Dead or Alive: Dimensions Reader Review
Did you know that 2011 marks the 15th anniversary of ? No, not the British band who sang “You Spin Me Round (Like A Record)” - they've been going since 1980. Not the Bon Jovi song either, that's from the 80's as well. I'm talking about fighting game series which is probably more famous for it's bouncing buxom babes than the actual fighting. It debuted in 1996, and according to Wikipedia (ah Wiki, what would lazy reviewers like myself do without you?) this is also the 15th game in the series. Counting spin-offs of course.
In appreciation of this anniversary, feels very much like a “best of” title. Save for the obligatory 3D graphics, Team Ninja has instead taken the route of using a story mode – this time called “Chronicle” to re-tell the story of the four core titles. So we're looking at cut-scenes for the story interspersed with bouts where you take control of which ever character the story demands. It's not as slick or as interesting as the take, it does not re-write the series history in any meaningful way, and each chapter tends to be a long dialogue cut scene followed by a series of painfully easy one round fights as you play the canon winner of whichever tournament the story is currently representing. What could have been the main meat of the game turns out to be little more than a tutorial spanning a couple of hours.
Arcade mode doesn't feel like the main attraction either, it's more of a time-trial mode in fact. 6 unlockable courses of increasing difficulty. They offer no end sequence for any of the different fighters and are very short. My best time for the sixth and hardest course is just a shade over 3 minutes to give you some indication of the length of these things. There's also tag challenge mode, which consists of 20 fights - these are actually harder as your opponents deal far more damage than normal while absorbing a lot of punishment in return. In tag mode your partner is always AI as well, so it can be frustrating sometimes when they decide to just stand there instead of introducing the enemies face to the floor. Survival mode is in there too, with up to 100 opponents in a row. They just jump in as the previous fighter cries uncle. Your health bar refills about 50% between each fight but by the 50 fighter challenge it ends up being the hardest game mode by a considerable amount. Beyond these modes there's a “Free Mode” where you just chose the two fighters, a stage and go for it, and also a practise mode. I hope I don't have to explain the concept of that to anyone!
There are also options to fight other humans. As you would probably expect there is a local ad-hoc fight mode, which I've not been able to test due to the fact the only 3DS I've seen in "the wild" is my own. There is an option to fight over the Internet, but it's very basic. You've got the option to fight a friend, or it can matchmake with a random on the Internet. There are no lobbies, no customisation options (unlike with it's titles and icons) and no tag battles. We're talking just plain 1 v 1 in single matches, and probably just as well as the matches tend to be quite laggy. Even at it's best there's a noticeable amount of slow down caused by the latency. At worst it can take a second or so to register commands which makes attempting to do anything but mash the buttons as if you were playing Track and Field (oops, just lost everyone under the age of 25 with that reference) largely pointless. It also turns out the game is horribly unbalanced as well as every other player I've faced has selected boss character Genra then proceeded to run away while firing unblockable, super quick lightning attacks. I've tried ducking them, side-stepping them, charging in and whatever else I could think of but to get even half way across the screen at them is pure luck. Online fighting games live or die on how exploitable characters, twats will be twats and a win is win in so much as it increases a number in your stats, so DoA Dimensions fails in that respect. You can also receive challenges via Street Pass where you might AI representatives of that person. Team Ninja send out these Throwdown challenges as well every week so you can "fight" members of their staff with figurines as a prize for taking part and also winning.
Those figurines are the "gotta catch them all" part of the game, there are a nice round 1000 to collect, and each one is just one of the fighters in a different pose or outfit. You can take them in to showcase mode, which allows you to choose a background and a figurine and then take 3D images. Unlike DoA Extreme Beach Volleyball where the characters would writhe around, each of the figurines are completely still and I haven't seen anything that even resembles a compromising pose. So for pervy players hoping to get that perfect shot of Kasumi's panties, you'll be disappointed. Mind you with that 3D screen you really would go blind, so be warned.
That's not to say has moved away from the improbable proportioned teenage girls. Not at all, and their boobs still bounce around like Tigger plugged into the mains. In fact, I'm impressed by the graphical quality which seems up there with the Xbox versions. The 3D works nicely too with the best moments consisting of fighters falling off ledges towards the camera. Particle effects floating around in some levels add a good sense of depth as well. However turning off the 3D seems to double the frame-rate to what feels like a solid 60FPS so if you're the type of gamer that takes fighting games as serious business you'll probably want to move that 3D slider to the bottom and do without.
Sound too is comparable to the big boy console versions. It comes fully voiced through all the cut-scenes and has the kind of soundtrack you'd expect from a DoA game. It all comes booming out of the 3DS' little speakers quite impressively as well.
What all this means is that we have a portable title here that is as fully featured and playable as a home console release. As I said at the beginning of the review, is more of a "best of" game but as long as you go into it with that expectation and understand there is no new story and no new characters you'll be fine. For what Nintendo would call a "launch period" title is very impressive and faults aside will make you think the home console experience can be done on a portable.