I have a confession to make. I’ve always preferred the Dead or Alive series to Street Fighter, Tekken, Mortal Kombat, et al. And not just because of the boobies.
DOA is one of the few remaining fighting series that you can pick up and play without pausing every second to check the move list.
It’s an approach that works more effectively on the 3DS than its closest competitor, Street Fighter IV 3D. Not because it plays to the strengths of the system, but because it manages to avoid one of the major weaknesses.
You're coming with me
Dead or Alive: Dimensions is the first appearance of the series on a handheld console, but this shouldn’t be a cause for concern - it’s far from a cut-down version of the real thing.
Sporting a ridiculous number of modes and large roster of 25 fighters, Dimensions is even more feature-packed than its previous outings, and although some of the modes are very much filler (taking snaps of non-poseable figurines is exactly as exciting as it sounds), overall there’s a good number of hours of gameplay to be had for the solo gamer.
One of the new additions to the series, alongside the usual suspects of Arcade, Survival, and the two character Tag Challenge, is Chronicle - a series of nonsensical FMV story sequences punctuated by the occasional bout to remind you that you’re playing a fighting game.
As a primer for weaning newcomers off the temptation of button-mashing, it works splendidly - with the game pausing to demonstrate and enact new concepts like holds, combo throws, and tag-team fighting at a steady rate as you progress through the five-chapter story.
Arcade mode, on the other hand, is a tad disappointing, as it’s more a time attack over six different sets of opponents than the traditional ‘fight through to the final round’, as with most other fighters.
Throw down the gauntlet
The controls for Dead or Alive: Dimensions are far more suited to the 3DS than its nearest rival - although this is down to the fact that it doesn’t demand too much from the player in terms of D-pad wrestling, rather than any extra additions on the game’s part.
Some of the more complicated throw combos are still tricky to pull off, thanks to the joystick and pad never quite reliably following through with a semi-circle motion, but overall you will feel more in control than in Street Fighter IV 3D.
But while it may at first seem like a button-masher's dream, we’d recommend against leaping online until you’ve got the hang of the more subtle moves - Dead or Alive: Dimensions may be simple to play, but it’s far from easy to master.
It’s also wise to turn off the 3D effects after the first few fights - not because they’re in any way bad (in fact, we’d go as far to say that Dead or Alive: Dimensions has some of the best 3D graphics we’ve seen so far on the system), but because the game runs at half the speed when they’re enabled.
That may not be too vital for a game like Pilotwings Resort, but on a brawler that relies almost solely on timing and reactions, such a loss of framerate has an impact during competitive matches.
Despite this unfortunate concession, Dead or Alive: Dimensions remains a strong contender for best 3DS game so far, thanks to both its wide range of modes and (accidentally) excellent control scheme.
Beginners should find its Chronicle mode far more inviting than Street Fighter IV 3D’s opaque Challenge system, while old hands from the series will appreciate how little difference there is between this and a ‘proper’ home console release.