious and melodramatic in the first two games, but here we see a young Dante who is braggadocious, snarky, and full of himself.
These traits were not limited to his youth, as although we would see Dante grow up in later games, he would never lose his cocky swagger. Dante's personality was more than just flavour, however, it informed the character and the gameplay.
Although it was present in the earlier games, Devil May Cry 3 was where the style ranking mechanic came into its own. A core tenet of DMC is that combat is not about how many enemies you can kill, not about how quickly or efficiently, but how stylishly you slay demons.
Now, you absolutely can play these games by just spamming attacks and mowing down your foes, but that kind of misses the point. Using a variety of attacks and weapons will keep your style score high, and also make you look and feel really cool. Devil May Cry 3 makes you the coolest guy in the world, and expects you to live up to it.
Another important part of the series that was cemented here is the fact that, although Dante is just the coolest guy ever, he's also a massive dork. Comedy is an important part of the series, and Devil May Cry 3 knows when to break up the drama and the action with something a bit silly. Devil May Cry 3 touches on several heavy topics, there is plenty of tragedy behind these characters, but that balance of levity and tragedy is a huge part of the game.
Why It Is So Important
What makes Devil May Cry 3 so important is that it did not just set the bar for Devil May Cry games, but it also pioneered much of what has become known as the "Character Action" subgenre. Character action games are a subset of action games that spun off from Devil May Cry, which includes games like Bayonetta, Metal Gear Rising, Vanquish and Ninja Gaiden.
There is an intangible quality that makes a character action game, essentially, they are action games that value looking cool and being stylish over systematically defeating enemies. That may sound broad, and it very much is, character action is more of a vibe than anything else.
That vibe came directly from Devil May Cry 3, and it has gone on to influence many of the best action games of the last seventeen years. Devil May Cry 3 is historically important but by no means a relic. One of the truly astounding things about the game is how well it holds up today.
A HD collection of the first three games is available on all modern platforms, but regardless of how well it plays, the gameplay itself was so ahead of its time that it stands shoulder to shoulder with the action games that came after it. If you have never played Devil May Cry 3, it couldn't be easier, and you owe it to yourself.