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Warning: This review may contain spoilers, read at your own risk.
Devil May Cry 3: Dante's Awakening is the third instalment of the Devil May Cry series for the Playstation 2, although really, this game is a prequel in terms of storyline. The game's story is set before that of Devil May Cry and its sequel, Devil May Cry 2 ('sif the second one had a story to begin with), where we see a younger and much more.. different, Dante. Basically, the story is that Dante, the son of the demon Sparda (who rebelled against his own kind many moons ago) actually has a twin brother, Virgil. While Dante is.. off doing his own thing, whatever that may be, Virgil is pretty damn evil and sneaky, attempting to somehow bring the Demon world to the Human world. To start off, a massive tower known as the Devil's tower literally pops up from beneath the earth right near Dante's new and unnamed business. Dante, discovering that Virgil is responsible for this, decides to go to the tower, go inside and climb to the very top, and kick Virgil's arse. I haven't described it very well obviously, but this game, unlike Devil May Cry 2, actually has a decent storyline.
Just like the previous games.. this game, packs a hell load of action. The controls are tight and precise and the game is quite easy to jump into (although the difficulty of the game might have something to say about that), although it is difficult to master of all Dante's abilities and techniques. Controls are quite simple, the left analog stick controls Dante's movements, X will allow Dante to jump, pressing square will get Dante to draw his pistols (followed by tapping square) Ebony and Ivory, and repeatidly firing at his targeted enemy. Triangle will allow Dante to draw his sword and attack nearby targeted enemies with some melee combos, while the circle button will allow Dante to perform specific moves with the fighting style he is using (which we will get into later). R1 will allow Dante to target an enemy (followed by L3 to change/cycle through targets), while L1 will allow Dante to activate his Devil Trigger (transformation), once he acquires it of course. And finally, L2 and R2 cycle through Dante's weapons. R2 cycling through his melee weapons, or 'Devil Arms', and L2 cycling through his guns.
Unlike the previous games, this sequel allows Dante the ability to use fighting styles, giving Dante new abilities and techniques with use of the circle button, as well as other buttons depending on the technique. First there is the default style 'Trickster', which allows Dante to perform extremly fast evasive moments, such as dashes, to wall running to air dashes. Next is the 'Sword Master', enabling Dante more techniques with his sword. The third style is the 'Gunslinger', which (just like Sword Master) gives Dante a wider array of techniques to use with his guns. The final style is the 'Royal Guard', a tough style that focuses on avoiding damage through use of counter attacks. There are two more styles, however they are to be earned throughout the game.. anyway, the more of a style you use, the better you become at that style. As you progress through the game, you will gain experience for that style, and thus acquiring higher levels with that style, leading up to further abilities, tricks and techniques. My personal preference is the Trickster style, due to the fact that evasive moves (in my opinion) are a necessity for avoiding damage, it also helps due to the game's difficulty.
A problem with this game that I had, and I'm sure many of its players will have, is its difficulty. Normal mode, which I played and finished the game on, is very difficult. Apparently, the non-Japanese version of Devil May Cry 3's normal mode, is the Japanese version's hard mode, and it wouldn't suprise me. You will be against hordes of enemies who may cause Dante some brutal damage, while in the cinematics of the game Dante seems like he can take alot of punishment, in-game, he seems quite fragile at first. Players will also dislike the fact that when you actually die, you will have to restart from the very beginning of the mission you are on. This can be extremly annoying for boss battles, as if you lose to a boss, you will be sent back to the beginning of the level, having to do the entire thing again (unless you possess yellow orbs, items that let you restart in the area you were just in, not lives, but 'continues'). As you get more experienced in the game however, the game will start to get much more fun, as you get to utilize the styles and weapons Dante acquires, and use it to own a can of 'whoop-ass' on your unfortunate opponents.
The game's combat revolves around a 'style system'. As you fight enemies, a style meter may appear in the top right corner, incidating just how hardcore and professional Dante is. It ranges from such things as 'Dope!' to 'Alright!' to 'Showtime!'. Of course, the 'better' the word, the higher it is. At the end of each mission, there will be a final score determined by your style, whether its how good you were at fighting, how much damage you took throughout the entire level, how quickly you finished the level etc. In terms of combat, your style is depended on how good you are, you can raise your style by being non-repetitive in combat (using different combos and attacks) and avoiding enemy damage. Once determined, you will be awarded with a Devil Hunter Rank, ranging from D (worst) to SS (best), which then you will be rewarded with red orbs. Red orbs is pretty much like money, used to buy items, buy new actions and abilities as well as upgrade your guns, all done outside of missions in the 'Customize' area.
Unlike the previous games, one of the coolest aspects of the game is weapons. Dante can acquire many new weapons in the game, from melee (Devil Arms) to guns, each one being different from the other. In the previous game, Dante could acquire new swords, but they were just the same really, still swords, same fighting style etc. In this game however, Dante finds totally new weapons which allows him to fight with a totally different style, and use completly new combos, attacks and techniques. Weapons ranging from a three headed nunchucks, two elemental swords, fisticuffs, and even.. a mystical guitar ("Let's rock!" <insert air guitar here>). In terms of guns, each gun is different, whether its firing speed, range, and general damage. When it comes to actually equipping these weapons however, players can equip two Devil Arms, and two sets of guns, of course they could only use one at a time of each. My personal taste is, players should always carry the default weapons as primary weapons (the Rebellion sword, and the Ebony and Ivory pistols), then choose as they please for their secondary/other weapons.
Capcom usually does it well, and in this game it has been done yet again. The visuals of the game are fantastic, Dante's animations are awesome, stylish and realistic and the environments themselves look great. The music varies, but it depends on taste really, as the music tends to specialise in heavy metal rock, similar to that of Rammstein (it fits perfectly into the game in my opinion). Although with the limited soundtrack, the music can become quite repetitive. The sound and music though however are great quality, and the game even supports Dolby Pro Logic II. The cinematics, are wonderfully presented, usually featuring Dante pulling off some insanely unrealistic moves, similar to that of Square-Enix's Final Fantasy VII Advent Children. The voice acting is also rather impressive, unlike Capcom's Resident Evil series.
I'm not sure however how kindly fans will take to Dante's new.. or perhaps "old" design.. in the previous games, Dante wore purely black and red and had a very dark appearance. In this game however, he dones an open red leather coat over his shirtless torso, and black leather pants. He also uses words such as "Break down!" and "Wooh!" in combat, and even on occasion busts out dance moves and whatnot. This may be a very bad choice of words, alot of players may see this as "queer" or "gay", but in a way it works quite well. Because basically, the character of Dante is an arrogant wanker who just doesn't give a damn (until later on in the story, of course). He may talk big, but he's definetly got the strength, the moves and the skills to back it up.
In terms of the game's length, it's rather difficult to say if this is a long, or short game, but I'd say for a first time run through? It'd be an average length game, taking me just over twelve hours to finish the game on normal difficulty (within five days). The game does offer replay value, as it allows the player (once they have finished the game) to go through the game once more, using their unlocked abilities and techniques. Ontop of that there's also other stuff to unlock, such as costumes, difficulties, artwork and other stuff like that. This probably doesn't sound very exciting, but it is cool and fun to go through the game again with your unlocked potential, and say "Hello you bastard!" to all the old bosses that may of given you a hard time, it's as if you get to play as what Dante truly should be - a bad ass.
So overall, this is a pretty damn good game in my book. It could of been longer, and there could of been more depth to the styles and weaponry, but this is still pretty good. If you don't own this game, but plan on buying it? I suggest don't, instead, get Devil May Cry 3: Dante's Awakening the Special Edition, that game is just this one, but with so much more. It's one hell of a ride, and the combat can be so much fun, when you're not dying and being sent back to the beginning of the level.