"Make no mistake: this is not a traditional experience. There is no alien race to shoot down in your airship before they invade the earth and exterminate humanity. There is no noble hero, taking up a sword to battle through an evil empire in hopes of rescuing a damsel in distress. In fact, there are ONLY damsels, and none of these beauties are in any kind of distress. The only grief these dolls may have had was finding out theyíve been invited to Zack Island, where they were expecting to find ano..."
Make no mistake: this is not a traditional experience. There is no alien race to shoot down in your airship before they invade the earth and exterminate humanity. There is no noble hero, taking up a sword to battle through an evil empire in hopes of rescuing a damsel in distress. In fact, there are ONLY damsels, and none of these beauties are in any kind of distress. The only grief these dolls may have had was finding out theyíve been invited to Zack Island, where they were expecting to find another Dead or Alive tournament; instead, they found tropical seclusion, a wide selection of bikinis, a casino, and a few volleyball nets. Shrugging off the trickery and embracing the opportunity to relax, they decide to hang around for some semi-friendly competition.
What needs to be understood is that Dead or Alive: Xtreme Beach Volleyball isnít simply a volleyball simulation; itís an absorbing fourteen day vacation that doesnít summon its players away from their real-life worries to hand them catastrophic situations in need of heroism -- it gives them control of a girl, puts them on a picturesque island (which is easily the single-best looking environment youíll find in a videogame), and allows them to do what they will. This isnít a getaway with obligations; itís one with fruity drinks, mesmerizing, stylish, revealing swimwear, and a nightlife of gambling for those with deep pockets.
Perhaps cheesiness wouldíve been the resulting feeling from being hurled into an environment with a group semi-clad women, frolicking and bouncing and playing merrily in the summer sun, had the atmosphere not been so engrossing -- so unbelievably, captivatingly, relaxingly soothing. Exploring the beachsides simply gives you the feeling that youíre truly on an impossibly peaceful, worry-free escape. The sands kick up and shift as Kasumi remains light on her feet during an easy-going volleyball match; small, white patches of thin clouds slowly crawl along the endless, sapphire skies; some of the surrounding greened, lush palm trees sway gently this way and that with the calm on-shore breezes; colorful sailboats sit lazily in the distance. There is such an overwhelming feeling of being there that gives the entire experience an authentic, soothing air.
But donít rely just on the environments to tell you youíre in paradise -- purchase some tanning oil at the islandís accessories shop (for a THOUSAND Zack dollars, which Iím hoping hold about the same value as yen) and apply it to your chosen sweetheart, and watch her bronze as she spends time outside. By the end of a vacation, some of the girls, such as Tina, will become so lusciously brown that itíll appear she has lived in the Bahamas all her life. (On the other hand, indoorsy dames like Ayane will remain levels of white rivaled only by Larry Bird, but we wonít hold that against them.)
Your carefree adventure begins by choosing a girl and being welcomed to the island by another buxom beauty, who gives you a quick tour and offer to be your partner in a volleyball match.
Let us go on our own little virtual tour, so you can better understand the intricacies Zack Island! Join me, wonít you?
Youíll only report back to the hotel when it gets dark in the late evenings. Here, you can hang out in your hotel room, where every night, youíll receive a present from Zack, ranging from useless seashells to new swimwear! Also, if youíve got the cash to spare, head on down to the beautiful casino -- try your hand at the various, character-themed slot machines, poker, blackjack, and even a roulette table!
Volleyball games can take place on Niki Beach, Zack Island, the Private Beach, and in the Jungle, which is in the heart of the island, in the shade of abundant, flourishing foliage. Bass Island is a tiny, sandy spot just off the main island, usually submerged when the tide is in; however, you can get out here for a game every now and then. Zackís Private Beach is on the opposite side of the island, away from all the other locales.
Visit the accessory shop, sports shop and Zack of All Trades to purchase various items, which you can use for yourself or have them wrapped, so you can give them to other girls as presents! From bikinis and hats to shoes, hair ties and various foods, you can find all kinds of collectables and items to dress up your girl.
The radio station is the place to go if you want to set up custom soundtracks, remove certain songs from your lists, add tracks on your hard drive, or create separate playlists for both daytime and night. The default list includes very appropriate stuff (considering the mood and pace) such as Bob Marley and B*Witched, but itís just as easy to insert music to your liking.
Perhaps the most relaxing place on the island is the poolside. Here, you can play the hopping game, where you jump about the various floating pads across the pool. Be careful not to over jump, or your cutie will fall in! Of course, the consequences are painless in paradise -- just get up and try again! On the other hand, you can always just watch your precious toss and turn in the hot sun on her beach chair, with a fully maneuverable camera that rotates and zooms in to every area you could possibly want to view. That isnít my business; Iím just here to tell you the option is there. Or, you can choose to Ďtake a restí, and sheíll do something -- stand up and stretch, move around, or sit at a table and have a drink -- during which you simply sit back and watch, wishing you were there. You can also view these short sequences when you visit the beaches where none of the other girls are hanging out.
More than likely, though, youíre going to want to try out the volleyball eventually, and to do so, youíll need a partner. You can stroll up to any of the girls and ask them directly if theyíd like to pair up with you, regardless of whether or not they already have a teammate. However, theyíll be much more likely to respond favorably if you present them with a gift beforehand! Just make sure you purchase an item that interests them -- the assassin Christie enjoys submachine guns, but giving one to Lei Fang is going to be more awkward than anything! Each girl is different tastes and interests, and some of the girls donít even really like each other. Kasumi isnít terribly likely to entice Ayane to form a team with a simple flower or hairclip -- itís going to take some real persuasion!
Once youíve found a partner and are out in the sand, youíll see it was worthwhile to take the time to win another girlís heart, because the volleyball is challenging and entertaining. All of the standard volleyball tactics are here, from bumps, to sets, to spikes. There are just three buttons really worth using, one for passing or setting-up, and the other two for returning it over the net, either very lightly or with a spike. The power of the shots you deliver is dependent on your timing; as your girl leaps through the air and prepares to slam a spike down, the closer you are to the ball as it descends, the harder youíre going to hit it. Time it perfectly and catch an unfocused opponent, and you may just knock her off-balance and onto her bottom. This will even earn you a thousand Zack dollars! Teamwork is important, as you or your mate may have to dive at a wide-angled return to keep it alive, while the other must be in position to knock it back over. For positioning purposes, itís possible to move your partner about with the right analog stick, but itís rarely necessary, because she usually responds appropriately to the shot or pass being delivered. You can win varying amounts of prize money, depending upon the margin of victory, where matches are first-to-seven, with deuces if the score is tied at six.
Itís also important not only to win over a teammate with presents, but to give them items here and there to keep them happy, because this will keep them playing well! If youíre not on good terms with her, she will be more unwilling to perform. No types of innuendo were meant by the previous sentence, but I know itís too late now.
The gambling aspects are perfectly realistic, in that itís a gamble to even bother unless you statistically understand the Ďsmartí thing to do in various situations involving poker and blackjack (both of which are done very well, with easy-to-understand interfaces, and cute decks of cards with all of the girls in different swimsuits on them). The slot machines all have different odds of winning and winning rates, ranging from Ė500x to 500x! Of course, having the slot machine steal additional money from you if youíre unfortunate enough to land a negative return is a bit on the creepy side, you can stick to the machines with the Kasumi and Helena themes, which do not have such possibilities. As for roulette, wellÖ Iíve never seen thirty thousand Zacks go down the drain faster, or three hundred thousand pop up quicker. I just hope you know what youíre doing or youíll be returning to your hotel room in a saddened, money-less stupor!
And what happens at the end of these luxurious fourteen days? You witness the ending, and start again, either returning with the same girl for another outing to collect more swimsuits and make new friends, or as a different beauty, to explore the possibilities with her. Each character has her own set of swimsuits (Lisa alone has the most revealing ďbikinisĒ available to her through the sports shop) that other characters can attain only through gift giving. Collect them all, as well as the multitudes of accessories (sunglasses! shoes! pie! knives!) to fill your closet!
Youíll never experience a more tranquil, fun-filled getaway than the one Dead or Alive: Xtreme Beach Volleyball offers you, and allows you to start once again whenever you choose. To those who complain that this, in its entirety, isnít even a game: life is a game, friends, and sometimes it can be a tedious one. Sometimes, a tropical escape with some sunsoaked volleyball, gambling and shopping is a healthy one. Then again, that sounds damn expensive, so consider this convincing, atmospheric temporary break, Dream Vacation Lite. Look on the bright side: at least the bruises from getting smacked in the head by a vicious Tina spike and the thousands of lost dollars in the casino arenít real, either!
Community review by dogma (January 18, 2004)
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