Dead or Alive: Dimensions
It may have taken a while for the Dead or Alive franchise to appear on Nintendo hardware, but few could argue that Dead or Alive Dimensions wasn’t worth the wait. For the Nintendo debut of the series, Team Ninja has gone all out to create a title that feels like a full fledged Dead or Alive game and not just a cheap hand-held spin-off. However, for players who are familiar with the series, it might feel more like a greatest hits compilation, as it brings together content from all the Dead or Alive titles up until Dead or Alive 4.
DOA Dimensions offers quite a substantial amount of content, so we’ll start off by taking a look at all the modes that are on offer. The meatiest mode by far is “Chronicles” which attempts to explain the stories of Dead or Alive 1, 2, 3, and 4. Now, as anyone who have actually played those games will know, the stories feature enough drama, betrayel, amnesia, clones, revenge, traitors and jealousy to make a soap opera look realistic. However, while very confusing, Chronicles mode is quite entertaining and also serves as a neat tutorial to the game as it teaches you a lot of the gameplay basics. Chronicles is divided into four chapters, with Kasumi taking the lead in the first two, Ayane stepping up for three, and Helena finishing things off in four. As we already mentioned, the stories will probably be quite confusing to newcomers, but basically involves a clan of ninjas fighting against an evil corporation.
Playing through Chronicles will also unlock the majority of the 26 fighters in the game, who can then be used for the other modes. Our first stop after beating Chronicles was Arcade mode, but sadly it plays more like a time attack than anything else. Your aim is simply to select your fighter and then defeat a random assortment of opponents as quickly as possible. This means that there are no individual stories or endings for the fighters, which is a bit disappointing. Next up is survival, which as the name suggests, involves defeating as many opponents as possible before you get knocked out. DOA Dimensions also features a “Tag Challenge” mode, where you can pick your character and an AI partner to take on opponents. Free Play is where you get to pick your own stage and opponent for a battle and Training is for practicing.
Team Ninja hasn’t forgotten about multi-player either, so you can take on opponents online or locally. Both modes work great, but for local play your opponent will also need a copy of the game as download play is not supported.
The game even makes use of the streetpass feature, so you can battle AI representatives of other players. In addition, DOA Dimensions has a “Fight Record” mode, which keeps track of a comprehensive amount of statistics related to your playing. One other mode that is tucked away on the main menu is “Showcase” which is something players will either love or ignore. It basically allows you to view “figurines” of the fighters and pick the background as well as camera angles to create diorama scenes of which you can then take 3D photos. The figurines are basically static 3D models of the characters and, to give you an idea of just how many of them there are, Kasumi alone has 44 of them. These figurines appear to unlock randomly just from playing other modes, so it will take quite a while to collect all of them. We didn’t spend too much time on this feature, but it’s nice to see the game make an effort to incorporate the various gimmicks that the 3DS has to offer.
Of course, all of these modes would have been pointless if the gameplay wasn’t up to scratch on the 3DS, so we are happy to report that the game plays great. It appears to make use of a modified Dead or Alive 4 engine and the four button control scheme is perfectly suited for the 3DS. The controls are very responsive and pulling off punches, kicks, throws and reversals is a breeze after some practice. The game still uses the same rock-paper-scissors combat style that the series is known for, so strikes are vulnerable to reversals, which in turn is vulnerable to throws, which can easily be countered by strikes. High, medium and low attacks add an element of unpredictability to fights and you also have to deal with combos, juggles and even environmental hazards. It’s not the deepest fighting system on the market, but it is still a lot of fun and entertaining to watch.
Visually, DOA Dimensions is a great looking game and the 3D really adds a lot of depth. However, we recommend keeping it on only during the cut-scenes as switching it off during fights results in a noticeably higher frame-rate. Fight animations look great, but the cut-scenes are a bit uneven. Sometimes they are fully animated, while in certain spots they suddenly become static and characters don’t even move their mouths during conversations, which looks a bit odd. All of the action in DOA Dimensions is displayed on the top screen, while the bottom screen shows a list of moves for your character. You can also tap on any of the moves shown on this list, which causes your character to automatically execute them. This is a neat feature, especially for newcomers, but can be a bit awkward to pull off in the heat of battle.
During story mode cut-scenes, the bottom screen occasionally tries to clarify things by displaying some text explaining certain terms or references. The backgrounds in DOA Dimensions look great and Whitewater Vale, Genetic Biolab, Frozen Peaks, Kyoto in Bloom, as well as all the other classics are present. Many of them feature multiple levels as well, so you can knock your opponents down stairs, cliffs or buildings to continue the fight below. In case anyone is wondering, Dimensions still features the breast physics that has become synonymous with the series, but it appears to be toned down and not as over the top as in previous installments. Finally, the audio is great, with plenty of tunes and full English voice acting for all the characters. Purists will probably have preferred the original Japanese voice acting, but to us the English acting sounded like a good match for the goofy and overly dramatic plot in story mode.
Although Dimensions isn’t exactly overflowing with new content if you have played all the previous games, it is still a great title, not just for the 3DS, but for the series in general. It has a large roster of characters, including the first playable appearance of Shiden, as well as plenty of unlockable costumes. It’s not the most technical fighter on the market or the most balanced, but it is a lot of fun and will keep most players busy for ages.