Dead or Alive, you’re coming with me…
The Dead or Alive series is indisputably in a transition period. Series creator Tomonobu Itagaki flew the coop some time ago, and it’s been over five years since the last straight-up DOA fighting game. We’ve endured more awkward crotch-cam shots thanks to DOA Xtreme 2 and DOA Paradise than we’ve seen those ogled ladies doing what they’re truly known for: kicking someone through a two-story window onto the street. In the first non-Itagaki DOA fighting game, Dead or Alive: Dimensions opts to tread familiar territory rather than take big risks with Team Ninja’s formula. The result is a competent and fun handheld fighter that neither stumbles too badly nor excels exponentially.
Dimensions takes the rapid-paced “rock, paper, scissors” core gameplay that defined 15 years of jiggly brawling and translates it to Nintendo’s handheld with rather good results. As a first try for delivering handheld DOA, Dimensions admirably translates the experience. It also bears mentioning that while the game runs well in 3D, turning the feature off lets the brawling animations run at a beautifully fluid 60 frames per second. With that pointed out, it’s still not as pretty as Super Street Fighter IV 3D, but Capcom’s launch game also touts an art style that translates to the hardware more seamlessly. Dimensions suffers from some jagginess and doesn’t look as clean as some PSP fighters at times, but in general, the core content–a three-dimensional plane, button-mashing fun, and multi-tiered stages–all make the cut.
Dimensions uses the touch screen to allow novices to pull off full combos. One could argue that the feature imbalances the game a little, but it’s also an effective means of fighting fire with fire when facing off against cheap attack spammers. For the most part, however, if you’ve played DOA over the past 15 years, the action should feel very familiar. The gameplay is well-proven and sound, and while certain fighting game aficionados might thumb their noses at the series, it’s well-translated to a new medium.
Dimensions is broken up into a few basic modes for single-player, and that’s where the core gameplay has its ups and downs. Arcade mode is an ultimately shallow series of fights that culminate in a boss battle, but with no epilogue or anything you’d get from playing arcade mode in another console fighter. The other main attraction of the single-player mode is Chronicle. It breaks up the storyline of each Dead or Alive game and wraps it around fights with cinematics that show you the main events of each title. In theory, it’s a great way to experience the games, but in execution, it’s very uneven. The cinematics run for minutes at a time, which destroys the momentum of play. By the time it’s done, you’ll understand DOATEC, but you’ll wish the game had given you more of the useful mid-fight training and less of the five minute cutscenes.
Dimensions offers multiplayer modes, including local and online, as well as some solid Street Pass support. You can brawl with other fighters, or play tag battles. While the single-player tag mode with CPU-controlled partner leaves much to be desired, it’s quite fun with two people. Ideally, at higher difficulties, it takes on a “survivor mode” dynamic as you swap places during a cheap boss fight, “cool off” and hope to get back into the brawl before the likes of Raidou or Alpha-152 make mincemeat of your buddy. If you or your partner’s luck runs out, you’ve got a limited number of time-delayed “resurrections” before you both lose. It’s tense, it’s tough, and it’s entertaining. If you have another friend with a 3DS, it’s one of the best ways to play. Street Pass support is known as Throwdown, and it allows you to play against a CPU simulation of your opponent’s collected data (based on their win/loss record).
Dead or Alive: Dimensions is a fun and competent adaptation of the popular fighting series to handheld. It effectively translates the core fighting mechanics to a new medium while opening up certain elements to newcomers via touch screen combos. Unfortunately, it falls short in other elements. While Chronicles mode will bring players up to speed with important details such as Kasumi and Ayane’s rivalry, the cutscenes drag on far, far too long and really should’ve been broken up to let the player participate in more brawls. Yet, there’s some fun to be had with its multiplayer elements and Street Pass integration. While the spartan elements of its arcade mode bear mentioning, it’s still a sound title for fighting game fans.
SUMMARY: Team Ninja’s series debuts on 3DS with a competent fighter that’s too heavy on cutscenes but sound on brawling.
- THE GOOD: Translates DOA’s “rock, paper, scissors” style to handheld effectively
- THE BAD: Chronicles Mode drags out the cutscenes too long, game feels a bit sparse
- THE UGLY: Seeing the framerate halve when you flip the 3D switch