Publisher: Tecmo Inc.
Developer: Team Ninja
Release Date: 1/21/2003
Review By: Anthony Mitera
In the realm of video games, there are very few games who have spin-offs and even fewer still who have decent spin-offs. Most are made to simply try to cash in on the popularity of the original while at the same time letting the developers pursue a different type of game. Dead or Alive: Xtreme Beach Volleyball takes all of the ladies from Dead or Alive 3, puts them in swimsuits of various styles and sizes, and places them on a tropical island to play volleyball, but is the gameplay only skin-deep in the most literal sense?
The premise of DOA:XBV is simple, and even meshes with the end of the last Dead or Alive game. At the end of Dead or Alive 3, when Zack won the tournament he took his winnings straight to the casino where he bet it all and won, winning so much money that all the zero’s wouldn’t fit on the check. Zack went all out and bought into a lavish lifestyle, purchasing his very own island. On the island Zack constructed hotels, shops, a radio station, and even a gigantic solid-gold statue of his likeness, but something was missing. To complete the paradise Zack schemed up a plot to trick or lure all of the women that participated in the third Dead or Alive tournament to the island to play volleyball.
DOA:XBV initially comes off as simple and rather shallow, but is actually is rather deep and intricate when actually picked up and played. Upon starting the game, you first have to pick what woman you wish to play as. Kasumi, Hitomi, Ayane, Tina, Leifang, Helena, and Christie all make their appearance as well as a newcomer to the bunch named Lisa. Each woman has their strengths and weaknesses in the form of power, defensive skills, and technique. Power dictates how well a person can spike and block spikes, defensive skills are used to return the ball and dive for the times when it is just out of normal reach, and technique determines how skillful the character is overall. Once you pick your character you are taken to Zack’s Island to start your two week vacation and shown around a bit. There are 4 volleyball courts on the island, a sports shop, an accessory shop, a radio station, a pool, and a store called the Zack of All Trades.
The sports shop sells swimsuits suited towards your character and the accessory shop sells thing such as sunglasses, hats, nail polish, and sandals. At both shops items can be bought to either be used and/or worn by your character or to wrap up as gifts for other ladies. At the start of the game you are partnered with Lisa (Or Tina if you happen to be Lisa), but to change partners you first need to butter up the potential partner by giving them gifts. Gifts can either raise or lower a person’s disposition towards you, displayed by musical notes above their picture. If a person likes you, they are more willing to become your partner and sometimes will even give you gifts in return. The same thing applies to your current partner; a happy partner performs better and gives you gifts. Some items can only be bought by certain women and thus, sometimes when you get a gift you get an item that you wouldn’t be able to buy.
The Zack of All Trades store doesn’t open until around the fourth day but contains many useful if not slightly odd items that are great for gifts. Each woman has their likes and dislikes when it comes to gifts, and most of the gifts that the women really love can only be bought from the Zack of All Trades store. While mostly expensive, there’s no better way to raise what a person thinks of you than to give them a gift that they love.
The radio station on the island is used to tweak the game’s soundtrack, enabling and disabling songs as you want. You can also use any music that you have on your Xbox hard drive so you can custom tailor a soundtrack to your liking, whether it be made up of Bob Marley or Mudvayne. There are actually two separate playlists in the game, one used during the Morning and Daytime parts of a day and one for the Evening and Nighttime parts. To put icing on the cake, each song has an independent volume control so if a song seems to be too loud or too soft you can adjust it to make it better.
When poolside, you can gawk at your character as she lays on a beach chair, take a look at your items, participate in a hopping game, or save and exit. The hopping game is a simply way to make money as well as a way to showcase the game’s use of the Xbox controller’s analog buttons. The idea is simple, time your button presses as well as the sensitivity to jump from one floating foam square to another, the better you perform the more money you make at the end.
Of course, eventually you are going to have to play volleyball at one point or another, which makes up much of the meat of the game. The controls are deceivingly simplistic, with the left stick controlling your character, the right stick telling your partner where to generally stay at, the A button “attacking” such as spiking and returning the ball, and the B button “defending” such as blocking the other team’s returns and passing the ball to your teammate. However, the speed and timing you press the buttons are key, for example a quick tap of the A button will make the character aggressively return or spike the ball, which a slow, gentle tap will make the character simply float the ball over the net. Wit the right stick, moving it to the left tells your teammate to go to the rear of the court and play defensively, moving it to the right tells them to go up to the net and play offensively, and pressing the stick in makes them go to wherever you aren’t.
Simply put, you and your partner are on one side of the net and the other team is on the other side of the net. Through teamwork, technique, and occasionally brute force you have to score on the other team. A game of volleyball always starts off (surprise) with one team serving the ball. There are three serves available, the normal overhand serve, the near failsafe underhand serve, and the aggressive jump serve. Once the ball is served one of the other team’s members must intercept the ball and either send it back over the net or pass it to the other team member. If the player or the AI teammate is near the net when the ball comes to them they jump into the air, allowing them to spike the ball. As the player the jump is automatic, allowing the player to concentrate on the spike. While in the air, the left stick dictates the general area you want to spike to. With the proper timing of pressing the A button the ball is spiked back into the other team’s court. When the women with high power spike the ball into a member of the other team or if the other team tries to deflect or return it, the sheer force can knock them over. A team with a knocked over player is very vulnerable, and if the ball is returned and spiked again a point is almost ensured.
Of course, offense isn’t everything in volleyball. Some players will want to stay away from the net and take on a more defensive role. If the ball is coming at you, pressing A simply hits the ball back over the net and pressing B passes it. Again, timing is key, a perfectly timed press will be very effective, but the farther you stray from that timing the worse you perform, sloppily returning/passing the ball or even missing it entirely and allowing the other team to score. If the ball is just out of reach your character will dive and roll for it, temporarily making you vulnerable to a well-placed spike. While your teammate can tell when you are doing your gopher impression and will automatically go on the defensive if you are down, one person cannot cover the entire court. Thankfully, unless you dive for the ball every time and alienate the fact you have a teammate, this never becomes an issue.
Now, there wouldn’t be near as much hype surrounding DOA:XBV if it didn’t feature beautiful beach babes jumping around in impossibly small swimsuits. To cater to the male crowd there’s the Gravure Movies. If a beach has nobody on it you can still go there, which makes your character exercise, lay down, or various other activities. All the time the user controls the camera using each stick to pan, rotate, and tilt the camera is whatever direction the player wants. To cater a little bit more, the right trigger zooms the camera in. Thus, you essentially have a woman on a beach wearing a swimsuit and you control the camera to whatever angle you wish. All in all, polygons never looked so good.
Now, there has been much speculation about the games Mature rating and how appropriate it is to different audiences. While the M rating was partially made due to a small amount of nudity, the nudity content in question is merely a five second clip of a shadowy Christie jumping naked off a cliff into the water. While it shows nothing more than a shadowy figure not unlike the intros to the many James Bond movies, some may feel this is inappropriate for some people. Also, since the entire game features women wearing next to nothing jumping around (and letting the physics engine affect something other than a volleyball), a little parental discretion is advised if there are younger eyes about. What it boils down to is if you are mature enough to watch a PG-13 movie there’s nothing to worry about.
Team Ninja has nearly outdone themselves this time around. The graphics in DOA:XBV do not disappoint. The volleyball arenas look spectacular, from the idyllic Private Beach area, to the isolated atmosphere of the Jungle court. The character models are all very well sculpted and textured, and the vast array of swimsuits are all very well designed and look very nice. One very nice effect is noticed when looking at the sand on the beach courts, as you move around and play a match the sand shifts around realistically, stepping in one area will leave a small impression while diving will spray a good amount of sand around. The net, trees, and various foliage all sway in the gentle breeze as waves crest up and crash against the beach. Overall, the graphics not only showcase the women but also the rest of Zack’s Island, making it really look like the tropical island of your dreams.
Sound in the game is portrayed quite well. All of the in game voiceovers are in Japanese (accompanied by English captions) not unlike all of the other Dead or Alive games. Teammates call each other’s names out to get their attention and let out grunts as they jump up and slam a spike. The included songs that make up the soundtrack are numerous and diverse, ranging from Reel Big Fish to Christina Aquilera to Bob Marley. The ability to import custom music and customize the playlists makes it even better; giving the player the ability to keep the songs you like and add the ones you want. Of course, no one can forget the surprised gasp that is emitted when you “accidentally” spike the ball into a member of the opposing team.
As a whole, Dead or Alive: Xtreme Beach Volleyball stays true to the series of the Dead or Alive fighting games while going off into its own little world. While not everyone will like it due to its subject matter and initially simplistic gameplay mechanics, DOA:XBV is actually a worthy volleyball game and should appeal to not only men but women as well. For those who are die hard Dead or Alive fans, fans of volleyball, or simply those who want a change of pace DOA:XBV will not disappoint.