It was a smart move for Nintendo to pick up Dead Or Alive Dimensions for publication. Hopefully they’ll put their weight behind it because in one swift move, Team Ninja have proved to the world that the 3DS can not only provide a game worthy of the platform in terms of structure and length (unlike most of the handheld’s launch games) but it can also produce console-quality visuals. Dead or Alive Dimensions is breathtakingly gorgeous – razor sharp and (in 2D mode at least) ridiculously slick, locked at sixty frames per second during the main game.
It has to be seen in motion to fully appreciate, of course, and we’re not suggesting there’s not the odd dodgy texture or that the models are up there with what the PS3 and Xbox 360 can do, but they are stunning, hold up perfectly in close-ups and are animated just as well as any other fighter has strung together keyframes in the past. In 3D mode the frame rate halves, locked at 30fps (the same as Street Fighter IV in 3D mode) but the added depth and the fact that most Dead or Alive arenas are multi tiered means that some might want to sacrifice the slickness for spectacle.[drop]I switched back and forth a few times – you don’t need to back out to the menus like you do in Capcom’s brawler – and whilst most will only play through the new Chronicle mode once, it’s worth pushing that slider up to max for the pre-rendered and realtime cutscenes that litter the new single player story mode: they’re frequently amazing and well worth showing off to anyone still doubting what the 3DS is capable of. It’s a shame that it’s taken a third party to really push the system, but at least now there’s a tangible, clear benchmark for others to aim for.
Thankfully, though, Dimensions is hardly all looks and no substance. I’ve always been a fan of the Dead or Alive mechanics, and although I’m hardly a fighting game expert (we have our man Delriach for that) I do appreciate the way this particular series offers a chance for newer gamers to instantly pick up and play but also gives plenty of room to master the intricacies. The fact that there’s only really three buttons (four if you count ‘throw’ as a single press) really helps, and the way the game is balanced towards blocking and counters really resonates with me.
It’s a deep system, but one that can be ignored between friends for some fun matches if you just concentrate on the basics: the triangle system between strikes, throws and holds acts like rock, paper scissors and the intuitive blocking system means that once you’ve learnt a few of the characters’ moves it’s more a case of being quick enough to block or counter before the blow lands, and then you can take it from there and expand your skillsets the more you play. Rest assured that if you want a challenge the game will offer it to you without fuss, but you can dial it down to easy without feeling too bad.
So, visually it’s solid, and in terms of gameplay it’s pure Dead or Alive without having anything taken away or dumbed down, and it’s brilliant. But whilst the Chronicle mode (which takes you through the entire DoA series with a collection of chronological animations, battles and interludes) is a good place to start for newbies and anyone wanting a refresher, it’s in the rest of the main menu where the developers have really pushed the boat out. Alongside the aforementioned headline mode, for single players there’s also your expected Arcade mode, Survival, Tag Challenge, Free Play and Training.[drop2]Local play is offered, as you might expect (although each player needs the game) and – thankfully – there’s also online Internet Play too, which gives you a few filters like friends only, region and number of rounds required to win, before finding you a game. At the time of writing I only had the chance to sample a couple of battles and the framerate varied a little, depending on who was in the match and where they were from. Naturally, by launch there’ll be a lot more people online nearby (I tended to end up playing against the Japanese) so we’ll see have to see how that pans out.
If that’s not enough, there’s also a Throwdown mode which pits you against any Streetpass hits you’ve made on your travels, keeping your opponents fresh, and something called Showcase, which lets you place characters that you collect during the game in any of the environments, which you can pose and photograph (in 3D, obviously). This is actually a lot more fun than it might sound, and there’s literally hundreds of variations to collect, from different characters, to stances, to costumes. Photographs can be viewed in another menu option, but I couldn’t find an option to save them out to the SD card.
Finally, voice acting is in both English and Japanese (with subs, if required), there’s more characters here than (I think) any other DoA game and some of the neat little touches (like using the gyro to move the camera during the menus) just shows how much love and attention has been put into this particular title. I don’t tend to get overly excited about fighters, and I’m well aware the series has its fair share of people that simply don’t like the way it works, but I do, and I think you will too.
- Incredible graphics in both 2D and 3D modes.
- Console-level features and gameplay.
- Chronicle mode is great for fans.
- Online play and ability to battle Streetpass AI.
- Huge collection of playable fighters.
- Quick loading.
- Online battles can be hit and miss, framerate wise.
- The AI, bizarrely, takes control of the second player in Tag mode.
It’s hard to know what else the developers could get into the game, really. There’s absolutely loads in here for the fighting fan, and it’s refreshing to see a game come out for the 3DS that doesn’t skimp on things to do or sacrifice longevity just to hit the crucial launch period. I also much prefer the fighting mechanics to that of Street Fighter and there’s a clear difference in the visual quality too – Dead or Alive’s looks might be an early selling point but there’s a proper game here, and it absolutely deserves to be treated as such. Really, really impressed.