Devil May Cry 3 Special Edition is widely considered by many fans to be the best Devil May Cry ever made. It defined what the series would end up becoming, and even in the Special Edition’s original state, it is still beloved to this day.
When Capcom started to bring the original trilogy over to the Nintendo Switch, no one would have imagined that they’d do anything more than bringing over the already solid HD remasters from PlayStation 4 and Xbox One, but they surprised us all by going a step further here. The Switch version of Devil May Cry 3 Special Edition caught many people’s attention when it was announced to feature on the fly weapon and style switching, alongside local co-op for the Bloody Palace mode. This brings the game up to the standards set by the sequels, and I found that it completely changes up the flow of the game for the better. The best part? These are completely optional, so purists have access to the entire original experience on the go if they wish.
Devil May Cry 3 Special Edition is a prequel to the original game, with the original subtitle even being called “Dante’s Awakening,” featuring the youngest Dante to date. His twin brother Vergil summons a demonic tower that destroys the city Dante lives in, but, more importantly, destroys his shop and ruins his pizza dinner. He decides to climb the tower to knock some sense into Vergil, kick some demon ass, and look stylish while doing it. Like with all Devil May Cry games, the plot is simple yet effective. It is worth noting that if you’ve never played a game in this series before this is a completely solid starting point.
There isn’t much to be said about this game that hasn’t already been said, since many people view this as one of the best games ever made. I played it on PlayStation 3 around 8 years ago but found it to be a bit too stiff to finish a full playthrough. Upon reflection, I think this was because of my inexperience with the genre, the brutal difficulty, and style switching being locked to only Divinity Statues. You could only have one style active at a time, with only two guns and swords you could switch between.
Now that I’ve revisited it I can say that even without the additions of this port, the game feel of Devil May Cry 3 Special Edition is simply phenomenal. The combat feels great, with so many details to it that went completely underappreciated by my younger self. At its core, it feels incredibly fast-paced and responsive, and I’d argue still feels a bit better than even the recent Devil May Cry 5. I just hated that in a game with so many options available to the player, it forces you to only pick so little. Now that this complaint has been remedied, I had a blast going through it for the most part. I think the game relies on backtracking and enemy reuse more than I would have liked, and levels that lean into this design choice are easily the worst in the game.
When you start a new game you are given the option to pick the new FreeStyle mode, which maps each of the styles to a direction on the D-Pad and lets Dante switch between every single weapon and gun in his arsenal with a tap of the triggers. Up is for Trickster, which focuses on letting Dante dash around enemy attacks and expands his aerial movement. Right is for Swordmaster and left is for Gunslinger, which both give each respective weapon type new attacks outside of the normal ones to allow for more combo potential. Down is set to Royalguard, letting Dante block and counter attacks.
There are two unlockable styles you get throughout the story that I won’t spoil, but returning players should know that these can be switch to by double-tapping either the left or right d-pad. For those of you looking for more precise weapon switching, it’s worth noting that holding the triggers gives you access to wheels to precisely pick the weapon you want. Being able to switch between these freely made the game feel amazing to go through, cutting back on artificial difficulty of having an incompatible style to a certain set of enemies and just making it overall much more fun to play. Styles level up by killing enemies, with each level gaining you new abilities which often will completely change how you approach fights.
This is because each combat style adds changes to every single weapon Dante has, so when you level them up you’re suddenly given a bunch of new additions to your overall moveset. I wasn’t sure how this change would work at first since the game was never designed around this, but I found it fit perfectly. Giving players more options leads to a combat system that removes tedium and makes everything come down to pure player skill. However, because you’re given so much to experiment with at the very beginning it’s a lot easier to learn the game’s mechanics. You learn to adapt to what’s thrown at you, making battles feel more exciting than they ever were. Because I wasn’t punished with wasting time running back and forth to the Divinity Statues, I even ended up using styles I would have never bothered with before. I still mainly used Trickster and Swordmaster, but Gunslinger, in particular, was fun to combo into every once in a while. I have yet to replay the game on Hard, but I can imagine how fun being pushed to your limits would feel with freestyle. This is the most fun I’ve had with combat in Devil May Cry, because it fleshes out a brilliant set of fundamental gameplay mechanics with great quality of life touches.
The other addition, co-op Bloody Palace, was a lot of fun to go through with a buddy. Player One is set to Dante, and Player Two is set to Vergil. Each player can customize their character how they see fit and gain their own set of orbs. On normal floors, both players share a screen and the camera does a good job of keeping the focus on each of you. Unfortunately, bosses are another story, bringing the game to a top and bottom split screen that halves the frame rate. Devil May Cry 3 Special Edition just wasn’t made for this, but I’m happy this feature was added anyway since it serves as a fun side mode that doesn’t affect the main game in the slightest.
Besides everything I mentioned, it’s received a solid port to the portable home console. Docked looks to run at 1080p 60 frames per second, and handheld is 720p 60 frames per second. I played a lot of the game on my Switch Lite, and it held up great on the smaller screen. Outside of co-op Bloody Palace, I never noticed the framerate dipping a single time. If there is one critique I had with the game’s presentation, it would have to be just how quiet it is. I had to turn my Switch to full volume just to hear the voice acting in the cutscenes. This isn’t exclusive to undocked play either, with docked play making me need to turn up my TV.
Overall, I’d say that Devil May Cry 3 Special Edition is a must-play for newcomers looking for a fun action game and long time fans. It is easily the best version of this game to date, providing a solid conversion and a ton of new features that remain optional for those who might not want them. Unless they add these to previous releases, I can’t see myself playing any other version but this one. It exceeded my expectations and gave me one of my new favorite actions games that I’ll be going right back into as soon as I’m done writing this.
Version Tested: Nintendo Switch
Review copy provided by Capcom