If you’ve paid attention, then you already know that I reviewed Dead or Alive Xtreme 2. That game did what a sequel is supposed to do — it improved on the previous episode. So, from the perspective of a “review”, I’ll get straight to the point: if the idea of a virtual vacation intrigues you, buy the Xbox 360 game. It’s fun.
For those of you who wonder what the gaming world was thinking back in 2003, a quick glance at GameRankings shows us something interesting: the original Xtreme has a 74% rating, and the superior sequel has a 54%. That’s pretty easy to explain; whereas people knew what to expect from the sequel, the original game was a visually gorgeous surprise. Everyone assumed it would be a throwaway cash-in, but after playing DOAX and seeing the effort that Team Ninja put into the island adventure, they had to give Itagaki’s team props. It may have been a cash-in, but it was a high-class cash-in. That “high-class” bit makes all the difference, especially when we’re talking about women running around in bikinis.
I have to admit, I was skeptical back in 2003, too. I played Dead or Alive on the Playstation. The fighting was fine, but the game’s most striking features were the bouncing breasts. How could I forget them? Those things were like superballs! At first, I just chalked the series’ popularity up to the undeniable appeal of polygon boobs. Did you SEE those things? My God!
So I was pretty shocked when I played Dead or Alive: Xtreme Beach Volleyball. Now, before you accuse me of running out and buying the game for the hot chicks, which would be an understandable assumption, consider this possibility — perhaps I didn’t play the game by choice! Perhaps my friends Adon and Samson coerced me at an all-male slumber party. They refused to play anything else, so it was DOAX or bust. I didn’t like Microsoft, but I made an exception for the one night . . .
. . . or perhaps I was already a Dead or Alive superfan who was ready to buy anything with Team Ninja’s name on it.
Either way, this isn’t like the PSX Dead or Alive. The bounciness has been toned down to more reasonable levels — no longer am I forced to point and laugh at tide-inducing orbs. The volleyball action itself can be pretty intense. Opponents behave differently depending on their confidence level; “unwilling” foes are like those girls in Phys Ed class who always let the volleyball fall at their feet because they think hitting it might fracture their forearm, whereas “confident” opponents are like the Volleyball team captains — hyperkinetic, long-legged beauties who block even the jocks’ spikes with ease. The nice bit is, you can actually predict the opposition’s attitude before a match based on their character portraits! If former assassin Christie stares off into the distance . . . fear not, her mind is elsewhere. If she glares straight ahead, forcing your eyes to avert from her unwavering gaze — watch out sucka, you’ve got a challenge on your hands!
Since I’m a wimp, I tended to avoid the hardest matches entirely and played the pool-hopping game instead.
Strewn across the swimming pool (which is absolutely gorgeous at night) are several puffy floats . . . and your chosen character must cross the calm waters by way of these nylon rocks without falling. If she happens to lose her footing, it’s not so bad; after all, ninja mistress Kasumi looks so cute when she teeters and totters. WhoOoAh WhoOoAh! You can even zoom in for a closeup . . . to examine the water’s bump-mapped ripples, of course. Zooming in for a better view of Kasumi’s rump or nipples would be naughty.
Make it across the water and you earn some money. Dead or Alive Xtreme is all about earning money and buying swimsuits. Since honest work is forbidden at Zack Island, there’s a casino to multiply your earnings, where the ladies play using the same set of cards that gamers were able to order from Tecmo’s website, each adorned with one of the DOA girls in island attire. Meanwhile, at the roulette table, it’s fun to listen to the other girls chattering away, placing their own bets. And then a voice calls out “NO MORE BETS!” and the wheel spins, the little silver ball circling around and around a golden statue of Zack before finding a resting place (and hopefully earning you loads of cash).
As the only male on the island, Zack’s pretty special. It’s not because he’s a Lego maniac, it’s due to his Bloodsport-worthy performance in the Dead or Alive tournament, earning so much money that he was able to buy himself an entire island! Yes, that’s right, he owns the whole damned island. You can even buy items like “Zack’s Statue” or “Zack’s Autograph” from the island’s shops.
The shops offer tons of bikinis and hundreds of other accessories: straw hats, nail polish, prototype Xboxes (that thing’s even bigger than the final model), lobsters, ninja throwing stars, and even a friggin GUN! And get this, you can wrap that GUN and deliver it to your sweetheart as a gift! How awesome is that? Hand a revolver to pro-wrestling cowgirl Tina, and she’ll gush all over you (and perform better in action, if she’s your volleyball partner). Give it to Lei-Fang, and you’ll get an “uhhh… thanks”.
If there’s one mistake that the sequel made, it was getting rid of the GUN as an item. Denny Crane would not approve.
Pretty much every item has a girl who loves it and a girl who hates it . . . except for the Venus suit, an ingenious and infamous inclusion by the crafty devils at Tecmo. It’s the most revealing bikini in the game, consisting of only a thong bottom and nipple covers. Obtaining the Venus suit is actually pretty straightforward; just have Lisa (she’s the only one who can buy it) pay ONE MILLION DOLLARS to the shopkeeper. Make Lisa put it on, then ooh and ahh over how nearly-naked she is! The difficult part is getting other girls to wear this skimpy outfit, but it’s worth the hassle . . . who wouldn’t want to dress lavender-haired Ayane (37 inch bust) in the Venus?
Well, guess what — all the girls DESPISE the Venus suit. Give it to them and not only will they hate you forever, but more often than not, they’ll throw it in the trash. Spending a million dollars and watching it go into the garbage — so exasperating! But, the trick is that if you can butter up a girl enough, then sometimes, just sometimes, she’ll hate you forever . . . but keep the suit anyway. Discovering the fabled “Venus-giving trick” was the holy grail of DOAX players, and Tecmo is to be applauded for including such a desirable and completely honorable secret.
It would be fair to say that I’ve spent a lot of words on description, and very few on analysis. That’s intentional; Dead or Alive Xtreme’s appeal exists at that surface level. There’s some actual thought behind the volleyball games, but the fun is in watching the girls’ amusing animations. When you spike a ball into the dirt, and it ricochets into a girl’s shin, the way she cries “OW!” and leaps backwards is cute. These ladies have superhuman resilience — knock ‘em off their feet one minute, watch ‘em jump (and jiggle) in joy the next. Team Ninja put a lot of care into their behavior.
Back in 2003, everyone was so stunned that they let Team Ninja get away with their shenanigans. They didn’t know what to think . . . so they didn’t. They just had fun. When Dead or Alive Xtreme 2 came around, critics had developed expectations and were ready to actually analyze. There’s not much there, just as there’s not much here in the original. But I love it anyway. Dead or Alive Xtreme Beach Volleyball is a virtual vacation, an escape from the stress of everyday life; there’s no room for thought in Zack’s paradise.