Dead Or Alive: Dimensions (3DS)
The Dead Or Alive series hasn’t seen a proper sequel since the fourth instalment launched on Xbox 360, but then slipped it into obscurity as quickly as it came. The rather embarrassing DOA: Extreme series hasn’t done much to help matters; favouring sexual innuendo and mini-games over the fluid fighting mechanic of the core series. As a result, we stepped up to play Dead Or Alive: Dimensions with a slight air of apathy but left our hands-on session wanting to play more.
Team Ninja has positioned Dimensions as a ‘best-of’ collection, bringing together every character from the series, while placing emphasis on multi-tiered arenas and of course, ample cleavage. The series’ innuendo remains, but once we started fighting our way through the story mode, we were reminded that underneath all the sexy gloss exists a solid and enjoyable brawler.
Story mode kicked off with a cut scene of series poster girl Kasumi leaving her ninja village without permission, leading her to a battle on a rickety rope bridge against her half-sister Ayane. The 3D effect was impressive, helping the series’ penchant for colourful visuals and grand scenes really stand out. When the battle kicked off however, we were impressed at just how slick the action was. If developer chatter is to be believed, Dead Or Alive: Dimensions runs at a cool 60 frames per second when the 3D effect is turned off. We tried battles without 3D and we can certainly believe that claim. With the 3D on, it was impossible to notice any dip in quality, marking a great technical achievement for the developer.
Simplicity has always been a core tenet for the Dead or Alive series, and it didn’t take us long to string together powerful combos and return fire with brutal counters. Team Ninja’s masterstroke is its superb use of the bottom screen, which displays a real-time command list during fights. Each character’s base move set is displayed here for quick reference, but once we start hammering buttons, it shifted to show potential follow up blows to help us keep our barrage going. Not only is this a great way to show newcomers the ropes; it also helps long-time fans hone their skills even further.
In keeping with the series’ tradition, we were able to kick Ayane off the rope bridge and send her tumbling down into the river canyon below. Whenever an opponent is knocked out of the arena, a seamless cut scene shows them tumbling down to the next level, making great use of the 3D effect. The difference in Dimensions is that ring-out falls now hurt opponents, so it’s possible to KO someone on the way down. Strategically lining up opponents to score a devastating ring out is endearing, and we found ourselves trying to focus on attacking, defence and scoring a ring-out in equal measure.
It’s moments like these that reveal just how tactical the Dead or Alive series can be, which belies the view that it’s a franchise centred on sexy female characters, daft outfits and worst of all, volleyball. The visuals are razor sharp, intricate and colourful, which keeps in line with Nintendo’s aesthetic values as well. We were also surprised to learn that Dead or Alive: Dimensions features a Metroid stage, complete with a Samus cameo in the background.
Dead or Alive: Dimensions is shaping up to be a superb fighting game, although it remains to be seen if Team Ninja can match Capcom’s Super Street Fighter IV 3D in terms of online connectivity. If online multiplayer is up to scratch without any lag or lobby issues, this will be another fine addition to the 3DS release schedule.