BlazBlue: Continuum Shift 2 (3DS)
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Dead Or Alive: Dimensions makes good use of 3D and delivers a solid fighter with great control, pacing and strategy.
Jaded by the emptiness I felt at my last hollow victory I looked to new challenges and found this competition waiting for me. The reason I was there wasn't always clear to me, but what did ring true was the love of brawling shown by every competitor. As I rose through the ranks I felt my old joy at the sport returning to me. As I result I even felt my old skills and passion growing once again. Each battle was a tale told in punches, blocks, leaps and throws. My enemy may have a powerful kick, but unless he can outwit my perfect blocking he may as well be tap dancing on air. The challenge was well and truly on!
Dead Or Alive: Dimensions is the first fighting game in a very long time that I've really enjoyed playing, having drifted away from the genre for years. I recently played and reviewed BlazBlue: Continuum Shift 2 (3DS) and I was very disappointed. I began to worry that I had grown out of this genre's simple charms. However, Dead or Alive Dimensions has proved to me that a fighting game can provide as much depth as you bring to it, given the right tools.
As I've often said, I really appreciate good narrative in a game. More importantly, I enjoy the way that good writing can provide me with a context and emotional drive for my own actions in the game. Dead Or Alive: Dimensions has a story mode which initially does this very well. In the first chapter there are a series of introductory stories and fights to establish the history of the series. I felt a real cohesion between the fights I was asked to undertake and the reasons I was having those fights.
As the game progressed I found the story lost its way .
As the game progressed I found the story lost its way as became less well connected to the gameplay. At times I seemed to be pitched into a fight between two characters who were not involved in the story which has just been told. I found this to be jarring, which is a pity because Dead Or Alive's multi-location stages (in which a character may be knocked through a window to fall into another arena) does really lend itself to narrative storytelling well.
For me, the pace of the action in Dead Or Alive: Dimensions is perfectly balanced. It's fast enough that it feels like a challenge for my reactions and skill, but slow enough that fights can be allowed to develop a miniature narrative of their own, with power shifting back and forth between combatants. Blocking is highly effective and if you want to win, you'll need to look for gaps in your opponents' approach. There is a great system of attacks, blocks and throws which cancel each other out in a triangular structure. This adds a great strategic element to the fighting and prevents any character's powerful move from unbalancing the action.
The controls are intuitive and clear and combo sequences are displayed on the bottom screen for assistance. These can also be touch-screen selected if required, but I found this robbed me of the immediacy of the action. If there is any flaw in the control scheme it lies with 3DS itself. The two fighting games I have played recently really highlighted to me the weakness of the 3DS' D-Pad and the slightly indistinct control it provides, especially when requiring diagonal commands.
If you've ever been put off a Dead Or Alive title, its probably due to its tendency to drool over its own female cast. It put me off initially, but I'd say that it isn't too overt in this version. The ability to study the game's 3D models and take pictures will allow some players to fantasize, I'm sure, but ultimately all of the characters depicted are best viewed as unrealistic caricatures, whether they are burly males, buxom females or gnarled old geezers.
It won my affections by allowing me to exercise skill, judgement and personal choice.
Where Dead Or Alive: Dimensions excels is in its use of the 3DS' unique features. The 3D visuals are highly effective and utilised expertly for the main action and the rendered cut-scenes. Memory card storage allows you to take imaginative pictures of collected characters in the arena environments, although these cannot be viewed outside the game itself, which is a pity. This game even makes use of Play Coins to unlock new costumes and items for the game. Play Coins are an under-utilised element of the 3DS in most titles to date, especially by developers other than Nintendo.
Also putting Dead Or Alive: Dimensions above the competition (especially on the 3DS) is in its provision of simple Internet multiplayer. I was able to quickly find an Internet game with a worldwide player and grit my teeth for a savage three-round beating (Like I say, these games aren't really my forte!) Nevertheless, I think that fighting games are primarily a multiplayer experience and in this country at least I consider it a pre-requisite for a multiplayer title to support Internet match-ups, especially on a handheld console.
I found Dead or Alive: Dimensions much more entertaining than I would have guessed. It doesn't have the most distinctive characters or a particularly enthralling narrative, but it managed to win my affection by allowing me to exercise skill, judgement and personal choice rather than randomly mashing buttons. It's a game which rewards patience and practice and in this case it is definitely worth spending the time to master.
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