The girls are back in town, well I say town when in fact I mean Zack’s tropical island set somewhere hot and pleasant to stay. In some warped reality where Zack wins the Dead Or Alive (DOA) tournament and then gambles all of the winnings and wins a fortune. Zack invests his winnings in creating the ultimate tropical paradise where he can then lure the DOA girls under false pretences to come and stay. Well in the first game on Xbox the island was destroyed but in a weird sci-fi twist, Zack manages to revive the island using some satellite technology and bingo he resumes his luring antics once more.
The gloves are definitely off in DOA Xtreme 2 as there is no fighting and competition lies in the numerous activities the girls can partake in during their two week vacation.
To begin, players can select one of the girls from the DOA games which include, Lisa, Lei-fang, Kasumi, Tina, Christie, Ayane, Koroko and Helena and no men. Once you have picked a girl it’s time to hit the island and partake in the numerous activities the island hosts. It’s actually not overly clear as to what you are doing or your purpose and I’m sure many players new to the series are going to be left scratching their heads when confronted by the many options the game presents. Well the general idea of the game is to collect swimsuits for no other purpose other than to have a complete wardrobe at your disposal. Players need to earn Zack Dollars to purchase new swimsuits and this becomes your priority for the remainder of the game. To earn money, players can partake in beach volleyball, jet ski racing, gambling at a casino or entering several mini games. Lets look at the mini games first which includes the pool hopping from the first game.
The pool hopping requires the player to either play alone or against one of the other girls (controlled by the AI). The event requires the player to hop onto floating platforms across the surface of a swimming pool with the winner being the first to reach the other side or to be the last person standing. It’s a simple process that requires one button presses to either short hop or long hop. The platforms are colour coded for extra challenge if you are after a few more dollars for your efforts. Here you gain bonus points if you can press the corresponding colour on the controller. It’s a very simple game which can result in your girl falling into the water on numerous occasions.
Aside from the pool hopping game more events can be purchased from the store which includes Beach Flags, Water Slide, Tug of War, and Butt Battle. Again, like the pool hopping these are very simple affairs and can last as little as a few seconds up to a minute. Beach Flags is a one on one running event which requires the rapid tapping of a button followed by a quick dive for the flag pole. It’s very simple and is perhaps an excuse to make the girls flesh jiggle a little more.
Water Slide is an unusual event which requires players to steer their character down the length of a water slide in the quickest time. It’s not very easy and players will often fall off the slide before mastering the turns and speed.
Tug of War sees the return of the floating platforms but this time players face off against a cpu opponent. The idea here is to pull your opponent off the platform by tugging on a rope you are both holding. Again the mechanic is very simple although this time players can feint moves by slacking on the rope causing a pulling opponent to reel or fall off the platform.
Last butt not least we have Butt Battle which again is an excuse to make those girls jiggle. The onus here is to push your opponent off a floating platform into the pool using your characters butt only. There are two attacks, soft and hard and two evasive moves the winner is the determined by the first to reach three victories.
The volleyball returns and is pretty much the same other than the addition of some new set up moves. Players can bump and spike using the A and B buttons and also direct their team mate with the right thumb-stick. It’s volleyball and very simple although depending on the opponents is going to be either very easy or overly tough. The viewpoint remains the same and with no option to change it will annoy many people especially as it’s often very hard to gauge where the ball is being directed. I have many gripes with the volleyball game as it’s seems to take away skill in favour of luck. The forced side-on camera angle means that the idea of positioning is taken away from the player especially when at times your character goes off screen. A dynamic panning camera would have worked for these moments yet its something not included in the game. The art of spiking is a totally random element as hard spikes from the CPU are guaranteed to win regardless of whether you where in the right place to bump it or not. It’s all very simplified and not a proper rendition of the sport and where luck plays a pivotal role in the game is not something to try and master.
The jet ski racing is another of the new activities where players can race around set courses on motorised water vehicles. These are simple circuit races where the winner is the first to cross the finish line after a certain number of laps. To make things slightly more interesting players can weave in out of water buoys to gain a turbo boost for added advantage. There are numerous craft purchasable from the island store and each has differing characteristics. During races players can earn bonus points by performing stunts although these aren’t necessary and can sometimes slow you down. The controls are reasonable as you battle against ever changing waves but the game is pretty punishing should you make a mistake or crash into the scenery. A reset position button would have been useful here especially for beginners. Again it’s a very simple mode where you can race with up to three cpu controlled opponents but is also very basic. A lot more could have been done with the stunts.
The casino returns in all its glory and is probably the best way to make money in the game just as long as you know when to quit. The casino features all of the games from before which include, Poker, Slots, Blackjack and Roulette. Players can gamble for as long as they have money and is available during the end of each day on the island. The gambling is as you would expect and if you like playing these types of game is a welcome addition to all of the other activities on the island.
This highlights a glaring problem with the way the whole game has been set up. The idea is to earn as much money as possible to buy swimsuits for you and your friends and whilst this is supposed to be a relaxing affair it isn’t. For starters the time it would take to earn the money required just to buy all of the swimsuits for your character using the mini games would take an age. Now if you have time to spend years playing the game for hours on end per day then that’s fine. For the rest of us it’s simply not viable and so we have to look for other means to make money for the time invested. As mentioned the casino is the best place to do this where millions can be won with clever play and the sense of knowing when the computer is deliberately taking the money back from you.
The problem stems from the fact that players will invariably spend more time gambling than actually playing the mini games if they want to complete the overall objective of gathering all swimsuits for every character. This makes all of the mini games null and void and a complete waste. Sure you may play some of them a few times but then after that it’s off to the casino for some real money making. The rest of the play time is spent shopping and sending gifts to other girls so that they become friends with you and hopefully send you some free swimsuits that aren’t available in the store.
Everything in DOA Xtreme 2 is rather vague and frankly unhelpful. One of the ideas of the game is to woo potential friends to like you by presenting them with a deluge of gifts. The aim here is if they like you enough then you will be able to buy swimsuits that are unique to your character and send them as gifts. This is the only way the other girls can get swimsuits that aren’t available for them to buy and if you want to get a complete collection for a character is something that you’ll have to do. The whole wooing mechanic is based on sending random items based on the limited knowledge you have of the girls’ characters. It’s tedious and could have been done a lot better as you end up showering girls with tons of useless items that do nothing other give a brief text description when you use them. I’m sure some of the edible items have an effect on performance but the rest do nothing at all unless they are wearable.
Collecting swimsuits is also made totally un-user friendly as players have to check their inventories to see what they have already purchased. The whole interface is tedious and slow and could have been much better if you could sort items alphabetically for example. The option to view a checklist of all the girls’ collections would also have been nice but alas; players have to start new vacation to view what the girls have collected (with each girl). Again a total pain and could have been made much better.
DOA Xtreme 2 looks very nice and with some self shadowing character models in high resolution looks very good indeed. Although one has to remember that a distinct art style is used for the characters which mean they aren’t realistic looking. The boob jiggle returns and this time each boob can move independently of the other. To be honest it’s very exaggerated and something that will eventually be ignored due to the huge amount of time shifting from menu to menu and the casino. The island itself is presented very well and game play for all of the events is very smooth. There are some neat effects used although in terms of player control there isn’t much bar taking photos during special scenes and panning the camera during win poses.
The game features plenty of happy tunes that are suited to relaxing on an island, however they are tunes that will either have you in good spirits or drive you to murderous insanity. Luckily as always the option is there to choose a play-list or include your own tunes from your Xbox 360 hard drive. This time the girls have been given not only Japanese voices for the purists but English ones too and as you would expect are as cheesy and cute as ever. It’s nice being able to understand what the girls are saying but eventually players might just be better off switching to Japanese as repeated phrases get on your nerves. Other spot sound effects are as you would expect and there are some minor ambient sounds which help in creating some island atmosphere.
DOA Xtreme 2 is not a short game if you are going to go for achievements and whilst the 14 day vacation can end very quickly the idea is to play through it many, many times with each girl. Whilst the mini games do get rather tedious quite quickly if you are a an item collector then there so much on offer here in terms of time investment that it could be a game to last years rather than weeks. The inclusion of Xbox Live play is a welcome one and whilst I didn’t get to play the Water Jet-Ski racing and volleyball online I assume it’s a distraction from all of the collecting and menu hopping.
I’ve tried to like DOA Xtreme 2 very much as I was a fan of the Xbox original as it was a breath of fresh air at the time. Some years later and with new technology upon us I feel DOA Xtreme 2 is rather backwards. Other than the addition of new mini games which as I said can largely be ignored other than at the start of the game; there is nothing new the game offers over it’s predecessor. I expected so much more from the game such as a more in depth look at the characters and the option to control my chosen one and walk or run around the island and interact with the other girls. Even some interactivity with DOA 4 would have been nice where perhaps arguments could be settled by popping in the DOA 4 game disk for a quick round or something at least! There’s very little here other than tedious collecting swimwear/ items and sending gifts to the other girls. Once again the casino wins and is the only true place to spend time in the game outside of menus and gift giving scenes. The volleyball hasn’t evolved and in general the entire game is based around luck as opposed to skill which is unfortunate as it will create lots of hair pulling moments. For me especially the game started to become highly frustrating rather than the relaxing vacation away from shooters and racing games that it’s mean to be.
For fans of Dead Or Alive I would say that even you guys will be tested with this game and must admit that I feel only the truly devoted fans are going to step away and say they fully like this game for what it offers. Anyone else is going to be disappointed and perhaps confused as to what the game is really about. Is it innocent titillation for school boys or some warped Japanese fantasy fun game that is going to be lost in translation on the majority of western gamers? If you’ve never shown any interest in the Xbox version of the game then I can whole heartily say that Xtreme 2 isn’t going to light your fire. If you were a fan of the original or had a girlfriend that enjoyed the game, then fair enough it’s more of the same with prettier graphics. DOA Xtreme 2 lacks ambition and is a very disappointing title considering how good the game could have been. It’s a “mish-mash” of ideas that was good on Xbox but certainly not acceptable in this day and age especially for the type of game that it is. In my opinion Itagaki needs to go back to the drawing board and come up with some new concepts for this hybrid dating sports game. Some more depth is certainly needed as the inclusion of water sports doesn’t accomplish this.