Insert your own "triple D" joke here.
Two months after launch, the 3DS is still struggling to convince gamers that it’s a necessary device. Its core gimmick—stereoscopic 3D—is utilized well in some games (Pilotwings Resort) and poorly in others (Splinter Cell). One might argue that the system’s online features, including StreetPass and SpotPass, have been exclusively utilized by Capcom’s excellent, though niche, Super Street Fighter IV. Well, a new challenger now approaches: Tecmo Koei’s Dead or Alive Dimensions, a very pretty, competent fighting game that brings a lot of 3DS features (but not all) to the fore. It’s also perfectly accessible to series newcomers, and for that reason I can’t recommend it much higher. Of course, there are also some irritating problems along the way.
I recommend starting your adventure in Chronicle Mode, which is this game’s extended story mode. It basically weaves together several hours of cut scenes with the occasional string of fights. The cut scenes aren’t always well produced (static talking character models), and you’ll hate Ayane’s voice actress, but you will get a sense of the scale and storyline of the DoA games for over the last 15 years. More importantly, Chronicle Mode teaches you how to play the game…sort of. The basics of punching, kicking, and throwing come pretty easily, but more advanced maneuvers, including chains and counters, are presented without repetition, so you’ll still be in for a lot of trial and error. For the most part, DoA is somewhat amicable to button mashing on the lower difficulties, but once you jump online or fight some high-level AI computer opponents, you realize what a counter-fest the series can be. Countering itself is not also intuitive, but when you pull it off, it’s pretty feels great.
Other modes are there to help cut your teeth. Arcade Mode is short and easy, featuring a roster of increasing difficulty through several distinct courses. Plus, if you want to unlock the Bottle Ship level, you’ll need to beat it (Ridley makes an excellent stage hazard). Most of the characters and stages are unlocked through Chronicle Mode, but to get everybody, you’ll want to spend some time in Tag Team mode, too. This mode is a fun distraction in which you tag up with an AI-controlled partner to take out a string of opponents. If you’re playing with a friend online, you can tackle these Tag Team matches together! There’s always Training Mode in case you just want to mess around. Using Game Coins buys you new unlockables, including costumes and action figures (I’ll get to that in a second). With almost 1,000 distinct action figures and plenty of costumes, there’s a lot to keep you playing here. Besides that, the game updates itself through SpotPass every day (so far) with new costumes, figures, and unique Throwdown challenges—which are supremely difficult one-on-one fights again what appear to be developer ghosts.
Sadly, I’ve been having trouble connecting with online players. You can connect to friends, anyone in your region, or anyone in the world. I was unable to connect to NWR UK Correspondent Greg Leahy (we blamed the Pond) or NWR forum member SupaKid, who lives in Washington D.C. I’m assuming that my online troubles stem from the fact that I live in Alaska, but even still, it was frustrating. Happily, I was able to connect to a few random regional matches—during which the fights were wholly lag-free. More often than not, however, I just couldn't find a random match to save my life.
The game’s throwaway mode involves setting up dioramas with the figures you unlock and taking 3D pictures of them. This would be more fun if you could add word balloons, but as it stands, there’s really no reason to do it. It takes so long to unlock a significant number of figures to arrange that you’ll probably lose interest. Hey, speaking of the 3D, I’m not super impressed. Because most Chronicle Mode cut scenes are just still images of static character models talking to each other, there’s no depth anyway, and where actual cut scenes are shown (obviously taken from console games), the 3D has no real effect. During actual fights, the depth slider does add oomph, but I don’t think the game was built with stereoscopic 3D in mind. That’s fine, but it’s a little disappointing. The game could’ve used some more forced perspective effects, and frankly, I expected a lot more 3D jiggle effects…DoA2: Hardcore this ain’t!
Despite my difficulties connecting to people online, Dead or Alive Dimensions is an excellent and entertaining game. It’s great as a portable fighter and works well as an introduction to the franchise with lots of 3DS functionality, though I wish the 3D itself were a little more prominent. If you’re itching for a good fighting game or something that’ll just show off what the system is capable of, Dead or Alive Dimensions might be the game for you.