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The Dead or Alive series is most famous for its successful fighting games. Dead or Alive 1-4 have all enjoyed worldwide acclaim, receiving praise for their deep and rewarding combat mechanics. The Dead or Alive Xtreme offshoot of the main franchise however is a bit different. Completely stripping away the fighting game foundation the games are known for, Xtreme follows the female character roster of the series as they play volleyball, jetski, and frolic in the sun in skimpy bathing suits on a two-week vacation. If it sounds like blatant fan-service, that's because it is, and despite a move to the PSP platform Dead or Alive Paradise does nothing to update this stale formula. Even worse, Paradise provides less content than its Xbox counterparts, as games like marine racing and tug-of-war have been completely removed.
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Dead or Alive Paradise Review - Story
Paradise features ten women from Dead or Alive, such as classic characters Kasumi and Ayane, and new additions like Lisa and Kokoro. The girls are invited by Zack, the only male character from the series to make an appearance, to his tropical getaway resort known as New Zack Island. Here the women enjoy a two-week long vacation, taking part in rousing games of beach flags, volleyball, and of course the classic summer pastime of "butt battles". The only real dialogue comes from the social interaction between the various female characters, but this is only pointless banter and nothing resembling actual plot. The story here is paper thin, though with the kind of game Dead or Alive Paradise is this isn't much of a shock.
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Dead or Alive Paradise Review - Graphics and Sound
Presentation is one of the few things Dead or Alive Paradise does right, but even then it has its rough spots. Character models look good, and the animation is smooth and fluid. The locales for the various beach activities are bright and vibrant, and the cut-scenes look sharp and highly detailed. As soon as you transition from the beach to other island activities however, such as the casino or swimsuit shop, the presentation quality drops significantly. Instead of interactive environments to explore and discover, these areas are presented as static images with a menu system for navigation. These zones are just plain ugly, and unfortunately you'll be forced to spend a lot of time in them.
The soundtrack features primarily pop songs that while catchy at first will quickly wear out their welcome. There is minimal voice acting for the Dead or Alive women, but what is there is serviceable; just don't expect performances that breathe any new life into the flat personalities of the characters.
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Dead or Alive Paradise PSP Review - Gameplay and Controls
Dead or Alive Paradise's main highlight is the beach activities. The first is pool-hopping, a very simple game that requires you to hit buttons that correspond to floating platforms on a pool of water to make your character hop across. The goal here is to cross before your competitor, and winning this race nets you some cash to spend in the casino or shop later. The second activity is beach volleyball, and is the best mini-game of the bunch. It has surprisingly deep mechanics for not being a full-fledged volleyball sim and is a lot of fun.
The third and fourth games are unlocked over the course of the game and not initially available. Beach flags requires you to sprint and grab a flag in the quickest time, and this is accomplished by mashing the X button repeatedly, which is about as fun as it sounds. Butt battles involve your character trying to push a competitor into the water off a floating platform using her posterior.
Aside from the beach games, there is also a casino where you can gamble your winnings away at slots, poker, or blackjack. The shop lets you buy swimsuits and gifts, and the hotel is where you can review your inventory and send gifts. Gifting is the primary means of building friendships with the various women on the island, and doing so is necessary to receive some of the rarer swimsuits. Once a character likes you enough, they will start sending you gifts in return, and can send suits that are not acquired anywhere else.
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Dead or Alive Paradise PSP Review - Lasting Appeal
Completing the main part of the game takes just a few hours, and how much time you'll invest after that depends on your dedication. For die-hard completionists, collecting all of the swimsuits for all ten characters can take hundreds upon hundreds of hours as you cultivate friendships in hopes of receiving rare suits as gifts. It is a long, tedious, and arduous process that is only recommended for the extreme Dead or Alive Paradise fan (or self-loathers).
Replayability of the main game depends on how much you enjoy the beach party mini-games. Given the fact that there are only four beach activities and then the casino at night, chances are this is not a game that will hold your attention for very long.
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Dead or Alive Paradise PSP Review - Final Verdict
Dead or Alive Paradise does adequately reproduce the Dead or Alive Xtreme formula on the PSP, but when the original premise was already so wafer thin, stripping out features to make the experience fit on a hand-held device leaves a pretty bare-bones entry to the franchise. There simply isn't much of a game here, with almost half of your time spent navigating shop menus and sending gifts to the other inhabitants of the island. For stalwart Dead or Alive fans, just having another chance to play as your favorite characters may be enough to make Paradise seem appealing, but for everyone else it should be avoided entirely.
All screenshots/references from Tecmo's Dead or Alive Paradise and author's own experience.