Looking Back on… Dead or Alive Xtreme Beach Volleyball (Microsoft Xbox)

(And here we go, back to the YHCOR game reviews. There are only about eight or so of these left before we get into the IP game reviews, so I’ll probably do some clearing out of the YHCOR backlog for a couple days once these are done, just to get that embarrassing mess over with, then get into the IP/DHGF stuff, because that at least is less embarrassing.)

Dead or Alive Xtreme Beach Volleyball.
Console: X Box
Genre: Sports/Simulation (Life) (For a very loose interpretation of both.)
Developer: Team Ninja
Publisher: Tecmo

Y’know, sometimes I hate working for other websites. (Singular, at this point.) See, working at 411Mania is interesting and whatnot, but honestly, all I ever get to review there is the smaller games nobody plays. In addition, I don’t get to link to my website. Such is life in both cases, I know, but still, it kinda sucks. (I have to feel like this was honestly an Ashish Pabari policy more than anything; Widro, for all of our interpersonal disputes, is a goddamn prince about letting us do what we want, and Alex has never told me I cannot do something, and has generally stood by me whenever I’VE enforced something without question. We’ve had our differences behind the scenes but they’re both good friends of mine and let me do whatever I want, and I respect that. Plus Ashish was a fucking game thief anyway so fuck him and the spyware ridden hellhole 411 has become.)

Such is the case for DOAXVB. I wanted to do the review on 411, both for the larger audience, and because, honestly, I wanted a limited forum, so I wouldn’t go off on TOO much of a tirade. (I have no idea who reviewed it, but it’s absolutely not someone who still works for IP now, so fuck them.) To be honest, and I feel I ought to spell it out here, up front… I’m not going to be kind to this game. Do I enjoy it? Absolutely. Is it fun? No doubt. Do I think it was worth the $50 I spent on it? Well, since I don’t spend my time spanking it looking at polygons, no, not really. (*cough*)

And that’s the point: Unless you’re a HUGE fan of fan-service, are a huge fan of DOA, or are a huge fan of volleyball (and don’t own a Gamecube), (This was written after Sega had released a volleyball game for the Gamecube, the name of which escapes me even though I own it, but before the wonderful Outlaw Volleyball release a bit later, for reference.) you’ve got ABSOLUTELY no reason to own this game. None, at all, period. Maybe they’ll offer some X-Box live support for added downloads, but otherwise, there is no motivating factor to own this.

Okay, normally, I start off with a story recap, but here I’m going to just get the good out of the way first, so I can focus on why this was, at best, a vanity project.

The Graphics are gorgeous. (The game still looks pretty good even now, to be honest.) There is literally no way to describe this game as anything but beautiful. The characters are animated with an insane amount of detail, from the obvious “jiggle” to their most basic hair and facial animations, all with NO CLIPPING. God, that one was a huge shock. (Especially since later franchise games had all kinds of hair issues.) The backgrounds are also beautiful, well animated, and full of a shitload of light sourcing, all of which is handled exquisitely. And on top of that, the frame rate is smooth, and never slows down. There are some EXTREMELY minor clipping issues with certain accessories and certain characters, but beyond that, this game is a work of art that must be seen firsthand to be believed. (Well, Itagaki did refer to the DOA girls as his children, maybe he just wants them to look their best for parent teacher day, I don’t know.)

The music is garnered from some brand name artists, and if said artists didn’t SUCK BALLS I might have been more impressed. Okay, I have something brief to say about the choice in music: This game is geared toward MEN. The characters are blatantly geared toward MEN. This is a game for MEN, MEN, MEN. (I will make the point here that, even with the appeal to anyone who likes attractive women in various states of undress, no, this game was Male Gaze: The Video Game, so believe me, that’s not a sexist point of view, it’s the logical one.) Point? WHAT FUCKING MAN LISTENS TO CHRISTINA FUCKING AGUILERA? (Turns out, I do, now. Not a LOT but she made some decent stuff.) (note: had to look how to spell that… if you’re going to get into show-business kids, make it a point to get a name that’s simple to spell, for my sanity) (Yes, please, famous people, change your name to accommodate me. Lord knows that’s the most important thing.) I mean, seriously, you can’t have it both ways here… catering to men with the subject matter, and putting in shitty girl pop is just NOT working. (Assuming you and I can agree that this game was made by men for men, the assessment that a lot of the soundtrack was “shitty girl pop,” may be harder. On one hand, aside from a Christina song, the soundtrack also featured two songs from B*wtiched, and even then not the one they’re known for, as well as a title track from Meja, two tracks from Raja-nee, one of the worst Spice Girls songs and I like the Spice Girls, and a song from Innosense that is also not the one they’re known for. So it’s just not a great soundtrack in general, honestly. However there are just enough ska and reggae tunes here that you can argue the tone was meant to be “festive,” and not “girly.” Either way, though, the soundtrack fucking sucks out loud, and Team Ninja would reuse the exact same fucking soundtrack for the sequel, because literally no one but Itagaki was behind this project.) On the flipside, this game (THANKFULLY) supports the hard drive soundtrack feature, and this single feature single-handedly justified the purchase price of this game to me. Note to Microsoft: When you offer a feature that is a fantastic selling point, make goddamn sure all of your developers take advantage of it. (On one hand, I have kind of stopped giving a shit about this feature. On the other hand, it was the sole reason this game was playable, because given the choice between spiking a volleyball into someone’s face to a terrible Innosense song or “Snap Your Fingers, Snap Your Neck,” the latter will win every time.)

On the plus side, all of the included music fits. It still sucks, but it fits.

Sounds… where to begin… well, Dennis Rodman should never act. Period. He’s really bad at it, and this game makes the point all too clearly. (Hahahaha I forgot, the US team decided that since Zack looks like a gigantic asshole, they’d find the only person on Earth who looks close to him, and cast Dennis Rodman to do his voice work. Rodman didn’t seem to be in on the joke, as all his dialogue is delivered straight, and it’s narm of the highest caliber.) All of the character voices are in Japanese, which is pretty melodic for what it’s worth. Also, to all of you out there in review land who WANTED a dub, again, DENNIS RODMAN. You all can blow me. (There was absolutely nothing good that could have come from dubbing this game. Nothing.) Otherwise, the casino sounds are appropriate, and the sound of flesh hitting ball (as in volley you sick fuckers) (Ha ha ha.) is accurate, but there’s nothing much here otherwise.

Control… heh, here’s where we get into the meat and potatoes of the game. (Because apparently I wrote my reviews like I was posting to MySpace.) Okay, menu navigation is a snap, playing in the casino is all labeled, and the game provides you with the option of repeating/skipping songs with the white and black buttons. The “gravure” movies (I think I actually knew the term at this point, but for all I know they really called them that in the game, fuck you if you think I’m booting it up to check.) are simple to maneuver, with a button for zooming, a button for adjusting camera angle, and two sticks for moving the camera. Simple, right?

Then we get to the volleyball. The left analog stick moves your character, the right one chooses the play position of your partner, one button blocks/sets, and one button serves/spikes. It sounds simple enough that any moron could get the hang of it in no time. (And yet I routinely beat the unmerciful fuck out of anyone I played against.) But there is one small complication: this game takes advantage of the analog button design, so light presses of the buttons offer light passes and hits, and hard presses offer hard passes and hits. It’s logical, no doubt, but it can be confusing at first. (What was weird was, in the end, the actual volleyball was complicated as fuck at some points, and it could be a real bear using it to make money. That said, it was pretty fun, honestly, because you could hard spike one round, then tap the ball over the next to fuck with people and the CPU, and it was pretty well balanced for a game with no visual indicators.) In addition, the left stick can be used for directional adjustment during spikes, allowing you to make shots to open areas, or, my favorite, watch someone’s face get bashed in by a power spike. I just keep imagining “Meet The Parents” every time I spike. (For those that missed it, volleyball in face, blood everywhere. I’m sick, I know.) (I’ve never actually seen that movie, just that scene. But spiking someone in the face with a volleyball is still fun either way, so fuck you.) And IN ADDITION, your partner’s mood dictates how they play: if your partner is unhappy, they play like ass, and if they love you (not that way, you perverts), they play like a demon. (In theory, this meant that having a good relationship with your partner meant good games; in practice, it meant that unless you were a fucking beast at volleyball you were changing partners every three days because losses pissed them off.) In short, it’s about as real as volleyball gets, and it controls smoothly and efficiently.

And then we get to the whole “simulation” aspect of this game, and that’s where everything goes to hell. Okay, storyline goes like this: Zack (yes, ZACK) wins the DOA3 tournament, and takes his money to Vegas, where he multiplies it exponentially. (Team Ninja retroactively adjusted the continuity to say that, sigh, Ayane won the tournament, but Helena took control of DOATEC or… look you know what? I’ve spent like six years now trying to understand the fucking shitshow that is DOA continuity, and honestly, fuck it. Nobody but Team Ninja gives a fuck who won this fucking tournament, Itagaki certainly doesn’t, fuck it, Shinsuke Nakamura won DOA3, okay? He fucking hit the Boma Ye right in Ryu Hayabusa’s stupid face and won the whole damn thing. He won all the DOA tournaments. Even the new one that’s coming out in 2015. Nakamura is King of DOATEC Style. Let’s never speak of it again.) He then convinces all of the girls that DOA4 is happening on his island. (Which they believe because of all of the blunt force trauma.) Once they arrive, they find out that NO, the tournament isn’t being held there, but they have a two-week paid vacation instead. As you would expect, no one says no to free, so they all relax, play volleyball, buy new swimsuits, and have fun. (To be fair, if I got to hang out on a tropical island, someone paid me to play volleyball, and I never had to interact with Zack, I’d do it. I wouldn’t even care if I had to hang out with Bayman wearing the goddamn Borat swimsuit; if Zack’s not there, it’s a vacation.)

First and foremost, HOW THE FUCK DID ZACK WIN DOA3?!? (Shinsuke Nakamura won it, shut up.) I mean, no disrespect to Zack, but with martial artists like Ein Hayate, Kasumi Hayate, and RYU MOTHERFUCKING HAYABUSA in the tournament, how did Zack, of ALL PEOPLE, win?!? (He didn’t, Nakamura did.) It boggles my mind, okay? Second, why invite just the girls? (Because Zack is a pervert. FUCKING DUH.) What, to oogle them? Okay, wait, yeah, I can see that. Also, the whole “tournament” aspect the game mentioned? There IS no tournament, and you need not even PLAY volleyball if you wish not to. Free-form? Definitely. Misleading? A bit. (Yeah, it’s just “do what you want for two weeks.” No one forces you to do shit.)

Then we come to the “life-simulation” I titled this as, and why it doesn’t work. Okay, every woman is unique, with her own interests/skills built right in, so you can figure out which teammate is best for you, and how the women will work together. I totally get that. (What this boils down to is, the girls each like different presents, and have different positives in play. So basically you’d look at the stats and pick someone who had the stats you needed, figure out what they like, buy that, and give it to them. I mostly just recruited Hitomi all the time because she spiked like her arm was a fucking cannon, and played as Kasumi because she was more technical stylistically, so I could control play and let Hitomi break faces. I thought entirely too much about the mechanics of this game, is my point here.) And I understand that, to win someone over, giving them presents is the best way of going about it, as is winning volleyball games. That makes sense too. And the fact that their complimenting your play gains you extra points; I would reward good sportsmanship too. (That was actually an odd mechanic; if you pressed the button when your ally did something cool, you’d say “NICE SPIKE” or the Engrish equivalent, and you’d not only get cash for it, but your partner would like you more for doing so. It was interesting, but it was never really highlighted as a thing; it was just there, and while it made sense, I’ve never really seen it except in Resident Evil 5 since that point.)

What I don’t get, or like, is why your partner is little more than a hanger-on unless you’re playing volleyball.

Okay, when you want to give a gift to someone NOT on your team, every time you see them on the island, you can give them a gift. Fine. But your partner, who is with you ALL DAY LONG, has to wait until you get back to the hotel room to get ONE gift?!? What the fuck is up with that? It’s not like she’s not, y’know, STANDING RIGHT NEXT TO YOU. That is a BLATANT oversight if left out unintentionally, and flat out stupidity if left out on purpose. (I absolutely hate that they didn’t fucking fix that in the sequel. Like, seriously, I can’t just buy something, turn to my partner and say, “Here, have this,” I have to go through proper protocol? Jesus Christ guys, she is literally right next to me. Just such a pain in the ass.) And then there’s the fact that, even WITH a partner, only volleyball is a team activity. What, you Team Ninja guys never heard of hanging out? People do it all the time, really. Instead, your partner is an emotional tool, only used for playing volleyball. (Now this they did fix in the sequel, as there were all kinds of other minigames to play, and you could do team photo shoots as well, so at least that was fixed.)

Add to that the fact that there is nothing to do but shop, stare at boobs, play volleyball, or gamble. Okay, the “hopping game” is something, but it’s a bland something, meant only to get you used to the analog buttons. (To be fair, the whole point was supposed to be about collecting stuff with money earned, and it was meant to appeal in reality to a very specific set of gamers who loved grinding away at games forever to unlock things. It was marketed for its tits and volleyball, but it was mostly for the Dynasty Warriors crowd. Go figure.) Seriously, how much effort would it have taken to add in some mini-games? A “hot potato” volleyball passing mini-game or a dodgeball mini-game would have done this title wonders. (They did do a hot potato game in the sequel I believe, but dodgeball, alas, we never got. We did get the goofy waterslide game though when you wanted to earn money by yourself.)

And then there’s the minor complaints, like… only two-player support in exhibition? Oh, come on! Or, how about team-attacks in the volleyball? I mean, Zack won the tournament, and this game is based in a reality where Ninja can disappear in a cloud of leaves, appear twenty feet in the air, and to a spinning piledriver on someone without breaking their neck and compressing their spinal column, so reality went out the window a LOOOONG time ago. (Of all of the things that confused me about this game, that was the big one; for a game based in a reality where a dude cut a fucking helicopter in half with a katana, why are the girls just playing normal volleyball? Spice it up or some shit.) How about having Tina leap off of Lisa’s shoulders and do a power spike from hell? Or having Christie and Helena do a simultaneous spike? These would add to the fun of the game, if nothing else. (Exactly; the game didn’t need to be absurd, but these are fucking trained martial artists with superhuman skill, do something with that.)

So, essentially, what we’re left with is a volleyball simulator, a voyeur game, and a collecting game. So, to sum this up: If you like anime porn, Pokemon, or volleyball (preferably all three), this game’s for you. (Mostly the Pokemon part, oddly enough.) If, however, you were looking for something of a quality nature from Team Ninja, something that represented a “Sims” meets “Beach Spikers” (There we go, that’s the name of the Sega volleyball game.) with a large amount of reason to return, then hate to disappoint you, but you ain’t getting it here. Either way, rent it first, if you must play it… it’s really not for everyone.

1. Graphics are beautiful.
2. Being able to add your own soundtrack is badass.
3. The Volleyball action is tight and fun, bar none. (I swear that wasn’t meant to be gross.)
4. Tech demo for Ninja Gaiden… ’nuff said. (Oh right, I forgot it came with a Ninja Gaiden demo, that explains a lot.)
5. Tina in a swimsuit. I’m a pig, but I know it, so fuck off. (*cough*)

1. No reason to play after the volleyball gets old.
2. Additional mini-games would have been fun.
3. Relationships are one-dimensional, at best. (Tomonobu Itagaki wrote a game where the interpersonal relationships were one-dimensional? The hell you say.)
4. Only supports two players, no more.
5. Having the guys on the island would have offered more characters. Just saying.

1. Zack trying to get some ass. And, while we’re on topic, Dennis Rodman’s acting. (He kept trying to sleep with a girl who only ever appears in his cutscenes; I don’t know why he keeps pursuing her, but she’s never been terribly relevant to DOA or anything.)
2. The included soundtrack. Ick.
3. The casino cheats like a motherfucker. It’s realistic, but not much fun.
4. ZACK won the tournament?!? Oh, COME ON! (SHINSUKE. NAKAMURA.)
5. Watching your partner throw away a swimsuit that cost $1.5 MILLION. (Hahaha yeah, you’d basically have to move Heaven and Earth to make your partners keep a swimsuit if they didn’t want it, no matter how expensive it was; this was a problem because there was this one swimsuit the Venus… something, that was essentially jewelry and nudity, and everyone wanted to put all the cast in it, but only one character got it by default, and a lot of the characters hated it. So you’d have to pull all kinds of character gymnastics to get them to keep it.)

MUSIC: N/A (I am not a fair judge of the music, as SOMEONE pays for Christina and the Baha Men. Besides, I listen to Rob Zombie and Rammstein when I play.)

OVERALL: 7.5 (I’d say that’s a bit high now but at the time the game was an interesting experiment, and I had the impression they’d go somewhere with it. In retrospect, call it a 6.)

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