# of Players:
Custom Soundtrack, Dolby Digital, HDTV 480p, Memory Unit
I’m sure the
less prurient minded among you are sitting there wondering, just
what the hell does a standout fighting game series like DOA have to
do with volleyball, of all things? Of course, asking this betrays a
short memory. Back in those halcyon days (a whopping 3 years back,
as I recall) before the Xbox’s gorgeous DOA3, and even before the
late lamented Dreamcast’s equally standout (for the time) DOA2,
there was a tacky little fighting game for the pre-digit suffix
PlayStation called Dead or Alive. While not a bad game in
and of itself, there was little to make it stand out among the
blockbuster fighters of the day, like the Tekken series, or the many
Street Fighter entries…except the prurient interest. As most gamers
know, doubtless through excited whispers in the school halls, by
inputting an absurdly advanced “gamer age” in the options prior to
the start of gameplay, the virtual girls on display would…well,
bounce their assets in time to the fighting (the lower the age, the
less bouncy the action). That’s it. Really, no kidding. That was
the selling point.
Which takes us
to today, with the eagerly awaited (and hot-selling) DOA: Xtreme
Volleyball for the Xbox. But there is a surprise: while the
cheesecake factor is not merely evident, but in fact prominent in
this bizarre side-entry into the series, the game is not only
surprisingly fun and addictive, but in reality, far less sleazy than
its (similarly far less amusing) GameCube counterpart, Beach
plot, such as it is: the girls of DOA wind up on a small island in
the Pacific, in answer to a summons to a fighting tournament. But
surprise: there is no such tournament to be held. How can this be,
you ask? The answer to that doubtless burning question lies with
our Dennis Rodman inspired friend, Zack. (In an ironic nod back,
Rodman himself has been tapped to supply Zack’s rather lifeless
dialogue, which he does sounding like he just woke up off a bender
throughout. Hollywood pundits please take note: colorful though he
may be, this man is no actor.) Having somehow won the last DOA
tournament (oh, really? How?), Zack has purchased an island for
himself, suckering the DOA girls into paying a visit. What would
motivate the man to do such a thing is never stated outright, so
we’re stuck with a gaping hole in the game’s plot: they show up, and
then find they have nothing whatsoever to do, but shop for clothes
and gifts for themselves (and each other) in his 3 shops, play the
odds in his casino, lounge about, and of course, play volleyball.
Particularly since you never even see the man standing about ogling
the ladies (unless you count one early cinema with Christie), this
seems like a rather motiveless gesture; and much less so, given his
resorting to trickery to accomplish it. Given this glaring script
deficiency, we’re left with no option but to accept his beneficence
at face value. Wow, isn’t Zack generous?
are simpler than Beach Spikers, and more intuitive. While the
computer may in fact be responding to your skillful combinations of
button pressure and joystick movement (see how often you get “nice
spike” as compared to the far easier “nice serve”, and you’ll see
the truth in that statement), it’s all subtle and below board.
There is no practice mode, as in Beach Spikers, and you aren’t
really graded on whether you land the ball in the box, pull short
for a fake-out, or just plain slam it over the net, as you were in
that earlier variation on the volleyball theme. Just do your best,
and hope to win.
What makes the
game amusing, and stand head and shoulders above the competition,
isn’t just the pleasant graphics (which, as expected for
contemporary entries in the DOA series, are truly state of the art)
or the smooth gameplay: it’s in the whole little social world the
game postulates, and by whose rules you must abide to succeed.
Without a few wins, you won’t have any money to A. feed yourself, so
you don’t suck on the court; B. buy outfits and accessories for
yourself, so you have nicer things to ogle at; and C. bribe the
girls into being your friends, so you can have somebody on your
team. If you don’t win, you don’t get money. If you don’t have
money, you can’t buy bribes of gifts (and each girl has their own
specific likes and dislikes – give them the wrong thing, and you’ll
get a message saying they threw it in the ocean). Without bribes of
gifts, nobody will want to play on your team. And that means you’ll
be doing nothing for the full 14 virtual days of gameplay. While
this whole paradigm proves disgustingly shallow and capitalistic, it
does have some unfortunate real-world parallels; and if you can get
past your initial disbelief at these girls’ utter vanity, it even
makes things rather fun, in a tongue in cheek sort of way. Makes me
wonder if this is what it’s like to be a guy, sometimes, in a world
full of California-style bimbettes and hip-hop ho’s livin’ and givin’
exclusively for the bling bling…
earlier, DOA:XBV is not just about volleyball: there are a few mini
games to keep you from getting too bored with the main theme.
During the day, you can hone your serves and returns, practicing the
use of varying button pressure by playing a “hopping game”, using
floating pillows to cross the pool. At night, the girls can go to
the casino and take their chances at the slots, blackjack, poker,
subversive to think that a game so obviously marketed (and accepted)
on the basis and level of cheesecake for the guys has a hidden
agenda: the use of roleplay to get it’s nigh-exclusive audience of
hormonal teenage boys in touch with their inner female. I mean, if
bribing each other with gifts and compliments as a prerequisite for
friendship isn’t a girl thing, I don’t know what is…
Gorgeous graphics. What did you expect?
Far more addictive than it has any right to be.
Even the vapidly peppy top-40 soundtrack really grows on you after
Lots of costumes and items to purchase, for
yourself and for bribes. This alone can really keep you playing
to see what funky outfit or ensemble you’ll be able to try on
Far less sleazy than the competition. While Hitomi
and Leifang do “ride the tree branch” in a fairly suggestive
manner, this is about as far as that sort of thing goes, and
probably represents the single glaring instance of prurience in
the game. So if you’re expecting Beach Spikers’ (as a male friend
described it) “erotic” post-game roaming hand embraces, forget it.
Less picky scoring and far more intuitive gameplay
than the competition
Dennis Rodman’s phoned in out of bed performance.
Uh, Dennis, as far as your acting career, if you were looking for
one, that is…can you say “Brian Bosworth”?
Some odd camera angles throw the matches off a bit.
Despite what the presence of the “radio station”
and it’s little check boxes would seem to indicate, there is no
removing irritating songs from the playlist…no matter HOW badly
you wanted to get the painful fake-ska of “Reel Big Fish” the hell
out of there. On the plus side, there is a little trick to skip
annoying songs with the press of a button (but I’ll let you suffer
through their 2 lousy songs a few times before you find yourself
scrambling to figure it out for yourself).
The inappropriate “mature” rating. For what, the
gambling? America is wayyyyy too uptight these days…any of
you squares out there remember the 70’s?
Say what you
like. It’s tacky, it’s cheesy, it’s the worst excesses of a
capitalist mindset, and like living for the acquisition of goods,
rather pointless. But the one thing you have to admit, despite all
the natural aversions of the thinking man (or woman) towards such
blatant nonsense as this game represents…it’s fun. A lot of fun.
And I mean, addictive fun. Go out and get it. You won’t
regret it. …good God, I just ended on a rhyme. See what this game
will do to you?