Fighters are no stranger to Nintendo’s portable consoles, but up until now most titles on the market weren’t really worth mentioning. So it is a bit strange to suddenly see third parties bring full blown console fighters to Nintendo’s portable ring with surprising results. On the 3DS we’ve gotten solid versions of both Super Street Fighter IV and, at least from what I’ve heard, BlazBlue. Both of these titles have been big in recent years across all platforms, but the Dead or Alive series has been quiet for the last half decade, minus some beach vacations. Dead or Alive: Dimensions on the 3DS brings the series back. But does the series still shine on a hand-held?
What exactly Dead or Alive: Dimensions is can be a bit confusing. It’s not a remake, but it is not an original title… It’s more like a reimagining… Of all four games. It smashes all the Dead or Alive titles smashed into one, but as a single game rather than being divided. There are twenty five playable characters spanning across all titles in the series. Like the rest of the franchise, Dimensions is a 3D fighter. So if you’ve already invested in the 2D based Street Fighter and/or BlazBlue for your 3DS library, Dead or Alive has a bit of a different flavor.
Dimensions is based on a four button layout for punches, kicks, throws, and holds. Aside from a handful of moves that require some Capcom-like directional swoops, the title mainly focuses on button combinations, which thankfully makes the controls much more precise on both the circle pad and D-pad. But don’t worry about having to memorize button combinations to enjoy Dead or Alive: Dimensions. The combo system is rather loose. Even if you don’t know the entire move-set like the back of your hand, you can still do some damage by free forming your own combos. But for those who do want to try to master every move, the opportunity is there. Timing still plays a key role, as you’ll need to juggle your foes and counter attacks using holds, that work like disruptive throws. It plays almost like a faster paced Soul Calibur, without the weapons, of course.
Like Super Street Fighter IV, Dead or Alive: Dimensions uses the touch-screen. But instead of focusing on easy buttons for special moves, Dead or Alive: Dimensions mainly displays combos to help players learn some more effective maneuvers. In certain instances, the title will even recommend actions, by displaying a button at key times to escape throws, and giving easy access to holds while taking damage. You can sort of use the touch-screen as an easy button for combos, but an excessive amount of combos are listed and makes the screen too crowded to be effectively used in the heat of combat. So instead of acting like an easy button, using the touch-screen to activate combos lends itself more towards showing you the timing for button presses.
Mode wise, Dead or Alive: Dimensions has exactly what you’d expect from a fighting game, including Arcade, Survival, Versus over local wireless, and a story mode that makes absolutely no sense. The title also includes Tag Battles, which puts you and a AI controlled player on the same team against either one or two opponents. This adds in some special team specific strategies and throws, but also creates some awkward moments in gameplay as your teammate chooses when they want to jump in. And with an AI controlled teammate, you can be mid-combo then suddenly the CPU decides it is his turn to play instead. The only thing you can do is taunt it by doing the exact same thing back at your CPU buddy, but your 3DS is emotionless and will not cry at night like you will.
Dead or Alive: Dimensions also features an online mode that is a little short on features, but gets the job done. It offers one on one combat across the world with some basic stat tracking, including wins, losses, and a rank. A more detailed online mode would have been nice as the AI doesn’t put up much of a fight beyond a certain point, but at least the option is there. Street Pass basically saves ghost data based on your play style and then exchanges it with other players’ ghost data. Unfortunately, I never passed any fellow Dead or Alive: Dimensions players. Players can also receive downloadable costumes and special ghost AI through Spot Pass.
The title features some impressive visuals, with fully rendered backgrounds, detailed character models and fluid animations. While technically scaled down considering the hardware, Dimensions’ character models look fairly close to that of Dead or Alive 4’s, while the backgrounds land more around a Dead or Alive 2 and 3 range. As for the 3D effect, the backgrounds themselves aren’t as busy as they are in a title like Super Street Fighter IV, so the 3D isn’t as noticeable. But during cutscenes and side stepping opponents in the 3D environment, the 3D effects are a nice visual touch. Unfortunately, this reduces the framerate to thirty frames per second. Turn the 3D off and you’ll have the title running at sixty frames without missing a beat. It’s mainly a matter of personal preference. Either way the title looks great, even if it doesn’t have as much style as its rival fighters on the platform.
At the end of the day, Dead or Alive is a fantastic fighter that is accessible to casual players while also offering up some extra depth for those who want to go in a little deeper. AI competition is a little lacking, but the online play makes up for it to a certain extent. And while it doesn’t offer anything that Super Street Fighter IV and BlazBlue hasn’t done, it can proudly stand amongst the 3DS’ fighting crowd, offering a satisfying portable fighting experience.
Oh! By the way, jiggle physics.
out of 10
- User-friendly combo system
- Impressive visuals throughout
- 3D effects add some extra pizzazz to title
- Features a large variety of modes and characters to keep players busy
- Gameplay fits 3DS’ controls well
- AI is on the easy side
- Online a little bare-bones