Despite already having a good fighting game in my collection, I couldn’t resist getting a copy of Dead or Alive: Dimensions when I saw a used copy being sold at half the usual price.
While being around since the late nineties, Dead or Alive: Dimensions is the first ever Dead or Alive game to be released on a Nintendo platform, so I’ve never had the chance to play any of the Dead or Alive games until now.
Dead or Alive is a fighting game franchise known for two things: fanservice primarily in the form of jiggle physics and a fighting game engine that emphasizes speed. The fighting engine is similar to Tekken/Soulcalibur games where the game is set on a 3D plane, with movements into and out of the foreground are possible. There’s also an emphasis on realism – most of the attacks and fighting styles are taken from real life martial arts, and there are very few special moves that can be done.
To facilitate the fast combat, Dead or Alive: Dimensions simplifies the fighting by having just three attack buttons – one for punching, one for kicking, and one for throws. The punches and kicks change depending on whether they are executed in the middle of a combo, or whether your character was moving backward, forward, in a crouching position, or even just standing still.
The fourth button is mapped to blocking and countering, and counters add another layer of strategy to Dead or Alive: Dimensions. Countering works by pressing back and the counter button just before an opponent lands an attack on you – you end up catching the attacker and immediately perform a counterattack.
Dead or Alive: Dimensions utilizes these attack types in a triangle fighting system: strikes (punches/kicks) beat throws, throws beat counters, and counters beat strikes. To win a fight in this game, you have to employ a combination of the three attack types while adjusting to your opponent’s attack patterns.
Dead or Alive: Dimensions also utilizes the touchscreen in fascinating ways. During battles, the second screen displays a move and combo list for the character that you’ve selected. This list functions as both a guide when doing the moves as the button combinations light up in conjunction with what buttons you’ve already pressed. And like Super Street Fighter IV 3D Edition, the combos on the list serve as touchscreen shortcuts as well for easier move execution.
This feature is handy, but it is limited to the size of the touchscreen – this is a long list, and the small size of the touchscreen can only accomodate a limited number of combos. This also makes the touchscreen functionality prone to error – unlike the big buttons in Super Street Fighter IV 3D Edition, each move or combo appears as a line in the list so it’s easy to miss it and press something else entirely. You can scroll up and down the list, as well as lock it to a specific section, but there’s no way to arrange the list in order to display your favorite moves, so you’ll have to choose which section to display. The limitations of the move list may seem bad, but I like that it prevents players from simply spamming the most powerful moves and combos in order to win fights.
I’m a fighting game novice, so I can’t really assess whether the fighting engine of Dead or Alive: Dimensions is good or not, so I’ll just talk about how I liked it. And I liked it a lot. Basic combos are easy to pull off without having to memorize complicated button sequences, and most of the time battles don’t take longer than half a minute to finish. I like how the environment plays into the fights as well – you can throw or slam your opponents against walls and other inanimate objects or even throw/push them off of ledges for extra damage.
In terms of game modes, Dead or Alive: Dimensions has the standard single player Arcade and Survival modes with predetermined opponents as well as the usual local and online one-on-one battles. However, there are two game modes of Dead or Alive: Dimensions that’s new to me: Tag Challenge and Chronicle mode.
Tag Challenge involves several battles wherein you get to fight with a chosen partner (controlled by the game’s AI) against predetermined opponents, either pairs or an individual. In a match, you take turns fighting by tagging into the match, but it’s a little weird though because your AI-controlled partner tags itself into the match on it’s own.
Chronicle Mode is the story mode of Dead or Alive: Dimensions, but rather than allowing you to select a character and go through his/her point of view of the story as it progresses, it is a re-telling of the story of Dead or Alive, from the first game to the fourth game. In each chapter, you play a pre-selected character and you see the story unfold through their point of view.
This approach should have made for a more solid storyline since there’s only one path as opposed to having multiple characters have their own beginnings and endings, but it doesn’t. I’m not sure if it’s poor writing but I often found myself lost and wondering why I’m fighting all of a sudden. Chronicle Mode did a good job of helping me understand each of the main character’s motivations and personalities, but there are a total of 35 playable characters and I barely know anything about the rest – Dead or Alive: Dimensions doesn’t help me in that aspect.
Speaking of characters, Dead or Alive: Dimensions has a total of 35 playable characters as mentioned above, but half of the roster won’t be available at the onset. The other characters are easy to unlock, all you have to do is play Chronicle Mode and Arcade Mode several times and you’ll eventually unlock all of them. All characters have multiple costumes as well, with two available from when you can use them and additional ones that can be unlocked by continuing to play Arcade Mode. The roster seems well-designed – almost everyone has their own unique fighting style based on real martial arts – but the lack of a Story Mode for all of them makes it hard to like them, save for the main protagonists.
I like that the character selection screen is shown on the second screen. You can select a character just by touching their image with the stylus, and you end up with a lot of free space on the main screen.
Dead or Alive: Dimensions also has a figure collection and gallery mode. As you play, you gradually obtain figures for your collection but you can also spend Play Coins to get them. You can then place them in different backgrounds and take 3D photos of them. Proof positive that this game is big on fanservice? When viewing a female character’s figure, you can shake your 3DS and something will “jiggle” along with it.
This mode is what caused Dead or Alive: Dimensions to be banned in some countries, primarily because some of the female characters are underage. They fixed that by removing the ages of the underage characters from their profiles.
I think this is where I can mention one disappointing aspect of Dead or Alive: Dimensions. Another feature of the game is to be able to receive additional costumes and special challenges online, but that has already stopped. I think the costumes were available for a little over a year; it’s already been almost three years since Dead or Alive: Dimensions was released, so I can understand why the publishers are no longer sending the data, but I can’t understand why they aren’t making the additional content available for purchase in the form of patches. The additional content is not necessary, but people interested in this game should know that these features are no longer available.
What really made me choose Dead or Alive: Dimensions over Tekken 3D Prime Edition (aside from the fanservice) is it’s Street Pass functionality. Basically, Dead or Alive: Dimensions gives you a ranking based on your overall performance in the game’s various modes. When you tag someone with this game, you exchange information on each one’s most frequently used character and current ranking. You then get the chance to fight an AI-controlled character based on that person’s information. It’s an interesting take on Street Pass – however, I’ve only had four Street Pass battles since getting a copy of this game.
I don’t regret getting Dead or Alive: Dimensions at all. It provides a different fighting game feel compared to Super Street Fighter IV 3D Edition that merits both to be included in anyone’s collection. Having a lot of unlockable content as well as the occasional Street Pass tag will make me keep going back to this game, and because the battles are so quick, it won’t eat up a lot of my time.