or alive 3
The fighting game genre is a tough one to break into. You've got
your hardcore Street Fighter fans, your Tekken heads, your Virtua
Fighter nerds, your Soul Calibur geeks and often very little crossover.
That's partly the nature of the games, as it takes discipline and
dedication to master the moves.
The Dreamcast's Dead or Alive 2 never really took off among hardcore
fighting fans due to its relatively simple combat system and somewhat
limited depth. Still, few games looked better and none conveyed
the same cinematic qualities of fighting we enjoy in the movies.
DOA managed to find its own little niche.
And now, it attempts to eke out even more space for itself by
being the first fighting game available for the Xbox. Dead or
Alive 3 sticks to the basics by adhering strongly to its past
with only a few minor gameplay tweaks. While a bit disappointing,
it still looks like a million bucks and plays well, leading to
a solid first entry.
Despite the fact that this is the third official game in the
series, no one has bothered to actually work out any sort of discernable
story. You pick one of 16 characters with whom to smite the evil
Genra, a bad guy who may or may not be a demon named Omega. Along
the way, you'll be utterly confused by what has to be the most
completely nonsensical excuse for a 'plot' since the 70's Italian
horror flick Nude for Satan. But at least that had Satan, and,
well, someone nude for him.
Seriously, how about just a little effort next time? You don't
get any opening movies to explain the characters, nor are their
comments before each match insightful at all. Some fight for money,
some fight for honor, some fight for tip$, and some fight so that
at the end they can get half-naked and prance around. They're
transparent and basic and the whole game makes as much sense as
watching an episode of Twin Peaks backwards.
But it looks a helluva lot better. DOA 3 is probably the best-looking
fighting game yet, with much more exciting and vibrant environments
than past DOA games. Witness the flock of birds flying around
as you scuffle on the beach in front of a gorgeous sunset. Check
out the deformation of the snow on the 'Snow' level as you scoot
around. From the terrific water effects to the fantastic sun glares
and lighting, this is really a top notch effort.
The new levels are pretty cool, particularly the 'Lost World',
in which you begin fighting atop a cliff only to eventually plummet
down, down, down. While not all the stages feature breakaway walls
and multiple levels, most do, and it's very rewarding finding
the hot spots.
Character animations, though, are pretty much the same as DOA
2. In fact, many of the fighters have almost identical move lists
with just a few additions. When you take into account that there
are only 3 new characters out of the 16, it means there isn't
a whole lot left to discover if you've played earlier DOA games.
The combat is also relatively unchanged. Each character has a
nice assortment of kicks, punches and throws, and the simple control
scheme makes pulling off seemingly tricky moves a snap. As always,
the high mark of the combat system is the art of the move reversal,
which is all about timing. Catch a punch in midair and watch your
character twist your opponent's arm around and kick him in the
head in one smooth turn.
I've always enjoyed the simple controls of DOA 3, and the inclusion
of the reversal thwarts excessive button mashing. But you can't
help but notice how thin everything feels when compared to the
Tekken or Virtua Fighter games. The learning curve ends pretty
abruptly; the hardest moves are really only a few simple moves
strung together. You don't get anywhere near the kind of combo
depth or intricate technique found in other fighting games.
You also don't get a very satisfying single player game. Though
there are 16 total characters, each one only fights about 6 others
before reaching the boss, Omega. Someone decided to change the
view when fighting Omega, switching it to a sort of three-quarter
behind cam. It's awful. And despite his cheap projectile weapons
(he's the only one in the game with fireball ability), he is one
of the biggest wussies in the game. Whack him a few times and
down he goes, and away you go to watch another completely mystifying
(albeit gorgeous) winning FMV. Worst...boss...ever.
The other game modes are also a little on the flimsy side. You
get Versus, Team Battle, Sparring (training), the silly Watch
mode (where you just watch the computer fight itself), Survival
and Tag Battle. Tag Battle seems so good on paper, but they make
you fight Tag matches in static arenas that don't have the breakable
walls and varying levels. It winds up being a little boring, though
the tag team moves are still plenty cool..
Too bad you don't get rewarded for kicking ass. You'd figure
the developers learned their lesson when they released DOA 2 Hardcore,
the PS2 version of the original DOA 2 filled with plenty of new
outfits and a few characters to unlock. Well, what you see is
what you get with DOA 3. After beating the game with every character,
you don't get much. Perhaps after playing for a million hours
you get some new shoes or something. All I know is that you should
get rewarded much earlier.
DOA 3 certainly has its cinematic moments. Imagine kicking a
guy off a cliff, jumping down after him, kicking him off another
cliff, following him again, then kicking him off a third cliff
into a pool of shimmering water. Name another game where you can
punch a guy though a wall, smack him off a rooftop and toss him
through a burning torch. I guarantee you'll at one point or another
actually yell out, "[expletive] yeah, baby!"
What it doesn't have, however, is enough new stuff to warrant
a better grade. This game is so similar to DOA 2 that calling
it a sequel should only refer to the graphics. How about allowing
Tag matches to take place on any level? How about letting you
actually perform an attack while jumping down after your opponent?
How about adding some kind of extra incentive to play the single-player?
If I'm playing by myself, I'd still rather play the original Soul
DOA 3 is a prime example of graphics taking center stage over
gameplay. The hype machine has been working overtime on this one,
and though it's very far from a bad game, it's not particularly
close to an amazing one, either.
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