Dead or Alive: Dimensions
Publisher: Tecmo Koei
Developer: Team Ninja
The Dead or Alive (DOA) series is a franchise that saved Temco from going under back in the mid 1990’s. Using the Model 2 arcade board engine, which powered Sega’s 3D fighter Virtua Fighter, Tecmo released the first DOA game in arcades and later ported it to the Sega Saturn as well as a modified version to the PlayStation. The game was helmed by then unknown game director Tomonobu Itagaki, and with DOA‘s release, it managed to save Tecmo from closing its doors. The series is also well known for its shameless sex appeal, with over half the cast being extremely “gifted” women with a lot of bounce in their personality. Itagaki’s philosophy on having not just addicting and great interactive gameplay, but also stunning graphics, is why he implemented sex appeal into the DOA series.
The DOA series has since been released on numerous consoles before calling Microsoft’s system’s home. Once Itagaki left the company, his understudy Hayashi took the lead position at Team Ninja, and created a fifth installment of the series for the Nintendo 3DS handheld. Hayashi is using the 3DS as the new platform of choice to reach out and introduce DOA to a new audience. But does it succeed?
As the series progressed new modes have been added like Tag and Team Battles, Galleries, and Online gaming. DOA Dimensions still offers a lot of modes of play, but most aren’t very substantial. An enjoyable feature like Tag Team mode was removed and replaced with a new Tag Challenge mode which is quite horrendous( More on that later). Some of the new features available are part of the Street Pass for the 3DS system. You have the ability receive downloadable content like costumes or accept throw down challenges against bots of Team Ninja staff members. Other new modes for the game include a 3D photo album and Showcase gallery with 3D model statues of each character that you collect.
One of the best new features in DOA Dimensions is the Chronicle. Chronicle is in fact a story mode that allows players to experience the history of the DOA universe from the first game to DOA4. Chronicle mode also has a tutorial that teaches new players how to play the game and to adapt with the use of the hold/counter system, critical strikes, stuns, and juggle combos. For more experienced players, we are allowed to skip those sequences. Chronicle is a decent mode just for the story sequences itself but falls flat on its face with the insultingly easy difficulty level.
Some of the returning features include online play, a tweaked arcade mode, survival and training. These modes are mostly unchanged save for Arcade and Online mode. What’s changed about Arcade mode is that instead of just fighting thru a set number of random AI characters and then a boss, you now have different paths to choose each with a set of pre picked challengers to fight. Arcade Mode unfortunately also suffers the same easy difficulty issue as Chronicle Mode. Arcade doesn’t offer you any challenges at all and you won’t find yourself playing through it again after the initial sweep to unlock characters.
Online mode has had some work done to it. The gameplay online is structured pretty well. I don’t experience as much lag in matches as I have in past DOA games and this helps to make it quite addicting. However with the good comes the bad. The Online mode is very stripped down mode giving you only one opponent to play with at a time. No more lobbies, no more cute little avatars, no voice chat or any form of communication for that matter. That’s a really big step backwards especially after Dimensions‘ director, Hayashi, was stated as saying the game would have the exact same online system as DOA4.
One of the returning modes that have received the best upgrade is the Training Mode. Thanks to the second screen we are now given the list of moves below and a few new options like being able to see frame data, move properties and output damage from certain moves or combos. This is a welcome addition for all the hardcore players that have played all versions of the game seriously.
Overall the modes presented to you for Dimensions while some are decent and others lacking is a mixed bag. The main draw here is the online play but despite it being stripped down, you will find yourself drawn to it the most in your time with DOAD.
Modes Rating: Good
The Dead or Alive series has always had stunning visuals, even when they were launch titles for gaming systems like DOA2 Hardcore for the PlayStation 2 or DOA3 for the original Xbox. As a game in the launch window for the 3DS, this looks superb. It is definitely the best looking 3DS game at the moment.
One of my favorite things about the DOA series is the environment in which you combat in. In DOA Dimensions, they bring back a few of the environments from past DOA’s and they look as stunning as ever, albeit slightly altered. The stages are huge and filled with both life and amazing technical detail. On one snow stage, which is from DOA3, they added small minor details in the snow and blistering wind, blowing snow everywhere. One of my personal favorites is the fire stage which, by the way, looks great with the 3D mode on. The fire looks elegant; ground details actually make the ground look like you are fighting on charred debris.
Character models once again look great. Clothing details, hair, and character skin textures look amazing. Of course, they do lack the finer texture details that can only be found in DOA4 on the Xbox 360 such as the soft fur detailing on Gen Fu’s costumes.
There is one minor complaint however and it does involve the 3D aspect of the game. It works and the game does look good with the mode on, but it hurts game performance by dropping the game to running at 30 frames per second as opposed to the 60 fps when it is off. Honestly it just seems to be just there with no real perks to it whatsoever.
Graphics Rating: AMAZING
DOA’s sound and music has always been remarkable. The score in DOA Dimensions is all ripped from previous games with only a few tracks getting an updated remix. The music is quite enjoyable and fits perfectly with the action with upbeat, fast paced techno music. However the fact that it’s all returning themes is a big negative. There are no new tracks minus the music for the Metroid guest stage.
One of the biggest problems I have is the return of the English voice over for all cutscenes and battle dialogue which only appeared in DOA2 Hardcore for the PS2. It’s hilariously bad and thankfully you can swap it to Japanese voiceovers.
The sound effects of the combatants slamming each other into walls and electrified floors honestly sounds like it did in the past iterations as well.
Sound Rating: GOOD
4. Control and Gameplay
A constant fear about playing a fighting game on a handheld is how well it plays due to the smaller buttons and d-pad. The last fighting game I played was a port of Super Street Fighter 2 for the Game Boy Advance. While the game played fine, it still felt stiff and at times, moves were very difficult to perform. Thankfully that’s not the case with Dimensions. Being a 3D fighter with only three action buttons (Hold, Punch and Kick) gives way to a small learning curve and easy adjusting to the game’s 3D movement. Also included in DOA Dimensions is the use of the touch screen to perform the throws and combo strings for you without need of the buttons. Outside of the training mode, this is mainly cosmetic and people who look to truly experience DOA Dimensions will just ignore this or use it as a point of reference only.
The 3DS’ D-pad actually took some time to get used to due to its size. While there are still some hiccups, you will easily be pulling off moves, counters and multiple combo throws in no time. Also, thanks to the new and improved training mode(as mentioned earlier), you will be able to memorize nearly all your favorite attacks, learn their properties and devise strategies to beat your opponents. Some of these hiccups I mentioned mostly included input failures or extremely sensitive delayed inputs.
The first one usually comes about during your initial playtime in Dimensions. You’ll find yourself having difficulty with the D-pad inputted double down-forward or doing other moves when you meant to do something else. With time and practice, this will only become a minor problem later on. The second issue of delayed inputs is always a lingering problem and in fact gets worse when competing online due to lag. Some major examples of this are either late counters or unwanted counters coming out while attempting to block or Free Escape (this is a motion you perform on the d-pad where you get out of a stun).
Late counters are a constant problem online and make the game slightly less enjoyable for both casual and hardcore. This especially peeves hardcore players who’ve spent multiple hours in training mode remember move properties and know when to counter only to see that attempt to be delayed leaving you open for a damaging attack. The unwanted counters usually are more manageable. Holding down the Hold button to block then depending on the time you press a direction, like down for a low block, and might accidently trigger a counter. The same can be said for free escaping which usually requires a quick back and forth motion on the D-pad. Holding down hold after an escape is a tactic used to block a second attack but can also trigger a counter. Despite these two minor issues, the game that can take practice to manage, Dimensions is still an enjoyable game.
The gameplay of DOA Dimensions still hasn’t really changed from the last two games in the series. The high speed and offense based gameplay is still prevalent and offers much for those who enjoy fighting games. The only real differences are some tweaks to character moves, environment damage and bosses characters from past games now being playable. Aside from all that, Dimensions feels and plays like nothing more than an updated version of DOA 4.
The tweaks made for characters are rather few with exception of adding projectiles to a few of them. Some of these tweaks include minor balance fixes with some characters like a couple new moves and altered combo strings. The series staple, Kasumi, now has a combo string that starts off with a low kick and goes into a high kick that can launch your opponent for a juggle. Ayane has a running attack that was three aerial kicks but now ends with the third kick being her landing to do a mid-jump drill kick technique.
A new addition that was originally introduced in DOA2 was projectiles, but that remained only for boss characters like Genra and Tengu in their respective games. But now as both characters became playable in Dimensions, a projectile was also given to Ninja Gaiden superstar Ryu Hayabusa. This doesn’t really make a major change in the game’s overall feel, as it’s easy to counter dodge and it leaves you at a disadvantage if your opponent manages to get around it.
The addition of the boss characters adds some depth to an already big and colorful roster of characters. Tengu and Raidou have been playable before in their respective games of DOA1 and 2 while Genra, Kasumi-Alpha, and Alpha 152 are playable for the first time. The quality and feel of the new characters are surprisingly good each one with their own distinct feel easily allowing them to fit in with the rest of the cast.
Control and Gameplay Rating: GREAT
While Dimensions does have a lot of modes of play, 90% of them are throwaway modes that you will play only once and never touch again aside from collecting costumes or figures. Once you start playing DOA, you pretty much can unlock every character within an hour’s time thru Arcade, Chronicle and Tag Battle Modes. Afterwards there is nothing to warrant going back to any of them. You will constantly find yourself either going into Training Mode to perfect your skills or, more than likely, find competition online. Unfortunately the online mode has some issues that will not keep you playing for long as it takes a long time to find a match thru the games stripped down match making service or bad laggy matches.
Replayability Rating: ENJOYABLE
One of the issues I had with DOA4 was the poor balance amongst the cast of characters. Itagaki was quoted as saying that a wrestler should not be able to beat a ninja. With that vision, all ninja based characters were not only fast, but overpowered as well. This made it an uphill battle for 70% of the cast.
Unfortunately, when Hayashi took over he continued this mentality, So much so that he has made the game a little more unbalanced. Characters like Ryu Hayabusa, Hayate, Kasumi, and Gen Fu are still as powerful as ever, with little to no tweaks to whatsoever to balance them out against the cast. The rest of the cast recieved some significant improvements, but others have been shafted once again – like grapplers. Known for their damage output through throws, their damage has been decreased a bit except for during a high counter hold.
Despite most of this, the game can still be beaten with these lower tier characters, but it’s an uphill battle that will require lots of work and patience which only a few of the core gamers will have. Aside from character balances, the game itself feels off. Damage output from obstacles or from falling deals an amazing amount of damage that can lead to a nearly 90% health loss. A perfect example was when I played as Bas in an online match. I performed a low swing to trip my opponent, he followed up with a standing counter and I grabbed him. My character picked my opponent up and threw him off the bridge that we were on. This killed him with the extra damage dealt to countering players. It took me only two moves to defeat my opponent.
Also the single player modes cater heavily to the casual player and have a severely toned down difficulty level. In fact I can safely say there is no difficulty with the game whatsoever, making it feel as if I accomplished nothing in the game whatsoever other than wasting time. Even when completing the hundred man survival challenge, I felt no accomplishment at all.
Balance Rating: MEDIOCRE
Dead Or Alive Dimensions has been called a “Best of” game in the series by Hayashi and it definitely shows. The only new feature to be considered in this game is the Chronicle mode which takes the player thru a storyline recap of the first four games. introducing unique perspectives from many of the main characters. Aside from making all boss characters playable, there is nothing truly original about Dimensions to make it truly stand out.
Originality Rating: MEDIOCRE
Dimensions‘ strength is in its online mode where you get to challenge friends and random challengers from around the world. Aside from the earlier stated issues about the stripped down mode, hardcore players will continue to play online to test their skills. That is – if you can find someone to play with. The game’s horrible matchmaking service takes an awfully long time to find opponents to the point that it can make you stop playing after only a few matches.
Addictiveness Rating: MEDIOCRE
9. Appeal Factor
Fans of fighting games everywhere can easily get into Dead Or Alive Dimensions since it is made to appeal to both diehard and casual fighting game enthusiasts. Sure it has hot girls and heavy sexual undertones which the series is known for but recent games like Arcana Heart 3 and Soul Calibur 4 have taken that to a whole other level. The characters are memorable for many reasons and the fast paced gameplay is great but feels like more of the same with minor tweaks.
Appeal Factor Rating: MEDIOCRE
Dimensions doesn’t really give you much to do in terms of unlockable content. DOA2 Ultimate was the epitome of the series for this. There’s barely anything out there to unlock outside of 3D figures of each character. These figures are used for taking photos in the game’s 3D photo mode, which is just another throw away with no really reward of any kind. Some will think this mode is for voyeurisms, but for that I would recommended the DOA Xtreme and Paradise games instead over this game.
Miscellaneous Rating: BELOW AVERAGE
The Scores: Modes: Good
Control and Gameplay: Great
Appeal Factor: Mediocre
Miscellaneous: Below Average FINAL SCORE: Enjoyable Game!
Short Attention Span Summary:
Dead or Alive Dimensions is an enjoyable game in a series that is often scoffed at and ridiculed for its buxom beauties. Even though it’s nothing more than a tweaked version of Dead or Alive 4 with a few extra characters, it’s still highly enjoyable despite it being heavy stripped down. Unfortunately for fighting enthusiasts, there isn’t much here to warrant picking up this game. The online mode is the strongest part of the game for those with the patience to wait for an opponent. On top of that there is a complete lack of unlockables, several worthless single player modes and a silly camera mode do not make this game truly worth your $40. But once again we come back to the online mode which is Dimensions‘ bread and butter but quite frankly I can only recommend this game to fans of the series and casual fighting game fans.