I apologize for taking this long to review DMC3. I have been playing it, really! It's just, life has a funny way of sneaking up, ambushing you from behind, placing an empty potato sack over your head, dragging you off to some dark corner, and tying you to a chair, where it interrogates you mercilessly for several days until you run out of excuses for not participating in it...
But you're not here for that, are you? Let's get this party started!
Straight out of the gate, DMC3 delivers where its predicessors flopped miserably: dialogue. Not only is the voice acting MUCH improved, but actual conversation is had! It's utterly remarkable! Increasing the writing budget was totally worth it. Hiring that ex-Power Ranger wasn't a bad move, either. DMC3 scores another point for its soundtrack. The musical score and choreography blows the first two games out of the water. I don't think there's one thing they did wrong here.
But the improvements don't stop there. Just at the end of mission 3, which is really the first non-tutorial mission, Dante gets a new weapon. Not a new sword, a whole new weapon. One of my complaints about #2 was how boring the combat got with only one set of attacks. (Granted, I usually stuck to one weapon in Devil May Cry, but it was nice to have the option of a different one.) Cerberus is still one of my favorite weapons of the entire series. The real innovation here isn't just the crazy cool weapons, but also the ability to switch between weapons mid-attack. It's a system that worked so well, they brought it back in the fourth game.
Combat controls also went back to their origins, forgoing the dependence on the left analog stick and returning to the timing of your button presses and the enemy lock-on. Comparing 3's system to the original, though, DMC3's controls are slower. It's funny to think of a high-action game like DMC as slow, but DMC3 does seem to increase the required lag between input commands. Not saying it was a bad change, just surprising. Because of this, though, they were able to take advantage of the crazy system.
Something the dev team team did keep from the second was the large variety of enemies. Each one could generally be defeated in the same way (sword-to-face), and they tended to be one-trick ponies, but the different designs and audio cues put a lot of visual interest into the game, which keeps the mind involved, which is required to stay on the top of your game. There's no recurring bosses here, either; all shiny new, all the time, except of course for the Capcom-required level where you fight them all again.
Another great thing that deserves mention is the camera. DMC1 and DMC2 both suffered from poor camera angles, but I could definitely tell the design team was trying to improve upon it already in 2. The camera angles in DMC1 followed closely with its survival horror predecessor, Resident Evil, with cameras that showed little of the room you just walked into and left whole sections of areas out of view. The second game tried to fix that by moving the camera back, but they overcompensated, and cameras were quite often too far away to really show the action. In DMC3, they got it just right! Now I can see how cool I look as I beat up these enemies!
The icing on the cake for DMC3 is the story. I know it threw the initial origin story for Dante out of canon, but honestly, I like the change. I like what they did with Vergil, and Lady is one of my all-time favorite characters! The new story is so successul because the writing team gave each of them personalities and motives. They have emotional depth and personal story backgrounds, and there was actual chemistry between the voice actors that helped to make them all believable.
Now that I've gushed about how much I like the game, allow me to nit pick the few things I didn't like.
The number one complaint I have is the Devil Triggers. I know, I know, there's a huge story involved with the DT design of DMC3 and they're supposed to be super special and all, but... They look like cartoons. That really clashes with the style of the rest of the game. And gameplay wise, they don't stand out as much as DT in the previous games. They do increase running speed, but their bonuses to damage, jump height, and whatever else seem rather minimal. Compared to the unstoppable powerhouse that was Dante's Majin Form in DMC2, DMC3 DTs are kind of a let-down.
The second thing I would have liked to have improved was the level up system for Quicksilver and Doppelganger styles. The fact that they don't improve kind of deters me from playing them. Why should I use Doppelganger when I can level Swordmaster instead? I suppose it won't matter after I've maximized the other styles, but, why not get creative and add some tricks for Doppelganger and Quicksilver? Maybe increase the amount of time each DT Rune lasts in Quicksilver, or give us a special tag-team attack with our shadow.
The level designs are superior to the second game's by far, containing a lot less wasted space and much more detail and hidden Orb caches, but I would have to say the first game's overall layout was still better. Even though I've played this game before, I have forgotten a lot of what I needed to do or even where I was supposed to go. For some missions, this didn't matter because they were fairly linear. For other missions, I found myself backtracking needlessly and running all over the place just trying to find where I needed to go because the goals weren't well defined. I'm sure the developers were trying to encourage exploration and wanted to give the game a less linear, more open feel, but DMC just doesn't work that way I'm afraid.
As a parting note, let me remind you that DMC3 is my favorite DMC to date. I love the costumes, love the music, love the perfectly applied comedy, and I especially love the ability to play through missions individually. If I was stuck on a desert island and given a choice of only one DMC game to bring, it would be this one.
So far I've only played through Dante's missions, but I'm not done with the game yet. Stay tuned for my mini-review of Vergil's camapaign!