The Nintendo 3DS is a console screaming desperately for a ‘killer app’. The launch line-up offered some good gameplay experiences most certainly, and the recently released The Legends of Zelda: Ocarina of Time is undoubtedly the jewel in the console’s crown at present, but failing to provide anything truly unique is its biggest downfall. The game which comes closet to filling that void right now is surprisingly not one that’s completely original simply an existing genre experience adapted to make use of the Nintendo 3DS console’s unique capabilities: Dead or Alive: Dimensions.
The set up of Dead or Alive: Dimensions’ combat system will be familiar to anyone who’s ever played a game in the series previously. Demanding precise timing and a keen eye for vulnerabilities in an opponents attacks patterns, Dead or Alive: Dimensions is more concerned with your positioning and execution of moves than the moves you choose to perform: a high critical counter can be far more advantageous than pulling off an overly complex special move. It’s not in this aspect that the game suits the hardware so well however, but in the many additional features.
The Chronicle Mode is the game’s primary gameplay option, delivering a recap of the opening story of Dead or Alive with a much more fleshed-out presentation. Teaching the player the basics of the combat system with successive battles and reintroducing each character makes for a compulsive experience; and one that is all too short-lived. Arcade doesn’t fare too much better, more comparative to the short-and-sweet bouts of King of Fighters XII than previous Dead or Alive titles, and the usual assortment of Survival and Tag modes are also included. The most interesting features however, are the multiplayer and Throwdown gameplay modes
In multiplayer mode, either local or online, Dead or Alive: Dimensions shines. Having developed a reputation as a more serious fighting game than Street Fighter or Mortal Kombat, yet still not on the same level as SNK Playmore or Arc System Works’ output, Dead or Alive: Dimensions is easy to adopt and yet thrives with genuine competition. There’s no denying that lag issues still occur, but they are less evident here than in any other title the Dead or Alive series has yet delivered. Throwdown mode allows you to take on fighters you have encountered via StreetPass, or those proposed automatically via SpotPass. Winning will earn you significant rewards, but even just taking part here can be helpful for those looking towards unlocking every character, stage, costume and figurine Dead or Alive: Dimensions provides, of which there are many.
Further features unique to this Nintendo 3DS instalment of the Dead or Alive franchise are the Photo Mode and tocuhscreen control system. The Photo Mode allows you to utilise your collected figurines as motion-controlled statues, taking 3D pictures against any background you choose. The touchscreen input is obviously designed with the intention of making the traditional one-on-one Beat-‘Em Up accessible, but it’s not quite as easy to utilise as it might first appear. Dead or Alive has always featured a combat system based largely around timing, and the disconnect presented with a touch input means that learning each move and scrolling through the list to find your chosen attack can be more of a difficult procedure than learning the direct input of the face buttons.
Visually, the Nintendo 3DS version is lagging behind the original Xbox’s Dead Or Alive 2 Ultimate, but not by much. Tecmo were arguably one of the team who managed to draw the most out of Microsoft’s original console, and the PlayStation 2 version of Dead or Alive 2 clearly doesn’t put up quite as much competition. The character models are well detailed despite their doll-like appearance, and the animation is frequently stunning: each fighter moves swiftly with grace, perfecting the combo systems most of them have had now for over a decade.
While it’s clear that Capcom’s Street Fighter IV: 3D Edition has the lions’ share of the market, Dead or Alive: Dimensions is actually the better game. A fine margin though it may be, Dead or Alive: Dimensions not only presents a more comprehensive gameplay experience, but also utilises the console’s unique advantages in a more interesting manner. Dead or Alive: Dimensions isn’t a game that’s going to sell Nintendo 3DS hardware to those who aren’t already convinced, but it is near-essential for any gamers who have already adopted the console and are awaiting something truly groundbreaking.