Once upon a time, there was a series of fighting games starring attractive and voluptuous female characters called Dead or Alive.
Knowing that fans of the game came for the fighting and stayed for the pretty ladies, Team Ninja devised Dead or Alive Xtreme Beach Volleyball to give everyone exactly what they wanted. Three years and one console generation later, the spin-off received a sequel by the name of Dead or Alive Xtreme 2, after which it was quietly left to sunbathe forever. Ten long years have passed since the release of DoAX2, and Team Ninja, now a development team for Koei Tecmo, has recreated Zack Island for the third time. Is the tropical fanservice paradise back in full sail, or is it doomed to be destroyed by a volcano of mediocrity?
Third Time’s the Charm
The hip and cool Zack must be the luckiest and the unluckiest character in the Dead or Alive universe. Constantly having the seemingly God-given fortune to earn vast riches, buying tropical resort islands and inviting beauties to stay on them, Zack loses it all as easily as he acquires it. Even after a volcanic eruption and a freak meteor shower sunk the islands in the previous games, Zack isn’t dissuaded from fulfilling his dream of creating a personal tropical haven for ladies to spend vacations on. Thus, Zack Island is rebuilt for the third time, and, as Zack’s bad luck would have it, he cannot tend to the business of the resort himself. As a result, he appoints you, the player, as the new owner of the place.
The Owner of Smiles and Zack Dollars
Your adventure on Zack Island (Mk. III) begins with selecting one of the nine available Dead or Alive ladies to tend to during her two-week stay. Sadly, six other girls, the other fan favorites, did not make the cut during an official fan vote held shortly after the game was first announced. To this day, I don’t quite understand why the other characters couldn’t have been included in the final product. Was it budget constraints, or was it a decision made with DLC in mind? If I was to guess, based on how additional content for Dead or Alive 5: Last Round was treated, I strongly believe the latter is the more likely reason. We”ll find out soon enough, I’m sure.
After selecting the character and viewing a short intro briefly explaining the reasons why the character is visiting the island, you get to partner up with another of the eight girls selected at random. There’s little to no benefit flying solo, so be sure not to turn your nose up to anyone, even the characters you dislike. Granted, you can later switch (or at least attempt to switch) your partner if you wish. In the end, you may just want to learn a thing or two about every character.
In the game proper, you will be freely switching between Girl Mode, in which you control the character you have selected to take part in all of the activities the island has to offer, and Owner Mode, which mainly exists to for you to observe and take photos of your patrons performing the previously-mentioned activities. With each of the days spent on the island divided into a Morning, Afternoon and Nighttime phase, you will be doing your best to balance your efforts to make sure your girl has the time of her life.
To make the two-week stay a pleasant one for the girl of your choice, you will have to increase her satisfaction rate by deceptively few means. If you have played DoAX2 before, you know what these “means” entail: completing a few minigames over and over again while earning Zack Dollars (the island’s main currency) to buy and collect an impressive amount of gifts, including food, trinkets, and costumes. The girls themselves will give you specific and random quests to complete and even Zack, busy as he may be, will also sometimes pop by and give you a task that yields Zack Dollars and experience points to raise your Owner Level. With a higher Owner Level, additional game features are unlocked, such as Event Paradise and Gravure Paradise.
Oh, Zack, who art not here, deliver us many gifts and tan lines a plenty.
Just a Little Bit of Fun
You may have noticed by now that Dead or Alive Xtreme 3 is a fanservice game, but the game doesn’t strive to be anything more than that. All of the gameplay centers around the DoA girls and pleasing them in any imaginable way — or at least in the ways the game itself allows you to. For a game with “Xtreme” in the title, Dead or Alive Xtreme 3 sure isn’t radical or intense when it comes to the gameplay or its variety. The island activities that don’t center around watching the girls relax or do other cute, albeit mundane things, are actual games that are simple and rarely require a focused involvement from the player. More often than not, the minigames involve timed QTE-like button presses (Pool Hopping and Rock Climbing) and timing-based versus events (Tug-of-War, Butt Battles and Beach Flags), with only the Beach Volleyball portion offering a slightly more complex distraction. The Beach Volleyball event that Dead or Alive Xtreme is mostly known for is also simplified in this installment, suffering from a poorly angled camera view that usually obscures the back of the court. If you can get past all that and channel all of your innermost zen, I’m sure you’ll have a quite a bit of fun with that one. I certainly did.
All of the other events are usually over just as soon as they begin. Even though you are able to complete most of the minigames (except Beach Volley Ball) in less than minute, it doesn’t mean they aren’t mildly entertaining. Watching the girls hop around and compete with each other in a cute fashion is satisfying enough and doesn’t get too dull too quickly. In addition to these regular daytime activities, you’ll also get unrestricted access to a casino during nighttime. There isn’t really much to say about the Roulette, Blackjack, or Poker games, as those play like you expect them to and don’t include any rules unique to DoAX3. What is important to note about the casino gameplay, however, is that all girls involved will have specific betting, bluffing, and playing habits corresponding to their personalities. It’s a neat touch to see characters like Nyotengu confidently and pompously going all-in when playing Poker in spite of her abysmal hand, or seeing Honoka clumsily overdraw in Blackjack and vocalizing it through an adorable “awawawa”. With the girls being the centerpiece of the whole experience, I expected nothing less.
Soft, Squishy and Tanned to Perfection
A lewdite can forgive most of the game’s shortcomings when the content is titillating enough to keep you coming back for more, and Dead or Alive Xtreme 3 is one of such games for me. The visual presentation is stunningly beautiful and is completely in-line with how Dead or Alive should look and feel. From the fabulously curvy and voluptuous models, to the silky-smooth looking textures and cute faces, Dead or Alive Xtreme 3 does a great job bringing the girls of DoA to life. The only thing I could possibly critique when it comes to the appearance of the leading ladies is that their hair can look rather plastic at times, even glitching out when a character moves a bit too dynamically.
It would be quite the heinous crime if I didn’t mention the miracles of Team Ninja’s proprietary Soft 2.0 physics engine. I don’t think I have ever seen body physics and smooth animations this realistic in any recent game. The girls’ bodies respond accordingly to any physical objects they interact with, conforming and squishing accordingly. Honoka resting on her generous chest at the hotel at night is truly a sight to behold. Did I mention the jiggle physics yet? Everything jiggles and bounces so pleasantly, it’s almost impossible to avert your eyes sometimes; not that you should, as the game gives you every opportunity and reason to do so. When you finally unlock Event Paradise and Gravure Paradise, you’ll be able to ogle the girls even more, dress them up in the costumes you’ve previously acquired, set their hairstyles, see just how tanned they’ll be, and even how transparent their wet clothes will be in the event you’ll be watching.
Visuals aren’t the only praiseworthy aspect of Dead or Alive Xtreme 3: The game sports a very relaxing soundtrack with groovy, catchy, fresh beats that serve to infuse your thoughts with images of a tropical island paradise. I’ve found myself listening to the game’s songs frequently, even during the planning and writing of this very review.
Complementing all of those cool island songs are the voice actresses. Team Ninja didn’t cut corners on the voice talent for the game, making sure that all the recognizable seiyuu return for the tropical island adventure. As expected, the Japanese seiyuu put plenty of soul into their performances to make sure all of the character personalities come through as best as they can. Some characters like Honoka or Marie Rose will cause a cuteness-induced eargasm; if not that, you’ll at least get to experience a pleasant tingling feeling that will probably trigger your libido.
Ultimately, the question every potential buyer should ask before getting Dead or Alive Xtreme 3 is “Am I a Dead or Alive fan?”. If your answer is a resounding yes, then DoAX3 is a game for you, and you will gladly pay a little bit extra to import the Asian multilanguage version. Otherwise, if you’re looking for richer and deeper gameplay experience that doesn’t just involve staring at pretty women 24/7, this title will serve only as a disappointment. Dead or Alive Xtreme 3 is a product that knows full well what its target audience and demographic are. The game does just enough for me to recommend it to diehard DoA fans, but not nearly enough to for me to recommend it to anyone else.
If you want to try Dead or Alive Xtreme 3 yourself, you can purchase the PlayStation 4 aforementioned multi-language version over at Play-Asia. If you’re planning on acquiring any of the game’s existing and upcoming DLC, I also recommend you get yourself an Asian PlayStation Network account, as the downloadable content isn’t available for any other region with this version of the game.