Nintendo has a strong reputation as being a family friendly company.
The vast majority of the games available on any Nintendo system at any point in time are rated 'M' or below in New Zealand, especially the ones developed by Nintendo themselves.
Part of the reason they keep this relatively squeaky clean image is to garner a larger audience. Shopping for a game can be a delicate process for the concerned parent, and seeing the big green 'G' that comes with your typical Nintendo game is a easy avenue to clear-conscience consumerism.
It seems odd, then, that Team Ninja's first Dead or Alive outing on a Nintendo platform has courted so much controversy. Stirring up ratings boards in Scandinavia and Australia under the banner of 'lascivious' activity with (digital) minors is not something we've come to expect from a DS release, and yet, here we are.
Nintendo seem ready to take on larger chunks of the gaming market, so 3D fighters geared toward the 'pervert' end of the spectrum have landed.
Dimensions carries on the series' habit of pitting scantily clad women against a swathe of generic male tropes. 3D Fighters are relatively new on Nintendo handhelds, only since the DS have they been possible and only since the 3DS have they been any good. Where Super Street Fighter IV took off, Dimensions carries on – more fighters, levels and options than you might expect on a portable title. You certainly won't end up feeling short-changed for a lack of content.
The fighting engine at play in Dimensions is truly something to behold – it's beautiful. The character animations, special effects and fully 3D arena environments are a work of art. Controls are key when it comes to virtual scrapping and Dimensions lacks nothing in this respect. The D-Pad and analogue stick have the same function and both feel slick and accurate, so it's really up to what feels best for you.
Over on the right of the 3DS you have the four buttons mapped to punch, kick, grab and block – which makes stringing combos together a pleasantly effective experience. Unlike the other big-name fighter on the 3DS, the touch-screen is put to proper use. A list of combos ranging from basic to devastating are always ready to be utilized, and it serves as both an easy (yet slightly slower) way to pull off big moves and to learn them for more conventional use.
Playing through Arcade mode with the various characters provides a fairly smooth learning curve to begin with, which spikes harshly after about the quarter way mark. Some younger gamers might find this a challenge, but there are enough modes to try out to help prevent players from becoming too frustrated. Multiple difficulty levels allow you to go back and hone your skills should you get stuck. In addition to Arcade, the game serves up an AI assisted 'tag' mode which simulates 2v2 action. There's also a survival mode and free play.
Fans of the Dead or Alive franchise will get a kick out of 'Chronicle' mode, which plays out the entire chronology of the previous games in a series of loosely connected fights, interspersed with cut-scenes. Chronicle mode teaches players how to play the game and gives some insight into the backstory of many of the game's characters. As you complete the game, goodies such as new (and more revealing) costumes are unlocked. Then there are the figurines...
Figurines are an unlockable static 3D model of an in-game character. There are hundreds of them to be unlocked by playing through the games various modes, each in a different pose and costume. Figurines serve a dual purpose. On one hand, they act as an achievement of sorts, the most accomplished players will want to "catch-'em-all." On the other hand, they can be imported into the game's baffling "Showcase" mode, where you are implored to rotate and zoom the camera around the figurines you have collected in order to create 3D photographs for viewing later on. This is where the game ran into trouble with concerned parents, as you can snap some pretty lewd shots of the young female characters.
Why is this mode here, if not to provide a bit of fan service material? The game stands up on its own, there is no need for this creepy addition. It's bound to be popular with the hairy-palmed contingent, however.
Multiplayer has been well implemented, with both local and online play very easy to set up. Dimensions offers both a regional and worldwide option for internet multiplayer, although I was unable to find a regional match after multiple attempts (possibly due to the game being banned in Australia). Players are given a letter ranking, after a couple of hours of bouts I had moved up to a respectable 'C' class – nothing to write home about, but this system keeps the challenges relatively fair.
Lag didn't appear to be an issue and the netcode allowed for some very tense and satisfying battles. Using the newly adopted StreetPass mode, the game also lets you send and receive challenges from other players to overcome at your leisure in Throwdown mode – quite a nifty feature.
The 3D elements of the game are fairly understated, they're certainly not intrusive or head-ache causing. The game maintains a solid 60fps with the 3D slider turned off, which will be the preferred way to play for most gamers as the smoothness is welcome and the 3D doesn't really add anything to the experience. During the Chronicles mode the 3D is put to good use, heightening key points in the story and allowing for some excellent action sequences to play out in a convincingly cinematic fashion.
Dead or Alive: Dimensions is a solid 3D fighting game. From the lush character animations, to the swift and responsive control scheme, the game shines with polish. Being the first Dead or Alive game to exist on a Nintendo platform, Team Ninja have pulled out all the stops and delivered a comprehensive title. You have access to 25 discrete fighters and the moves and combos that come with them, each with multiple costumes and unique special and sound effects.
In addition to the fighters, there are numerous interactive stages to fight upon and the game features an excellent multiplayer engine. Dimensions stands as one of the better portable fighters – and certainly one of the best on a Nintendo console.