Dead or Alive 3 (Xbox) review
"It's true that only a superhuman could endure brainbusters, dragon's palms, and ten-story drops from skyscraping towers (breaking a few neon signs in the process, no less). But, beyond the beastly stamina, this game sets a benchmark for realistic — even impeccable — attention to form, timing, and improvisation. And that's what real fighting is about."
At this very moment, my lavender-haired sister — all 104 feminine pounds — is taking a shower, water caressing her 5'2" frame, droplets forming glassy beads across her 37 inch bust.
Or not. Pull your dirty mind from the slough, you'll be needing it. You see, those aren't actually my younger sister's measurements. Those are figures for the devilish minx Ayane, as taken from my rulebook for Dead or Alive 3... the American version. Now that the Xbox has finally beached on the shores of Japan and Europe (with additional character outfits), the rest of the civilized world can enjoy this fighting goliath. They're in for a most tasty treat.
No, that treat is not the nude cinematic contained within, although I'm certain many of the lovelacks shall get their rocks off from the scene. Sorry, I won't spill the beans as to which girl it is — but fear not, it is one of the girls, and not Gen Fu. He's the token elderly, bearded man.
Nor is the treat of which I speak, simply graphical gloss — although such details as buckling trees, roiling seaside waters, and reflective oaken floors do add to the immersive 3-D fighting experience. Yes, the multi-tiered interactive environments have returned: kick an opponent through a wall and keep brawling into the next room. But forget about that. Forget the girls and the glitter, forget what you've heard or seen of DOA2 — all of that is to be expected. Part three has more — bigger environments, new characters, and even a hidden fighter who exudes enough menace to go toe-to-toe with Solid Snake. But that's not what DOA3 is about. This is something else entirely.
No, what we have here is perhaps the finest fighting simulation ever, crafted with love by the artisans at Tecmo. Oh, it's true that only a superhuman could endure brainbusters, dragon's palms, and ten-story drops from skyscraping towers (breaking a few neon signs in the process, no less). But, beyond the beastly stamina, this game sets a benchmark for realistic — even impeccable — attention to form, timing, and improvisation. And that's what real fighting is about.
Don't get me wrong, I love fighting games as a genre. And, in a sense, Virtua Fighter and Tekken are deeper as games than Dead or Alive (although the line becomes more blurred by the year). Most 3-D fighters reward focused, repetitive practise of combo patterns. Most 3-D fighters reward memorisation of damage dealt by each attack, so that players can mix-and-match to form the most devastating combinations imaginable. This allows for a nearly bottomless pool of learning and mastery — and that makes for a very deep game.
But it doesn't make for a deep fighting experience. In real life, precious little goes quite as planned. If you jab someone in the face, she may very well pull your arm from socket, with a bone-breaking *snap*. You can't cry out ''CHICKEN!'' and somehow prevent the charming half-German firebrand, Hitomi, from twisting your limbs about like tads of taffy. In real life, brawling is about keeping your wits about ye (rage leads to carelessness, leads to major spleen-kicking), timing your attacks (to prevent the aforementioned limb-twisting), and variety of repertoire while adhering to a silky smooth style (a cohesive form limits careless attacks).
Now, have you ever seen an accomplished gamer — be it during the earlier instalments of DOA, or any other series — become so flustered that their attacks consistently failed? No, probably not. And if you have, perhaps you should reconsider the meaning of the word ''accomplished''. In any case, it's been fairly easy to maintain level head in the past. Not so in DOA3. Each and every button on the controller is analogue — tap lightly for a jab, tap a bit harder for an elbow. The longer you fight — the more involved you become — the more likely you are to hit the buttons harder... and harder... and HARDER... which certainly deals a bit of damage, but utterly wrecks well-planned (if lengthy) PPPKPPKK combinations.
At the same time, sexy ninja Kasumi doesn't need to whip out the instruction manual and recite ''hit right, then up, and punch to perform uppercut'' — just hit that button hard for a fist to the jaw. By allowing two sets of moves (heavy and light) with each button, the attacks are simple and intuitive.
Furthermore, should drunken master Wong or any other foe predict your attack, they can twirl you like a pinwheel by your own momentum. Predictability is a bad thing, as each and every character in Dead or Alive can counter an opponent's attack, with painful results (although the damage from these counters has been cut in half for part 3). In fighting games, precision training of combinations will often lead to equally-matched masters with similar arsenals. In DOA3, similarity is the touch of death. Why use a double swallow kick, when it hurts less than a triple brainbashing explosion stun-palm? Simple: because the opponent won't be expecting a weaker move, and such variation disrupts your opponent's attempts at reversals. Some might complain that countering opponents' blows is cheesy and simplistic. I say it's realistic, gratifying, and encourages variety — variety of both timing and form. And Tecmo spent an exceedingly attentive amount of effort on crafting exact likenesses of karate, she quan (snake-style martial arts), and eleven other forms of combat. It would be a shame for that effort to be wasted on repetitive motions.
Just remember the seven P's. Proper prior preparation prevents piss-poor performance. Don't whittle valuable hours on memorisation. Focus on timing (you can now delay attacks, a la Virtua Fighter), keeping your calm, and learning the bounds of your chosen style, be it Jeet Kune Do or Mugen Tenshin.
For gamers whose tastes were forged in Virtua Fighter and steeped in Tekken, the analogue control and reversals could very well drive them to the brink of madness. I won't say that Dead or Alive 3 is for everyone. But it offers a unique, stylish, and realistic experience, and playing... fighting... exhilarates me. For those whose hearts long to battle, this game strikes to the core.
It also features a lot of really hot girls wearing very little, set amidst graphics that dwarf even the magnificent Halo. Track down the elusive Booster Disc, and you can attain even more swank and sultry costumes for your viewing pleasure. That, my friends, is a good thing.
Control: silky smooth
Ayane is a sexy minx: YES
Staff review by Zigfried (January 22, 2004)
Zigfried likes writing about whales and angry seamen, and often does so at the local pub.
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