One of last year's most challenging games is somewhat kinder and gentler in Devil May Cry 3: Dante's Awakening - Special Edition. Purists might scoff at the milder difficulty level of the still-tough hack-and-slash action, though they'll probably like the decent new bonus features added to this budget-priced rerelease--especially the ability to play through the game's levels as Dante's ruthless twin brother, Vergil. At the same time, those with a lower threshold for pain than DMC3's established fan base should appreciate this update, since the punishing difficulty was really the only reason 2005's DMC3 couldn't be wholeheartedly recommended. Ironically, though, while making the game easier might make it accessible to more players, the gameplay isn't quite as deeply satisfying. Of course, in terms of content, this is largely the same exact game as before, so it's still close to being as impressive and exciting as ever--one year after it originally debuted.
Devil May Cry 3 fans will enjoy playing as Vergil in the Special Edition but shouldn't expect a new story. Meanwhile, new players will wonder what all the fuss concerning the game's difficulty was about.
What made DMC3 such a great game in the first place was its flashy presentation and its fantastic combat. As the brash demon hunter Dante, you can literally kick all kinds of otherworldly ass top to bottom, courtesy of your various over-the-top firearms and melee weapons. Split-second timing is necessary to avoid your enemies' ferocious counterattacks, and learning to dodge properly and to not get blindsided by an occasionally awkward camera angle definitely takes time. But eventually, everything feels just right, and suddenly you're making mincemeat out of tons of foes--pulling off spectacular combos involving multiple weapons, thrashing foes up into the air, high in the sky, and down to the ground, and then finishing them off while they're lying helpless at your feet. It gets all the more intense when you're battling the game's numerous boss opponents, which are arguably the highlight of the experience. Occasional puzzle-solving and backtracking offer a brief respite from the carnage, but otherwise they aren't particularly exciting aspects of play.
Those familiar with the original version of DMC3 will want to know exactly what's different about the Special Edition. Being able to play through the missions as Vergil is probably the most noteworthy addition, but the optional new continue system is the change that has the most dramatic impact on gameplay. In the original version of the game, you needed to purchase yellow orbs to continue from a nearby checkpoint when you died. These orbs were prohibitively expensive in the beginning, and the system itself was fairly confusing anyway, so there was a very steep learning curve that revolved around forcing you to replay entire levels only to get beaten over and over again by tough boss monsters waiting for you at the end. The new continue system is far more lenient, since it lets you continue from a nearby checkpoint as often as you wish, and if you have a gold orb in your inventory, you can bring yourself back to life right where you died. Having two (or more) lives with which to beat the game's bosses makes all the difference in the world, and it goes a long way toward making the legendary difficulty level of DMC3 a lot less remarkable, for better or for worse. You've still got the old continue system to use if you want it, but most players will naturally take the path of least resistance.
The optional new continue system and the easier default difficulty setting are well suited to those who shied away from the original version of DMC3, or those who just couldn't hack it.
On top of that, the default "normal" difficulty level in DMC3: Special Edition is a lot easier than in the original US version of the game. For whatever reason, the "normal" difficulty in the original US version was equivalent to the unlockable "hard" difficulty of the Japanese version. But now, the "normal" difficulty is equivalent to last year's easy setting. Combine the new gold orb continue system and the now-reasonable default difficulty level, and you've got a game that's still pretty tough in spots, but nowhere near as off-the-deep-end as the original US version. If you still end up having trouble, you'll unlock an easy difficulty mode after dying a few times, and this setting is true to its name--it's a whole lot easier than the dubiously named "easy" mode in the original release, especially when combined with the new continue option. Multiple tougher difficulty modes are also made available as you successively finish the game, including a supposedly new "very hard" mode that's really just a new label for last year's game's hard mode. So fans expecting an even stiffer challenge probably won't find what they're looking for here. After all, not only are there no new difficulty settings, but the new continue option fundamentally makes the game a lot easier no matter the setting you choose. And the game is easier still if you play through it as Dante's counterpart.
If you've played through DMC3 already, you know that Dante's brother Vergil has deadly fencing skills and lightning-fast moves, and you'll find that all of his attacks are at your disposal when you play as him. His quick-draw attacks with his Japanese battle sword can devastate multiple enemies at once, and instead of guns, he can summon limitless mystical swords that fly out and pierce his foes. Later, he can upgrade these weapons to form defensive barriers and more. In fact, he's considerably stronger than Dante, at least at first. He's got access to three useful melee weapons right from the start, and he also starts out with the devil trigger ability, which grants him temporary invincibility and health regeneration--truly a lifesaving skill that Dante doesn't learn until a good way into the story. But is stronger really better in this case?