The concept of paradise is purely subjective. No game proves this like Dead or Alive Paradise on the PSP. This spin off from the acclaimed Dead or Alive fighting series takes all the buxom beauties from the roster and sets them free on a two week tropical vacation. Everyone dreams of getting away for some R&R, tanning by pool, maybe playing some fun beach volleyball, and flirting as much as humanly possible. Well this game emulates none of that; instead you get a boring and technical mess in a package as bare as the women.
Your “vacation” begins with a muddy CGI intro featuring the colorful island owner Zack resurrecting the submerged paradise. Christened “New Zack Island”, this is where the “game” takes place. Your first objective is to pick a girl to stalk... er, I mean play as. You have nine girls to choose from at the beginning, all curvaceous and sensual. Who you choose is entirely up to who you find most appealing and has little to do with their actual attributes, which play only a small part in the proceedings. Provided is information on their nationality, birthday, measurements, their favorite colors and foods, and who among the other girls they like and dislike.
That really is the extent to which the girls differ, unless you account for the fact that they each start with a unique swimsuit. Lisa plays the same as Kasumi, who plays the same as Tina, who plays exactly like Kokoro, etc. Since it matters in a game like this, I guess it is appropriate to comment on just how attractive these women are. If you are a fan of the archetypal hot chick that populates most Japanese titles you will feel right at home here. The character models are up to snuff with the PSP’s graphical capabilities, but only just. You are of course free to make your own judgments but personally I found Lisa, Leifang, and Rio the best out of the bunch, while the rest you can take or leave.
The actual game plays out as a series of optional mini games set against the backdrop of a social simulator. To get the most out of the experience you will have to partner up with another one of the ladies. This is the only way you can play games like beach volleyball and you will have to work to keep your partner content. Constantly losing or failing to shower your partner with gifts they enjoy sours the relationship and could lead to them dumping you. You earn money for winning games which can then be used to purchase items for yourself or gift to the others. Items include things such a shoes, bracelets, flutes, and an entire smorgasbord of other random trinkets. Other than the attire you can adorn your chosen character with, none of these items carries an actual physical presence in the game a la The Sims. If you select an apple your character will eat it and make a remark, and likewise if you play with an RC car you will get a cheap sound effect and then a remark.
The most substantial of the offered minigames is beach volleyball, although one of these games being more substantial than the other is like calling one girl fat in comparison to the others. Volleyball is a standard game of double, with the first team to seven points being declared the winners. There are specific commands for setting formations, passing, and serving but it all boils down to pressing circle to set or pass it to a teammate and X to return the ball. Winning nets you more cash and utilizing special techniques will gain even more.
Pool-Hopping is a race to see how fast you can hop along floats to the other side of the pool by yourself or competing against a challenger. Tapping any button allows a short hop and holding any button will skip over a float. Matching button presses with the button on the float will garner bonus points. The other two outdoor activities - Beach Flags and Butt Battle - must be unlocked by viewing Venus Clips, which is where the voyeuristic side of things comes into play.
At any of the beach or poolside locales you can choose to relax, a command that sets your babe free to roam around and position herself suggestively for you to ogle and take a photograph. This is the one area I trusted Dead or Alive Paradise to get right, but it absolutely dropped the ball. Seeing how shallow and just plain not fun the rest of the game is, the least this game could do is let the player stare as much as they want. Not the case. Each Venus Clip lasts only a few seconds until it reverts to a lengthy loading screen. If you want to do anything at all in this game you must navigate the uninspired menus and contend with lengthy loading times.
Your character wakes up in the morning, can complete up to three different activities before they are forced back to the hotel room, where they can then go to the casino or to bed. There are three casino games to choose from: Slots, Blackjack and Poker. All three are the games at their most basic. Just as shallow and unsatisfying as the rest of the game, these suffer from random and unfair AI. Play games, buy items, take pictures and sleep. That is all you do in this game. After 14 in-game days your vacation ends and you can start over again with all of your belongings in tact. The individual days don’t last long at all and eventually just meld into one unsatisfying waste of time that constitutes the entirety of Dead or Alive Paradise.
Aside from the character models, the rest of the game is just plain ugly. The texture work is lazy and jaggies abound in all the wrong places. The music and voiceovers fall within the range of ordinary to grating. The presentation is deficient of any charm, stimulation, or anything at all that establishes a connection with the player. These women, while deadly and beautiful in their fighting outings, have no distinguishable personality within the context of this “game”.
Dead or Alive Paradise does very little right. Any gamer looking for this kind of stimulation can do much better with less effort. None of the activities are worth playing and the game fails to accommodate the player’s most primal desire to peep. Not to mention it is extremely embarrassing to play in public. If you ever find yourself on New Zack Island, it means it is time to fire your travel agent.