Let's be honest, it's been awhile since we've gotten a proper Dead or Alive game (and no, those volleyball games don't count).
But Dead or Alive Dimensions marks the franchise's 15th anniversary, as well as its debut on a Nintendo system. Luckily for DoA fans, the developers at Team Ninja really stepped up their game for this one.
If you're unfamiliar with the series, Dead or Alive is a 3D fighter with action that largely takes place on a 2D plane. The controls are simple and easy to learn. You can punch, kick, guard or throw, and chaining these moves together (while pressing different directions on the D-pad) provides a wide variety of possible moves. Of course, Dead or Alive's main hook is its counter system. It takes a little finesse, but most of your opponents' moves can be countered. If it sounds a little intimidating, worry not, because Chronicle Mode (DoAD's version of Story Mode) does a great job of showing you the ropes. Even if this is your first DoA outing, you'll be chaining and countering in no time.
One of the best things about DoAD is the amount of stuff to do. There are a ton of modes to toy around with. Chronicle Mode weaves 15 years of DoA lore into one long tale. Like most fighting games, the story is less than coherent, but it's good,cheesy fun, and serves as a great introduction to all of DoA's colorful characters. Other modes include normal fighting fare like Free Play, Arcade mode and Training, as well as a Tag Challenge mode that allows you to team up with a real-life or AI partner to defeat a powerful opponent. There's also a Survival mode that pits players against a non-stop stream of combatants to see how long they can last.
Of course, the real bread and butter of any fighting game is the multiplayer, which DoAD offers both locally and online. They both work great with no noticeable lag, though it's disappointing that there's no Download Play support (meaning if you want to play with a buddy you'll both need your own copies). My biggest problem with DoAD is the presentation. The game goes back and forth between animating the characters and having them stand motionless while the audio continues. It's a stylistic choice, but it's quite jarring and just seems unfinished.
Also, much like in Super Street Fighter IV 3D, you can use the touch screen to select combos rather than pressing the correct chain of commands. While it's useful as a quick reference guide, it's not really usable during a fight. The layout and button size make it difficult to execute moves on the fly. I have very small fingers and it was difficult for me to quickly and accurately select these moves, so anyone with normal to large hands is just out of luck.
The 3D Effect
The 3D doesn't play a big part in DoAD, but it does look nice. It's also fun to see a ninja hand jumping out at you after your character wins a match. And, as anyone who's ever played a Team Ninja game would expect, the 3D also adds extra dimension to certain female body parts.
If you’re a longtime fan of the series, DOAD is a great addition and a fun homage to the franchise’s legacy. But even if you’re new to the series (or the genre, for that matter), this title is a great starting point. Weird cut-scenes and clunky use of the touch screen aside, this is a beautiful and fun game that fighter fans should make it a point to check out.