I remember when Wyatt introduced me to Dante, the silver-haired demon hunter protagonist of one of Capcom's cheesier franchises. Here he comes back into our dorm room, overflowing with excitement, brain clearly working faster than his mouth as he rattles off all the amazing things about this character and why I need to get into this game right away. I remembered hearing about the franchise, but as I had never owned a PS2, I had never played one. The one thing I really remembered was hearing a lot of unfulfilled hype about the second title in the franchise. He quickly reassures me that this title is not that game, and definitely worth playing. So, I pop in Devil May Cry 3: Dante's Awakening into his PS2 and see what it's all about.
Three things immediately struck me about the game. First, it was some seriously cheesy stuff. Hilariously overdone cheese that makes me think "Man, those developers in Japan must be a bit nuts." Secondly, the game is -hard-. Like, NES era hard. I was used to games kicking my ass up front, that's nothing new; it was just shocking how badly I was getting beaten. I was even briefly worried when the game's second level ended with a fight seemingly against Death himself. I wasn't sure the game had anywhere else to go but down, but wow was I wrong. And thirdly, and this was the big one for me, it was odd how much fun I was having while dying. Learning patterns, dying, playing with new moves, dying again, breaking random stuff in the background, and dying another time. I didn't care, I wanted more. When I beat the first level and found the game was judging me for how long it took me, how stylish my fighting was, etc, all that did was fuel my desire to get better. I was one level in and hooked. This game not disappoint, and years later, I picked it up again to see how well it held up.
Some memories come flooding back when I boot up the HD edition of Devil May Cry 3: Special Edition. Mostly good, but some less so. Despite all the extra content added in this re-release, I'm actually more a fan of the original version, but I'll talk about that later. Sadly, not every cut scene got the HD treatment, and you can really tell when you're looking at one that didn't get any love. This is mostly troubling because of how extensively the game uses cut scenes; with about forty in total.
It's been a good eight years or so since I last played this game; boss patterns and some secrets come rushing back. At one point, about 5 hours in, I see a hallway and am immediately stuck with a remembered fear. It's not instinct, I remember being in this room and being hurt a lot in the room; it happens again this time. My memories make the game a lot easier than it should be, but it's still a lot of fun.
Taking down bosses and blasting away enemies is no less satisfying. The fact that I'm older than when I first played the game gives me a much better appreciation of the subtleties of game design, but the ridiculous humor still makes me chuckle. A few things haven't changed though: I still think that 4 out of the 6 fighting styles in the game are worthless (and one is fun. but not always effective), the clever and subtle gothic design still gets to me.
My only real gripes come with the changes made from the Japanese release to the US one. With the original game, a core focus was a higher difficulty level outside of Japan than within it, so the overall difficulty and continue system were changed for export, to the result of a much more challenging game. With the special edition re-release (and this HD update of it), the difficulty is toned back down, at least at first. The original US experience can be had, but not until after one completion. Still, it's worth going through to unlock the other content, such as the ability to play as Virgil, Dante's twin brother: both of them are bad-asses in completely different ways, so it's fun to try out a brand new way to play. I also wish some of the bonus content had more weight to it; the extra boss fights are a particular let down, but don't take away too much from the game.
Even a decade later this is an easy title to recommend. If you like action games, a high difficulty curve and aren't squeamish (there are some gory/overly bloody moments), definitely pick this game up. The HD version I got was a $30 digital console download, and that comes with the other 2 Devil May Cry PS2 titles. You could do a lot worse for your money, and Devil May Cry 3 is probably one the reasons so many gamers now have such fond memories of the Playstation 2.