Reviewed: June 1, 2011
Released: May 24, 2011
Throughout the history of time, handheld consoles have never been thought of as home to fighting games. There were exceptions of course, where good fighting games appeared on assorted handhelds, but for the most part they were always too limiting for a good fighter. A lack of buttons coupled with uncooperative d-pads just meant fighters didnít really work. This has changed, rather suddenly it seems, with the 3DS. The console has been moderately successful, but the biggest complaint in the early portion of the 3DSís life, is a dearth of games. Oddly though, despite this appropriate complaint, the 3DS has produced two excellent fighters. First Street Fighter on day one, and now Dead or Alive Dimensions.|
The most admirable thing about DOA: Dimensions, is that it feels like a fully featured Dead or Alive game in all regards. No shortcuts have been taken to make sure the game appears on a handheld in gameplay, features and perhaps most surprisingly, graphics. Dead or Alive: Dimensions looks great, easily pulling in front of almost any PSP game. The characters and backgrounds all look incredibly sharp and at a tight framerate.
The 3D effect doesnít do a whole lot to make the game look better. There wasnít much done outside of the menus that take advantage of the 3D in any special ways. The fights look good because they take place on multiple planes, but keeping the 3D on is not a requirement. I would be remiss not to mention 3-dimensional female assets when writing about a Dead or Alive game, so just know this. Yes they exist, but no, they donít really receive and special attention thanks to the 3D. They are just as distracting in 3D as they are in 2D.
The combat is tried and true Dead or Alive fair; super-fast, with quick fluid animation, and rewarding counters. Nothing is quite as joyous as stopping a fighter mid combo with an expertly executed counter, and it feels as great as ever. Dead or Alive Dimensions really eases you into the combat by offering tutorials as detailed and simple as describing exactly what a kick is, to explaining advanced tactics like how to trick opponents into thinking you completed a combo, only to delay the last few hits. Veterans might be yelling at the game to get on with it, but newcomers (or anyone who hasnít touched DOA since 4 released) will be thankful for the generous hand holding.
Dimensions is clearly designed to welcome newcomers as the story mode is easy and fairly short. Itís here where characters are introduced, fighters are trained, and itís all wrapped in a ridiculous, impossible to follow narrative that is ripe with all kinds of unintentionally hilarious dialogue. People are just fighting each other for seemingly no reason, and conflicts never get resolved. Even aside from the actual content of the cutscenes, they are all silly and random. Some scenes are fully animated, while others show characters interacting with one another in stationary poses, as the camera drifts slowly beside them. Itís very odd, and likely a product of making sure the game came out within a reasonable window of the launch. Why fully animate the cutscenes, when more time could be spent on the combat? It can be a little odd, but itís a tradeoff Iím glad was made.
The story is short, but there is a lot to do after finishing. There are plenty of other modes like survival, arcade and of course online play, as well as tons of unlockables. Each character has additional costumes to unlock and a ton of trophies showing off assorted poses. As you collect trophies for the characters, you can view them and take photos of them. Photographing the figures uses the tilt functions of the 3DS in a cool way where you can literally move the 3DS around as if the figuring existed in a 3D space. Itís a cool function, and one that is also used in the menus. The top screen cycles through assorted combat arenas, and moving the 3DS allows you to explore the 3D space. Itís a small little addition that just works really well, and shows of one of the features of the 3DS that most have forgotten about.
The online play is somewhat limiting, in that all you can really do is fight others. There arenít any other modes or avatar options like the ones that existed in Dead or Alive 4, but it works well with very little slowdown. I never had problems getting into matches, but I did have problems winning. Thatís where the real challenge lies. Along with all that is built into the cartridge, Team Ninja is offering frequent free downloadable content in the form of costumes, as well as special fighting matches that are created based on collected player data. You might open up your 3DS to find that a special challenger awaits from Team Ninja on a nearly daily basis, and winning nets new trophies and other rewards. The collected data also plays into the StreetPass capabilities, where an AI fighter is created based on your play history, and then offered to the 3DSs that you walk by. Itís like your fighting the ghosts of the people you pass.
For Dead or Alive fans, Dimensions is a sort of collected archive, with lots of characters and stages that have all appeared in previous titles. There isn't a whole of new stuff technically, but it is all so expertly executed on the 3DS, that you really don't mind. And the way newcomers are eased into the combat, it really makes it a Dead or Alive for everyone. This is one of the strongest releases yet for the 3DS yet, and definitely one worth picking up for any fighting fan. And if that didn't sell you on it, there may or may not be an unlockable stage featuring Ridley from Metroid, which is just plain cool.