A MISSTEP BY DESIGN
Dead or Alive 3 was rushed to meet the Xbox’s launch. This is a fact that is painfully obvious from the word go. It does not do enough to separate itself from Dead or Alive 2, and, in the process of trying to make the launch date, omits something fundamental to the quality of most fighting games: good controls.
Movement is controlled exclusively by the Xbox’s D-pad (or an Arcade Stick if you can find one). This may sound great for purists, but the D-pad makes it more excruciating than it should ever be. It’s imprecise, and makes performing combos a pain. Even worse, characters get locked into animations, leaving opportunities for the opponent to attack unopposed should the player make a wrong move. Couple this and the imprecise controls together, and it makes for a frustrating experience.
There really isn’t that much of a difference over DoA2, graphically
The game’s difficulty is all over the place. The story mode is pretty easy, aside from the final boss, which requires the player to actually move toward him with an over the shoulder style camera, while dodging his ranged attacks. The difficulty ramp-up for the Survival mode is alright, getting incrementally harder as the mode goes on. The Tag Team modes, however, is where the game gets really hard, really fast. After the first couple of bouts, the difficulty dramatically increases for almost no explainable reason. Players looking for a challenge might like this mode, but there’s enough variety in the game that more casual players will find their niche as well.
Then, of course, there’s the multiplayer, which is always fun when facing opponents who are on the same skill level. The only difference here is that the players are fighting with the D-pad as much as they are with each other. Taking that into consideration, I recommend anyone wanting to play this game’s multiplayer to go pick up pretty much any other title in the series, because none of them are as frustrating as this title.
One area where the game definitely doesn’t improve too much is the graphics. They’re decent for the time, however they’re still pretty similar to Dead or Alive 2. The lighting is improved and the character models, especially the girls, pack more…polygons. The environments still look largely the same though, and the improvements themselves are pretty minimal.
The rather skimpy costumes are used to their fullest, like always
Something I thought was pretty cool about this particular entry in the series, is its use of songs by Aerosmith. Amazing, Nine Lives, and Home Tonight are all used in the game (usually during character endings in the Story mode) and they are predictably awesome. The game thankfully forgoes the traditionally terrible English voice acting for Japanese voices. Whether this is because the game was rushed to launch or a design choice is unknown, but it’s likely that it was due to the former. Either way, it was the right choice to make.
Now, I’m a really big fan of the series and all, but Dead or Alive 3 is always going to be the black sheep (not counting some questionable, spin-offs). The controls are not good, and the difficulty is too mercurial for my tastes. It’s a game that was obviously released before it was truly ready. The fact that content was later released on a separate disc just makes this more apparent. That said, under all of these issues, the game is still fundamentally solid. The graphics are nice, there are a wide variety of modes, and of course there’s always the option to use an Arcade Stick. It’s just too bad there’s the barrier of the regular control scheme to prevent most people from seeing that.
Ryu’s a solid fighter, but not much of a ninja
The Good: The graphics are alright and any soundtrack that includes Aerosmith can’t be bad. Also, there’s a dedicated mode just for watching two computer controlled characters beat each other up.
The Bad: The lack of definite improvement over Dead or Alive 2. Also, the random difficulty.
The Ugly: Have I mentioned how horrible the Xbox’s D-pad is?