devil's third is a game i feel very sorry for, a late gen wii-u exclusive with a very troubled development, starting out as a passion project by tomonomu itagaki, one of the funniest directors about, almost any story i see about him always makes me laugh, even if i don't always like his games, starting out as a multiplayer focused game at THQ before being spread over several consoles and publihers, changing its gameplay style entirely and always struggling to get made, then releasing to almost no fanfare and in some regions barely coming out at all, with initial prints being rumoured to be only 420 copies total before reprints came along. when it did came out it was met by critical lambasting, considered by many, even players to be a joke and a "so bad it's good game" something i wholley disagree with. the game isn't bad at all
part of it does have to be said that the games platform did play a part in this, i love the wii-u, it's a console with a ton of charm, from its controller, the look and the general vibe. the light controller with a very cute gimmick, the sleek and cozy UI with a fantastic OST to go along with it, and a ton of interesting games that you likely won't see anywhere else. while it may not have the quantity of games vs say the ps4, 3DS or the vita, which was my console of choice that generation thanks to it's many useful and charming features and being the main home to otome games at the time, what it did have was a lot of heart and charm, and almost every exclusive it did have was typically a lot of fun, with features that incentivised the consoles main features. sadly devils third doesn't use the wii-u to it's full potential though, with the gamepad, at least in the single player game being just used as a second screen to play on if you really want to, and i did use it a lot since i found the games aiming was a little easier on it, though gyro aiming would have been very welcome.
the gameplay itself is a ton of fun, combining a fairly fluid, if basic melee system with first person and third person shooting mechanics in a way that feels really unique and fun to use, it's very fast, with guns killing fast and combo's generally killing basic enemies in one combo, add in a fast movement speed and a vanquish style slide mechanic make it all very fluid, sliding into a room with ivan at mach 3 with a flamethrower, katana and bazooka never really gets old and makes me want to pick it up again at higher difficulties just for thr fun of it, something it has over many of it's contemporaries, and even some games today, a vanquish lite if you will. weapon variety is great too, axe's, daggers, katana, duel wield short swords and even a fireaxe and a machete, each with their own combo strings to boot. my personal favourite were the kukri i found in the airport level, fast and a ton of fun to use. it's fairly long too, about 4 to 5 hours over 9 levels with insentives to replay, if you enjoy the base gameplay you should find enough for you to come back for a second playthrough boss fights are great too, dumb as hell, the gun toting boss in the panama level turning into a berzerker midway through and the games final boss being dumb fun standouts, and others like the giant mutant you find in the japan level are absurd and gross, but fun to take on and gives some levety to things, a boss rush mode would have been very welcome. the game's overall difficulty was mixed for me, some bosses like grundhala were huge difficulty spikes, as well as portions of the red light district level, where i was stuck for upwards of 20 minuites, but other sections and bosses are very easy and i sometimes went a whole level with only one or two deaths
the games graphics were something that was heavily criticised at the time, with it being compared to a ps3 or xbox 360 game, with lower res textures and a bad frame rate, which isn't unfounded i guess, the game doesnt run great and unreal engine 3 does give it a dated look, but i think the game looks good, it has a very colourful look depending on the level, with the panama canal's blue sunny skies, the japanese town's white snowy vista's and everything about the edo red light district level all being a vibe of their own, that red light district level was for sure a peak, the snow and environment design had me just stopping to chill and look around a lot as it felt just nice even being there, same could be said for a lot of the snowy environments, which make up the bulk of the game, even the more generic oil rig style level right after the red light district was very chill, with lovely views and a nice aurora borielis in the sky to look up at, which was also visable in the red light district level, skyboxes in general are really nice and just chilling in small japanese style rooms during the downtime was nice, i for sure found myself just taking the scenery in a lot, it has that charming japanese mid gen ps3 vibe to it, like a binary domain or a mindjack, the kind of places that despite being warzones would be pretty nice to explore irl. the game may not as shiny and sleek as what you would find on ps4 but it had a charm to it's look and i can't say the frame rate ever bothered me at all, but i've never been one to care much, i think it's cute and kind of cathartic when a game can barely handle itself, like the boat section in drakengard 3 or the wonders of borderlands vita, it's a vibe i like, not that the game ever hit those levels for me. not all levels hit it out of the park however, the opening prison level is super bland, even if the shiny ps3 textures were cute to see and some areas like ivans bedroom has a lot of nice detail to them. character design hits it out of the park too, ivan for sure doesnt have the most appealing design, looking like an edgier version of something from wheelman, but he stands out in a neat way and he kind of grows on you as it comes along, with him wearing sunglasses 24/7 and never wearing a shirt, it has an edgy tryhard cool charm to it. the villians too have a lot to work with, big mouse is steriotypical as hell but he stood out in a good way, jane doe has a great design that fits her level perfectly, even if the sexualisation is absurd, but in a charming way, C4 looks really cool in a more lowkey way and ludmilla has an outfit i'd totally steal if i could, extra in a way i can get down with. though grundhala is a bit too on the nose and his character model's animations are also very strange to watch, felt a lot like the devs just did not know what to do with him, issac too is a little on the generic side, but his boss fight more than makes up for it, making for a very cool villian troupe overall, something every action game needs. the rest of the cast tend to be a lot less memorable though, beyond some of the monstrocities featured in level 4, who later return near the end in the, admittedly very cool trench level,it's all very generic in a way that i imagine put some people off, feeling like characters out of an entirely different game in some cases with how generic the military characters looked.
sound design isn't bad either, music fits the mood super well and the main menu theme is really nice, soemthing i'd listen to outside of the game for sure, voice acting is fine, ivan being a highlight for how little he seems to care about anything shining through pretty well, gun sounds are fine too, sounding weighty when they need to and light when they don't, not something i really keep an eye on but they all sounded fine to me, both through the tv and through the gamepad's speakers. some standout tracks for me were for sure that menu theme which has a really nice ambience about it, jane doe's boss music which uses traditional japanese vocals and a shimasen to a really good effect, her entire level features a shimasen vocal theme that grows in intensity near the end and it really ads to the atmosphere, creating a real sense of tension as you reach the castle she resides in and the ludmilla theme, which uses electronic beats and operatic vocals in a really appealing way, sounding orchestral but still memorable, something i find orchestral style music has a bad issue of with me. i also distinctly remember one track that played during the traditonal japanese city level, while in a hotel bar a jazzy song plays during that one room, a song i dont think even plays for the entire rest of the game, it's a nice moment of calm, in the middle of one of the games more chaotic levels, and it really stood out
worth noting also is the games multiplayer mode, which had a clan based system and was generally lauded as the games best feature, which makes sense as it was originally developed with multiplayer in mind in the THQ days, it was even released in japan on pc as a multiplayer only title, though both versions have since been shut down, though i hope we someday can get a private server and i can update this segment with my thoughts on it
and really, that's one of the main things i wanted to talk about with this, preservation is a weird and difficult thing with video games, yeah you can technically play devils third, if you already own a wiiu, sure, go out and spend a hundred on a PAL copy and play the short campaign, but are you really even getting the games experiance with that, the game clearly had a heavy multiplayer focus, even early in development, if the game had bots or even a local lan setting then there might be a way to really experiance the game as it should have been, as it sure as hell deserves to be. even if it was the kusoge that youtube funnymen made it out to be, every game should have its chance to shine, most are made by passionate teams of people and have some sort of vision, one where players had run their own PMC's, where you really had to think like a merc and one where they had a fantasy in mind that they really wanted to immerse you into, one where players were digital mercs, carrying out virtual missions, and while yeah that's arguably a little bit cringeworthy and tryhard, it's also super charming and earnest and it's an idea not seen often, if at all and it was a unique vision of multiplayer that should have really been given a chance to shine, and now all thats left is what they thought to include otherwise, which while great on its own, isn't the same, and in that way the game hasnt even really been preserved, games with unique multiplayer features have died all the time, often never repeated, weather its the fragile alliance mode in kane and lynch, with its interesting take on heists, asymetrical multiplayer and betrayal, or chromehounds with its map structure and communication, all of these are lost, who even knows if they may ever return really. preservation shouldnt just be about assets, gameplay and story, it should also be about the experiance, and that's a lot harder to preserve, if its even possible at all.
all in all you should for sure check the game out if you can, emulate it, pirate it, hell if you got that kind of money go ahead and grab a physical copy, just don't fall into the trap of paying american prices, you can really get the same experiance playing your physical on any hacked console, don't believe the youtube funnymen that will apouse it as NINTENDOS MOST EPIC FAILURE, try and it and make up your own mind. valhalla studio would sadly not go on to do much after the games release, basically just having a hand in a 3DS momotaro densetsu game in 2016 before merging with soleil in 2021 and itagaki going on to do some, hopefully, failed NFT projects. soleil themselves are going strong though, having a hand in a naruto game with shinobi striker, helping to make travis strikes again and valkyrie elisum, both fantastic games and going on to also make samurai jack the battle through time and the fantastic looking upcoming spiritual successor to devils third, wanted:d dead.