Dead or Alive: Dimensions doesn't deserve to be as good as it is, yet after six years away, the series is as great as it ever was. Ironically, its greatest hindrance is its primary selling point: the well-done 3D slows the game down. It's more distracting than dramatic, so it doesn't harm what's otherwise a meaty, enjoyable fighting game.
- Quick, kinetic fighting
- Easy to learn; great instructions
- Plenty of modes and collectible rewards
- Playing the awful story to unlock characters
- 3D slows the game down
- Inconsistent online stability
Dead or Alive: Dimensions Review:
It takes balls to step away from the spotlight and into obscurity. Dead or Alive spent nearly six years hibernating, and then had the nerve to return not with a forward-thinking follow-up, but with an amalgamation of existing games. Since the series disappeared in 2005—let’s ignore the in-between “look at girls in bikinis” games and focus on the core of the fighting franchise—Street Fighter, SoulCalibur and Mortal Kombat have picked up more steam than ever. DOA left at the wrong time, right at the starting line of the arcade fighting game revival. It returns when the time is right. Dead or Alive: Dimensions is a cleverly disguised compilation cartridge that hits every high note necessary to return to form.
Although it incorporates all the DOA games, Dimensions doesn’t divide itself into separate entities. Dimensions is its own thing, and it encompasses everything that came before it. You won’t play DOA2 and then DOA3 and then DOA4. Dimensions includes all four Dead or Alive games’ stories in Chronicle mode, which includes every conceivable DOA character—most of which are pointlessly locked out until you’ve chewed through the numerous modes.
Each story serves as a terrific tutorial, and its gradual reveals explain combos clearly, as well as blocking, countering, recovering, and anticipating the opponent’s next move. These stories are terrible, through and through, and I found myself skipping cutscenes constantly. By the end I felt like an unbeatable, invincible DOA master. Dimensions does a great job of making beginners feel like badassses. The lengthy, poorly-acted cutscenes occupy the unfortunate majority of time in the otherwise quick-and-dirty story modes. Who has time to watch still-frame 3D images when there’s satisftying face-punching just around the corner?
The Fast and The Furious
It’s exceptionally easy to execute incredible-looking combos and special moves by way of the 3DS touch screen. Most attacks are easy to pull off, and they string together in an organic, effective way, but if you’re stuck on a complex input, simply tapping it on the long list of character moves lets it loose. Fights don’t last long because these hits land hard and they are ferociously quick, so ripping through 20 or 30 fighters in the survival mode takes just a few minutes. Ripping through these bouts so quickly is dangerous for completionists—there are hundreds of collectible doodads, usually meant for taking 3D photos, which come from almost every win.
Online matches are equally quick. Getting through a pile of matches in a short span of time works wonders for multiplayer gaming. The net code isn’t quite there, though, and Dimensions is occasionally unstable. Latency issues are just common enough that they detract from the enjoyable multiplayer, which works well the majority of the time. It was never unplayable, as far as I saw, but it’s definitely concerning for the hardcore.
The frame-counting crowd will also notice that 3D, while done well for Dimensions, slows down the brawling. I played it for a few hours in 3D before flicking it off, and the considerable jump in gameplay speed was noticeable even to a scrub like me. Trying Dimensions in 3D again later didn’t feel right. It was certainly the same fluid and fast fighting game it is at its heart, but it wasn’t quite as fluid and wasn’t quite as fast is it could be. It’s hard to justify playing DOA in 3D when it’s the inferior experience.
Bring It On
After this long away from the franchise, it was easy to forget exactly what Dead or Alive felt like, as well as why it became such a hit in the first place. It was easier to fall out of love with so many continuing series ready to replace it, bury it, and leave it behind.
Dimensions won’t exactly make waves like a Dead or Alive 5 would have, it’s more of the same sort of stepping stone for progress we saw with Super Street Fighter II HD Remix. The visual overhaul obviously isn’t as radical, but the suite of things to do with an old favorite—or four, as the case may be—is a hard and fast reminder that the world needs more of this. Dimensions is the best way to bide the time until then.