I’m always quick to defend Dead or Alive. While its characters might be derivative and somewhat lacking in the personality department, the intricacies of the fighting itself are excellent, built on a foundation of reversals and intelligent footwork. It’s more than just tits and ninjas, I have to point out, and certainly not as shallow as many make it out to be. Sadly Tecmo has tried its best to encourage this preconception with the Volleyball and Paradise games, which makes arguing my point all the more difficult.
Still, the addition of 3D technology in Dead or Alive: Dimensions will be music to the ears of lecherous teens, who will appreciate the biological aesthetics (3D tits) just as much as the brawling. With 13 guys, 12 girls and 24 gravity-defying breasts attempting to jiggle their way out of the screen, DOA:D boasts the biggest character roster of any DOA game to date. There’s a good reason for this, too: Dimensions spans a time-line connecting all four Dead or Alive titles.
Chronicle, the mode at the heart of the game, fills in the gaps between the four DOA tournaments with a multi-layered narrative from the perspective of several fighters. Across the five chapters you’ll fight as Kasumi, Ayane, Hayabusa, Hayate and Helena – tracking down missing siblings, sparring with old friends and exposing the truth behind the shady DOATEC organisation. As you fight you’re taught the complexities of combat via brief tutorials that interrupt play. This is welcome at first – reversals take time to get to grips with, after all – but when you’re nearing the end of chapter five, having played for five or six hours, it becomes a wholly unnecessary distraction.
While the story stitching everything together is a pleasant alternative to your bog standard Arcade offering, Chronicle seems to bite off more than it can chew. The story makes little sense, hopping from character to character and location to location like a kangaroo with ADHD. Often your fighter will engage in a feisty exchange with another only, to fight somebody completely different in the ensuing fight. It’s a horrendously disjointed affair, which wouldn’t be so bad if the cutscenes weren’t so needlessly frequent. You’ll watch far more than you’ll fight, for the most part.
Of course nobody’s expecting Shakespeare from the story, so let’s talk about the kicking and punching and all that malarkey. Dead or Alive has always placed an emphasis on counters, reversals and use of an environment, and this has translated incredibly well to the small screen of the 3DS. With what is essentially a two-button attack system – punches mapped to one button, and kicks to the other – players can focus on nailing the timing of combos and preparing for the right counter attacks. Special moves are mostly combinations of backwards and forwards on the d-pad in combination with a punch or a kick, so there are no quarter circles and complex strings of button presses required here.
Unlike Super Street Fighter IV 3D Edition, there’s no need for dexterity; it’s all about reading your opponent, and reacting to the situation accordingly. If your opponent is gearing up for a high kick, get ready to prepare the appropriate reversal – diagonally up and block, in this case. You can even take accessibility a step further and tap out your commands on the touch-screen, if you wish, but this is more difficult than it sounds. It’s impossible to react quickly enough to select the right move in the heat of battle, rendering the bottom screen mostly useless.
Fighting games inevitably incite competition amongst friends, and DOA:D has the online infrastructure to support this. Two players can duke it out over WiFi, or choose to pair up and complete ‘Missions’, tag battles against increasingly difficult foes. Sadly there’s no option for competitive tag-battling, which was incredibly enjoyable in DOA4. More distressingly, the frame rate is often dragged into a quagmire of single digits whilst playing online, shattering any sense of strategy or coordination. Turning the 3D off can help, but if you’ve paid all this money for a three-dimensional device – why would you want to do that? (answer: you have a headache).
In addition to Arcade, Survival and Training modes, Dimensions has a host of other bells and whistles to keep you coming back. Similar to SSFIV, there are character-trophies to collect through meeting certain requirements in game. With 1000 of these on offer, the game has serious legs for those willing to invest the time. This doesn’t use Street Pass like Capcom’s fighter does, however, but Tecmo has chosen to use the technology in another sense. Should you pass a fellow DOA player whilst on walkabout, you’ll be sent a character of theirs to battle based on their play style. Imagine fighting a ghost based on how they play, and you’re pretty much there.
Is it better than Super Street Fighter IV 3D Edition? The control set up certainly better lends itself to a handheld, as the nature of the move-set makes DOA a less awkward experience with those diddy little buttons. In terms of raw playability, I’d argue Dimensions is a better fit for the hardware. That said, there’s no denying that Capcom boasts the slicker product. Graphically – both in terms of character design and use of 3D – Street Fighter is the better game. It also proves itself far more competent online, which is a huge deal for fighting aficionados. DOA fans with an itch to satisfy should pick it up regardless, if only for the rather interesting tease at the end…