DoA Xtreme Beach Volleyball (2002)

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DoA Xtreme Beach Volleyball

DoA Xtreme Beach Volleyball

Dead or Alive: Xtreme Beach Volleyball is the best game ever. When this game first came out, I made fun of it constantly. It seemed to be a game designed around the lowest common denominator. Pixelated game babes hit a ball while their boobs bounce…who would enjoy a game like that?! So of course when I got an X-Box this was the first game that I tried out. It seems that I am the lowest common denomiator. Ooh, boingy!

I should talk about the bouncing first, just to get it out of the way. This game knows exactly what it is all about. It is so amazingly blatant about it that it earns a kind of grudging respect. There is a zoom feature in the game, and it defaults to zoom in on (you guessed it) the girl’s breasts. The bounce isn’t especially realistic, but neither are the girls. It all has this bizarre cartoon logic to it that works to be hilariously entertaining. The game has you set your age in the preferences. This is actually the bounce senstitivity setting, so if you are 1 year old your girl is rock hard and going nowhere, and if you are 99 she’s Jello being run through a spin cycle. Since I am old, I appreciate that the young punks get screwed by this system.

“Tina Rules!” – Tina, paragon of modesty. This quote is even more delightful because she speaks it in Japanese in the game, which sounds like “Tina’s Psycho!” spoken aloud. Either reading of the line is appropriate.

So what is the objective of this game? There is pretty much no other goal than to watch digital breasts bounce up and down. And it is tremendously effective at that aspect of the game. Technically you play volleyball games to win money, and then use money to buy items. The reward for buying an item is that you have the item. That’s about it. The most common item is swimsuits, which the girls will wear during their matches. More revealing swimsuits cost more money. And since you were perverse enough to start playing this game in the first place, you are perverse enough to keep playing in an attempt to get your players as naked as possible during their matches.

The added wrinkle is that some swimsuits are only available to some ladies, so if you want a different character to have it you have to go through an elaborate gift-giving ritual to make that happen. In a way, this is sort of a meta-game encircling the volleyball itself. Each girl has a color she likes, so you can woo her with gifts of that color. By escalating the gifts and winning matches (sure to impress your heterosexual object of flirtation) she’ll be more inclined to accept what you really want to give her, a million dollar bit of dental floss that she’ll be expected to wear in public the next day. If you’ve buttered her up enough, she’ll accept it and you can ogle away. If not, she’ll throw it in the trash (goodbye million dollars, time to start playing more!) and dump you as a partner. So in a way you’re not just playing volleyball, you’re playing a social interaction game in which volleyball is one component. You can also woo your enemies, and that has the tangible effect of making them worse volleyball players against you.

“No one dances like Tina!” – Tina, still a paragon of modesty. She’s an American character, can you tell?

The girls all have different nationalities and backgrounds, and are drawn from the Dead or Alive fighting games. They actually have different game attributes as well, so you have to play them in different ways to be successful.

For example Tina is this towering blonde amazon whose sole goal in life is being a pop-star. In the fighting games she uses a wrestling style. In volleyball, she’s crap at defense but if she takes it to the net she can hit a ball hard enough to knock the blocking girls away like bowling pins. And then she’ll cackle about how awesome she is. She can get a cow-print bikini with a revolver belt…just to make her even more American. You can flirt with her by giving her American flags, microphones, and guns.

Ayane on the other hand is a petite purple-haired Japanese ninja. She’s something of a villain usually, so she’s extra bitchy on the court. She’ll trash talk friends and enemies alike, which can make her partner start playing really crappy and quit really fast. She’s fast though, so she blocks like a maniac. Amazingly, she likes purple alot, so purple gifts keep her from insulting you and making you cry. And she likes lethal weaponry too…a theme?

“Well, I suppose nobody is looking.” – Lisa, the supposedly shy girl with a penchance for wearing shoelaces and calling them bikinis.

Now, after all that talk of skimpy outfits and bouncing assets I finally come to the actual game, or at least the volleyball portion. It’s actually a damn fun game. Technically there are only two buttons needed, offense and defense, and they have light or strong properties depending on how hard you mash ’em. Despite this, the gameplay is surprisingly complex. You have to read your girl’s body language and go with her flow. You have to read your partner’s body language and set her up for shots. You can do whatever you want, and you may be able to power through anyway, but if you actually get into the rythm of the match you score points much easier and faster. Position in the court makes a huge difference in terms of what your girl will actually do when you mash buttons, and sometimes she’ll surprise you quite a bit. That keeps the gameplay fresh. Even when you know what you are doing they will occasionally just swiff and miss the ball, and then start bitching each other out as losers.  Even without the money, victory is sweet. Especially when intense players like Ayane throw temper tantrums after losing to you.

There are various minigames as well. You can play poker or blackjack at the casino, or take a chance on slots. You can also make easy money at the poolside with a ridiculous game where your girl tries hopping between pool floats. This is also the only I’ve ever played where lounging is considered an activity. Sometimes you need to take a break, or nobody will play with you because you’re a loser. When that happens, sit back and hit the beach. You get treated to little videos of your girl biking, working out, swimming, and frolicing. All in whatever you dressed her in, and all with that hilarious zoom function ready to roll.

I should also mention the game intro. None other than Dennis Rodman voices Zack, one of the other Dead or Alive characters (strangely the only male to appear). The plot is he won Dead or Alive, and of course used the money to buy an island, invite all the Dead or Alive girls, and then somehow force them to play volleyball in bikinis for his pleasure. Some were annoyed at Rodman’s voice, but really Zack is a freak and was clearly modeled on Rodman in the first place, so I thought it fit. Plus he gets blown up by a volcano and eaten by a shark later, so it’s all good.

It is glorious. It is shameless. It makes you feel really bad for enjoying the hell out of it. And that makes it the best game ever…until Xtreme Beach 2 comes out.

About the Author

Stark Raving Reviewer Darrell Hayhurst is an acclaimed game designer, best known for the Origin-nominated WWII pulp-sci fi space combat hit "Hard Vacuum" released in 2000 and the follow-up expansion “Hard Vacuum: Science Gone Mad” in 2001 and the “Hard Vacuum: War’s End” three-parter, "Bright Sun Ascending!", "The Highest Ground!" and "Red Rockets Rising!" in 2004.