The Dead or Alive series makes it’s debut on Sony’s PlayStation Portable (PSP) today, in it’s most unexpected form. While many may have been craving a handheld adaptation of the balanced fantasy Beat-‘Em-Up, Tecmo Koei has decided to take a more unusual route, progressing the Dead or Alive: Extreme Beach Volleyball spin-off series with this, Dead or Alive: Paradise.
Dead or Alive: Paradise follows a similar pattern to it’s Xbox and Xbox 360 predecessors, wherein players compete in a number of mini-games to earn money in order to purchase new swimsuits, costume accessories and other items. With a section of the infamous Dead or Alive girls to play as, the ultimate objective of the game is to become friends with all of the other girls by buying gifts and becoming partners with them. Each girl has different interests, hangouts and likes & dislikes, so players will have to study the included hints guide and their reactions to previous presents in order to encourage them to become partners. Each girl varies in difficulty, but there is always one character that will take a lot more work, and patience, than the rest, effectively presenting the greatest challenge available.
Upon beginning the game, the player chooses their character and is given a brief rundown of the island’s features by their new partner. This partner will then accompany you in the beach volleyball until a new partner is earned. Though inherently basic, the beach volleyball upon which the series is based is perhaps the best videogame representation of the sport ever released. The lack of complication means that it can still only be considered a mini-game, but is certainly the most enjoyable of all those supplied on the disc.
The Pool Hoping activity returns, delivered more precisely than when featured in Dead or Alive: Xtreme 2, but still not particularly engrossing. Blackjack is presented in the Casino; with new character Rio acting as the dealer. Of course, the rules of Blackjack stand as they traditionally are, and the player is given the option to gamble their winnings from other events.
Of course, players don’t have to take part in any of this; the option to simply visit the beach and take pictures of the girls might be more to your liking. Dead or Alive: Paradise plays at a very relaxed pace, almost the antithesis of it’s parent Beat-‘Em-Up series. The game even allows you to import your own MP3 tracks, creating what is possibly the most casual personal gaming space ever seen. It’s just shame that there is such little activity to take part in besides.
The Dead or Alive series has always been well presented, and Dead or Alive: Paradise is undoubtedly one of the best looking games on the PSP format, and not specifically due to it’s subject matter. The animation is fluid, if somewhat exaggerated, and the backdrops, although suffering under scrutiny of the vegetation, are suitably scenic. The voice actors are surprisingly well presented, and although the script is decidedly limited, do a good job of representing the Japanese lunacy at hand.
Dead or Alive: Paradise is a niche title if ever there was one, but after reaching a third international launch there is obviously a market out there. For most gamers it will be a short lived experience, but for those so inclined there is a great deal of challenge and a tidy learning curve here. Dead or Alive: Paradise is a lovingly created handheld version of the Dead or Alive: Extreme Beach Volleyball series, a little refined but no more inviting.