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Dead or Alive Xteme Beach Volleyball

Developer: Team Ninja | Publisher: Tecmo
Players: 1 Player Game | Release Date: 01/22/03 | Genre: Sports

Tecmo's Dead or Alive Xtreme Beach Volleyball is one of the quirkiest games I've played in a long, long time. It is definitely not something you run into every day, and although it is decidedly strange at first, the Japanese flavor of it quickly grows on you. There's plenty to do on Zack Island, and you'll want to make the most of your limited time there.

When the game begins, you must first select your character. Upon arriving on the island, you meet up with DOA newcomer, Lisa, who informs you that the whole set up was a hoax; Zack had no intention of hosting the fourth DOA tournament on his island. She offers to show you around the island, and if you accept, she will be your first volleyball partner. Believe it or not, the volleyball actually does take center stage. Sure, there are a lot of things you could do with your time, but the volleyball is by far the most rewarding. The control scheme is great and really is 쥡sy to learn, but difficult to master.The balance in play is nearly perfect; the computer will put up a good match, but they're not impossible to defeat. Of course, once you get things down you can completely decimate opposing teams and bring in a ton of cash in the process.

Team Ninja also took into account the background of each character when making the game, and thus, each girl has her strengths and weaknesses. For instance, the feuding sisters, Kasumi and Ayane, both have excellent technique, but their strength is significantly less than the other characters. Hitomi, on the other hand, fights using a powerful form of Karate, so her power rating is one of the highest in the game. So what does this mean? Well, it means you'll find yourself getting ploughed into the sand when you attempt to return or block one of her spikes. The same can be said for Tina, who fights using a professional wrestling style; pairing these two up can be a lot of fun as you'll consistently knock the opposing girls onto their bottoms; heh-heh.

And what good would money be if there was nothing to buy with it? Well, fear not, there are three different shops on Zack Island where you can buy everything from tomato juice to sub-machine guns, yes, sub machine guns. The Accessory Shop is where you'll find little trinkets like hats, sunglasses, and nail polish for the girls. The Sports Shop is where you'll head to pick out a new bikini, and Zack of All Trades is the place to go for everything else; including a model of the Xbox prototype. Anything you buy can be gift wrapped and given as a present to one of the other girls. Buying someone something they like will improve their opinion of you, but be careful not to buy them something they hate, or you'll find it rather difficult to maintain a partnership during your stay.

Managing your relationship with the other girls is a big part of the game. If you perform poorly in volleyball matches, your partner will tire of you quickly and ditch you for someone else. Without a partner, you cannot participate in the matches. You can try to win girls over with gifts, so it's important to keep in mind their individual personalities.

The graphics in the game are fantastic. The character models are improved over their DOA 3 counterparts, and the backgrounds are phenomenal; particularly during the evening sunsets. The level of detail in the game is astounding. The sand, which is perfectly smooth prior to the start of a match, will be embedded with the tracks and impressions of the characters as they scurry this way and that chasing the ball. You'll also notice that you can see individual grains of sand kicked up as the girls move.

The animation in the game compliments the graphics nicely. Each girl has several different idle animations for the time before and after each play during a game. These movements are very authentic, and the animation during other scenes, such as when going to a beach alone or inviting someone to join you, enjoy an even higher level of quality. During a volleyball match, girls will react accordingly when they get nailed by the ball. For instance, if you hit one in the gut she'll double over and fall back; hit her in the ankles or near her feet and she'll stumble appropriately. However, it's not uncommon for the characters to go immediately from one motion to an entirely different one in the heat of match up. A girl that recently fell and is getting back to her feet may jump straight into a different pose altogether in order to play the ball as it comes down on her.

The sound in the game is just as good as everything else with a few decent tunes on the default soundtrack and the ability use songs from your hard disc. Also, the Japanese voices are superb, and while some may gripe about the lack of English dubbing, it sounds much more genuine when the girls speak in Japanese. Zack and Niki, his girlfriend, are the only ones that use standard English, and although neither of them plays an especially large role in the game, they both sound pretty good.

The game offers a ton of mini games that you can partake in. The infamous 착llow jumpingame allows you to adjust the sensitivity of the analog controller buttons so that they suit your taste. This may seem useless at first, but it actually comes in handy during the volleyball games. Of course, you already know about all the shopping you can do, but once night falls, you're able to gamble in the hotel casino as well. This portion of the game was surprisingly deep. It includes a Roulette table, a Blackjack table, a Poker table, and several slot machines. The Blackjack is especially worth noting as you are able to double down, split, and even request insurance. I found myself playing Blackjack for well over an hour the first time I tried it out; fortunately for me, this was only a video game.

DOAX certainly manages to exceed most people's expectations, but there are a few things that will undoubtedly bother players. The most pressing of which is the fact that the game gets totally dull if you suck and can't find a partner to play with; believe me, I would know. As mentioned above, you can't play volleyball without a partner, and since the volleyball is definitely where the majority of the fun is to be had, things get lame rather quickly when you can't play. Also, the game is incredibly short and you'll finish your vacation experience in less than two hours the first time you play. Luckily the game offers tons of collectibles, so you'll have to play a dozen times over if you want to rake in enough cash to see all there is to see. The game is also hounded by its multiplayer capabilities. Only two people can play at a time, and only head to head at that. I'd imagine the game would be a blast to play with four players, but unfortunately it's just not possible.

Overall, DOAX is a refreshing gaming experience that should please anyone who purchases the title. It may not be everyone's cup o' tea, but if you're not afraid of trying something a little different, then I strongly encourage you to give this game a try; there's much more here than hot babes in bikinis.

By Ryan Schaefer - 01/24/03
ESRB Details: Gambling, Mature Sexual Themes, Nudity
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Screenshots for Dead or Alive Xteme Beach Volleyball

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