Dead Or Alive Dimensions review: Tecmo Koei's ninjitsu-themed fighter stands shoulder-to-shoulder with Capcom's Super Street Fighter IV 3D as one of the best to grace any system.
Just like Street Fighter, Dead Or Alive: Dimensions is a 3D game that plays out primarily on a two-dimensional plane. There are just two buttons for basic attacks in DOA: Dimensions (in contrast to Street Fighter's finger-dislocating six). But don't mistake the game's relatively tight vocabulary for simplicity.
As you string different combinations of button inputs together, new, screen-filling combos play out, with a gigantic array of different animations depending on the order in which you choose your attacks.
Likewise, each character has a variety of different throws that can be tagged onto the end of certain combos.
Battles flow with speed and elegance, dazzling the eyes with their balletic grace and challenging the mind to know when to select the most appropriate move for any given situation.
Move On Up
The 3DS's bottom screen is used to display your character's entire move list. What elevates this from being a simple instruction read-out is the way in which the list changes as you commence combos.
Start a string of hits against an opponent using a punch, for example, and the list instantly hides all of the character's moves that begin with a kick. As the combo progresses, the list reduces in step, showing all of the available options as you develop your attack.
This is an ingenious way in which to teach each character's moves to a newcomer. For those players who are feeling lazy, it's possible to tap one of the moves in the list to send the character into a flurry of action.
While this feels a bit like cheating, it's actually a more difficult way to play the game on anything but the easiest levels, as you're often so busy looking at the list of move options available that you stop concentrating on the fight itself.
See, you do need to block at opportune moments, as well as counter-attacking. If you do get knocked to the floor at any point, you'll need to get to your feet as quickly as possible by tapping Y. Alternatively, pressing the kick button will execute a rising attack, allowing you to cause some damage as you get to your feet.
The expansive arenas in which battles take place are one of DOA's unique aspects. Work an opponent towards the edge of the dam on which you are battling, for example, and a well-aimed throw or roundhouse kick will send them tumbling down towards the ground below.
Not only will this deplete some of their health bar but, as your character leaps after them, the battle moves to a different area, which gives each battle a sense of journey and destination.
Using different environmental features against your opponent - such as electrocuted walls that will cause sparks to fly if touched - adds a further layer of strategy.
Loads Of Modes
The core Chronicle mode offers a sizeable campaign through which to play, one that's far more interesting and thoughtfully structured than in the majority of fighting games. It's also supported by a host of other options.
Arcade mode presents a series of 'courses', these being predetermined sequences of opponents through which to battle. Here, the emphasis is on speed, with the challenge being to see how quickly you can complete a run which provides a strong incentive to replay each course.