The beach-themed DOA spin-off series finally comes to Sony platforms, however for those who enjoy what the Microsoft entries had to offer, DOAX3 may not be worth importing.
Dead or Alive Xtreme 3 Venus (PS Vita)
Platforms: PS4, PS Vita (Also supported by PS TV)
Release Date: 3/24/2016 (USA)
Developed by Team Ninja
Published by Koei Tecmo
(Note: This was conducted using the Japanese release and a PS TV. Touch-screen features were not factored into this review.)
Dead or Alive is an interesting specimen among fighting game franchises. The series is praised for its fast and relentless gameplay mechanics, however this is overshadowed by the copious amounts of sex-appeal with costumes and character models. After all, Dead or Alive is the series that originated unrealistic and laughable breast physics; this trend carried over into Team Ninja’s other hallmark franchise- the 3D Ninja Gaiden saga- and reached full realization with the 2003 Xbox release of Dead or Alive: Xtreme Beach Volleyball.
While the DOA Xtreme titles are considered to be a sports and summer activity spin-off, the series has a loose tie-in with the core fighting game saga:
Upon winning the DOA3 “Dead or Alive” tournament, Zack takes his winnings to a casino, and uses the resulting jackpot money to purchase his own island- “Zack Island”. After converting it into a tropical paradise, Zack invites several women from the previous Dead or Alive tournament to the island under the lie that Zack Island will host the next DOA competition. Despite the tournament idea being a complete farce, the girls decide to make the most of their two week stay by participating in a volleyball competition paid-out with “Zack bucks”. A volcanic eruption destroys Zack Island, however after Zack and girlfriend Niki rob an ancient tomb of its gold- as seen in Zack’s DOA4 ending- the two invest heavily into R&D to restore the island paradise. Through “science“, Zack Island is restored prior to DOA Xtreme 2 as “New Zack Island”; the original eight girls along with newcomer Kokoro are lured back to Zack’s island under their own objectives, and with the promise that New Zack Island will be the host for the DOA5 tournament.
Dead or Alive Xtreme 3 is the first title in the Xtreme series to release exclusively for Sony platforms (PS4 and PS Vita), following the Xbox and Xbox 360 releases of Xtreme Beach Volleyball and Xtreme 2. The latest game forgoes the loose plots of the previous two titles altogether, as the player in charge of New Zack Island while Zack pursues a top secret mission of his own. Chosen by Japanese gamers through a region-exclusive poll, DOAX3 includes playable characters Helena, Hitomi, Kokoro, Ayane, Kasumi, and new additions Momiji and Nyotengu, with headliners Honoka and Marie Rose completing the fan-voted roster. Players chose one of the nine characters and an optional partner to participate in various solo and head-to-head summer activities over the course of a 14-day period. Most of the DOAX2 areas return for DOAX3, as the activities are divided between the “Pool”, “Poolside”, “Niki Beach” and “Tranquil Beach” areas.
Though DOAX3 is missing the water slide and racing mini-games, the remainder of activities are present for their Sony debut; players can go head-to-head in “Tug-o-War”, “Butt Battle” and “Pool Hopping” at the Pool, or take part in a flag race on either Niki Beach or Tranquil Beach. Volleyball can be played at either Beach, however a partner character is required; the volleyball mechanics have been improved slightly since DOAX2, as the player now has more control over the speed and technique of each volley. The latest addition to the Dead or Alive summer vacation, players can test their luck at the new “Rock Climbing” mini-game found at Tranquil Beach. Players must successfully complete a series of quick-time-events to scale a rock face, with bonus points awarded for speed; with each completed attempt, the rock face gets higher, and requires more complex button inputs.
After completing 2-3 activities, the player is sent back to the hotel to close out the day; the hotel room serves as a secondary hub for the player to either take more photos, manage their inventory and gifts, send gifts to the other women on New Zack Island, call it an evening by going to bed, or gamble money at the “Casino”. With each having its own buy-in options, players can wager their Zack bucks at the Casino by playing “Roulette”, “Poker” and “Blackjack” against the other ladies of DOAX3; “Slot Machines” have surprisingly been removed from the Casino, as a variety of machines could be played in DOAX2 for adventurous players with expendable Zack bucks.
During most points of the game, though mostly in menus, the player can actively switch between “Girl Mode” and “Owner Mode”. As previously mentioned, the player not only controls each of the DOA girls, but acts as the stand-in owner and manager of New Zack Island. While in Owner Mode, the player can have his or her character participate in all of the activities the island has to offer, however the player will act as a photographer with no control over his or her character. Zack bucks are still earned once the chosen activity is completed regardless of who wins, however money earned in Owner Mode will not transfer to Girl Mode, and vice versa; players can also earn Zack bucks for Owner Mode in the Casino. While most of the items in the Sports Shop and Zack of All Trades are identical for both modes, Owner Mode will often feature more revealing swimsuits that can be purchased for upwards of 700,000z; alternatively, players can use real-money microtransactions to purchase “Premium Tickets” to be used as in-game currency for Owner Mode.
Owner Mode can be leveled up by completing various tasks over the course of each character’s 14-day vacation; once a certain level is reached, the player will receive additional swimsuits and “VIP Tickets” that potentially unlock pole-dancing scenes with each character.
One of the main selling points of both DOAX3 Fortune (PS4) and DOAX3 Venus (PS Vita) was the use of an improved Soft Engine. Found in the PS4 version, Soft Engine 2.0 is capable of real-time body deformation, clothing wear-and-tear, and enhanced tanning and sunburn effects; Soft Engine Lite (or “1.5”) is used within the PS Vita version for realistic skin-tone and lighting- or at least, this is how it was advertised. In the PS4 version, characters can gain tanlines after purchasing tanning lotion from the Sports Shop, however this option is nowhere to be found in the PS Vita version, along with real-time swimsuit damage. Soft Engine Lite does a fantastic job with environmental details and lighting, however each character has a plastic shine to their skin; facial animations are very stiff, with hair and clothing often guilty of clipping through the models.
Both DOA Xtreme Beach Volleyball for the original Xbox and Xtreme 2 for the 360 included licensed soundtracks featuring various artists; tracks highlighted in both games include the likes of Bob Marley’s “Is This Love“, “Do It” from the Spice Girls, Janet Kay’s “Lovin’ You“, and “The Kids Don’t Like It” and “I Want Your Girlfriend to be Mine Too” by Reel Big Fish. DOAX3 lacks the variety and artist recognition of the previous games, however the soundtrack still excels in delivering that relaxing summer vacation mood; Ska, Reggae and Hip-Hop have been replaced primarily by light rock and instrumental J-Pop.
Sony players can finally experience the beach-themed antics of the DOA girls, however Dead or Alive Xtreme 3 may leave fans of the Microsoft titles feeling underwhelmed or shortchanged. The PS4 version may feature improved skin effects, and the existence of DOAX3 Venus means gamers can finally take the Xtreme series on the go, but several features from DOAX2 have been stripped from both versions; Slot Machines, jet ski racing, the water slide mini-game, a licensed soundtrack and four previous characters are nowhere to be seen.
Dead or Alive Xtreme 3 certainly looks fantastic, but after two content-rich installments, the Sony debut of the series is rather lackluster in comparison.