Normally any review of a Team Ninja game is filled with loads of jokes about perversion and about Tomonobu Itigaki’s drunken, sexist image. Many DOAX2 reviews probably even make reference to Itigaki’s recent legal trouble in Japan where a former Tecmo employee has sued for sexual harassment.
Well I’m not going to do that, because unlike some reviewers I’m not an immature child drooling over a pair of virtual knockers. I respect the girls of Dead or Alive just like Itigaki does.
There are no wet t-shirt contests or trampoline bouncing to be found here. It’s not Girls Gone Wild, it’s Dead or Alive Xtreme 2 and it’s all about having fun.
The game begins with Zach, freshly returned from tomb raiding with his girlfriend Nikki, searching deep underwater for the remains of Zach Island. Zach’s gotten in touch with a couple of extraterrestrials and reached an agreement to raise Zach Island from the depths and there by bring peace to the galaxy somehow. Seriously that’s the story. I know it’s beyond far fetched, but hey it’s Zach, crazy shit just happen.
After raising his Island and restoring it to its original beauty, Zach announces that he’s bringing back DOATEC and hosting Dead or Alive 5. Of course just like last time this is just a ploy to get the girls to his island for a few days of sun and sand.
Playing as any of the DOA beauties you have 14 days to lay back, relax and enjoy the sun. Want to play volleyball? Go right ahead. Don’t? Then feel free to explore everything else there is to do on Zach Island. There’s no pressure to do anything, the game just wants you to relax. It’s a vacation for you as much as it is for the girls.
Volleyball returns as the premiere event on Zach Island, and just like the last time games are played using first-to-seven rules. All strikes and passes are still handled by context sensitive actions, however this time the window of opportunity has been tightened up making you have to work much harder to control the ball and to score.
You also have some control over your partner and can use the right analog stick to give her orders. It takes a bit of getting used too, but once you adapt you’ll be winning in no time.
Volleyball does suffer from some frame rate hiccups during play, a relative first for Team Ninja whose titles are normal examples of graphical prowess. It doesn’t detract from game play most of the time, but it does get mildly annoying as time goes on.
If volleyball isn’t your thing then you’ll want to take a trip down to Nikki Marina to enjoy the wave races.
Jet Ski races are, for the most part, incredibly fun. There’s a great sense of speed and some of the later courses offer a challenge with the addition of ramps and moving obstacles. Like many other Jet Skit games your goal is to slalom through a series of buoys with each one you pass adding to your boost meter. If you successfully navigate seven, you’ll fill your meter and store a boost.
Opponent AI is so-so and rarely offers much of a challenge. In the end your fight is more against the controls then the other girls.
Driving straight, boosting and even pulling stunts is pretty easy, but cornering can be a real pain. The game does allow you to nose into corners to allow you to take them a little more smoothly, but refined movement and precision are things you simply can’t have. The Jet Ski also appears to have no acceleration what so ever, but rather jumps from zero to full speed at the press of a button. If this was your car that’d be awesome, but in this race it can make recovering from a crash or a bad corner way too difficult.
Jet Ski racing also suffers from some nasty frame rate issues. It’s not common but when it does hit you’ll witness a much sharper drop then you did with volleyball.
Zach has also added a couple new minigames to his island to help you pass the time. Pool hopping returns from the original, however this time you can play it against an opponent and the payout is much better. Butt Battle and Tug o’ war has also been added for your poolside enjoyment. Surprisingly both can prove to be quite challenging.
Both games use the analog stick to naturally control your movement. Pushing towards an opponent feints or bumps, while pushing away either dodges or tugs, depending on which game you’re playing. It doesn’t take much to be knocked into the pool in either game so you’ll want to be very careful and pay close attention. Each game is played in a 'best of three' set.
If you head out to the beaches you’ll be able to participate in a game called Beach Flags that’s was originally used for life guard training. It begins with both girls laying face down on the beach facing away from the flag. When go command is given you need to immediately start mashing A to get your girl up and running. When you get close to the flag push B to dive for it and hope you haven’t come up short. It’s an easy, short, button mashing fest, but it’s good for a laugh.
The final new game on Zach Island is ever-popular Water Slide. It’s a really well designed slide that even features a loop, but you’ll need to be very careful if you want to complete it and complete it fast. The analog stick allows you to control both your speed and position and if you aren’t careful you’re gonna’ over power and go flying off the side.
When you’re tired and it gets late in the day you’ll return to the hotel of your choice for a nice relaxing evening. Zach treats his girls well and as soon and each night you’ll receive a gift. Usually it’s something simple like a piece of cheesecake, but sometimes you’ll get lucky and Zach will give you something useful, like a camera.
If you’re tired you can go to bed, you can even sleep in early, but if you’re still wide-awake and eager for some fun why not check out Zach Casino.
Unlike the original game, where you only gambled against the dealer, in DOAX2 the tables are filled just like in a real casino. Finally poker feels like real poker should and not like a rip off of a slot machine. Roulette, Blackjack and Slots are also available to meet your gambling needs.
Once you’ve had some fun and earned some cash you may want to do what every girl loves, go shopping. At the sports shop you’ll find the latest in Bikinis, Watercraft and some other really important items like film for your camera or tickets that you’ll need in order to play the minigames. It’s important to note that you only need to buy the tickets once.
The accessory shop and Zach of all Trades also return from the original. Featuring an ever revolving stock of items, you’ll find everything from nice shoes to a laptop computer if you’re lucky enough to be there on the right day.
Giving gifts is just as important as it was in the original. If you don’t have a partner you can’t play volleyball and if your partner hates you, you certainly won’t play well. Every girl has things she likes and hates so it’s important to make sure you figure out which gifts work best for which girls. If you form a strong bond you’ll even start receiving gifts from the other girl.
For all the fun Zach Island offers, some times you’ll want to just lay back and enjoy the sun. Fortunately you can do this at any locations that aren’t already occupied. Well relaxing you’re given the option of photographing your girl using the games surprisingly complex in-game camera.
Controls take a lot of getting used to, mainly because the sticks are setup for a lefty, but if you can master it you’ll get some really cool, sexy shots. You can view the photos you took by choosing “Treasured Memories” from the main menu.
At the end of your 14 day break you’ll be treated to an incredibly funny ending cut scene that once again shows Zach getting horribly screwed over. As always Team Ninja’s sense of humour is present throughout the game and helps to make it an enjoyable experience.
If you ever get tired of just pummeling the easy AI and decide you want a real challenge you can hop online and have some real fun playing either Volleyball or Jet Ski Racing. The online lobby system returns from Dead or Alive 4 although it’s much simpler. There is no store to speak of where you can use virtual cash to purchase additional lobbies of or characters, instead you simply have the beach and a variety of sea life to choose from.
One major issue the game does have is the incredibly bad voice acting. The English voices are almost painful to listen to. Luckily the game features a full Japanese audio track, but for some stupid reason you can’t have English subtitles during the cut scene. This is the only Team Ninja game to suffer from this problem, aside from the original DOAX, and it’s one they really need to fix.
Dead or Alive Xtreme 2 is by far the most beautiful game Team Ninja has ever produced, but unfortunately it doesn’t quite live up to the Team’s usual high standard. Frame rate drops are something you just don’t expect, yet the game has more then its fair share and I have a sneaking feeling it’s all because of the self shadow system.
Bikini’s and character models are as beautiful as ever, and the wide variety should keep collectors busy for countless hours. There’s no denying the girls of DOA are dead sexy and this game is no different, although the breast physics are a little on the extreme and provide more comedy then arousal. Many women will take just one look at it and keel over laughing.
Finally the game features a nice selection of light hearted, fun, relaxing licensed music that fits the mood perfect and makes everything all the more enjoyable.
There will be a great debate about DOAX2’s merits as a game. Already many people criticize it for its lack of challenge and overly sexual nature. However there’s no denying that the game makes a great way to relax after a long session of Gears of War.
As a game on it’s own it’s severely lacking, but as a time killer, a fun waste of time, it’s a hit. If only it had been cheaper.
Dead or Alive Xtreme 2 is rated M (Mature) by the ESRB for Partial Nudity, Sexual Themes and Simulated Gambling.