Anyone who knows me knows that I am a huge fan of the Dead or Alive series. Also, if you know me, I had serious doubts about its future once Itagaki left Team Ninja. After spending some quality time with the latest entry in the series, I can safely say that my concerns have been squashed. The new Team Ninja has really stepped up their game with this 3DS cartridge; so much, in fact, that it has given me reason to tote my system around with me. It is hard to believe it has been 15 years since the buxom ladies of DoA first appeared, and even harder to believe there is yet another must-own fighter on the 3DS.
The first thing you will notice about DoA: Dimensions is just how robust it is. This thing is chock full of modes and features that take advantage of the system and play to the strengths of the franchise. Story mode, dubbed Chronicle here, takes you through the convoluted series of events spanning the original four games. If you can somehow follow it, it is definitely nice fan service, but it doesn’t come without some quirks. The cut scenes are cool and fully voiced, but sometimes they simply stop animating for an artsy effect that looks more like a glitch.
Chronicle mode also does a nice job of teaching you the basics of the game. Learning combos and how to string them together is a nice touch, plus you will unlock more characters and items playing through this mode. It spans six chapters and easily could take a nice chunk of time to complete.
In addition, you also have the standard set of modes including arcade, online and extras. There is so much to unlock, download and collect in Dimensions, it could easily occupy your 3DS cartridge slot for months to come. Let’s start with Street Pass. Here, you can download ghosts of players you meet in passing using the 3DS’ Street Pass feature. You can also obtain a new costume as well as bonus, unannounced content further down the road. This keeps it fresh and makes it feel like Christmas every time you power on the game. There is also an assortment of figurines to collect that you can view and manipulate using the 3DS’ motion sensor.
Dimensions truly makes use of every feature on the 3DS including the microphone, Street Pass and of course the quintessential 3D. Turning on this extra dimension in Dimensions, however, is met with less than stellar results. The game drops its frame rate immediately in this mode, and the effect is actually not worth the loss. Sadly, the one true selling point of the system is best left off while playing Tecmo’s titular fighter.
The online mode is also unique in several ways. You can battle head-to-head like any traditional fighter, or you can team up with a friend in a co-op challenge. All sessions I managed to get into ran relatively smooth with only minor hints of lag. The game does not support download play, so if you want to spar with your friends, they need to own the game, too. I found myself enjoying the co-op challenge more than anything and it makes me wish other fighters supported this feature online.
As for the actual gameplay, Dimensions fits well on Nintendo’s portable. The game features two attack buttons, a counter and a throw. This makes the four-button layout ideal. The d-pad works well enough, although I did have some issue getting it to register diagonal movements at times, but if you prefer the analog stick, it definitely suffices. DoA has always been a counter-heavy fighter, with matches changing momentum at every turn. The danger zone drops and counters still deal far too much damage, but again this series has never been one for aiming at tournament level play.
Visually, the game looks brilliant and stands out as one of the better-looking titles on the system. The animation is smooth and, as long as you leave the 3D off, the frame rate is like butter. There are a ton of visual treats here, including a special Metroid Other M stage, and I love the effect on the menu screen where you can look around the environment using the motion sensor of the system. Dimensions is full of little touches like this that really make the game stand out in the crowd.
Dead or Alive: Dimensions is easily my favorite 3DS title released to date, and reason enough to get me back to carrying the system around with me wherever I go. This cartridge will likely remain in my system for months to come, if for nothing more than to gather all the free DLC Tecmo continues to push out. If you own a 3DS and have been looking for the next must-own title, this is it. It’s scary that arguably the two best games on the system are fighters, but being a fan, I say, “bring on the Darkstalkers.”
Review copy provided by publisher.