Do you remember a time, long ago, when consoles were ruled by fighters? When the best platform was determined not by its shooters, but by both the quality and quantity of its fighting games? Nintendo’s 3DS feels like a revival of that era, where the rounds are quick and the hadoken is king. At this early point in the console’s lifespan, while Street Fighter is arguably the best game on the system, it now faces stiff competition in the form of Dead or Alive: Dimensions.
Dead or Alive: Dimensions is not only the series’ debut on Nintendo’s new handheld, but the first time it has ever graced a Nintendo platform at all. Tecmo Koei brought their best moves to the 3DS with Dead or Alive‘s counter heavy fighting system, wide array of characters, and eye popping 3D effects.
The best way to describe Dimensions is to call it a “Greatest Hits” for the Dead or Alive series. The game’s story mode, entitled Chronicle, is a retelling of the entire plot of the series. The story is, like the stories found in most other games in the genre, largely incoherent and nonsensical, but that’s not the point. The point of the Chronicle mode is to teach you the ins and outs of DoA’s fighting system, and in this sense it does a spectacular job. By the time you finish you’ll be countering and comboing like a pro and be ready to tackle the other modes the game throws at you.
Other modes? Oh yes, DoA: Dimensions is packed with content. Other than Chronicle, you have Free Play, Tag Team, Arcade, two flavors of multiplayer (both local and online), survival, and training as well as a few extra goodies like a figure collection and photo album. The sheer amount of gameplay in DoA is well beyond nearly everything else on the handheld and will easily keep you entertained for a very long time. The game even goes one step further and adds loads of unlockable content to the experience. I found this to be a problem in Street Fighter 4, since everything was unlocked from the get go, and it was sometimes difficult to muster up the inspiration to fight further. Not so with Dead or Alive. As you play you’ll be constantly rewarded with new characters, costumes, stages, and figures. StreetPass and SpotPass aren’t left out in the cold, either. With StreetPass, anyone you pass who owns the game will transfer a ghost to your cartridge for you to fight in what’s known as a Throwdown match, and SpotPass delivers content such as new costumes and developer ghosts.
Dead or Alive also happens to be one of the best looking games to grace Nintendo’s little console that could. The entire game, from the characters to the stages to even the menus, looks fantastic. The animations are especially nice and everything is fluid and believable. The 3D feature adds depth to the battlefield and makes it easy to quickly gauge the distance between you and your opponent, but it is not limited to just depth, either. DoA throws some neat 3D tricks at you, such as when a heavy hit makes contact and beams of light will shoot out of the screen, or text that literally pops out of the screen and is always a joy to see. Yes, the famed Dead or Alive “jiggle” is present as well. Don’t like the 3D? Turn it off and you’ll experience the game at a buttery smooth 60 frames per second.
The best part of Dead or Alive: Dimensions is that it is just plain fun to play. Matches are fast and intense. The fighting is easy to learn yet surprisingly deep. The stages are multi-tiered and dynamic, allowing you to throw your adversary down stairs and into electrical wires. The gameplay is intuitive and it is never difficult to pull off a move; Every character can do cool looking, powerful combos with only a few button presses and keep the action exciting. The touch screen is used in a novel way too, showing either a list of moves for your character (very handy when you’re still learning) or a stats screen that shows how much damage you’re doing with each brutal strike. Even the complaints I have are nothing more than small nitpicks in an otherwise phenomenal game. Voice clips at the beginning of matches, while wonderfully acted, are repeated far too often, and whenever someone talks in the Chronicle mode their lips never move, giving you the impression that you’re watching some creepy performance played out by Real Dolls. The netcode could maybe use a little sprucing up as well since a few matches have been laggy thus far, but is for the most part solid.
We’re currently living in a renaissance for the fighting game genre. Not since the bygone glory days of the arcade have we seen as many quality fighters step into the ring. Whether you’re new to the genre or a seasoned veteran of the arena, Dead or Alive: Dimensions easily ranks near the top of this new wave of fighting games. If DoA serves as a sign for things to come, then I say bring it on.