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Sore Thumbs

By Matthew Scott Hunter

10/3/2012

DEAD OR ALIVE 5 (M)
 ****
 ‘Tecmo’
 Xbox 360

 

The “Dead or Alive” series has always been famous for its adolescent infatuation with the full-figured, fairer sex, but the fifth entry in the fighting series has more going for it than its looks. Though not as refined as the latest installments in the “Street Fighter” and “Mortal Kombat” franchises, the mechanics of “DOA” are built on a solid rock-paper-scissors foundation. Strikes beat throws, throws beat holds and holds beat strikes, so, assuming you aren’t distracted by the gratuitous, new, costume-specific breast physics, you can identify your opponent’s attack moments before it hits and apply the appropriate counter, dealing massive damage. It’s a system that rewards the attentive player and discourages random button mashing. This fundamental simplicity is an open invitation to newcomers, but there are still enough combos and power blows to satisfy “DOA” veterans.

The presentation here is better than ever. Not only do character models look realistic, they acquire sweat and dirt as fights progress and have distinctive animations that clearly distinguish one character and her unique fighting style from another. Backgrounds are similarly detailed and littered with destructible (and oftentimes explode-able) props. As with previous entries, “DOA 5” features multi-tiered levels, and it’s always extra satisfying to hurl an opponent to a completely different floor and continue the fight there. And new cinematic quicktime events called “Cliffhangers” allow players a last-second opportunity to avoid being thrown to another level, which can be equally pulse pounding. The voyeuristic nature of “DOA” has always made it difficult to take it seriously as a legitimate fighting franchise, but if the games continue to be as good as this, fans may one day forgive the shamelessly lurid “Dead or Alive Xtreme Beach Volleyball.”

 

‘LITTLEBIGPLANET PS VITA’ (E)
****
Sony Computer Entertainment
PlayStation Vita

Sackboy comes to Vita, and he brings an enormous (and still growing) amount of content to the attention-starved handheld. Though still a tad floaty, the platforming mechanics of “LittleBigPlanet” remain otherwise excellent, and the new levels make good use of the Vita’s touchscreen, occasionally calling on you to rearrange the environment with an intuitive swipe of the thumb. But more importantly, the series has made the transition to Sony’s handheld with its game-building tools completely intact. You can design whole new levels, and especially ambitious designers can craft and share whole new games, helping Vita players through the software drought for the price of a single game.

HIV
 
‘KIRBY’S DREAM COLLECTION: SPECIAL EDITION’ (E10+)
***1/2
Nintendo
Wii

 

The latest gaming icon to celebrate his 20th anniversary this year is everyone’s favorite pink puffball, Kirby. This commemorative collection includes a CD full of classic Kirby music, three episodes of the little known cartoon “Kirby: Right Back at Ya!” and an interactive timeline, putting Kirby’s earliest adventures into the greater context of the Clinton years. But most importantly, this disc includes the first six games in the core “Kirby” series — all presented in their eight- to 64-bit glory, without graphical updates. While any fan of good platforming can enjoy Kirby’s SNES and N64 outings, only longtime fans are likely to appreciate the GameBoy entries presented in their original black and white. CV

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