Review by NebulaBlue

"Outstanding barrage of hand-held strikes and kicks."

Growing tired of Super Street Fighter IV: 3D and it's horrendous online play, I decided that it was time to relent and move on to something. With all the praise that Dead or Alive: Dimensions received, my attention was naturally directed toward this title. To be fair, I was a little worried that the reputation the series had of being sexualized to the point of hilarity would interfere with legitimate game-play, but I took a dive and pick the game up. SSFIV: 3D leaving a bittersweet taste in my mouth as well as having never played a Dead or Alive title in my life also caused some reluctance on my part. My unjustified fears were quickly put to rest as soon as I started playing. It took me some time to get used to the game's mechanics and figure out which character I enjoyed using the most, but looking back, I would have skipped one hell of a game if I turned this keeper down without giving it a chance.

The game has a bunch of modes of game-play, starting with Chronicle mode. Chronicle mode is a summary of the Dead or Alive canon that lives amongst the past entries in the series. It's a blend of CGI screens and animation, with tutorials on the game's mechanics slipped in. The bulk of this mode consists of the screen-caps and animations, but it isn't one big movie, as the tutorials are interactive. At certain points in the stories, the tutorials will appear, often as preludes to full-blown fights. New players don't have to worry about losing hilariously in the scripted fights, as the CPU is watered down, and tutorial tips will appear to guide you if you end up in hot water. I'd strongly recommend that newcomers play this mode first, as the game as a whole becomes much more enjoyable once you understand the mechanics of the game. The mode is five chapters long, each chapter taking about fifteen to twenty minutes to go through without skipping scenes. Chronicle mode also features occasional cinematic cut-scenes, which are beautifully animated and mind-blowing to watch, especially for a hand-held game.

This game also has an Arcade mode that comes in six courses with varying levels of difficulty. The first course is five fights long, courses two through five have eight fights, and the sixth course is a campaign against the boss characters of the series. The arcade mode is a little different from fighters I'm personally used to, in that instead of playing the get the highest scores without getting knocked out, you try to beat the fighters in one-round matches for the fastest possible times. Maybe other fighters have timed arcade modes similar to this game's, but it's a new experience for me. Getting knocked out won't force you to start from the beginning, but if you want fast times, it's generally a good idea to avoid getting beaten badly. I owe quite a bit of my success in this game to arcade mode, as it helped me learn various moves and combos that would allow me to perform decent onslaughts on foes.

Survival mode plays exactly as it sounds - survive. The mode has several courses, like arcade mode, but the way to win is different. First off, you obviously aren't allowed to get knocked out, as doing so ends your streak. Second, there are no matches. Enemies will continue to come at you until you defeat the number of enemies the course demands, or until you are knocked out. The final course's difficulty also reaches the True Fighter (hardest) level of difficulty in the game, whereas arcade mode's difficulty level caps at regular mode. The mode is fun if you like non-stop action, but it won't be pleasant if you can't manage to maintain high streaks. Players aren't entirely screwed, however, as their health is restored a bit by knocking out opponents.

Tag Challenge is likely the mode that will manage to drive even veteran Dead or Alive players to suicide. In Tag Challenge, you are paired up with a CPU partner of your choosing to fight against either a CPU enemy or CPU tag team pairing, depending on which level you choose. Everything seems normal, up until the point when you realize that the CPU opponents not only have increased defenses, but are powered up in terms of offense, as well. Even the first level's fight caught me by surprise when I realized just how much damage I sustained when I was thrown into an explosive glass tank. The fact that your CPU opponent often suffers from brain-farts mid-fight, combined with increasing levels of difficulty stacked with unholy stat boosts that the CPU enemies receive makes Tag Challenge the stuff nightmares are made of, especially in the last couple of levels. Tag Challenge is a truly glorious mode of game-play, but be prepared for pain, agony and despair when you witness the carnage that the tag throw in Challenge 20 inflicts on you.

Free Play is the game's basic offline versus option. You pick your character, your opponent and the stage of battle (you can choose a random character, foe and stage if you wish) and duke it out. You can play on any of the four levels of difficulty, and it's great for warming up before playing online. My only gripe is that while the True Fighter difficulty's CPU does know how to fight back and read inputs, it isn't that gruesome compared to "hardest" modes that I've played in the past. It's still great, though, and even if you start off on easy mode, you'll eventually get skilled enough to fare in True Fighter mode. As a somewhat related tip, you should be able to hold your own against the True Fighter difficulty level if you wish to fare well online.

Training mode is the game's fighting staple move testing mode. You can choose which stage you want to practice on, if you want to experiment and investigate the various hazards most stages carry and how you can use them to enrich the damage your combos will deal. The only bad thing about training mode is that you can't program the CPU to use special attacks over and over, which in effect does not allow you to learn how to overcome spam tactics.

The game's two multi-player modes, Local Play and Internet Play, are where the true fun is to be had. Local Play allows you to play with people that have a copy of the game wirelessly, and Internet Play sends you to an even bigger field of competition. Having played Super Street Fighter IV: 3D's abominable online, I originally didn't have much interest in playing online with this game, mostly because of a few complaints of spam, which instantly reminded me of the spamming that was responsible for rendering SSFIV: 3D's online mode unplayable (unless you switched to pro mode). I have ran into (and lost) to a few spammers when I first started playing this game, but I eventually overcame once I learned how hilariously easy it was to counter spam. The fact that most attack spammers in this game are morons that frantically button-mash once confronted also makes things a little easier. I personally don't see much spam, thankfully, which makes my playing experience online truly glorious. Having gotten the hang of the game, I can say that this is one of the best titles I've ever played online.

Players are also ranked for online play via letter grades. The grades are a double-edged sword. Players with high grades (B+ and onwards) are occasionally rejected by match-ups afraid of facing a potentially devastating opponent. However, thanks to the letter grading system, it's easy to scope out chronic rage-quitters (players with superb win:loss ratios but incredibly low ranks will almost certainly disconnect before you can land your finishing blow, as disconnecting before a match officially ends results in the loss of a compromising amount of points). Rage-quitters only hurt themselves by disconnecting in this game, as they lose points while the player they stood up still receives a win. This game's rage-quit policy is truly effective and a model for other games to follow, in my opinion.

The game is also compatible with StreetPass. Upon receiving a StreetPass hit for this game, you get a Throwdown Challenge. Throwdowns are CPU-controlled avatars of the people you StreetPass tagged with in real life. Avatars are based on the person's most-used character, their local, online and Throwdown win:loss ratios, and their letter grade. The letter grade determines the Throwdown's difficulty level, so there's always a varying degree of challenge. Throwdown challenges are fleeting fun, but it's cool to see the profiles of other players in real life when you get them. You can also receive Throwdowns from SpotPass, so you can still partake if StreetPass hits are a rarity for you.

Showcase mode allows you to view the many figurines you receive in the game. Here, you can zoom in/out on the figurine, change the character's facial expression, view different angles by moving the 3DS system around thanks to the gyroscope and take pictures of the figurines that can be viewed in the partnering 3D Photo Album mode. The game's lady figurines also have a jiggle mechanic, meaning if you shake your 3DS lightly, then their cleavage will jiggle as well. The buck stops there, though - players that try to peek up the dresses of the figurines will not get far. Admittedly, I find the ability to take pictures of figurines in various scenarios pretty neat.

Fight Record is a portfolio of things you've done in the game. How far you've gotten in various modes of play are recorded here, as well as character usage stats and how often you perform certain types of moves. It's useful if you want to see how well you've done, and how you play.

The game's music tracks are a bit limited, as the bulk of the sound track consists of character themes. Fortunately, however, the music still delivers in terms of quality. The instruments are well-done and work excellently on the 3DS speakers. Some themes don't really stand out too much for me, but I really enjoy listening to many of them. The themes of Hitomi, Ryu and Kasumi are in my opinion the most well-composed. The themes of Ein, Hayate, Raidou, Kokoro and Ayane deserve recognition, as well. The fact that there are many chances to hear all of the themes all over the game is pretty cool, too.

The only people I would not recommend this game to are people that prefer loads of offline content. This game doesn't really have a lot to offer in terms of offline play. People that enjoy outstanding online competition should get this game if they can, even if they aren't familiar with fighters. It's well worth the opportunity.

Reviewer's Score: 9/10 | Originally Posted: 09/14/11

Game Release: Dead or Alive: Dimensions (US, 05/24/11)

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