Tecmo’s Dead or Alive series is synonymous with speedy gameplay, incredible graphics, and some fine looking characters. Of course most people out there who know of any game with Dead of Alive in the title associate the DOA name with bouncing breasts. Unfortunately those people have lost sight of the fact that there is more depth to the title then just visual eye candy. Well Nintendo has finally gotten a DOA fighting game and it has been released on the 3DS nonetheless. Dead or Alive Dimensions (referred to as DOA Dimensions in this review) has hit store shelves, and after playing much of the game, and showing it off to some friends of, I have to say that I am really impressed and amazed with how good fighting games are on the big N’s new handheld console.
For those who are aware of the DOA series, there is no need to explain what it is, but given that the game is now being released on a Nintendo system, there are no doubt people out there who don’t know what it is all about. The DOA series is a 3D fighting game that is played on a 2.5D visual plane. The series has always been simple to pick up, but the depth involved can keep one busy for a very long time. In the past, the DOA story is as simple as it comes, a group of fighters get together for an annual Dead or Alive tournament. The winner usually overcomes evil and the story comes to an end.
DOA Dimensions is released at a time when the franchise is celebrating its 15 anniversary, so DOA Dimensions is a tribute to the whole series. As already mentioned, this is the first time that the series has been released on a Nintendo system, so needless to say Tecmo KOEI sure is spoiling the Nintendo faithful with this DOA latest release.
One of the biggest things that this game has going for it is the level of control and accessibility. Control of DOA Dimensions on the 3DS makes the game very playable for gamers of all skill levels. The game focuses on four buttons: punch, kick, guard or throw. One can be somewhat successful using a basic combination of these buttons. Where the depth comes into the game is that there is an incredible amount of combinations to learn, and a very intuitive and deep counter system to master. Games can take on a back and forth feel. The counter system is not as simple as blocking and countering either, as you can block/counter high, mid or low and there are different types and different levels of counters. It is amazing how much depth is truly in the control system, but yet casual gamers can have success in this game as well.
Given the amount of combos and/or chains that are available, Team Ninja has allowed for the moves to be listed on the touch screen. You can see the kicks, punches and throws that are available to you. Interestingly enough, given that these moves are listed on the touch screen, you can press on any combo or chain and your character will pull that move off. This is very similar to the recently released Street Fighter 4 3D Edition, but where the difference lies is that ALL the moves in DOA Dimensions are readily available by a simple press on the touch screen. I found that I did indeed try to pull off the more complex combos or chains on my own by pressing all the buttons, but I did rely on the touch screen now and then. I do admit that I did find that it was really neat to be able to watch the really fancy moves that I couldn’t master with a press of the touch screen. I should warn you though, you cannot rely on the touch screen to play the game 100% as the list of combos or chains is extensive and the actual area to press on the screen is not large, so hitting the right one can be difficult. Besides, what fun would that make the game anyway?
So there is no doubt that the games control and accessibility is superb, but this would be a moot point if it wasn’t for the game’s modes, and again, Team Ninja has done a great job here. There are nine fighting modes to be found. You’ll find that the Chronicle mode is where you’ll learn the most. Here you not only learn about the whole DOA saga, as this is basically a story mode, but you are also taught how to fight as you progress through this mode. What I found neat here was that as the Chronicle mode progresses, and the deeper you go, you are taught how to play the game using the intricacies of the game’s control system. It is an amazing tutorial in many ways and you will garner a lot about how to battle successfully. The only downfall to this mode is that the story is somewhat disjointed, and there seems to be no flow. Sure, you learn about DOA’s main characters, but it is in such a fashion you really wonder what is going on from time to time. I also noted that the overall presentation is hit and miss given that the game’s characters don’t always animate during the story and it can kind of seem weird. Regardless, you will relive the whole DOA storyline, spanning from the original DOA to the latest console version, DOA 4.
As you’d expect in a fighting game, there are also the traditional Arcade, Survival, Free Play and Training modes. These are self-explanatory. DOA also adds a Tag Challenge where you can team up with the computer AI and go to battle against a team of powerful DOA foes. The only issue I had with the Tag Challenge is that the computer AI is in control of your teammate and you have no control over when they may enter and how they fare in the ‘ring’.
What would a world-class fighting game be without the inclusion of some great multiplayer modes? Well in DOA Dimensions you don’t have to worry about this. You can play against another human being via the 3DS’s local Wi-Fi capabilities. Unfortunately players will have to each have their own copy of the game, but if they do the experience is flawless. The speed and grace of the on-screen action is enticing and playing against another human being adds more uncertainty of how the game will play out. You can also head ONLINE using the 3DS’s Internet capability. Here you can play against friends, anyone within your region, or anyone with the world. Surprisingly the games were pretty smooth and lag free. I did hit the odd bout of lag now and then, but overall it was pretty cool to head online for some long distance fighting.
Team Ninja did something a little special with the 3DS’s StreetPass system. Should you cross paths with another DOA Dimensions gamer who has activated the StreetPass system, you will download that player’s data of how they fight. You can then head into the game’s Throwdown mode and actually play against that gamer who is represented as a computer AI but with their character and data (e.g. fighting style). Pretty interesting stuff indeed. Of course DOA Dimensions also allows you to use the 3DS’s SpotPass feature as you will receive notifications about the game itself, new costumes for characters, and even new characters.
As you play throughout the game’s various modes you will earn new costumes, new areas to fight, and new figurines. These last two items can be used for the game’s Showcase mode. Here you can pick from the game’s 998 figurines and take 3D photos with them in the game’s various levels. You can then head over to the 3D Photo Album and view all your pictures. This is a nice addition to the game and adds even more reason to play, open new figurines, and have some extra fun.
Visually, I would have to venture to say that DOA Dimensions is the new measuring stick for 3DS visuals. Each character is animated beautifully, from flowing dresses and hair to smooth and slick fighting moves. There are 20 characters available in game (you have to open them up) and there are even a few more empty slots (DLC perhaps?) for more. Each one of these characters is very different from one another and each one has a large selection of outfits. Bottomline, they look great.
As for the game’s levels, they help to make DOA Dimensions a better fighting game. You have to see the levels to appreciate them too; from the cherry-blossom laden ‘Kyoto in Bloom’, the winter wonderland of ‘Frozen Peaks’, the sunset drenched mountain top ancient castle of ‘Tao’, to the renaissance themed ‘Lorelei’, all levels are well rendered, very interactive, and fun to play in. You have the ability to knock your opponent through walls, over railings or edges, and even through windows into other parts of the level. This is an interesting feature and adds to the overall gameplay given how you never know where you will end up. Of course there is ample use of special effects too such at lighting, particle and fire effects, and lots of pretty explosions too, depending on where you are, who you are fighting with, and what you do in any given level.
The game’s story mode (Chronicle mode) plays out in the form of cut-scenes using the in-game engine. All in all the cut-scenes look pretty good and are enjoyable to watch. Who knew that a game on the 3DS could have such great looking cut-scenes so early in its lifecycle? Team Ninja sure knows it’s way around the 3DS hardware at this time.
DOA Dimensions’ 3D effects are pretty good. I found that they added a level of depth not found in a fighting game before. To see your character fight on ‘Kyoto in Bloom’ while cherry blossom trees were indeed all around the level with true depth is pretty cool. Should you turn the 3D slider to off, the game gains a bit of speed as the frame rate increases (one screen versus two when 3D is off versus on) but the game still looks good. When I did play around with the 3D slider I was truly amazed with how different the game does manage to look in 3D as the effects are truly strong enough to make a difference. In the end though it does not matter how you play this game, be it in 2D or 3D, as it is a great looking game overall.
I have to say that the sound manages to wrap up an already pretty good package. There is lots of voice acting to be found in this game, and you have the option to choose the original Japanese voices or have the characters speak in English. I was amazed with how much dialog there was. The only downfall in this area is that during the Chronicle mode, you’ll find many instances where the mouths of the characters don’t move at all to the voice acting. This took a little away from the overall experience of watching the characters speak.
The game’s music is quite good. Usually I find that music is hit and miss in a fighting game, but in DOA Dimensions it is a hit indeed. Each musical track on each level manages to provide a great feel as you are battling it out against your opponent and it has an uncanny ability to match the each environment.
Finally, as for the game’s sound effects, they are just as good as the rest of the audio package. From the sound of a punch or kick, to the sound of a character being thrown through a window or wooden railing, all the game’s sound effects are punchy, solid, and help convey the on-screen action.
On a side note, this game sounds great coming through the 3DS’s external speakers. This just hits home how good they truly are. Sure, any portable handheld gaming device sounds better though headphones, but the speakers for the 3DS are amazing for the size and make the game sound great.
Team Ninja has done the DOA series justice by bringing the franchise to the Nintendo 3DS in time to celebrate its 15th anniversary. Dead or Alive Dimensions’ control has some instant accessibility for newbies to the genre while managing to maintain the depth and strategy to keep diehard fighting fans involved. The game has amazing visuals, solid sound, and some very well implemented gameplay, including online multiplayer, for an all encompassing gaming package. Dead or Alive Dimensions is truly a game that is worth a purchase.