Devil May Cry 3: Special Edition Hands-On

Vergil is back and totally playable in this revamped version of last year's hit action adventure game that features a new boss, a new mode, and some other interesting new options.

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Devil May Cry 3: Special Edition is the upcoming extended version of the original Devil May Cry 3 featuring the opportunity to play as Vergil, Dante's nemesis and brother. Vergil's armed with his brand-new "Dark Slayer" fighting style, and apart from him, you'll also get to battle against one new boss, experience adjusted difficulty levels, use an alternate continue system, and play in a survival-arena mode called Bloody Palace. Like other extended editions of late, DMC3: Special Edition will retail at a lower price point than the original game (it's effectively the Greatest Hits version), and is currently set to ship at the end of January for $19.95. We got the opportunity to sit down with a near-final preview copy of the game and experience what the new character, moves, and modes had to offer, and came away with renewed excitement for one of last year's best action adventure games.

Contained within this Special Edition is the complete original game, and in fact, if you've not yet played Devil May Cry 3, you won't be able to pick up the Special Edition and begin playing as Vergil or in the Bloody Palace immediately. Your two options for unlocking them are to either have a level clear save from the original DMC3 on your memory card, or to play through the Special Edition as Dante. Whether you start the Special Edition as Dante or Vergil, you'll be able to opt between two continue systems.

The original but sometimes-maligned continue system, based on using yellow orbs, is still in the game, which means that for as many yellow orbs as are in your inventory, you'll be able to restart the game from the last checkpoint (as opposed to the beginning of the chapter). But there's also a new continue system called "gold orb." You'll be able to purchase gold orbs instead of yellow orbs (albeit they cost more). As long as you have gold orbs in your inventory, you'll be able to pick up the game right where you die, and when you run out of gold orbs, you'll always be able to restart from the last checkpoint. This makes the game significantly easier for newcomers to the series, who'll effectively gain multiple lives against the game's tough bosses, yet the option of a rigid difficulty is still there for purists.

Because the main attraction of the Special Edition is a new character and a new move set, we jumped right into the game with coldhearted, spiky-haired Vergil. The game's difficulty modes include Easy, Normal, Hard, Very Hard, Dante Must Die, and Heaven or Hell, but, as in the original, only Normal is available at the start. Very Hard is the new mode to this game, although it's equivalent to the Hard mode of the previous version. Devil May Cry 3's notorious difficulty has been toned down quite a bit, thanks to what could be best considered as these "more realistic" naming conventions. Normal mode is a little more reasonable than before, easy mode is actually kind of easy, and the other modes are worthy of names that have the words "hard," "die," and "hell" in them. Of course, what this means is that anyone who has gone through the difficulty progression in the original game will find this one to be less of a challenge. The appeal will then come from the survival mode, Bloody Palace, and playing through as Vergil.

Vergil has a bunch of splashy new moves, and the hairdo to match.
Vergil has a bunch of splashy new moves, and the hairdo to match.

The single-player campaign with Vergil mimics the Dante campaign almost identically, with only a few concessions made on behalf of the story. You'll get to watch an entirely new introductory cutscene in which Vergil is confronted by Arkham in a library, in what appears to be their first-ever encounter. Vergil demands to be left alone, drawing his sword for emphasis, but changes his mind when Arkham suggests that people can be seduced by evil. Arkham departs, making a few hints about "going to his place" for the "item we seek," and you'll be able to watch Vergil dispose of a few enemies with his sword, slick back his hair (which has flopped down, Dante-style), and walk off. Next thing you know, you're in Dante's office for the first mission. The way this is done, there's a bit of disconnect between the new Vergil cutscene and where the gameplay begins. And unfortunately, this was the only brand-new cutscene that we saw in this version.

Other places that had cutscenes in the Dante version lack cutscenes completely here, including all those pertaining to Jester, since as Vergil you get to actually fight him instead. This brand-new boss fight is interesting, but Vergil's Dark Slayer fighting style is the perfect counter to the teleporting Jester, so it will not be nearly as challenging as fighting some of the other bosses in the game. The first brotherly encounter on the rooftop is the same fight as in the original game. The character you battle uses Vergil's moves, but wears a red coat. What's interesting and strange is that during the fight, the character model in our version initially looks like Vergil (with the hair back) and later like Dante (with the hair down), despite using Vergil's moves. This could end up being different in the final version of the game, although it will be interesting to see how this is explained (if at all) in the story.

Vergil's three weapons include the Yamato, his deadly Japanese sword, which he wields using the distinct sword-in-sheath quick-draw style; Beowulf, the gauntlets-and-greaves combo that Dante gets toward the end of the original game; and Force Edge, a pair of battle swords. The attack combinations with any of these are executed similarly for Vergil as for Dante, but with different results, including different moves for the Beowulf such as the Lunar Phase, a new spinning kick executed when you target an enemy, attack, and press forward on the analog stick. Although there seem to be the same number of moves for each weapon, so far we haven't unlocked any additional standard combos (normally executed when you take specific pauses during the attack).

The Bloody Palace survival mode gets harder with each consecutive level. There are 10,000 levels. Prepare to die.
The Bloody Palace survival mode gets harder with each consecutive level. There are 10,000 levels. Prepare to die.

Of the three weapons, the Force Edge is the fastest and easiest to use, so we found ourselves upgrading it the most. The other two weapons make use of Vergil's strength and extraordinary reach, which means you can dispose of enemies quickly. However, using them with style will be a completely new challenge. You can cycle between the Devil Arms at will during gameplay, but you will not be able to replace Vergil's standard "guns." These take the form of swords that he summons, which fly in the direction that he is facing or toward the enemy he's locked onto. When it makes contact with an enemy or an object, a summoned sword crackles and breaks, but not before doing at least a good bit of damage.

What's particularly interesting about Vergil's ranged attack is how different it is from Dante's signature Ebony and Ivory pistols. It may be a little more difficult to make contact with enemies, even when you're autotargeting them, but it does significantly more damage. Where the Ebony and Ivory often feel like they're simply staving off the enemy (when they're not part of the puzzle of defeating it), Vergil's swords actually take off a good chunk of health. This might change the way you fight against the bosses, making some a little more challenging, and others simpler. We also noticed that you don't get the weapons from Cerebus and Agni and Rudra (or from Jester, for that matter). Meanwhile, the Dark Slayer style is similar to Dante's Trickster style (only with a much cooler name). It lets you teleport short distances, and when used in the air in conjunction with the targeting button, you'll teleport to the nearest enemy. As you level up the Dark Slayer, you'll learn other teleportation evasions, such as being able to teleport to a spot directly above where you're standing. Since you can't block in Devil May Cry 3, teleporting out of harm's way is one of the best ways to avoid taking damage.

This game has the difficulty options that the first game should have had.
This game has the difficulty options that the first game should have had.

Bloody Palace, the survival arena mode that wasn't in the original Devil May Cry 3, lets you battle a few waves of enemies using any of the weapons in your arsenal. After you've cleared the enemies onscreen, three warp points appear. The warp of flames lets you skip 100 levels; the warp of lightning is for moving past 10; and the water warp will simply take you to the next one. This lets players of greater experience move on to the more-difficult levels swiftly, without having to play through each one along the way. We also checked out the new "turbo" option, which supposedly makes gameplay 20 percent faster. It does in fact increase the gameplay's pace, but you need only nuance the way you fight to accommodate for it.

All in all, the opportunity to play as Vergil (who controls quite a bit differently from Dante) and in the Bloody Palace both provide a whole new spin to the gameplay, while the easier difficulty settings provide more accessibility. This leads us to believe that players of all competencies will find some value in this version of the game, particularly if they feel in the mood for just a little more Devil May Cry 3 action. We're curious to see what will happen to Vergil's version of the story, since at the moment it seems much less coherent than the Dante campaign, but we hope to get all those answers and more when the final version comes out later this month. Stay tuned for our full review.

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