Why you’re going to pay a lot for the privilege of playing Devil’s Third…
According to most reviews, Devil’s Third is not a good game.
The Wii U exclusive currently has a score of 43/100 on Metacritic.
Awarding the game a 3/10, Gamespot called Devil’s Third “near impossible to recommend.” IGN gave the game a slightly better score of 3.5, but still said it was “a video game seemingly created for people who secretly hate them.”
But if you want to see what rock bottom is like, good luck tracking down a copy. The game is sold out at every major retailer just one month after release. Sealed new copies are going for about $100 on Amazon. Some copies were going for over $150 on eBay in the first few days after release.
So what’s the deal? Why is a Nintendo-published game so hard to find so soon after release? And can a game by legendary Ninja Gaiden designer Tomonobu Itagaki really be as bad as the reviews say? Like the development of Devil’s Third itself, the answers are complicated.
Devil’s Third Goes Through Development Hell
Itagaki was riding high at Tecmo in 2008. He had helmed four entries in the popular Dead or Alive fighting game franchise, and the second entry in his revitalized Ninja Gaiden action series was about to hit store shelves. But Itagaki also had a reputation for being difficult to work with, and just before Ninja Gaiden’s release, he left Tecmo, claiming the company withheld a bonus pay from him and that the Tecmo’s president made “unreasonable and disingenuous statements” about him.
Itagaki soon formed a new developer, Valhalla Game Studios, and in 2010, Devil’s Third was formally unveiled as an action game to be released on the the Xbox 360, Playstation 3 and PC.
The announcement of a new Itagaki-helmed action game was enough to get gamers excited. The first two Ninja Gaiden games are tough, but among the best in the genre and beloved for their fine-tuned combat. But after the initial announcement, there was virtually nothing else heard from the developer for years.
Development was problematic, with Devil’s Third changing engines at least twice over the years. The original trailer looks almost nothing like the final game. THQ still planned to publish it, but that deal went out the window when THQ filed for bankruptcy in 2013.
It seemed like the end of the road Devil’s Third, but then Valhalla found help from an unlikely ally.
Nintendo Makes a Deal With the Devil
Nintendo is typically known for family-friendly games. The company maybe publishes one or two M-Rated games per console generation.
So it was a surprise when at E3 2014 Nintendo announced that it had picked up publishing duties for Devil’s Third, and the game would be released as a Wii U exclusive.
And that was pretty much everything Nintendo had to say about Devil’s Third for the next year.
The game was never featured in a Nintendo Direct, and even though Nintendo had little to show off at E3 2015, it still didn’t trot out Devil’s Third. The rumor was that Nintendo lost faith in the title after seeing the near-finished product and dropped plans to bring it to North America.
Devil’s Third was released in Europe and Japan in August, and though Japanese reviews weren’t terrible, early impressions from western journalists seemed to support Nintendo of America’s position.
The game immediately came under fire for poor graphics and framerate problems. Many players said the controls were too complicated. Itagaki bizarrely claimed that the game was only meant to be played with a Pro Controller and keyboard instead of the Gamepad that the Wii U comes with.
Burying The Devil
Still, there was enough interest in the game from North American gamers for Nintendo of America to reconsider its decision.
In July, the company announced it would indeed bring Devil’s Third to North America. It would even take the unusual step of allowing Valhalla to publish a free-to-play version of the game’s multiplayer mode on PC.
Except Nintendo really only “published” the game in the loosest sense of the term. If you mean Nintendo released a few discs to North American retailers, then yes it “published” the game.
But Nintendo purchased zero advertising ahead of the game’s December release. It wasn’t even featured on the front page of the eShop (where it can still be downloaded for $59.99 if you trust Nintendo’s current shoddy account system).
Nintendo refused to send out review copies to North American reviewers. At release, Gamestop only had 420 copies for sale in the entire United States. Best Buy and Amazon sold out of their copies instantly.
If you want a disc copy of Devil’s Third, you’re either going to have to shell out $100 or be extremely lucky.