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6/27/2011

REVIEW: Dead or Alive Dimensions (3DS)



Dead or Alive Dimensions is the 5th installment in the famous fighting-game series developed by Team Ninja, the team responsible for other series like Ninja Gaiden and Metroid Other M.  The game is the successor to Dead or Alive 4 for the Xbox 360, which came way back in 2005. Dimensions is a recompilation of everything that has happened in the series in the four previous games but with DOA4’s gameplay, meaning that the story mode will cover all the events from DOA1 to DOA4.

Starting with the graphics and visuals, I can say that they’re incredible. The textures in the characters and environments are excellent, some things even look better than the Xbox 360 counter-part which is incredible since Dimensions is a 3DS game and we are all used to portable games being lower in graphic quality. As incredible as it sounds, the game runs in full 60fps when played in 2D. I think this is the first 3DS game to achieve this, making the animations look extremely smooth and fluid, which is extremely important for a series as fast-paced as Dead or Alive. However, as soon as you turn the 3D effects on, the frames per second will get lower, 30fps to be exact, still, the game runs very good at 30fps and the 3D effects are so good that the game can be enjoyed perfectly in either way.

Continuing with the graphics, the 3D effects are great. When you turn them on, the characters seem to get out of the screen and fight each other like in a hologram. The stages also get an intense feeling of depth in 3D, especially the ones with things like breakable objects and water running through them. In short, the game takes full advantage of what the 3DS is capable of. Now, for real competitive gameplay, I recommend playing in 2D because the game is so fast-paced that many actions require quick reflexes and looking at the gameplay in 60fps like in DOA4.

As usual with fighting games and especially this series, Dead or Alive Dimensions features a lot of different game modes. The first one is Story Mode which, like said, covers all the events that happened from DOA1 to DOA4. You’ll take control of different characters of importance to the plot, mostly the ninjas and Helena and watch the events happening in the form of cutscenes. To be quite honest, the story is really uninteresting and quite silly at times but if you’re new to the series, it makes a great job at introducing the gameplay mechanics to you, teaching you what you can do and how to do it in the actual fights. This mode also allows you to unlock most of the characters in the game.

Besides the Story Mode, you’ll be able to play in Arcade, in which you choose one of several available “paths” with different opponents and difficulty level and just fight your way through it. There’s also Survival mode in which you choose a fighter and the AI just throws random opponents at you and you fight to break your own records. Then there’s Throwdown Challenges, where the game registers your friend list and depending on their rank, you’ll be able to fight your buddies’ favorite character with a set difficulty level, example, if you register a friend with a F- rank, the AI will be easy to beat, but if your friend’s rank is A+, the opponent in throwdown will be very hard.

Another old game mode makes a curious comeback, Tag Battle, where two characters team up to defeat a single opponent with a huge life-bar. If you play it alone, you’ll only take control of one of the fighters in the team while the AI plays as the other (and the opponent) but if you play it together with a friend, each of you will control their own fighter, like in DOA4’s online multiplayer. Training mode is also back with all the cool features it had back in the previous entries of the series, but in Dimensions, the game takes advantage of the touch screen and allows you to scroll through the entire move list of the character you choose to practice by either pressing the actual commands with the buttons or just touching the desired combo with the stylus. You can also make use of the bottom screen to see the frame data of what’s happening in training and all the other gameplay modes.

Finally, the most important game mode, Multiplayer, also comes back, which can be offline or online, like in DOA2 Ultimate and DOA4. This time, however, the online multiplayer will not have the funny lobbies with avatars we had in the Xbox 360 entry, the online mode now is very much like the ones found in other series where you find an opponent and once the fight is over you are forced to go back to the menu to find another one, meaning that repeating a fight or just turning the lobby into a private room will never happen in Dimensions but this is to be expected, we can’t forget that Dimensions is a portable game in a console much weaker than the Xbox 360 but at the same time I can’t help but compare the comfortable and even funny online lobbies in DOA4 with the annoying menus in this.

Besides the actual fights, the game will allow you to collect 3D figurines of each of the characters in the game every time you win a fight in pretty much every game mode; you can also buy them by spending the game coins you get while walking with the 3DS in sleep mode. You can take pictures of these figurines and saved them to be viewed later.

Gameplay-wise the game feels very much like DOA4, in fact, I could pretty much say that Dimensions is like an update to the Xbox 360 game’s gameplay. You still have one button for punch, kick, throws and blocking/countering. However, most of the characters got little changes to several of their mechanics, from the frame date of their moves to the commands you need to press to do something. The vast majority of these changes are minor but Team Ninja actually came and made a huge mistake by simplifying the counter-attack system from four directions to three. In DOA2U and DOA4, mid punches were countered by pressing “back” while mid kicks by pressing “forward”, this was logical given that most of the moves in every fighter’s repertoire were aimed to the middle. Dimensions goes back to the old countering system of DOA3 and the old versions of DOA2 which allow you to counter all the mid punches and kicks by pressing “back”. This damaged the online gameplay because now most of the players will just spam mid-counterattacks when trying to defend themselves and their chances of getting a successful one raised a whole lot, allowing them to win fights by luck instead of skill.

Another stupid gameplay change appeared in Dimensions, three of the characters now have access to fireballs and other ranged attacks which also make online users to play a lot as Hayabusa, Raidou and Genra and just stay away from their opponents spamming fireballs until they win. It is incredible that two simple changes in the gameplay mechanics of the series lowered the quality and enjoyment of the multiplayer mode so much. I can also say that the 3DS’s pad is way too small and uncomfortable for some of the inputs and it is very easy to make a lot of mistakes especially with the diagonal commands at first, but to be honest, it is just a matter of getting used to it.

The sound and music are very good. Many of the most memorable songs from the old entries in the series make a comeback in remixed form and most of them are excellent. The soundtrack, like the story, is a mix of the four previous games. The sound effects are also very good, every object in every stage makes sounds to create a good environment and the characters voices in Japanese sound as good as always, I can’t say the same for the English ones which make a comeback. DOA didn’t have English-voices since the PS2 version of DOA2. But anyway, all the characters have their old voice actors so there are no weird changes.

For closing-comments I can say that the game is very good. It feels and runs excellent on the 3DS, the graphics, 3D effects, music, and fights are top notch, but minor gameplay changes damaged the entire experience a lot, I feel that it’s not really the game’s fault but the casual gamers who play it online but the mistakes are there. Competitive players who like deep mechanics will still have a lot to learn and master in DOA Dimensions but if you really want the best DOA experience, stay with the Xbox 360 game which still has a lot of public six years after its release. The multiplayer is definitely not as good as in DOA2U and DOA4 but for a 3DS game, I can say that it is probably one of the best portable fighting games out there together with SSF4 3D and Dissidia 012. I truly recommend it to any 3DS owner, it is one of the best games in the console so far and when looking at the future 3DS catalog I can be sure it will stay like that for a long time.

Pros:

-         -     Fast and intense fights with tons of different things to do
-         -     Huge roster of characters with different fighting styles to choose from
-         -      The mechanics are deep and you will always find something new to try out and learn
-         -     The 3D effects are excellent and the graphics can compare to DOA4

Cons:
-     -     A simplified defensive systems allows casual gamers to win by getting lucky instead of getting good at the game
-        -     The story is silly and uninteresting
-        -     Online mode is quite uncomfortable to navigate through
-        -     Fireballs


Graphics and Visuals………….9
Music and Sound Effects……...9
Gameplay……………………..7
Replay Value………………….9 

Overall Score………………….8.5 / 10

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