DS Review

Dead or Alive: Dimensions

Keeping the franchise alive

Dead or Alive: Dimensions is pleasantly one of the stronger titles in the series, bringing the same style of combat from the home consoles successfully to the handheld. Moreover, it's not just a port or throwaway addition to the series; instead it retreads the previous four games and their tournaments within a connected narrative to provide an accessible and well realised fighting game. It's an utterly absurd narrative but it's entertaining for both newcomers and veterans, with an experience well worth exploring that also doesn't require any previous knowledge of the characters and their rivalries.

The story follows the interconnected events from the previous four tournaments in the Dead or Alive universe, exploring the characters relationships and tying everything together. It lacks overall exposition though, so newcomers will find it more of an introduction than a detailed account, and even veterans will question their interpretation in comparison. What doesn't help is the flow of the narrative. Fights erupt between lengthy cut-scenes with the weakest of excuses for establishing opponents, and the tutorial spans the majority of the experience and is a horrendously patronising - explaining each move, regardless of simplicity, very slowly. However, whilst it's an ill constructed narrative the attempt to tie the series so far together is appreciated, and the odd occasion where it does fit certainly adds weight to the franchise. It's also peculiarly entertaining. The simple addition of a story makes the title more comprehensive than a standard beat 'em up and despite its flaws you'll feel compelled to see it through.

In fact Dead or Alive: Dimensions promotes an impressive amount of content. Beyond the story mode, Chronicles, you have the good old fashioned arcade ladders - where you follow a single character to victory and glory against a random selection from the 25 strong character roster. Tag tournament is also included allowing you to bring two fighters into the fray, as well as a selection of survival challenges, all of which help you unlock characters, character status for you to examine and photograph, as well as a huge amount of costume. It's a collection fanatic's dream that adds hours to replayability. Additionally there's an online mode for competitive one-on-one and cooperative tag battles against the AI, but lag and frame rate issues compromise the fairness of the fights and ruin the experience, however, the StreetPass feature is excellent, where an AI controlled fighter will challenge a neighbouring 3DS shadowing your style of fighting.

Frame rate problems don't just occur when playing online; the single player also sees a slowdown with 3D turned up all the way. Reducing the 3D effect helps but timing is far less important in singleplayer than multiplayer, so it doesn't compromise the experience if you're itching for some 3D fist fights. Although whether you'll want to have the 3D on at all is a valid question. The 3D effects aren't overly impressive and the character models suffer from a lack of detail and some harsh edges, emphasised by the 3D. Turning it off helps hide the rough visuals and the cut-scenes look great in either dimension.

Moving a contemporary beat 'em up over to a handheld is seldom a smooth transition but Dead or Alive: Dimensions has achieved it remarkably well. All attacks are executed simply with the use of the 3DS's two buttons - one for punch and the other for kick. And you'll find no ridiculous half and quarter circle special moves to pull off, instead combinations of backwards and forwards on the D-pad or even tapping the touch screen, which displays a list of attacks, will deliver your desired moves. It's a simplified system designed thoughtfully for the 3DS, and whilst hardcore fans will scoff at how easy it seems, tapping the moves on the touch screen isn't a fast enough system for you to rely on it to secure victory. Dead or Alive's traditional reading of your enemies and countering with reversals remains the focus of combat, this version has simply made this task a more achievable with the 3DS controls.

Dead or Alive: Dimensions is a great fighting game that proves the same excellent home console experience can be translated to handhelds. And whilst the 3D aspect is lacking and even compromises the experience at times and the narrative is flawed in delivery and presentation, the fighting is exemplary.

E3 Trailer