Developer: Team Ninja / Publisher: Koei / Played on: 3DS / Price: $39.99 / ESRB: Teen (Blood, Mild Language, Partial Nudity, Suggestive Themes, Use of Alcohol, Violence)
Fighting games usually don’t fare too well on handhelds. They lack the button layouts their console brethren utilize. Naturally, they also look better on the big consoles. And most portable fighting games are derivatives of the source material. But these typical traits changed with the most recent iteration of handhelds, with the Nintendo 3DS being the newest to flex its fighter muscles. Dead or Alive Dimensions takes the aforementioned stereotypes and pummels them to the floor with a well-timed countermove.
The Dead or Alive series of fighting games offers up a fast-paced bout unlike popular fighters like Tekken or Virtua Fighter. Without a fireball or ball of ice in sight, Dead or Alive combatants rely entirely on hand-to-hand fisticuffs to produce victory. Getting up close and drilling into your enemy with high, medium, or low attacks and linking up combos is what it’s all about. A major aspect of the Dead or Alive series that still holds true in Dimensions is the ability to counter any of your opponent’s moves. Your opponent’s high flying fist can be grabbed out of the air as you proceed to deliver a few quick chops to the chest before throwing your enemy to the floor. Parrying and countering moves makes Dead or Alive stand apart from other fighting games. If you’re skilled enough you could counter every attack your opponent throws. Each stage has multiple levels to fight on, and your battle can easily transfer from one area to the next. For example, you could be duking it out on a balcony only to be shoved over the ledge and fall two stories to the main floor where the action continues. Fighting is the name of the game, and Dimensions uses the refined system present in Dead or Alive 4 to deliver a fun, fast, and satisfying fight.
Dimensions packs in a great collection of gameplay modes. Chronicle mode acts as a story progression, trying its best to convey the convoluted and oftentimes ridiculous narrative of the first four games in the series. On top of the hyperbolic story elements, Chronicle mode also offers up an in-depth tutorial that ensures you understand the ins and outs of the fighting system. A standard arcade mode has you competing against a set number of enemies in succession while trying to obtain the fastest completion time. Survival mode sees how long you can last with a set life bar, while training mode and free play mode let you practice your combos before fighting real opponents. A mediocre online mode lets you face off against players from all across the world, but comes off very bare bones and without any of the options seen in games like Super Street Fighter 4 3D Edition: There’s no option to filter battles on skill level, no large lobbies to connect to and find an opponent, and finding an opponent can take several minutes. Tag battles round out the package, but in an odd twist you only control one character with the computer entirely controlling your partner. Dimensions takes advantage of the 3DS’s StreetPass and SpotPass capabilities as well, allowing you to fight anyone you pass on the street that also has a copy of the game suspended on their 3DS, while SpotPass automatically downloads special costumes for fighters when within range of a wireless connection. There is a hell of a lot of stuff to do in Dimensions, and at its core is a solid fighting engine that fans of the genre will embrace.
Dead or Alive Dimensions takes advantage of the 3DS’s hardware and produces images and graphics on the same level as PlayStation 2 games or better. The game looks so sleek and reminds me of the same smoothness seen in Tekken 5 on the PS2. Dimensions looks amazing for a handheld title and is easily the best looking game on the young system to date. Fighter animations are smooth and fluid, without a hiccup or frame rate drop in sight. A handful of cutscenes are presented in beautifully rendered CG and are almost on par with current HD console games. The story bits in between matches in Chronicle mode however are a mixed bag. Half of the time characters will move and interact with each other as they speak, but the other half of the time they won’t move at all. Instead they remain still as the camera moves around them; not even their mouths will move when speaking. It’s almost like Team Ninja ran out of time and couldn’t finish each scene. The 3D component is minimal. When turned on kicks and punches bulge from the screen, but the 3D effect can be largely ignored. Dead or Alive fans will be happy to know that *ahem* certain characteristics of female fighters get a boost when 3D is enabled. Aside from the incomplete feeling in Chronicle mode, Dimensions looks phenomenal.
Dimensions uses the six buttons on the 3DS superbly, providing a fighting experience that is as engaging as a console fighter. One button is assigned for punches, one for kicks, one for throws, and one for parries or counters. Holding the D-pad or thumbstick in a certain direction changes the basic attack, much like holding the stick forward in Super Smash Bros. Chaining combos of punches, kicks, and throws is easy and aided greatly by the touch screen. Listed on the bottom screen are combo inputs that you can enter manually or simply touch to execute. This play style helps the amateurs like myself stand a chance against seasoned veterans. There are over twenty playable characters, each with their own moves and combos, so finding one that fits your play style should come easily. New players might be overwhelmed by the complex fighting and parrying system, but Dimensions does a great job acquainting players with the system through Chronicle and tutorial mode. Dead or Alive Dimensions handles very well, and helps keep the focus on the action and not mashing buttons.
There is so much to do in Dead or Alive Dimensions: Chronicle mode lasts only a few hours, but between the arcade, survival, online, tag, and survival modes DOA enthusiasts will be busy for several hours more. I was disappointed by the subpar online mode, especially after seeing Street Fighter 4’s expansive options on the system a few weeks prior. Dead or Alive newbies and pros will find a great game in Dimensions that acts as a celebration of the franchise’s last 15 years. 3DS owners that are looking for something else to keep their thumbs busy beyond Street Fighter 4 should find Kasumi, Hayate, and Ryu Hayabusa just as entertaining as Chun-Li, Ken, and Ryu. Fireballs or not…