Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Dead or Alive Dimensions (3DS) Review

Here we are at a moment that was a long time coming. It's the very first Nintendo 3DS video game review. What's on the docket for this early Wednesday morning? Why, it's Dead or Alive Dimensions, a game culminating fifteen years of fighting between underage girls and ninja alike. Let's get to it!

Celebrating Fifteen Years of Combos and Breasts

Recently, the Dead or Alive franchise has been exclusive to Microsoft's consoles with both Dead or Alive 3 which appeared on the original Xbox and Dead or Alive 4 which premiered as a launch title for the current-gen Xbox 360. Now for the first time ever a Dead or Alive game is hitting a Nintendo platform. To commemorate the fifteenth anniversary of this storied series, Tecmo and Team Ninja have teamed up once again to chronicle the battle between the shinobi ninja clan and DOATEC. Is this portable version of Dead or Alive a knockout?

Right away when the player boots up the game, he or she will notice a wealth of modes to interact with and play. The main attraction here is Chronicle mode which serves as an overview of the Dead or Alive story. Told through real-time as well as cinematic cutscenes, the tale told is one of a runaway ninja, cloning, and a dastardly company in DOATEC which seeks to rule the world. It's nothing that will win any awards in the originality department, but it makes for some motivation to persevere and brawl on. Sure, scenes pop up seemingly in a random nonsensical order that will confuse newbies like myself to the franchise, but the five chapters feature a boatload of battles for players to dish out damage in to the AI opponents. The mode teaches the ins and out of combat from blocking to throwing, high attacks to low counters. Everything and the kitchen sink is taught in this mode making the other game modes easier to play.

The women of Dead or Alive once again steal the show.

The other big attraction here is Arcade mode. You select a character, and do battle against a set amount of opponents to score the best clear time. Completing this mode with different characters unlocks new costumes and apparel for your viewing and fighting pleasure. The player begins with easy mode, and through the clearing of each tier of opponents gains access to more difficult sets of enemies. It's a blast creaming the AI opponents as you go for new time records and all-new costumes.

Then there's Tag Challenge mode which pits one player against two opponents alongside a computer-controlled ally. This ally is practically useless, and when they're subbed in, they're basically enemy fodder. You tag your ally in when you need a breather. While outside the battle, your fighter regains health. The first team to knockout both members of the other team wins. There's a whole slew of Tag Challenges to overcome in Dead or Alive Dimensions, and this is not just talking about the ones forced upon you in the Chronicle story mode.

Other modes include Free Play which allows the player to select a character, stage, and number of rounds, and battle against the CPU at their own leisure, local play which allows two 3DS systems to hook up wirelessly and compete against one another, and online play. The online system pits players locally or from around the world, or you can always exchange friend codes with someone from a message board or from someone you personally know and battle while away from each other. Battles are best two-out-of-three, and they are relatively lag-free. Let's just say when you're giving a console game like Marvel VS. Capcom 3 a run for its money in modes and options, you know you're doing something really right.

Essentially all of the Nintendo 3DS's impressive features are put to use from StreetPass to SpotPass to the internal cameras. Players can turn on SpotPass to download daily costumes and new Throwdown Challenges. These challenges pit the player against a... well... challenging opponent. If the player wins, they receive two rare figurines. Even if they lose, they win a figurine just for trying, so it's beneficial to always keep SpotPass on and participate in these challenges whenever possible. In total there are nearly one-thousand figurines to collect. These are all of the various different characters in the game spread out in numerous poses. You can use the Figurine Viewer to examine these figurines more closely, take 3D pictures, and save them to an SD memory card. Such shots can produce some really cool results.

He may look foolish, but this hip-hop star packs a punch.

However, all of the eye candy and features in the world do nothing if the gameplay is not there. This is no secret to any knowledgeable gamer. Thankfully, Dead or Alive Dimensions definitely delivers in this category. The fighting is complex without being too taxing and complicated to learn. The fighting follows what is called by the game as the Triangle System. That is, that strikes cancel out throws, throws beat out holds, and holds take precedence over strikes. It's this paper/rock/scissors-like system that makes Dead or Alive really shine. Players can stand, crouch, turn their back to their opponent (though this is highly dangerous), and of course, be fully exposed by lying flat on the ground. Crouching while guarding completely blocks against low attacks while standing while guarding completely blocks against high and middle attacks. Then there's the option for critical strikes, counterattacks, jumping to dodge low attacks, and juggling which allows you to pull off some deadly combos with some impressive aerial acrobatics. If mashing buttons doesn't do anything for you, you can always tap the command list on the touch screen to select a combo to utilize.

Pow! Right in the kisser!

There's approximately sixteen characters to play as in Dead or Alive Dimensions, and they come from each and every previous installment of the series. There's mainstays like Kasumi, Ryu Hayabusa (also from the Ninja Gaiden series), and Ayane, but there's also previously unplayable characters that are unlockable which were bosses in past games of the franchise. Each character has their own set of moves to master, techniques to learn, and personalities and quirks.

The over fifteen stages of Dead or Alive Dimensions (from DOATEC's labs to a rickety old bridge nestled neatly over a waterfall) themselves are characters. Each has what the developers call danger zones. These can be ledges for which characters can be knocked off of, walls that explode upon contact, and grounds that electrify a foe unlucky enough to get bounced off of them. Getting caught in a danger zone produces more damage to that opponent, so using these to your advantage is key in battle if victory is something you take pride in achieving.

Use the environment to your advantage!

Dead or Alive Dimensions is a gorgeous-looking game. In 3D mode it runs at half the framerate as when it does in regular old 2D mode. Sacrificing frames for the cool and impressive 3D effect is up to you, but either is awesome. Each character is made up of thousands of individual polygons, are textured well, and are additionally animated to top standards. Backgrounds and environments are heavily-detailed, showcasing the immense graphical capabilities of the Nintendo 3DS. This is no visual slouch. Each character also has their own melodic theme in battle making things particularly interesting and varied. The music itself is marginally good if not just "there".

Those trying to decide between this title and Blazblue really have no decision to make at all. It's a no contest. Dead or Alive Dimensions runs like a dream, it's pretty to boot, and it's smooth as butter. There's enough content that players will grow tired of the game long before they collect every figurine, download every costume, and take multiple upskirt pictures of underage girls. This is a fighter with strategy, swiftness, and heart. It's Dead or Alive, and it's celebrating its fifteenth anniversary in style.

[SuperPhillip Says: 8.5/10]

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