Countdown to Dead or Alive 5 - Day 6: Dead or Alive Dimensions

hey hey hey. welcome back to my DOA retrospective blog series, where i look at a Dead or Alive game every day up until Dead or Alive 5's North American release on September 25th. last time, i was on about Dead or Alive 4, which is awesome but has some problems that really take away from the overall package. you can find that here if you wanna check it out. also, it was featured on the Giant Bomb front page which is really cool, so thanks to Marino and the people who have been reading so far!

here's what i've written about up to this point:

Dead or Alive 5 is two days away.


that is fucking unreal. 48 hours until i'll be.. well, in class waiting to play Dead or Alive 5 BUT AT LEAST IT'LL BE OUT. however, let's consider that Dead or Alive 5 is the first numbered entry in the series that wasn't directed by Tomonobu Itagaki. that's a huge deal, and Yosuke Hayashi has a lot to prove with DOA5. however, it wasn't the first DOA fighting game that he directed. that would have to go to Dead or Alive Dimensions. let's check that out!

Dead or Alive Dimensions (2011) - Nintendo 3DS

this box art is fine by DOA standards, although what's Ryu doing back there?
this box art is fine by DOA standards, although what's Ryu doing back there?

Dead or Alive: Dimensions is the first DOA fighting game by Team NINJA since Itagaki's departure from the company in 2008. not the first DOA game, since for some reason they released Dead or Alive: Paradise on the PSP first. with that horrible decision, the fate of the Dead or Alive series was.. scary. i was wondering if we were ever going to see another fighting game again, replaced by bad beach bikini gravure simulators. to comfort my fears, Dead or Alive Dimensions was announced for the 3DS and i knew i had to be all over that. i wasn't sure how it was going to turn out without Itagaki at the helm, but it was a risk i was willing to take.

as it turns out, Dead or Alive Dimensions was a sign that the future of the franchise was in good hands.

What's new?

Dead or Alive Dimensions isn't a sequel to Dead or Alive 4 or anything. instead, it's a retelling of the entire Dead or Alive story, from 1 to 4 and everything in between. as a result, they've tackled at a new format of story telling. instead of an arcade mode where players truck through eight stages, fight a boss and then see a CG ending, the entire story is told through five chapters, one for each game and a finale chapter in a mode called Chronicle. it features many, many in-engine cutscenes, lots of dialogue with a bunch of fights thrown in between all of that. it's very similar to how Mortal Kombat rolled last year.

at the same time, it serves as a tutorial for players to learn about the game's mechanics. from strikes, grabs and counters all the way to stuns, the triangle system and offensive/defensive holds, it attempts to cover a lot of ground. to help new players ease into the game's fighting system, the 3DS' bottom touch screen displays the entire move list for your current character. players can also tap any move or combo on the touch screen for the character to automatically perform.

Dimensions also features a new 'figurine' collection feature where players can collect up to 1000 figurines of various characters posing or interacting with other characters (usually reflective of a story event.) if for some reason, you wanted to collect a virtual figurine of Tina Armstrong carrying Lisa on her shoulders, while Tina is wearing a cat suit and Lisa wrapped in only a towel, then this game should be your jam. these figurines can be unlocked by playing the game's various modes or using ten Play Coins to purchase a "present" that unlocks three figurines and/or costumes.

finally, the power of a superhuman Kasumi now at our fingertips!
finally, the power of a superhuman Kasumi now at our fingertips!

DOA Dimensions also sports some new playable characters. all of the bosses throughout the series are now playable. that includes Raidou, the dude who messed up Hayate and raped Ayame, Genra, Ayane's foster father and former leader of the Mugen Tenshin Hajimon Sect who became a superhuman experiment and Alpha-152, the oh-so-dreaded advanced Kasumi clone. Shiden, the father of Kasumi and Hayate also makes his first physical appearance (i think), as well as playable appearance. they're not new characters mind you, but it's the first time that we get to check out the messed up powers that made everybody so angry.

there's not that much else major that was added or changed in Dimensions. this game uses the simpler three-point counter hold system like how it was in Dead or Alive 3, Danger Zones can now knock players out (as opposed to how it didn't in DOA4) , and the AI has been severely toned down in difficulty but that's really about it when it comes to major gameplay changes. as far as game modes are concerned, since arcade mode no longer serves as the story mode, it's just roughly 6 fights in a row playing for the best time. it's essentially Time Attack now.

Ninjas.. IN 3-D!!!!!!!!!!

i've already written a Dead or Alive Dimensions review, but i feel like that doesn't convey my true thoughts on that game. i was soaked in hype at the time, and it was my first review on Giant Bomb so i was kind of too excited to wait a bit. i've learned a lot about how i write and how my thoughts change since then, so i figure it's as good of a time as ever to talk about DOA Dimensions.

i have no idea what's going on here
i have no idea what's going on here

so, anyway, Dead or Alive Dimensions is pretty good. it's a game that plays shockingly similar to Dead or Alive 4. nearly everything i can do in Dead or Alive 4 translate perfectly to Dimensions, with the exception of some move changes that made my combos a little weird. that's not a bad thing, because DOA4 is the best feeling game in the series when it comes to flow and execution. however, it still has some of the things i didn't like about DOA4 such as the changed-up game when your character is laying on the ground and some other minor things. even with that, it still manages to be a fighter that's easy to pick up and mess around with, while containing a lot of complexity and depth for those willing to go the extra mile. one change to note is the simpler three-point counter system (counter low, med and high) which is weird to adjust to in a game that plays like DOA4 considering that DOA4 used the four-point counter system which made mid punch and kick different inputs to counter.

the stages have always been an important part of Dead or Alive, and they've made sure to include some good stages from the four games with little tweaks here and there. they have some iconic DOA stages like the snow stage from DOA2 and that balcony-thingy stage from DOA3 but they don't have awesome stages like The Demon's Church from DOA2 or Gambler's Paradise from DOA4. there's a nice selection, but i would have definitely chosen different ones. there's some new ones too like The Survivor, which is a huge DOATEC yacht, and a new take on the Danger Zone stage, with palm trees and fireworks in the sky. while they're pretty cool, there's something about them that lacks.. personality. they have danger zones and all of that, but they just feel a lot more.. bland compared to how they were rendered in previous entries. i'm not sure if that has to do with the 3DS limitations, an artistic direction by Team NINJA or if that's just me personally just not very excited about the same stages again.

this game looks hella good on the 3DS
this game looks hella good on the 3DS

while the stages aren't terribly exciting, the game looks pretty damn good. in traditional Team NINJA fashion, Dimensions shows off what the system can pull off with nice looking character models, beautiful looking stages (apart from the water) and awesome animations. as expected, this game also supposed 3D and looks.. alright. it's nothing to brag about, especially since it drops the game's frame rate down to 30FPS. the cutscenes look nice in 3D though, with kunai, bullets and all sorts of other crazy stuff flying all over the place and popping out from the screen. it's probably the best use of 3D in the entire game, but that isn't really saying much.

considering it's a retelling of the four DOA games, i wasn't really expecting there to be that much original music. the soundtrack mainly consists of older themes from DOA2/DOA3 and alright remixes of certain DOA2 themes. they're kind of nice at first, but i really grew tired of them after a couple of hours. the menu music is probably the worst, with some new version of the Dead or Alive 2 menu music (which is awesome) which i can't stand at all for some reason. although there's a new training theme which is pretty soothing as DOA training themes have always been. while we're on the subject of audio, there's an English language track for the first time since DOA2 Hardcore (DOAX2 doesn't count) and well.. it's serviceable. it definitely isn't terrible, but i prefer the JP voices. not in a "ehe The Japanese VO Is Always The Best~~!! ^____^" way, but only because i'm just so used to these characters speaking in Japanese at this point. one thing i'll give the English VO is that Wendee Lee (voice of Faye in Cowboy Bebop) voices Ayane, which is pretty kickass.

i know i complained about the AI in Dead or Alive 4 being a total pain, but the AI in Dead or Alive Dimensions is.. probably equally as bad. it's not punishing or difficult this time around, but rather it's way too easy. at least 50% of my fights against the AI were perfects, and they fail to deliver any sort of challenge. this just makes the game.. boring against the AI. i'm honestly not sure what's worse-- incredibly difficult AI or easy peasy AI.

No Caption Provided

i figure i should talk about the bosses while i'm at it. Alpha-152, Raidou and Genra are now playable characters, which means that we finally get to try out the cheap, super-damaging attacks that they unleashed on us for years. turns out, it's not really that interesting. Raidou isn't particularly interesting to play as, sporting a mix of different moves from Mugen Tenshin Ninjutsu characters. Genra has a huge double-sided laser sword and can shoot fireballs which can take out the AI pretty quickly. he gives a nice sense of power, but playing as a overpowered character can only be fun for so long. that's how i feel about Alpha-152, too especially since some of her moves have been nerfed from being as insane as they were in DOA4. she just feels hard to control, and therefore not too much fun to play as.

that's.. really about it when it comes to how the game plays. it's roughly Dead or Alive 4 on a portable system, with a simpler counter hold system and playable boss characters. there's some pretty standard online play, which is serviceable but there are a lot of dicks and new players online who just use the boss characters-- which are easy to beat, but it gets pretty tiring after a while.

There's a story too, I guess

the cutscenes are really entertaining for some reason
the cutscenes are really entertaining for some reason

the biggest departure from previous entries is the game's Chronicle mode. it covers Dead or Alive 1 all the way to Dead or Alive 4, while fleshing out the events that happen in between. the previous DOA games had stories told through weird, sometimes incomprehensible in-engine cutscenes and CG endings. without any sort of knowledge of the story or understanding of any backstory, it seemed like the story events in those games were hard to follow or understand. Dead or Alive Dimensions aims to fix that, adding some of ridiculous explanation to the otherwise unexplainable story events, and recreating cutscenes from older games in order to throw them into the right spot for them to make any sort of sense. the story is entertaining and fun to watch unfold, but it often shows events without offering any sort of explanation. why is this bird man here? why the hell is there a portal to another dimension opening up? it just kind of shows these events and then just moves on to whatever other crazy thing is going on.

even with the disjointed story, i had enough of an understanding where i really enjoyed what was going on, appreciating the treatment of story and cutscenes from previous games. a problem i have with the story is that it focuses way too much on the ninjas of Dead or Alive-- which makes sense since they're the center of all the events in DOA, but i would have liked to see more about the other characters. what's up with Brad Wong, Lei Fang, or Eliot? what the hell's up with Zack? these characters could very well be as interesting as the main ninjas, and it's a shame that we don't see enough of them.

here's a picture of Lisa with a gun
here's a picture of Lisa with a gun

all of the story is told through in-engine cutscenes, which are really weird. most of the in-engine cutscenes are shown with characters that don't move whatsoever. they're in static poses, with the camera swooping around their faces and around the environment. it just looks like some fan video on youtube where some dude just rendered these DOA characters and wanted to make a story with them without even bothering to animate them. there are some in-engine cutscenes that are fully animated, and these actually look pretty good. in addition to these cutscenes, they just throw in CG clips from DOA2U, DOA3 and DOA4 at points where they make sense, but they seem really out of place. the intro to DOA2U is shown at some point in the story, but with no audio whatsoever because in the original intro, Aerosmith was playing and i guess that they didn't have the rights to use that song anymore.

for a quick rundown on the story, you can check out the story sections i provided for each game from the links at the beginning of this blog. it's a fighting game story, so it's pretty dumb and often doesn't make very much sense, but in that way, it's pretty enjoyable if you know what you're in for.

That's about it

Dead or Alive Dimensions is a cool game! i'd sill prefer to play Dead or Alive 4, but it's still a fun fighter for the 3DS.

tomorrow, i'm going to close off my blog series with the Dead or Alive 5 Alpha Demo that came with Ninja Gaiden 3, along with providing some thoughts about how DOA5 looks before it comes out the following day.

thanks for reading.