It’s no secret that great action games don’t age particularly well, and it’s hard not to expect the worst when you’re dealing with three titles as influential and ceaselessly imitated as Capcom’s original Devil May Cry trilogy. From Bayonetta to God of War to Dante’s Inferno to Darksiders to Castlevania: Lords of Shadow, the core DMC formula continues to be tweaked and toyed with to this day, with many of those pretenders (Bayonetta in particular) being widely regarded as palpably superior. But despite already feeling like they’re from a very different gaming age, Devil May Cry and its sequels still hold up exceptionally well. This HD package may be decidedly bare bones – thankfully though, the Special Edition version of DMC3 is the one that’s included here – and the level of polish is somewhat inconsistent, but the wonderfully gripping, madcap quality of all three games has been surprisingly well preserved.

Perhaps it’s the close proximity to the masterpieces that bookend it, but the biggest surprise here is that Devil May Cry 2 – so widely reviled back in the day – doesn’t seem anywhere near as weak as it did just under a decade ago. It remains way too easy and the dearth of decent puzzles still make it feel like a watered-down play for the mass-market, but it succeeds as affable, mindless entertainment now that the colossal weight of expectation isn’t here to bury it alive. That said, Devil May Cry 2 is merely a breezy and forgettable side dish. The aforementioned duo of thoroughbred masterpieces – and they are masterpieces – are as substantial and dizzyingly well made as they always were, and either one of them alone would be worth the asking price here.

For the uninitiated, DMC1 and DMC3 are two games that are not shy about thoroughly stressing you out. In both cases, combat is straightforward enough from the off, but you’re forced to incrementally expand your move-set as you progress. Both games become quite ridiculously taxing if you aren’t prepared to move at their breakneck pace, and a few instances of antiquated design actually add to the overall experience. The orbs that enemies drop when they’re offed – vital in helping you to level up as quickly as possible – don’t automatically drift towards you like they do in most games of this kind; they vanish after a few seconds. This constantly forces you to amend your plans in the heat of battle, and it adds so much underhanded tension to the experience that it’s hard not to lambast the current trend for simplifying titles of this ilk.

And like the very finest action games, you have to really be on the ball if you don’t want to get destroyed; enemy attacks are signalled by a constantly fluctuating combination of visual and audio cues, and making zen-like sense of all the havoc is as breathtaking and energising as anything in contemporary videogaming. As far as genuinely detrimental flaws go, there’s only really one: Devil May Cry HD Collection doesn’t manage to evade a recurring problem amongst so many of these HD re-releases, so you’ll still have to exit the disc completely if you decide that you want to jump into one of the other two games. It’s an inexplicable inconvenience that really shouldn’t be there, but in the end it’s a small price to pay. The original Devil May Cry and its scintillating second sequel remain as dazzling as ever.

Devil May Cry HD Collection is available now for the Xbox 360 and Playstation 3.

Watch the launch trailer for Devil May Cry HD Collection below:

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