"An unbiased review" - Dead or Alive: Dimensions
Dead or Alive: Dimensions is the 10th installment (remakes and the Xtreme-spinoffs included) of the infamous Dead or Alive series, being the first Beat em Up of the series developed for a handheld. It was released in May 2011 exclusively for the Nintendo 3DS, developed by TeamNinja and published by Tecmo Koei in Japan and North America and by Nintendo in Europe and Australia. This game features 9 game modes, 26 characters (some of which have to be unlocked and one hidden character) and 16 stages, one of those stages has to be unlocked.
Let's start with the graphics. For being part of the launch lineup, this game's graphics are amazing. The character models are incredibly detailed, even the hair is animated (not as good as in Dead or Alive 3 though). The levels also feature many details, even the background is animated. If you have played one the previous Dead or Alive games before, you'll definitely recognize most of the levels. And the best is - the game runs with constant 60fps, unless you activate the 3D-mode. Upon activation the game hardlocks the fps at 30. While this may prevent the fps from changing during a fight (which is really annoying), it's sad that TeamNinja didn't manage to keep the 60fps like Tekken for example. The visual gains however are great. The 3D really enhances the enjoyment for the player, mostly due to the, erm...great visualization of the female anatomy? Some of the also really profit from the 3D effect, especially while you are beaten through walls or fall down rifts.
Now to the sound. Each stage has its own music. Depending on the pair of fighters you use different tracks seem to be played, but the music is not dynamic, it does not change if e.g. one of the fighters has low health. While this would have been a nice feature the music fits the stage very well most of the times, so TeamNinja did a good job on the BGM overall. The environment noises sound at least plausible most of the time while the hit sounds meet the genre standard, so Dead or Alive: Dimensions is pretty average in this regard.
Of course the most important part of a fighting game is the gameplay. Dead or Alive: Dimensions features the same combat system as the previous parts - 1 button for blocking and countering, 1 button for punches, 1 button for kicks, 1 button for throws and 1 button for each strong punches and strong kicks. With either the control stick or the d-pad you move your character and determine the height of your moves (high, neutral, low). The only addition is a move list on the touch screen which allows you to use a move by tapping it. All combos and throws are included in this list. While the possibility to launch even the most devastating combos this way might sound like cheating you need to divert your attention, a possibility any somewhat skilled player will use to destroy you. As this game makes it pretty easy to connect the various moves into combos many fans of rivaling Beat em ups (like Tekken or Street Fighter) call it a "button masher", but button mashing really won't work against a human player (or even the CPU). Countering is a piece of cake in this game, so button mashers will run into counter after counter. The overall balance of the games is pretty good, two or three exceptions notwithstanding.
No Genra, beam spamming is NOT fair
Like mentioned in the introduction this game features many game modes, a short overview of all of them will be given here.
STORY MODE: The story mode of this game is...bad to say the least. Of course the story mode of all fighting games is just included for it being in the game, but this one takes the cake. Being titled "chronicle" it summarizes the story of Dead or Alive 1-4, but in the most lazy way possible. You'll encounter many inanimated cutscenes (glorified 3D panoramas) and a few story battles, but most of the battles are against random characters having nothing to do with the story you're currently playing. The last chapter does things a bit better with actually including real cutscenes, but it is far too late by then.
ARCADE: The arcade mode is exactly what you would expect. You can unlock up to six arcade courses, each with a different number of characters to be defeated in the shortest possible time. The game actually save the best time for each of the fights from the overall best run, so you'll always be motivated to improve. By beating the arcade mode you unlock the alternate costumes for your characters, some of them have up to five alternate costumes. If you manage to beat all arcade courses the game rewards you with a secret stage that many Nintendo fans should know.
SURVIVAL: Exactly what it says on the tin. You can unlock up to five courses, ranging from 10 to 100 battles. After each 10 battles a special foe appears, mostly one of the game's bosses. If you manage to beat the survival mode you'll be able to select the voice of the character you beat it with as announcer.
PARTNER: The game mode with the most wasted possibilities. In this mode you'll fight 2vs2 or 2vs1, the enemies having more life and dealing more damage than you. 20 fights are to be unlocked, each fight will be gradually harder. In the early fights you have up to three lifes in stock should you or your partner be defeated, it takes 5 seconds for a defeated character to return. With the inability to play this mode local or online with a friend, this is a HUGE hurdle. The combat AI definitely works in favor of your opponents. While they use their best combos (even MvC 3 style with character changing) to beat you to a pulp your partner isn't even able to use a throw most of the time. Combine that with a random character change even in the middle of your combo for an infuriating experience. Especially in later stages, where the enemies have ~10-15 times your health and can OHK you with certain attacks. But hey, it's a TeamNinja game, so no surprises here. And you feel godly after beating those cheating dogs and finally unlocking them as playable characters.
Hm, this guy in armor feels strangely familiar :D
LOCAL/INTERNET: Local mode is great. You have no lag and can battle your friends face to face. You can change the number of rounds, the round time and the health. Being as accessible as it is even the more untrained of your friends can have a lot of fun. Internet however...LAGS! LAGS EVERYWHERE! It is pretty easy to find a game, but every game you'll find will be unplayable. Sadly...
TRAINING: Is great. You can change about everything. Position of the enemy, reaction of the enemy, train single moves and combos until perfection etc. Very recommended if you seriously plan on taking on pro's. Local, of course...
VERSUS: 1on1 battle against the CPU. Like local, just without friends. Still very enjoyable, thanks to the female characters. If you are into certain fetishes that is. If not, you'll quickly lose interest in this game mode.
THROWDOWN: Once per week or if you actually manage to meet another owner of Dead or Alive: Dimensions via Street Pass (hint: never)you can play a single battle in this mode. As a reward you'll receive a special trophy of the character you fought against.
Which brings us to SHOWCASE: Throughout the various game modes you'll receive 1 of 1000 trophies after finishing a battle. In the showcase mode you can take photos of these trophies. From ALL angles. In 3D. With zoom. Do I need to say more?...
BATTLE STATISTICS: Very detailed statistics, they even go down to the percentage of each move you used. Could be important for pro's, but certainly interesting even for beginners.
Story: 3/10 (x0,5)
Gameplay: 8/10 (x1,25)
Final Score: 7,7/10
How much and how long you will enjoy Dead or Alive: Dimensions really depends on your will to overlook the cheating AI in some game modes, the bad online multiplayer and the bad story. To me the great gameplay, the very good graphics and yes, even the trophies outlasted those issues. I'd guess you could finish all game modes in ~10-15 hours depending on your skill (trophies not included), but it is totally possible to sink around 80 hours in this game. Like the combat system it's love it or hate it, not much ground between.