Review: Dead or Alive: Dimensions

My first experience with the Dead or Alive series was with Dead or Alive 4 when it was released on the Xbox 360 shortly after the system launched in 2005. Back then I was less interested in the game’s story and more interested in the possibility of playing against complete strangers online over Xbox Live. Not having much background in the game, I went in not expecting much considering that from the outside it seemed that the folks over at Team Ninja were focusing more on the looks of the female fighters than anything else. I was pleasantly surprised to find a fairly complex fighter containing multiple real-life fighting styles. Dead or Alive 4 also had one of the best final endings that I had seen up until that time, mostly due to it matching well with Aerosmith’s ‘Amazing’. Having such a good experience with the previous Dead or Alive, I was excited to get the opportunity to review the latest incarnation released for the Nintendo 3DS: Dead or Alive: Dimensions.

As you’re probably heard, this game contains many firsts for the Dead or Alive franchise. Aside from being in 3D, it’s the first game to appear on a Nintendo system and the first Dead or Alive fighter on a handheld system (Editor’s note: that crappy Dead or Alive Paradise perv sim does NOT count!) It’s also the first Dead or Alive fighter release by Team Ninja without any input from the franchise’s creator, Tomonobu Itagaki. Other than these facts, I went into this game blind not knowing what to expect other than what I’d previously experienced with Dead or Alive 4.

When flipping through the game’s instructions, it was obvious that the setup of this game was different from any other Dead or Alive game to date. This isn’t a sequel to the Dead or Alive fighting series, or even a one-shot game that has nothing to do with Dead or Alive’s canon. It’s more of a series overview than anything else. This is made apparent by the game’s Chronicle Mode which takes players through five chapters, each one focusing on the individual stories presented in Dead or Alives 1 – 4, with an additional chapter following the storyline of one Helena through the entire series. This mode also doubles as a tutorial, showing players how to string together combos, link throws together, and effectively block and counter moves.

Speaking of moves, the fighting in Dimensions is almost directly ported from the other iterations in the series. To me it seemed that very few compromises were made in bringing over the complex combo system, and with the 3DS’ new slider control pad the moves were just as smooth as using an analogue stick on a home console. Apparently the countering system was rebuilt from the ground up to make it a mixture between that of Dead or Alive 3 and 4, however I wasn’t able to tell the difference.

While manual controls were my preferred method to play the game, it also offers a beginner mode in the form of the 3DS’ touchscreen. During play, the touchscreen shows you controller combinations that are filtered down to which buttons you started the combo with. It’s a pretty handy feature, but what it also does is allow the user to simply press one of the combo hotkeys and have the computer automatically execute the entire attack string. This allows gamers new to the series to execute combos which may have taken hours to memorize and pull off successfully. The only downside is that due to the numerous combo options available to each character, navigating up and down through them can be a pain when under attack from an opponent, as once you start using the touch screen to execute combos the game gives you manual control of finding moves.

Not that the game is very difficult. I was able to get through most of the single player matches by simply mashing buttons, and mixing up my low/mid/high attacks to get through the defenses of block-heavy computer opponents. If you’re coming from a previous installment of the Dead or Alive series to this one expecting the same level of difficulty, you’ll be disappointed.

Going back to the Chronicle Mode, it is interspersed with a multitude of cutscenes. What’s odd is that they range from CG which was taken directly from the original Dead or Alive game on which the specific chapter is focusing, while others use in-game graphics to have characters interact and talk to one another. Sometimes, though, the developers decided just to have a cutscene consist of in-game graphics with characters just standing motionless while the characters talk to one another. Also, the cutscenes are numerous so much so that you’ll actually spend more time watching them than actually fighting. By skipping all of the cutscenes one can get through all of the chapters in about 2 – 3 hours, however if you’re really interested in the whole Dead or Alive storyline that time easily doubles or triples to 6+ hours.

Since we’re on the topic of movies, it’s an appropriate time to mention how the 3D aspect factors into the game overall. For non-CG portions the effects are surprisingly great. Team Ninja kept Dimensions true to its roots, not introducing any gimmicks just to exploit the system’s 3D technology. It adds a level of depth to a fighting game that has already played in a 3D space by having characters able to circle around their opponents. This does come at a cost however. Without the 3D effects turned on the game displays at 60 frames per second, but with it on that is reduced in half to 30, which is understandable as separate images are being directed at each eye to create the effect of 3D. Where Dimensions failed at the 3D tech is in the CG cutscenes. Imagine for a second that you have a napkin on the table. Now pinch the middle between your thumb and forefinger and lift slightly. That is exactly how these cutscenes look when 3D mode is turned on. It’s actually a little disorienting and can distract you quite a bit.

While Dimensions did an adequate job of utilizing the 3DS’ new screen, they made better use of the system’s new SpotPass and StreetPass functions. If you happen to carry around your 3DS and pass near someone else who has the game, StreetPass will download that information about that individual’s play style, creating a representation that can be challenged in the game’s Throwdown Mode. Additionally, hooking Dimensions into SpotPass allows for Tecmo to send new character costumes and Throwdown Mode challenges of their own, which is a great way to keep the game fresh.

Team Ninja and Tecmo also made use of the handheld’s wireless communications, allowing for local and online play. Through Online Mode one can play with other friends in their 3DS friend list, or anyone in your region or world. The matches I’ve played have been amazingly flawless with only one match out of 20 experiencing a serious amount of lag. The wins and losses you experience in this mode also contribute to your profile’s overall ranking, hooking back into the game’s StreetPass functionality. So the more you win online the harder your doppelganger will be when it appears to challenge another unsuspecting passerby. The only downside to the Online Mode is that it takes a few minutes to find another player, and once the match is concluded you don’t have the ability to ask for a rematch. Instead, you’re dumped back out to the main Online Mode menu and are forced to wait another two or three minutes to find another challenger.

While these are the highlights of what Dimensions has to offer, there are also a few other modes that are given less attention. For example, there’s an Arcade Mode where the idea is to get the fastest time fighting a set number of challengers; a Tag Challenge Mode where you and an AI-controlled partner (who can sometimes cause much frustration based on its spotty performance) team up to fight against the computer; and a Survival Mode where the idea is to see how long you can last against an increasingly difficult number of fighters.

Throughout all of these fighting modes players have the ability to unlock statues that may be viewed in the game’s Showcase Mode. These statues are really just character models in different costumes/poses, and the idea behind Showcase Mode is to allow the user to pose them in a variety of ways and in front of different backgrounds and then take 3D pictures which can be stored and viewed later in the 3D Photo Album Mode. This offers a lot of replay value as there are over 1000 figures to collect; that is if you’re into that type of thing.

On its own, Dead or Alive: Dimensions is a good 3DS game. It effectively utilizes the 3D screen, has a variety of modes to keep players interested, including a good online option, and has enough replay value to keep gamers coming back to collect all of the figurines and alternate character costumes. However, having played previous Dead or Alive titles I know what Team Ninja is capable of and this is not on the same level as Dead or Alive 4. Perhaps that’s a little unfair considering that I’m comparing a game released nearly six years ago on the Xbox 360 to one released on a handheld, but Dimensions seems to be more of a “best of” title that just rehashes all of the previous games in the series. There is no new gameplay here, just the same gameplay that existed in other mediums on a new system utilizing new technology and functionality. So depending on your experience with the Dead or Alive franchise and your expectations for this title, this is definitely one you’ll want to try before purchasing.

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Pros:
+ Good use of 3D during gameplay without gimmicks
+ Extensive replay value for those interested in collecting things
+ Nearly lag free online play
+ StreetPass and SpotPass functionality keeps game interesting
+ Successfully adapts DOA’s fighting system for portable play

Cons:
– Story is not new, just rehash of previous Dead or Alive iterations
– Online Mode is not fluid from one match to the next
– CG cutscenes were converted to 3D in a distracting manner

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Game Info:
Platform: Ninendo 3DS
Publisher: Tecmo
Developer: Team Ninja
Release Date: 5/24/2011
Genre: Fighting Game
ESRB Rating: Teen
Players: 1-2 (local and online)
Source: Review copy provided by publisher

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About the Author

Having over 25 years of gaming experience, Zach knows a thing or two when it comes to one of his favorite entertainment activities. Additionally, he has also written many articles previewing and reviewing titles which can be found in various places around the net, including VGBlogger.com.