An exceptionally enjoyable experience for just about anyone.
Dead or Alive Dimensions plays exceptionally well. Fights are exciting and quick., not to mention it's very satisfying to smash your opponent's face in. The game plays much like Dead or Alive 4, which will make it an instant pick up and play for anyone who's played a bit of that game. An issue that I found with the Dead or Alive games, is how basic moves such as punches and kicks changed slightly as the series continued, which made it difficult to transition to newer games, and go back to older games. Dead or Alive Dimensions doesn't have this issue, which is a great breath of fresh air and made it a much more enjoyable experience. For new players, the bottom (touch) screen is used to execute character's moves if you're having difficulty. DOA:D offers the entire character's move set at the player's disposal on the bottom screen, but this can be changed to show information like frame data and damage for more advanced players.
Dimensions features the regular set of gameplay modes that one would expect in a fighting game. There's a time attack mode, a survival mode, a training option and much more. The focus this time seems to be on the Chronicle mode, which serves as the game's story mode, as well as a meaty tutorial to teach the game's basics. The game's story takes place through out the entirety of the Dead or Alive saga. This means that newcomers to the series will get to experience the ridiculous, yet pretty cool story that Dead or Alive has, while fans and veterans of the series will get to see some story moments and characters that were only mentioned by name in the previous entries.
Chronicle focuses on the story told through the four Dead or Alive games, so things will look pretty familiar to some players. The story is told through cutscenes which look pretty great. The way that the cutscenes are presented are a bit questionable. There are cutscenes that are fully animated, and then there are cutscenes that are stills, where there are no movements by the characters, nor do the mouths move. Only the occasional eye movements or so are showed in these cutscenes, but they're not too noticeable, as they're easy to get used to. The story itself is pretty neat, and pretty exciting. At times, it's pretty confusing-- but it never manages to lose your attention. It really helps develop the already great Dead or Alive characters, and by the end, you'll feel like you really recognize each character-- for some, even more than before. Chronicle is pretty lengthy for a fighting game story mode, spanning across five chapters and clocking in approximatively three to four hours.
Team Ninja also used this mode to teach players the basics of Dead or Alive. The tutorial is done exceptionally well. As many fighting games don't exactly take the time to teach the basics, this is a great addition to an already great game mode. Basic strikes, grabs are taught, and later on, the game teaches you counters and combos step-by-step, which was a good way to brush up on some mechanics, and should really help newcomers get used to some of the fastest fighting action that one'll find in any video game. The only flaw I encountered was some inconsistency between cutscenes. One scene you'll see a character wearing one costume, and in the next, a completely different costume in a cutscene set in a location, at one point, in a room right outside of the previous location. It's pretty goofy, but it never got in the way of anything going on.
Dead or Alive Dimensions shines on the Nintendo 3DS's small screens. The games runs at a near-flawless 60FPS frame rate and looks absolutely beautiful. A majority of the stages are very colorful and pretty detailed, and the character models look great. The character animation is impressive, and the game makes great use of effects and lighting. Not to mention, the 3D is surprisingly very well done. Cutscenes look exceptionally well when the 3D is cranked up, but it also drops the frame rate down from 60 to 30. I didn't find myself using the 3D much during gameplay though, as it was pretty distracting and a bit of a strain on the eyes. While it looks superb as a 3DS title, it also boasts a great sense of style, with tons of beautiful stages set in places like a gigantic cruiser ship and a river in front of a large waterfall. In any way that it's played, Dimensions looks great. I mean, look at the blizzard stage and I dare you to tell me it doesn't look freakin' awesome.
The sound design in Dead or Alive: Dimensions will be almost completely familiar to any Dead or Alive fan. The game features tracks from every Dead or Alive fighting game, as well as remixed DOA2 character themes. I would have preferred a completely new soundtrack, but considering it's a retelling of the Dead or Alive story, it seems appropriate. The music is still exciting and incredibly memorable, and the new remixed themes are a welcome addition. Dimensions features two language tracks, depending on your preference. English and Japanese languages are selectable, and both are pretty enjoyable to listen to. The dialogue is also well done, as lines in the Chronicle mode are pretty well written, not to mention the wacky DOA humor is just as effective as ever. I found myself cheering and laughing at tons of moments in the Chronicle mode.
Network play is present in Dimensions, where two players can battle each other online and it plays fairly well. In the matches I've played, I experienced no lag or slowdown whatsoever. For those worried about being put up against ridiculously good players, you can view their player record, rank and most used character before you choose to accept the game invite. It's a good addition, and I wish that more online fighting games had something like this. Unfortunately, I haven't had the chance to test out how playing against a friend works, but it seems to function how Super Street Fighter IV 3D Edition works, which is having a friend-specific lobby. I wasn't really fond of how that worked, and even due to the limitations of the 3DS's online capabilities, I think they could have worked a better way around this. Nonetheless, the online serves it's purpose with nearly flawless connection between players.
In addition to the Chronicle and online mode, Dimensions also features some offline modes. The Time Attack and "Story" modes seemed to have been merged together to create Arcade mode. Arcade mode takes you through various stages that get increasingly more difficult. The Survival mode is also divided into goal-specific stages. It starts off with 10 characters defeated in order to win, and the number increases as the stages go on. These modes are structured differently than how they were in previous games, but it's a welcome change.
While AI has been somewhat of an issue in previous Dead or Alive games, it seemed to have been toned down here. In previous entries, Dead or Alive AI was pretty punishing and unforgiving-- especially with boss battles. They seem to have toned it down, but a bit too much. Fights in the Arcade and Survival modes seem to have gotten too much easier, even on the 'hard' difficulty. Take that how you will, but while AI has been an issue in the past, now the fights are far too easy, which can make things a bit unexciting.
Finally, Dead or Alive: Dimensions features an impressive amount of unlockables. A couple of costumes can be unlocked for each playable character, as well as over 500+ figurines of the DOA characters in various poses and a bunch of neat stuff. These figurines can be viewed in Showcase mode where you can rotate and take pictures of the various figurines which at first, seemed kind of creepy but the game seems to have put limitations on where you can scroll on the figure. So, no, there won't be any XXX Kasumi naughty school girl UPSKIRT images, which makes the mode less creepier than what it seems. If you're not a fan of playing the actual game for whatever reason to unlock stuff, you can use 10 Playcoins that you've earned on the 3DS pedometer to purchase a "present" which is a cool alternate way to unlock stuff if you carry your 3DS around with you a lot.
Dimensions takes advantage of everything that the 3DS has to offer-- including StreetPass and SpotPass. Team Ninja will use SpotPass to distribute content such as costumes and AI challenges to unlock rare figurines. It's great to see that every feature of the 3DS has been taken into consideration, and it's all done in unique and cool ways. Rotate the 3DS around in the main menu, and you'll know exactly what I'm talking about.
I cannot stress enough how great of a game Dead or Alive: Dimensions is. It's truly a fully-featured package for the 3DS. It has a lengthy story mode, fantastic gameplay that's simple, but deep for anyone who's willing to invest time into it, and it takes full advantage of 3DS features. It's a game that's suitable for anyone that owns a 3DS-- whether you're a newcomer to the DOA series and you're looking to get into it here, you're looking for a fast, fun fighting game or even if you're just looking to test out the 3DS features. It's a welcome addition to a great series of fighting games, and for fans of the Dead or Alive series, it's an absolute treat.
Happy 15th, Dead or Alive.