Dead or Alive Paradise brings the lovely ladies of Tecmo's fighting game series back to the tropical getaway of Zack Island, a chance to collect and model increasingly revealing bikinis in-between playing an equally skimpy selection of mini-games.
The PSP game is a pocket-sized port of Dead or Alive Xtreme Beach Volleyball originally released in 2003 for the Xbox, with a few tweaks from Dead or Alive Xtreme 2 included. Ten virtual women, nine from the Dead or Alive series and one, Rio, the star of various Tecmo gambling games, frolic about the beaches of Zack Island, playing beach volleyball, hopping on pool cushions, gambling in the hotel casino, and lazing about while the player takes pictures of them in a selection of swimsuits.
Players must cultivate friendships by exchanging gifts with other vacationing girls and find a way to entertain themselves during their 14-day-long stay on the resort. They must also exercise great patience when playing Dead or Alive Paradise, a game that will test one's tolerance for sun and fun.
Cheeky Sensibility: Look, I know this is puerile, objectifying fare with really one purpose, to let the player look at ridiculously stacked virtual women in tiny outfits. This was something I had come to terms with when playing the original Dead or Alive Xtreme Beach Volleyball, but was quickly reminded of while watching Hitomi and Lei Fang fellate an ice cream cone in tandem during the game's opening cinematic. That pre-rendered introduction to Paradise is filled with digital near-nudity and the actual game is little more than an excuse to offer tame sexual thrills. And I'm OK with that, because Tecmo obviously knows that too. I just wish there was a better game attached to it.
Guides: Having a built-in guide (Lisa) with you on the island and a visual "Guide to the Girls" of Dead or Alive Paradise, the PSP version makes fostering relationships and understanding the game's sometimes vague rules easier than before. The "Guide," which players can access before going to shops to purchase presents—tea sets, novelty volleyballs, toys, snacks, swimsuits, etc.—makes the guessing game of gift giving more tolerable.
It's No Pokemon Snap: Dead or Alive Paradise lets the player spend much of their time "relaxing" on Zack Island if they so choose. This usually involves a girl taking a shower, applying suntan lotion or straddling a tree branch while you snap pictures with an in-game camera. It's far less fun than it should be, as there's no reward mechanic here. Players aren't graded on their composition or skill in catching a certain pose, so it all feels pointless. Worse, the Photo Album viewing options are barebones. Viewing and organizing photos can only be done from the PSP's built-in photo view in the cross media bar. The photo options are a missed opportunity.
Tedious Mini-games: Dead or Alive Paradise's beach volleyball game is just as fun as ever, which is to say that it's not that much fun at all. The same goes for the pool cushion hopping mini-game, which is a series of button presses that's surprisingly challenging, but too slow to load for the payoff. Gambling in the casino, whether you're playing poker, blackjack or slots, is serviceable but similarly slow. And that's pretty much it.
Gelatinous Jiggle: If we're going to use the word "creepy" in this review, it's most appropriate for the slippery, sloppy and occasionally revolting breast physics that you'll see flopping Dead or Alive fighter flesh about in games of beach volleyball. I'm not kidding when I say I'd genuinely appreciate an option to turn this down with a slider.
Painfully Slow: For as tedious as the Paradise mini-games are, its macro-game—spending fourteen days on Zack Island, with morning, daytime and nighttime activity opportunities—is more grating. Instead of being free to roam the island and enjoy oneself in various frivolous ways, you're still locked into a rigid set of things you can accomplish during each day, which is to relax, go shopping and play some brainless mini-games. The loading between each of these activities and during dialogue between the girls adds to the pain.
I'm completely serious when I say that Dead or Alive Paradise is something of a disappointment to me. It should be an amusing romp, but winds up being frustrating and—still completely serious here—doesn't live up to its potential. Most disappointing is the photography, which is clumsy in its controls and doesn't offer anything of substance. For the collector of virtual things, Dead or Alive Paradise excels, packing in dozens of collectible swimsuits and accessories and hundreds of Venus Clips to ogle, but the allure to complete these collections is outweighed by the clunky presentation of the game.
At least Dead or Alive Paradise looks good, its most noteworthy accomplishment. But when better looking versions of the same game exist on the Xbox (and Xbox 360), why take this trip?
Dead or Alive Paradise was developed by Tecmo and published by Tecmo Koei for the PSP on March 30. Retails for $29.99 USD. A copy of the game was given to us by the publisher for reviewing purposes. Played through three visits to Zack Island and purchased too many bikinis to count.
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