DIRECTIONAL CHANGEWithout Lock-on activated, Dante can change direction between each strike within a combo string of any of his melee weapons; this includes the extra Swordmaster Style strikes on the Style button. Separate your attack and Style button presses into singular strikes in time with your directional changes on the analogue stick: this will allow Dante to change direction on each strike of a combo string or Style button attack. How fast Dante will react to the directional change is dependent upon the melee weapon currently equipped. For example Cerberus strikes are instant; they can change direction multiple times and can easily interrupt oncoming attacks from any angle - Nevan on the other hand is only effective for changing directions if the Style button attack is used, and will only allow for a single change in direction. This directional change technique is best used for crowd control if you're surrounded or to stop an attack from behind or from the side while you're fighting an enemy in front.
When fighting a group of enemies try not to commit to a single enemy with Lock-on. Think of Lock-on as a shift key to access Dante's command attacks and evades during combos: while Locked-on you can use direction + button commands, sideways rolls and forward or backwards flips. However during Lock-on you cannot change direction freely; if you're Locked-on to an enemy in the middle of a combo and an attack comes in from a different angle you will have to get out of the way, which will break up the flow of your attack.
The above video is an example of what happens if you overuse lock-on; not being able to deal quick strikes in opposing directions will cause you to lose your position and break your attempt at a combo string.
In the above video Dante is targeting the white reapers while keeping the black reapers at bay. A quick singular strike in the direction of an oncoming attack will stop it in its tracks and allow Dante to carry on the combo against his original target immediately. Notice that the Lock-on crosshair only appears upon initial targeting and during command attacks (such as the uppercut) - by not totally committing to Lock-on against a single target you'll be free to react to danger from any direction.
If you badly need to hold your current position and a directional change attack wonít be quick enough or is out of range, use a short jump. Dante's standard short jump (tap the X button) goes straight through attacks if timed correctly - it's excellent as a quick emergency evade as you can carry on your combo during or after it. Tap the Jump button as an attack is going to connect and Dante will perform a quick upwards jump - it easily sails through physical attacks and, if you get the timing spot on, even explosions!
WEAPON SWITCHINGCertain strikes within an equipped weapon's combo strings can be instantly cancelled into strikes with the other equipped weapon. This allows you to create your own customised strings by switching back and forth between your two melee weapons, cutting out the finishing sections of combo strings by interrupting them.
The trick is to find which strikes of each combo chain can be interrupted smoothly into the strikes of your other equipped weapon. You can freely change direction on each strike as you would while using a single weapon, by not sticking solely to Dante's standard combo chains you can attack constantly and tag command attacks in any way you like.
ATTACK LINKThe general rule in Devil May Cry 3 is that a command attack of one melee weapon will link straight into a command attack of the other equipped melee weapon. Linking an attack with another attack using the equipped weapons in turn allows you to create rapid versions of existing attacks, extend existing combo strings or create big combos which chain many different Special moves together in quick succession. The end animation frames of a Special attack can be interrupted by the opening animation frames of another Special attack, this feature speeds up the transition between the attacks.
Rapid Stinger as shown in the above video is a perfect example of how you can use animation cancel tricks to improve existing attacks. Both weapons (Rebellion and Beowulf) have similar forward dash stab attacks, by switching between weapons you can rapidly repeat this forward stabbing motion which you would not be able to do with a single weapon. Rapid Stinger is an excellent tool both for destructive power and its ability to chase down an opponent.
Keeping lock-on enabled when an enemy dies will cause the next nearest enemy to be targeted automatically. This feature coupled with the ability to chain Special moves together allows you to chase down enemies which have been knocked away easily; Dante will target and track the enemy automatically, which leaves you free to think of horrible things to do to them!
Dante's Swordmaster specific Style Attacks (direction + Style button or Style button alone) will also chain together, cutting the final animation frames of each allowing a smooth transition. The same rules apply; you can chain a Style Attack from one weapon directly into another Style Attack from your other equipped weapon.
Notice in the above video Dante does not completely finish the animation of one Style Attack before the next one is initiated - these are the kind of links that work superbly in combos.
Trying to link the Style Attacks of a single weapon together does not have the same effect. You will notice in the next video that Dante returns to a neutral standing position after each move finishes completely before being able to start another. These delays will get you in trouble - use the Weapon Switching technique to eliminate them!
Using the same two weapons; the next video shows the difference it makes if you switch between them for each Style Attack. The ending frames of each Style Attack are cancelled and the animation links straight into the next Style Attack performed - Dante never returns to a neutral standing position allowing you to perform combo chains with the Style Attacks.
FLOATINGSwordmaster allows Dante to perform melee strikes mid-jump; these attacks are called Aerial Raves. Off a single jump you can perform one strike with the Attack button which is usually a singular strike, or (with the exception of Beowulf) a combo attack string with the Style button which will not cause Dante to lose height for its duration. If you could somehow constantly repeat these Style button attacks Dante would be able to float in the air much longer and away from danger - well, you can! In the air, the techniques on the offense buttons (Shoot, Attack and Style) will interrupt eachother. For example, if you hit the Style button a few times to perform a few hits of an Aerial Rave, pressing the Attack or Shoot button will stop the combo dead and Dante will be free to start it again from the beginning. The same thing will happen if you press the Attack button, however with certain weapons the Attack button moves are diving attacks which will bring you straight back down. I find the easiest method is to interrupt the attack I find most floaty with a single shot of Ebony & Ivory: this allows you to go straight back into the same attack which you can then interrupt with Ebony & Ivory again and so on.
Using Ebony & Ivory between each set of the same aerial attack is not the only way to repeat them; Weapon Switching then performing an attack with your other equipped weapon will also have the same effect.
AERIAL RAVEAn Aerial Rave combo is the action of juggling an enemy knocked into the air via an uppercut. You can catch enemies in Aerial Raves as they jump or you can initiate the combo yourself via any attack which launches the enemy upwards. There are two types of uppercut Dante can perform: a standard uppercut will keep Dante standing on the ground; a rising uppercut on the other hand will cause Dante to fly upwards. From a standard uppercut you can either jump up at the enemy to initiate an Aerial Rave or stay on the ground and juggle them with gunfire, melee or suitable special moves. A rising uppercut causes Dante to automatically fly upwards at the same rate as the enemy so that you can immediately start an Aerial Rave using melee or gun attacks without having to jump at the enemy yourself.
The Swordmaster Style allows you to use the Style button to access exclusive extra melee strikes in mid-air. Aerial Raves can be extended in exactly the same way as ground based combos using Weapon Switching to interrupt combo strings on the Style button before they end. Speed, range, number of hits and the rate in which Dante loses height is dependent upon which melee weapon is currently being used. As per the Floating technique, you can also quickly fire off a shot or two with Ebony & Ivory to stop a combo chain so that you can instantly repeat it or another combo chain with your other equipped weapon. With the exception of Cerberus, and to some degree Nevan, the Attack button during Aerial Raves will perform an attack which is best used as a finishing blow - it's far more Stylish to tag this type of move onto the end of the combo or to stop a combo when you're losing altitude.
SHORT JUMP CANCELShort jump cancelling is the action of interrupting the upwards motion of a jump by performing an attack. It's a nice little technique which enables you to quickly add aerial attacks into ground-based combos; an example of this would be ground-based strikes into Beowulf's Killer Bee and then back into ground-based strikes upon landing, or using Short Jump + Air Play as a quick way of charging bats with Nevan without breaking your flow of attack, all in one smooth movement. You cannot buffer the attack into the jump in advance - doing so will delay the execution of the attack until Dante reaches the peak of his jump. The cancellable sweet spot within the jump is signified by the air rush sound effect you hear when Dante jumps - activate the move to cancel the jump ON or slightly after this sound effect. Getting this right will shorten the jump to around 1/3 of its height, giving you a fast aerial attack which will connect against a ground-based target.
After a non-rising uppercut you can also use the Short Jump technique to jump up at a launched opponent to deliver Swordmaster Style's Aerial Rave attacks (Style button in mid-air). This allows you to deliver a series of strikes and land back on the ground while the enemy is still in the air. From this point you are free to launch the enemy again or continue the combo using ground-based strikes or Special moves as you like - this adds a nice variation to your Aerial Raves.
RAPID SHOTGUNEvery time you learn a new trick in Devil May Cry 3 it opens up a whole new world of further techniques! An example of this is using the Short Jump to interrupt the delay frames of an attack so that you can rapidly repeat it. The Short Jump will massively speed up the firing rate of Dante's shotgun by cancelling the recoil frames. Rapid Shotgun is a tricky technique to get going at first but once you learn the tempo of the button presses it becomes second nature. This trick starts on a single shotgun blast which you cancel on its recoil frames with a Short Jump (tap the X button), now cancel this Short Jump with another shotgun blast using the same timing as described in the Short Jump Cancel explanation. When you cancel the Short Jump, Dante will fall to the floor before the mid-air shotgun blast finishes allowing you to shoot again from the floor straight away. You've got two frame cancels happening here in quick succession: the first is the Short Jump to cancel the recoil frames of the ground-based shotgun blast, the second is Dante falling to the ground before the mid-air shotgun blast finishes its own recoil animation. You MUST allow Dante to be off the floor before you fire the mid-air shotgun blast, as described previously; if you enter the command too early it counts as a buffered command which will delay execution until Dante reaches the peak of the jump.
ENEMY STEPIt's not just the ground that Dante can jump off of! Any enemy whether it's ground-based or in the air during a juggle is a platform for Dante to jump off. There is no limit on the number of times you can jump off an enemy or the amount of time you can stay in the air - this leads to some amazing tricks and situations! Dante must be directly above or in close proximity to an enemy or group of enemies for the Enemy Step to be in range; I've found the easiest way to look at how this technique works is to use Ebony & Ivory to juggle an enemy after a rising uppercut. During the Ebony & Ivory shots tap the jump button as you lose height to climb up the enemyís body. The fact that the enemy will eventually die is the only thing stopping you from staying in the air indefinitely. The Enemy Step will reset Dante's jump status, meaning that each Enemy Step counts as a fresh jump - you'll be able to access your stored Air Hike (double jump) after each Enemy Step whether you've already used it or not.
This next example is using the Trickster style to demonstrate how this even works against ground based enemies; the Enemy Step can be used in exactly the same way regardless of height.
ENEMY STEP CANCELThis is where Dante goes up a few gears! This technique will change your entire fighting style (sorry to make you start again! XD). Enemy Stepping can be used to Single Frame Cancel attacks back into themselves or any other attack you have up your sleeve. You can massively extend any Aerial combo using moves that donít fit together at all when using regular control. You can even cancel the finishing frames of Aerial Rave attacks creating an endless loop that only ends when you want it to or your target dies!
The way this technique works is that it resets the animation of any Aerial attack back to an empty jump status, so itís as if youíve just performed a fresh jump off the ground as far as the system is concerned. The Enemy Step Cancel can be performed so quickly that Dante will not pause or lose/gain any height when the Jump button is pressed, allowing you to instantly repeat a move or flow straight into another move altogether.
I've found the best exercise for learning this technique is to practise an infinite Sky Dance with Agni & Rudra. Sky Dance is a pair of double slashes which execute on each press of the Style button, if you donít interrupt this combo with an Enemy Step, pushing the Style button after the second pair of slashes will cause Dante to perform a diving sword attack as a finishing strike - this is the part you want to remove. The third sword slash of this combo string (first slash of the second pair) can be cancelled with Enemy Step instantly; you can cancel this chain and begin it again so fast that it actually looks like a perfectly continuous flurry of sword slashes which never end!
Exercise 1: [Jump to Style button Enemy Step Cancel]
Start this exercise by performing a rising uppercut on a fresh enemy (Hell Sloths make wicked punching bags!) with Agni & Rudra (Whirlwind - lock-on + back + hold Attack button); Dante will fly upwards with the enemy you have just launched. When you reach the top of the jump start the Sky Dance chain by hitting the Style button, when the first pair of slashes finishes hit the Style button again to start the second pair of slashes - when you see Dante throw the THIRD slash (first slash of the second pair) flick your thumb across the Jump button and back to the Style button to start the first pair of slashes again. You are pushing jump to initiate an Enemy Step; this flick of the jump button must be fast and light, leading straight into another Style button push, enabling you to instantly start the Sky Dance again:
[SLASH] [SLASH] [SLASH] [ENEMY STEP] [SLASH] [SLASH] [SLASH] [ENEMY STEP] to infinity...
As long as you donít hit the Style button at the end of the second pair of slashes, Dante wonít perform the finishing diving attack. I've found this to be very useful as I keep the tempo correct by pushing the Style button in time with the Sky Dance slashes, each time I reach the third slash (and my third Style button press) I slide my thumb across the Jump button and back to the Style button to start the process again.
The duration of the Jump button press is extremely important when performing the Enemy Step. You must make sure that you activate the button only for a split second; the jump cancel can be performed so quickly that you donít see even the slightest hint of a jump during the combo.
Exercise 2: [Jump to Attack button Enemy Step Cancel] It's not just the Style button that you can use for the Enemy Step Cancel technique; moves using the main Attack button can also be manipulated with this trick. Equip Cerberus for this next exercise; the moves we'll be using are Revolver (Lock-on + forward + Attack button) and Swing (Attack button in mid air). Pick a fresh enemy, Lock-on and perform the Revolver at very close proximity. Now as the Revolver rapidly strikes the enemy press the Jump button to perform an Enemy Step Cancel to cancel the Revolver animation, and immediately hit the Attack button again to perform an instant Swing. Enemy Step Cancelling Revolver causes Dante's status to change from ground to air - this enables you to perform the mid-air move, Swing. As Swing is a mid-air move and you are still in close proximity to the enemy you can perform the Enemy Step Cancel again! As long as the enemy is not knocked too far away, you can repeat Swing then Enemy Step Cancel many times, mixing it into Style button and Weapon Switches as you like.
As per Exercise 1 the duration of the Jump button press is vital; you quickly slide your thumb from Jump to Attack again barely contacting the Jump button - the aim is to make the jump invisible for a continuously smooth motion!
Once you've got this technique down you can apply it to all Aerial attacks in any Style! It vastly expands your freedom to create your own personal combo chains by increasing the time you can stay in the air whilst attacking. Here's a video with both exercise 1 and 2 combined for practical situations:
Combining everything from Short Jumps to interrupt ground combos to Weapon Switching between Enemy Step Cancels, you can make up some really nasty combos that go on for ages! As previously mentioned, this technique works with all aerial moves - being able to rapidly repeat Killer Bee, for example, is absolutely devastating!
Many of the techniques covered in this guide can be taken across to all of Dante's fighting styles. I hope that you've found this guide useful and wish you luck with your combos!
Please post in comments so we know you found this useful. Many thanks to Saurian for writing this guide.