A Fun Look Back at the Series
DOA3 successfully showed people what the Xbox was capable of on Day 1. Ninja Gaiden taught us again what the Xbox was capable of back in February. Now, DOAU continues with the Team Ninja tradition by somehow milking the Xbox for everything it's worth. The game is gorgeous, and I'm not just talking about the girls. The animations are smooth, the lighting is ridiculous good, and the arenas are amazing. Not only are the arenas beautiful to look at, but there are many interactive alements. Of course you can still knock people off ledges and whatnot, but some of the more subtle interactive elements are what caught my eye. For example, slamming someone into the wall or concrete on The Downtown level shatters the concrete, or driving someone's head into the floor in the clone arena causes extra damage due to electrocution. The game has little "ooh's" and "ahh's" around every turn. DOAU is flawless in the graphics department.
If you've played DOA before, you know what to expect. Some people love it for its easy accessability and simultaneous challenge for experts, while other complain that the reversal system is nothing other than glorified Rock Paper Scissors. Either way, the controls are solid. Personally, I change the button layout to more resemble the Dreamcast controller. You may think the combat system doesn't lack any depth but you will be proven wrong by the hordes of experts online that will promptly hand you your ass. One of the great things about DOA is that you can pick a fighter and quickly learn their main techniques and pros/cons, but it will take you much longer to master their intricacies.
Definitely the game's lowpoint. If this is the "Ultimate" collection, why does DOA2 not have the option for English voice-overs since they were available in the PS2 version of DOA2: Hardcore? Either way, the story segments were never the high point of the game. The sound effects are good, but the soundtrack is very dated, and it's disappointing that custom soundtracks were not included.
DOAU offers alot compared to most fighting games, MK: Deception excluded. You have your DOA staples such as Story, Time Attack, Survival, Tag, and Practice. These alone don't garner a high replay value for a single player, but the fact that DOAU has over 200 hidden items within the single player games, it is going to take you a while to find them all. I started by beating the Story mode 15 times with Kasumi, and I still don't have all of her outfits (currently I have 15 of hers). The main attraction though is the Online component. It works great in the smaller rooms but the larger rooms make the waiting a little too long. Basically DOAU tries to bring the arcade environment online with various forms of rules that emulate what many people used to experience at arcades when they existed. Most people seem to be playing Winner Stays, as expected. You can have up to 8 people on a server, 2 are fighting (4 if tag), and the rest are watching but can still talk and commentate on the match. Like I said, in smaller servers this is fun because it's not a long wait, but on a 8-person server you could be waiting 10 minutes between your fights. Do you really want to sit there watching fights for that long? Probably not. On the plus side though, the game still runs very smoothly online and it's fun to show off what stuff you've unlocked. Kasumi in a Santa outfit vs Bayman in scuba gear was an interesting site to see and brought many comments from the other six players. In the end, the single player offers a ton of unlockables, but is repetitive, and the online is good to an extent. Overall there's a lot to do here.
I think I've covered most of why DOA is a beloved franchise, but one of the main reasons is of course...the girls. They're bouncier than ever (the Age: 99 trick still works) but not only that but with all the crazy costumes you can find, they look better than in DOA3. Fans of the series will thoroughly enjoy all of the extras as well as the online portion, and newcomers will enjoy the compilation of all things new and old in the DOA series. Team Ninja has delivered another masterpiece to Xbox gamers worldwide.
*** This review was written for Flamevault.com shortly after the release of the game. ***