Launchers are one of the core elements of Devil May Cry and in general an integral aspect when it comes to aerial combat. How’re you going to get the enemy into the air? What about getting yourself there?
Because there’s a lot of launchers in the series and in later games some get a little bit more nuanced but not in any way that actually provides real value, this is going to focus on Devil May Cry 3 and all of the launchers contained therein, with a succinct description on anything of practical note with the move.
In Devil May Cry 3, there are three ‘main’ melee weapons and two melee ‘sub’ weapons for Dante. Main weapons contain a ‘complete’ move set with just the weapons themselves and without Swordmaster style: they have a rush attack and a launcher besides having normal attack chains/combos with a similar control setup to Rebellion: rush attack when the control stick is pressed in the direction (Dante is facing) the enemy, launch attack when the control stick is pressed in the direction opposite (of Dante’s facing) the enemy.
The launchers on these weapons all follow a certain rule, with the exception that proves it and still technically abides by it, and that rule is that when the input is held, the launcher will follow up from the ground into the air with the enemy who has been launched. It’s a simple and intuitive setup that makes it fairly natural to follow up in the air or choose to instead remain on the ground.
The first core launcher sets the standard for everything to follow: when the input is pressed, Dante launches the enemy with an upward slash. When it’s held, he follows them into the air.
Typically speaking, High Time presents the easiest opportunity to perform most aerial attacks when it’s taken into the air. In my experience, it’s always the best way to go into something like a Swing jump cancel from High Time over other launchers – to the point I actually find it somewhat in convenient to use either Beowulf or Agni & Rudra to replace Rebellion in the role of a weapon to launch enemies into the air.
Agni & Rudra’s basic launcher, Whirlwind has Dante striking enemies with the two swords. When it’s not held, the attack hits once. When it is held, it hits twice, the second time at the apex of the launcher. If this second hit doesn’t connect, typically it’s very easy to drop the enemy rather than actually successfully juggle them.
The overall positioning isn’t too much different from Rebellion’s High Time, but it’s typically easier to go into a more forgiving option like Swordmaster aerial attacks such as Aerial Rave or Sky Dance rather than Cerberus’s Swing.
Rising Dragon is Beowulf’s launcher and it is the exception that proves the rule. Because Beowulf has the mechanic of charging every hit if the input is held, Beowulf’s launcher will charge in the typical scenario of pressing and holding. Therefore, in order to follow-up, the player needs to release, then press the input again and hold it.
The charge level modifies the attack. When Rising Dragon is performed on the ground, the different charge levels only change damage. When the attack is followed up after a longer charge, it becomes a multi-hit attack which is extended depending on how long it was charged.
Supposing the attack is followed up from having no charge, Dante will move forward significantly.
These are the other launchers in the game, which would be more precise to say, these are the other attacks which get enemies airborne but don’t have the same chasing functionality and are more one-off in their usage. That isn’t to say that you can’t use these attacks for multiple things or in different scenarios, it’s just if the above ‘core’ launchers are at least somewhat multi-dimensional, these are usually much more singular.
Their inputs are all unique to themselves and different attacks will have entirely unique inputs.
Probably the only attack that has near the windup of Real Impact, Drive is a very important part of Dante’s moveset because it’s not only a part of his main weapon and therefore a returning feature over multiple games, but it’s also a ranged launcher.
Drive is performed by holding down the attack input and then releasing it. Again, because of windup, it’s precarious to use in situations that aren’t already inherently safe.
The attack also features an extremely impressive range.
As with most launchers that fall into the category of these other launchers, Dante can turn 180° when using Drive.
Prop Shredder is one of the most useful tools in Dante’s overall inventory in Devil May Cry 3, but that’s because of a combination of features which are unique to it besides being a launcher. Usually, at least in my own reference, Prop Shredder is the name I use for both moves in combination: the initiation attack I typically call ‘Prop’ and the follow-up attack ‘Shredder’ mostly for the sake of precision and clarity.
First and foremost, it is a multi-hit launcher, and as long as an enemy isn’t too far away, it will effectively send them into the air. Because it is multi-hit, this has some caveats with DT’d enemies, but get used to all the different ways I can say: I’m not going to tackle that subject here and now because it’s a really complicated one and only pertains to a single difficulty mode and one room that shows up twice in the game otherwise.
That multi-hit and extended active hitbox makes the move very useful for doing different combos. It’s easy to catch an airborne enemy with Prop.
The second major functionality is that when performing Prop, Dante can turn around 180°, which while is a feature of a number of the remaining attacks, none are quite as quick as Prop.
Shredder can be extended by mashing the input significantly.
Finally, because it is a multi-hit attack, most enemies will be launched slightly higher as they’re hit with another launch followed by another just after the first supposing they were on the ground and near Dante. This height is still just within jump height for Dante.
Crystal is a ranged launcher with a shorter range that corresponds to the half-knockback distance.
There’s not a lot to really say about it, but the recovery on the attack is fairly long and there’s not a lot of opportunity to really exploit the unique positioning that it can create within the base game itself.
Dante can turn 180° while using Crystal, though, and that is worth mentioning.
Twister is an extremely fast launcher that acts as the pseudo-ultimate technique for Agni & Rudra in Swordmaster. There’s a few important things about the attack, first and foremost being that it hits quite hard and even though DT isn’t really in focus here, it hits multiple times which all basically translates to, it can launch enemies that’re really hard to launch, in situations that it would normally be really hard to launch them in.
The follow-up Crazy Combo for mashing the input is Tempest. It can even be further extended but that’s of no use to us here. Tempest simply knocks enemies away with a fairly huge amount of damage, but it’s not actually useful for much outside of raw damage in that respect as knocking enemies in the air away from you is typically the most undesirable outcome in Devil May Cry 3.
Dante can’t correct at all while using Tempest, but he doesn’t necessarily need to as the attack hits all around him in an AoE.
Reverb Shock is actually a rush attack which when it connects with the enemy will launch them. Pretty nice in terms of utility and fairly unique in the series as a whole especially in that it keeps Dante grounded, unlike Vergil’s later addition to his Rapid Slash in 4.
The amount of bats it summons is dependent on its upgrade level unlike the other attacks Nevan has which can be charged by holding them for additional bats.
Not every Launcher is good. Okay, this one isn’t horrible, but as you can see, the immediate use for it seems very, very strange. So what’s going on? Well, when Bat Rift is performed without its input being held, it throws Nevan up into the air and this attack itself acts as a launcher which hits twice: the initial impact and a second follow-up hit. It’s basically a grounded equivalent to Whirlwind in that sense.
When the input is held, it starts to charge bats like a number of Nevan’s attacks do as per the weapons overall mechanics, but when you’ve got an enemy who’s point-blank like that, charging these bats immediately hits them – which also stops upward momentum in Devil May Cry 3.
In order to successfully use this, you need the enemy already launched. The ideal way with Nevan itself is to use Reverb Shock, followed by Bat Rift which is then charged. Now, I know what you’re probably thinking: why? It sounds awful to have to do something like this in order to do a combo with the move. The short answer to that is, I think Nevan is intentionally an unorthodox weapon, but it’s a subject that can be explored more in detail rather than just touched on here.
As I said, not every launcher is good, but it does add flavor and uniqueness.
Beowulf Combo I:
Beowulf’s Combo I is unique in that it is punctuated by that launching kick at the end of the combo. Really, it doesn’t do much other than leave Dante grounded and knock the enemy up in the air, but that’s mostly focusing on the discussion of launching enemies and the overall properties of the move itself.
There is one caveat to that, however:
Remember, this is is a Playstation 2 game.
Real Impact is the hardest hitting single attack in Devil May Cry 3, and also the one with terribly long windup relative to pretty much everything else with the exception of Drive.
The follow-up crazy combo is Tornado, and all it really does is knock enemies away and deal a bit more damage unless they’re in a DT state, but going over DT is a whole other animal.
It’s worth noting that the overall behavior is extremely canned and is largely decided on the moment of the initial connection. Once that happens, if Dante is hit or if you decide to do something like perform an enemy step in the middle of the animation, the target will rise fairly slowly regardless of Dante’s involvement.
The usefulness of this probably isn’t apparent at first, but a delayed or slower launch of an enemy target allows for some fairly unique situations. It’s probably one of the only ways you can really work a Wallhike into a juggle without dropping the target, among other things.
Vergil is different, but similar in many respects to Dante. In Vergil’s case, the Force Edge acts as Vergil’s main weapon with a moveset that resembles Dante quite strictly with the exception of no Million Stab and Yamato and Beowulf act as sub weapons with more unique set of moves each.
High Time (Vergil):
As mentioned prior, High Time is essentially the same for Vergil as it is for Dante. There is a caveat, of course, and that’s that thing I’m not talking about, yep. Dealing with Devil Triggered enemies, once again, is the main difference between Dante’s High Time and Vergil’s.
However, there is one major-minor change which is important to mention: Vergil can much more effectively turn around while using High Time over Dante, but it feels a little off at times, either because of the maximum amount of correction or Vergil’s step forward.
Upper Slash is a ground-only based launcher which can be followed up by a second attack that causes knockback. It’s simple and plain, yet fairly functional and elegant.
Tying into Vergil’s mechanics with Yamato, if the complete recovery animation for the attack or the follow-up is allowed to finish, it will count as a taunt so long as an enemy is within taunt range.
And similar to Vergil’s High Time but even better, Upper Slash can turn 180° which allows it to be used in a variety of situations.
While Upper Slash keeps Vergil on the ground no matter what, Rising Sun will put him in the air. This two-hit launcher strikes enemies and launches them both times, which in some regards can make it inconvenient to directly follow-up but enables other options both because of the height they reach and the recovery windows to perform other moves without having to rely on an enemy step.
Again, Rising Sun it can turn 180° which opens up options the same as Upper Slash.
To follow-up into an air combo out of Rising Sun, the best solution is a well-timed Trick. The difficulty in executing the maneuver in general speaks to the overall playstyle of Vergil: powerful, but not necessarily as ergonomic or user friendly as Dante. Not in terms of overall variety, but in the raw functionality of his moves.
There’s some important details overall that are probably fairly obvious, but should still be mentioned for clarity and completeness.
Besides the fact that once again I must state that an airborne enemy technically has some caveats that just don’t really apply to normal gameplay.
The biggest thing is that in Devil May Cry 3, every launcher with the exception of the three multi-hit launchers (Rising Dragon’s charged versions, Prop, Rising Sun) puts enemies at the exact same height at the peak of their flight: a fair bit less than the maximum jump height for a single jump. Obviously, this allows the player to follow up from most any launcher as long as they’re close enough, even if they’re not one of the core launchers that automatically follow-up for the player if the input is held.
The next largest factor, as somewhat covered with Bat Rift, is that hit stun, launch, and knockback have some unique properties in each Devil May Cry game. Something overall that’s a bit much to cover here, but since we’re looking at Devil May Cry 3 these should be covered. It’s kind of paper, rock, scissors: hit stun cancels both launch and functionally resets hang time but it doesn’t stop knockback. Whether it’s on the ground or in the air, knockback remains functionally the same and knocks enemies away from the source of knockback, but, launch will take priority when an enemy that’s been knocked back connects with an attack which launches enemies.
This is sort of a problem with Vergil where you can’t really just constantly spam Summoned Swords all the time when you’re attempting to do combos. Sure, it’ll work most of the time for regular gameplay just because it’s a crazy amount of damage, but in Devil May Cry 3, doing things like having Spiral Swords out or hitting the enemy with a barrage of Summoned Swords as you’re performing a launcher will end up locking the enemy in place and preventing them really even rising to begin with.
This was changed in later titles, but as I said before, big subject which is best suitable for being tackled on its own.
Another extremely important nuance is that Devil May Cry’s jumps probably feel fairly weak in comparison to other games. Not so much because they lack height: that comes in spades. Instead, it’s the lack of horizontal movement available to a player with pure jumping alone. This is in general bad for platforming as most people think of it with horizontal gaps being emphasized quite a lot. However, for Devil May Cry’s combat, the jumps are perfect for careful and exact positioning around in an enemy in the air.
By jumping forward relative to Dante or Vergil’s facing after launching an enemy into the air, it’s easy to put the character you’re playing right on the other side of the airborne enemy.
The last important topic to mention in regards to mechanics is enemy recovery from downed positions. In order of shortest recovery to longest, there’s knockdown which is really only done by a few very specific moves; knockback, which is the intermediate in regards to how long it takes enemies to recover; and finally, launch has the most recovery before an enemy can get back up on their feet.
In Devil May Cry and especially Devil May Cry 3, most of the launchers seem to have similarities overall to anti-air attacks in fighting games. They’re completely different in use in a lot of cases, as I think most players lean towards intercepting airborne enemies with a jump followed by in-air attack, but they’re usually the types of attacks and animations you’d see performing the role of anti-air in a fighting game.
Admittedly, that’s an observation from someone who really isn’t that invested in fighting games, but allow me to continue to my point before you crucify me:
The only rush attack that launches enemies in Devil May Cry 3 is Nevan’s Reverb Shock. I’m not saying that in Devil May Cry all launchers are anti-airs, but most of them seem to fall into the overall category and there’s not very much in the way of chasing an enemy down and launching them the majority of the time.
Another concession which I do have to make is that, inherently, pushing the stick in the opposite direction of the enemy does work out better for an anti-air attack than most other options. It’s a good default when it’s available on a weapon, and in 3, it’s available on, well, three of them like that.
Juggling makes things significantly easier, although not every enemy can be juggled. Most can in DMC3, but it gets significantly more complicated with some enemies, and others outright cannot because of their size and weight. Again, it’s something that plays into a topic which needs covered in detail on its own as far as what reacts and how.
In general I think with Devil May Cry, juggling itself is easy in most cases as well. If I were to point out a reason, I’d say it’s generally because launchers are instantly accessible in most cases and in addition to them being so readily available, they’re typically fast, too, typically coming out at nearly the same speed as regular attacks in most cases. Once an enemy is airborne, both Dante and Vergil have plenty of options to get themselves on the ground before the enemy lands and hit them with another launcher which won’t take a significant windup.
After launching an enemy, there’s also plenty of opportunities to follow-up even with the attacks that don’t chase the enemy into the air. Either with guns or Summoned Swords, it’s possible to deal damage from the ground; attacks like Prop catch and send enemies back up into the air while Shredder can catch them again just for another launcher with High Time. By having all these moves always available, at nearly any point it’s possible to pull out a High Time to send the enemy back into the air.
With most every enemy through most of the difficulties up until getting to Dante Must Die, it’s typically best for damage, convenience, and a whole other host of factors to not finish a combo with a knockback dealing attack but instead use a launcher. While Dante can chase enemies with some of his rushes quite effectively, depending on the load-out for him, a rush which doesn’t immediately knock the enemy away might not be available to him. This is especially true for Vergil who doesn’t really have any options to chase an enemy with an attack and instead has to rely on Trick to rapidly close the distance after knocking a target back.
Players definitely don’t have to do combos in Devil May Cry, but I’d say typically things start formulating in that direction here: yes, chasing the enemy down with some attacks is an option, but what if they really never get that far away from you to begin with?
It’s really not a huge thing worth mentioning, but in my opinion it’s one of those important initial epiphany moments people have when it comes to the series and doing combos in general and emphasizes having launchers always immediately accessible.