Every fighter has a feature or a gimmick that it relies on for its success. Mortal Kombat has intense blood and gore; Street Fighter is known for its colorful and diverse cast of characters and its deep fighting mechanics; BlazBlue has a gorgeous 2D anime style; Soul Calibur mixes it up with some wildly varied weapon combat, leaving the Dead or Alive series with its cast of wonderfully busty babes. If you want to dispute that statement, take into consideration that two spin-off games have devoted their entire gameplay to dressing these girls in tiny bikinis. After a long absence of Dead or Alive fighting games, the series makes a return not only in handheld form, but in stereoscopic 3D, as well.
Dead or Alive: Dimensions isn’t a sequel but rather a compilation of the entire franchise history. If you’re not caught up on the storyline, Dimensions has you covered on every front. Much like the new Mortal Kombat, the single-player Chronicles Mode takes you through an extensive storyline that covers much of every important characters’ backstory, also acting as a tutorial of the game’s fighting mechanics. It’s made up mostly of cut-scenes that always end up in a brawl that doesn’t always make sense within the confines of the story. To put it simply, the story is as coherent as you’d expect a fighting game’s story to be.
Which brings us to the fight system. Not much has changed from previous entries, but that is definitely a good thing. Instead of traditional fight controls made up of directional button inputs, Dimensions relies on an extensive use of combos. Having only a punch and kick button may seem extremely underwhelming, but each of the 25 characters has a massive number of moves thanks to the addition of a direction to your kick or punch combos. All of these moves are very flashy and fluid, of course, making each fight a spectacle.
The touch screen is used similarly to Super Street Fighter IV on the 3DS, though instead of selecting a certain set of moves, literally every move for your current character is listed on the bottom screen. You’re then able to scroll through and simply tap them to perform any of the combos. While it might sound like you can just tap away to victory, this is hardly the case. Much of the moves are delayed and require you to select another follow-up after you select a combo, and this downtime can make or break your match. On the other hand, it actually serves as a nice guide when practicing combos, since they are always on display on the bottom screen.
On the graphics side, the game looks simply incredible. Each character and background has striking detail that fans will immediately appreciate, and yes–even the jiggle physics the series is known for are present. The 3D effect looks stunning and brings every fight to life; however, turning it off significantly improves the framerate, ironing it out to a silky smooth 60 frames per second. One oddity, however, is that cut-scenes frequently flip-flop in terms of quality. One will feature fully moving characters while the next will be made up no more than 3D stills.
A huge component to any fighting game is obviously multiplayer, and Dimensions not only lets you beat up on your friends locally, but also supports online multiplayer, which works almost flawlessly. I’ve had a few connection problems, but the actual fighting is lag-free.
Aside from the story-driven Chronicles Mode and the multiplayer modes, Arcade Mode lets you take on a series of enemies to see how fast you can beat them. Survival Mode pits you against a non-stop stream of enemies, Tag-Team Mode pairs you up with a computer-controlled ally to try and take down harder enemies, and Free Play lets you set the rules and duke it out. You’re also able to satisfy your inner pervert/photography enthusiast (whichever applies more) by unlocking a massive amount of 3D figurines and taking pictures of them. The built-in gyroscope helps create the illusion of a real camera by letting you point it and rotate your 3DS however you want during the shoot.
Dead or Alive: Dimensions should be thought of less as a compilation and more as a love letter to all the DoA fans. Though it has a few shortcomings, such as cut-scenes made of stills, the overall package is jam-packed with content. Loads of modes, plenty of unlockable extra goodies, and a very functional multiplayer make Dimensions a series that not only fans must buy, but any gamer with even the slightest itch for a quality portable fighting game. If you’ve been waiting for the next must-buy 3DS title, this is it, folks.