Following the departure of their outspoken and infamous studio boss, Tomonobu Itagaki, many doubted whether Team Ninja were capable of producing any more worthwhile titles. The first outing with new team head Yosuke Hayashi, Ninja Gaiden Sigma 2
, didn't go down quite as well as its 2004 predecessor or even its Itagakai-led version
. The second major title to come out of the studio without Itagaki, Metroid: Other M
for the Nintendo Wii, also didn't fare too well.
Hoping to break the studio's run of slightly disappointing offerings, Team Ninja return to their first series, fifteen years after its first outing. The last actual fighting game in the series, Dead Or Alive 4
for the Xbox 360, was released over five years ago and softcore fiddle-aids Dead Or Alive Xtreme 2
and Dead Or Alive Paradise
failed to be little more than less sexually charged simulators of Top Gun
's volleyball scene. Now Team Ninja has released Dead Or Alive: Dimensions
on the Nintendo 3DS, touted as a kind of "'best-of' compilation"
of the series, intending to cater to newcomers while offering a trip down memory lane and more refined gameplay for the series' more hardcore fans.
With the Nintendo 3DS lacking any real 'must-have' titles since its launch two months ago, can Dead Or Alive: Dimensions
give 3DS owners a reason to wipe the dust off their technologically advanced paperweights?
Dead Or Alive is one of the easier fighting series to get into, using a rock-paper-scissors system: strikes beat throws, throws beat holds (counters), holds beat strikes. Controls are kept simple with just one punch button, one kick button, a button for throws and a button for holds. The D-pad and circle pad are used mostly for movement with attacks being performed using a combination of the punch, kick and throw buttons. Anyone who has played the likes of Virtua Fighter, Soul Calibur or of course previous Dead Or Alive games should feel right at home with Dimensions
The placement of the 3DS' controls is far from ideal though. Tsize and stiff, clicky feel of the 3DS' X, Y, A and B buttons means that it can be awkward to enter longer and more complex attack strings. The placement of the D-pad is also a problem, leaving your hands at two different heights. The circle pad is a more comfortable option but it's not really accurate enough.
For the most part Dead Or Alive: Dimensions
is easy to pick up and the game features tutorials and a practice mode to guide new players, but make no mistake: Dimensions
is not a mindless button-masher. There is plenty of depth to be found here and the sheer pace and ferocity of the game means that random jabs at the controls will likely be met with swift defeat. For players who take their fighting games seriously, there is the option to display frame data on the touch screen during fights; more casual players can use the touch screen to display a list of their character's moves instead. Tapping on a move in this list will make your character perform the action which may help new players pull off flashy attacks quicker, although it is a little awkward to use for a whole match and before long you'll want to learn how to perform moves manually.
Dead Or Alive: Dimensions
does have an awful lot to offer. One of the longest story modes of any fighting game to date, other classic fighting game modes such as Survival, online play, the largest roster in the series' history and with over one thousand items to unlock, Dimensions
could keep you busy for a very long time. With free DLC rolling out each day for a month
, one thing you can't accuse Team Ninja of is skimping on content.
Chronicle mode takes you through the history of Dead Or Alive, from the prologue of the first game right the way through until the end of the fourth with the player using specific characters in key fights. Most of the supporting cast and their scenes are left out, however, and so for the most part you will only be taking control of the main ninja characters, Kasumi and Hayate.
Fights in Chronicle mode are preceded and followed by cutscenes scenes, some of which are fully animated while others are made up of the characters in freeze frame poses and these progress almost like comic book panels. The animated scenes are very nicely done, even featuring surprisingly close lip syncing for the Japanese voice track, but the static scenes are quite boring and you can't help but wonder if they were put in to add some stylistic flavour or if these scenes were left frozen just to cut down development time.
Many of the game's other modes are your standard fighting game fare: Arcade, in which you try to beat a series of CPU-controlled characters in the shortest time possible; Survival, in which you attempt to defeat as many opponents in a row as possible; Tag Challenge, similar to Arcade but using 2-on-2 battles instead of 1-on-1; Free Play, your basic endless player-vs-CPU mode; the obligatory Training mode; and finally player-vs-player, both local and online.
All are as you would expect, although the online play does leave a lot to be desired. There is no lobby system and no real player searching. You can simply search for players within your region or worldwide and you are automatically matched up to whoever you have the best connection with. You have one fight and then you're back to the search page; there's no rematch option.
The lack of search and lobby options is the least of the online mode's problems, however. Of the twenty three matches I have tried to join only four have managed to actually connect and those were marred by horrendous lag. This, combined with Team Ninja's decision to include the story mode's super bosses as playable characters, means that online play really isn't worthwhile, at least at the time of writing. If very laggy mirror battles are your bag though, have at it.
The recent Dead Or Alive Xtreme 2
and Dead Or Alive Paradise
games have featured photography modes and Dimensions
is no different. Showcase mode allows you to pick static models of each character that are unlocked through gameplay, place them in any stage and use the 3DS' gyro controls and buttons to take images that can be saved and viewed later. There's exactly 1000 figures to unlock, covering every character in pretty much every pose imaginable. The 3DS' gyroscope is so sensitive though that it's incredibly hard to get the angle you want and once you've taken a picture there's nothing you can do with it. There's really very little point in the Showcase other than to provide you with a large amount of unlockables.
DOA is a series known for its visuals, including very fast and fluid animations, and Dimensions
does not let the side down. This is a very impressive game graphically and when in motion doesn't look any different to its original Xbox counterparts, Dead Or Alive 3
and Dead Or Alive Ultimate 2
. Even when playing a 2-on-2 tag battle on the most detailed and largest stages, the frame rate never seems to drop. Somewhat blurry textures and a lack of anti-aliasing, typical of the 3DS, can be noticed during the game's static scenes and the Showcase mode but during actual gameplay neither of these are that noticable, let alone detrimental.
3D does work very well in Dimensions
although the frame rate does dropped to half when 3D is turned on. In a game that's as fast and as slick as DOA you really will miss the full 60 frames per second and I doubt many people will want to play with the 3D effect on for long.
The hybrid techno-rock soundtrack for Dead Or Alive: Dimensions
has mostly been lifted from past DOA games, although the Aerosmith songs that accompanied many of the previous games' opening and closing sequences are absent. While there is nothing new on offer, older fans of the series will likely appreciate the inclusion of certain iconic themes and fresh players are unlikely to be put off by the series' tried-and-tested 'Greatest Hits' backing.
The game includes both a Japanese voice track and an English one. The English track isn't too painful, with a couple of genuinely good performances. However a handful of the characters' English voices are highly annoying and most players are going to want to hit the options menu and switch over to the Japanese voice track.
Dead Or Alive: Dimensions
does do a lot of things right. The gameplay is as solid as ever, it's got a lot of content with more free DLC costumes on the way, it's got a nice variety of game modes and it's got some of the best - if not the
best - visuals on the system. However it does just as many things wrong: broken online play, tag battles might as well not exist, slightly poor controls and most of the unlockables are for an utterly useless mode.
With Super Street Fighter IV: 3D Edition
already available on the same platform and countless superior fighting games on others, it's hard to recommend Dead Or Alive: Dimensions
as a purchase. Dimensions
is certainly worth a rental to any existing DOA fans or fans of fighting games in general that want to get a bit more use out of their 3DS but even the most hardcore DOA fan will probably be done with it within a week. Newcomers to fighting games may actually get a little more out of it thanks to the extensive tutorial sections within the story mode and the option to use the touch screen for moves, but it will likely still leave a lot to be desired.
Totally pointless score: 6.5 (rent it)
[Just treating this as a little writing exercise for myself - constructive criticism appreciated]