Full Review: The first fighting game of the ?real? next generation just plain rocks!
Finally, after months and months of anticipation and waiting, the Xbox gaming console is upon us. And we here at Xbox Target get to throw some reviews your way, first up ? Dead or Alive 3. Possibly the most anticipated fighter ever. Conversely, I've heard rumblings from many people on the net that it did not live up to their expectations. A popular phrase seems to be, ?they spent too much time on the graphics and not enough on the gameplay.? I wouldn't call these people stupid, they just don't seem to understand how this fighting game sequel thing works. Every fighting sequel ever has the following improvements over its previous installment; let's see if DOA3 checks out. Brand new characters and fighting arenas? Check. Improved graphics and sound? Check. Tweaked gameplay mechanics? Check. Hmm? seems fine to me. Not only that, Dead or Alive 3 has an advantage over any fighter ever created as being the most technically advanced, not to mention the most fun.
As you probably know by now, the storylines in fighting games rarely make any sense. But I'd have to give the DOA series championship honors in this category. All I know is than an evil genius known as Dr. Victor Donovan has been putting together projects under the watchful eye of DOATEC. Originally it was Project Alpha, then Project Epsilon, and now we have Project Omega, which leads to the creation of the super-human known as Genra. Now a ?World Championship Tournament? has been put together as the DOA characters make their return. Like I said, this really doesn't make sense, then again, the in game stories are more in-depth for each individual characters, usually involving a personal conflict or obstacle that must be overcome. But we all know we don't play fighting games for their fantastic stories, we play it for the action.
That action isn't much different from the previous installment, Dead or Alive 2. Gameplay involves stringing together various kick and punch combos, along with a massive array of special attacks that can be pulled off with simple combinations of the directional pad and attack buttons. What has made the DOA series different from other 3-D fighters, such as the Tekken and Virtua Fighter series, is the free button. It works both as a block and counter button, but it's the counter feature that gets the most attention. When a character launches an attack your way, press backwards in whichever way the attack is coming (high, middle, or low) and press the free button, in return your character will counter the move with a devastating attack of their own. These counters have stirred up a little controversy in the past, people thought they were too easy to pull off and way too powerful. Now, I agree with the fact that they were too powerful, however, I don't think they should have made them harder to pull off. In the end it'd just frustrate people and they'd give up on it.
Plus, I've always found the counters to be a great mind game when playing with a friend. Who's going to attack first? And should I attack him high or low, which will he expect? The whole thing adds a great deal of strategy in addition to already great combo and throw moves. Thankfully though, the counters now take off far less damage. Other gameplay tweaks include dead on hit detection, more interactive backgrounds, and now it's much easier to move around in the 3-D plane. Also, the game just plays much more smoothly. One word I'd use to describe the gameplay is "fun", and that's usually what I look for in my games. Seriously, I haven't sat down?with fighting game for so hours many at a time since 9/9/99, when some game called Soul Calibur came out.
In addition to the original 13 characters (counting Bayman), DOA3 throws three brand new ones into the mix. Hitomi, a young, hot, master of Karate, Christie, a British assassin, who unleashes the deadly art of She Quan, and last but not least, Brad Wong, who practices the unorthodox fighting style of Zui Ba Xian Quan, which involves a lot of drinking, and we're not talking about cola here. Now, what surprised me most about these new characters is that each one is totally unique in their own right, they are not rehashes of already existing characters. Each one of their fighting styles has yet to be seen, and they're certainly a welcome addition to the game. I even like them better than most of the already existing cast of characters. Once again, it all comes down to that word ?fun?, they are just a total blast too use. Kudos to Team Ninja, it really makes me look forward to the new characters further on down the line.
Of course, the main hype surrounding DOA3 wasn't the new characters or gameplay enhancements; we all know it was the graphics. And I must say, I wasn't disappointed. This game is a freakin' masterpiece. From the highly detailed characters to the expansive backgrounds, this entire game is a sight to behold. The graphics really show just how advanced the Xbox is when compared to the PS2 and Gamecube, and I agree with Tecmo when they say it couldn't be transferred to the other consoles. The characters now move with much more realism, and they're just overall more detailed. Including the clothes, the hair, and muscles. As beautiful as the characters are (especially the ladies), the backgrounds are really the star of the visuals. From the amazing sunset on the beach, with the birds flying in the background and the sun sparkling off the water, to the forest level, where individual leaves fall from the trees, the attention to detail is just plain staggering. And folks, you've never seen water effects like these before. In quoting one of the Xbox teaser commercials ? "Pity those who play to escape reality."
The backgrounds aren't just beautiful either; they're now much more interactive. In the third installment, Team Ninja really has taken this aspect of the game to a whole new level. You can send your opponent flying into trees, rocks, icicles, walls, and even out of buildings. And now many of the stages have multiple levels to fall from, not just one. You'll also find stages, which started in the original, that have electric/explosive boundaries in them. The goal of these is of course to knock your opponent into them, which in effect adds to the damage. These are easily not only the most gorgeous backgrounds in any fighter ever, but they're also the most interactive by far. Which in itself can be labeled as a gameplay enhancement.
The sounds effects are also rather impressive. With nice battle tunes, character voices (though in Japanese), and your basic punch and kick effects throughout. However, I don't agree with Tecmo's decision to include three Aerosmith songs. They are just very out of place and I don't see the point. I mean, the game is pretty much guaranteed to sell hundreds of thousands of copies on its own merits, why try and Americanize it with some lame band? I seriously doubt those songs will make it into the Japanese version. Overall though, the game will be music to your ears, especially those with 5.1 Dolby Digital surround sound. You lucky bastards!
Next to Soul Calibur, I'd say DOA2 featured not only the most, but the best modes of play. And guess what? That's right, they're all back baby, and just how you remember them. First and foremost is the Story mode, which has gotten many complaints in the past because they've always been too arcadey. Meaning they were very short and didn't really say much. I for one didn't complain because I knew it was a port of an arcade game, but many gamers wanted more. So, in answering the gamer's needs, Tecmo announced that DOA3 would contain a much more in depth Story mode. Yet, for whatever reason, it didn't happen. It's pretty much exactly the same as the previous games ? meet some one, exchange a few words, fight one round, move on to the next round, and repeat until you eventually reach the end boss. It's not all bad though, each character's ending movie is simply incredible and worth checking out at least once. Plus, the end boss, Omega, is WAY cooler than that big-nosed thing from DOA2.
Other modes include the very popular Survival, where you try and gain as many points as you can before you finally fall to the countless onslaught of your foes, Team Battle, pick up to five different characters and go at it against the same amount of your opponent's choice, Tag Battle, you pick two characters that will team up against your rival's two, in these matches you can tag in and out between your characters and launch combo attacks with them as well, the coolest part is that it allows of to 4 real life players to play. Also returning is my personal favorite, Time Attack, basically you just try and make it though various opponents as quickly as possible, trying to get the best time is the goal. Lastly is the Sparring mode, pick a character you wish to learn moves with, choose an opponent to fight against, then pummel them into submission as you test out each characters individual moves. Though DOA3 doesn't bring any new modes to the table, there is still a very impressive array, and it should keep you busy for a long time.
Dead or Alive 3 also features a few small enhancements that some people might not think twice about. For example, now on the Survival and Time Attack mode's character select screen you can see all the records for each individual character. I found this to be very helpful in determining which goal I wanted to shoot for. Another feature I found nifty is that there is now a command list when you press the pause button. Now you can get all the moves for each character without buying a strategy guide. Hey look, Tecmo just saved you $15. Also, Tecmo utilized the Xbox's built-in 8GB hard drive to make loading times non-existent. Once again, little touches that go a long way.
With all the positive praise I've given the game thus far, I might be misleading you into thinking it's perfect. In all actuality, it's very, very close. My one and only major gripe about the game isn't even the developers fault; it's Microsoft's. Yes, I'm talking about that infamous Xbox controller. To be fair, I like the controller. I think it has a nice feel to it, and with a game like Halo, it's perfect. The problem is that the four main buttons are too close to one another and it causes you to hit the wrong button on more than one occasion. Additionally, Tecmo redesigned the interface, putting the Free button on X, the Punch button on Y, and the Kick button on B. For a person who has only played the Dreamcast version of DOA2 (like myself), this will be very confusing and you might want to go reconfigure it your way. On the other hand, I soon noticed why Team Ninja took this approach. When hitting the buttons in the traditional fashion (i.e.- with your thumb) it becomes very taxing on your forearm due to the ?bulkiness? of the Xbox pad. This interface Team Ninja came up with was clearly designed for play with the fingers, eliminating the sore arms. In the end though, this in no way ruins the game, with a little play time you'll adapt, and if not, you might want to search for a smaller 3rd party controller.