Dead or Alive Xtreme 3 Review: Grinding Endlessly in the Sun

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While a western release of the third release of Koei Tecmo’s beach volleyball Dead or Alive Xtreme 3 was one that stood on shaky ground to begin with, it came as a shock to hear that the game wouldn’t be coming to the west due to fears of criticism of its sexual content. Having now gotten my hands on it after many weeks of waiting, it got me wondering what exactly this game had to offer and whether or not refusing to bring it over here was really the right call?

Let’s start off by talking about the story in one sentence: You are given the task to run Zach’s island and to make sure all of the girls are enjoying themselves. Simple as that, and honestly that’s all it needs since everyone who’s playing this game doesn’t really care why they’re doing what they’re doing. All of you are in it for the girls, and the game knows it.

The only real complaint I have with this is that the girls lack any defining characteristics to make them really stand out and mostly stick to their one recognizable trait. So unless you’re really familiar with the Dead or Alive series, you’ll mainly be gravitating towards the design you find most appealing.

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The game’s biggest strength is the design and models of the girls, and I have to say they really knocked it out of the park with this one. The girls look absolutely fantastic, with the developers having a really good eye for detail on their swimsuits, tan lines, sweat, wetness, and the game’s biggest selling point: the body physics.

They are much less clown-y and all over the place than in Dead or Alive Xtreme 2, so they become less distracting in a humorous way and more distracting in a titillating way.  The game also sports a nice variety of swimsuits from more conservative and classic designs to some that are downright outlandish and skimpy. You’ll most definitely find your favorite from the bunch.

The problem with the swimsuits, however, is that they’re all locked to their respective character, meaning you simply can’t buy any swimsuit for any character from the get go. There is a way to get your favourite swimsuit on your favourite character, but we’ll touch on that in a moment. The PlayStation 4 version also touts an exclusive feature in the form of tan lines and wardrobe malfunctions. The latter is mostly reserved to certain activities which involve making your opponent fall into the pool. While a nice little touch, it doesn’t work for every kind of swimsuit, so you might end up not seeing it a whole lot depending on what your girl wears.

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A look at the PS Vita visuals

With all these things going for it, it unfortunately falls flat on its ass once we get to some of the larger core mechanics. Before we get into the nitty gritty, let’s start with the positives. For a game that’s centered on beach volleyball, it does get this aspect right for the most part. The AI can get a little wonky at times, when it happened my teammate would simply lob the ball on the other side rather then set it up, but outside of that she’ll do her job as intended.

Beach volleyball isn’t the only thing you’ll be doing, as there are other activities you can around the island. Sadly they’re mostly pretty boring and relatively easy. You can either play tug of war, wall climbing, flag race, pool hopping, or butt battles. These games are relegated to either one button or control stick or in the case of pool hopping, simply pressing the correct buttons. They also give you very little money compared to beach volleyball, so if you need to grind money to buy more swimsuits, you’re best off to just sticking to volleyball.

It’s disappointing that the wave surfing seen in Dead or Alive Xtreme 2 wasn’t included, and while it was far from great in that game, they could have brought it back and tweaked it to make it much more enjoyable. Gambling also makes a return, minus the slot machines.  You have roulette, poker or black jack. These are by far the most boring aspect of the game and you’ll want to largely skip out on. The only real value I can find is that black jack and poker have cards that feature the girls in various poses and swimsuits, with both games using different sets.

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With the money you’ll earn through the various activities, you’ll mostly be spending it on various swimsuits. You can either buy some for yourself or gift a swimsuit to someone who wouldn’t be able to access it. On the one hand it is nice that you have the ability to mix and match different girls with different swimsuits, essentially giving a ton of customization options. On the other hand, they make it so that it’s incredibly annoying to do so.

One of the newer features they added to the game are challenges. These essentially add as both a guiding tool and incentive so that you have a better idea of what to do with your day. By completing both Owner Mode (which I’ll discuss soon enough) and Girl Mode challenges, you’ll eventually get character specific challenges.

By successfully completing all 7 of them you’re supposed to get a reward in the form of a strip tease by the girl you chose, by the end of the vacation. I say supposed since I actually never completed them since they come seemingly at random, and with a 14 day time period per vacation session, they challenges will shuffle again until you get to the one you didn’t complete.

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Now we get to what I can safely say are the worst elements of the game: Owner Mode, coupled with the sheer amount of grinding. Owner mode is essentially a way to satisfy all the girls during a vacation, as well as give various girls exclusive swimsuits. What makes this mode so terrible is how you earn money. Earning money in girl mode is quite easy; you simply complete activities, with beach volleyball being the most profitable one by a huge margin. In Owner Mode it’s completely different, as the currency you earn in Girl Mode is not shared.

In theory this doesn’t sound too bad, as it should allow you to buy twice as many swimsuits, but earning money in Owner Mode is laughably tiring. The only way to earn money in said mode is to either complete Owner Mode specific challenges or to watch girls do various activities. The amount of money you earn you in both of these is depressing, and the sheer amount of grinding you’ll need to do before you can buy that 1 million Zach Dollar swimsuit is mind boggling.

What makes it even worse is that you’re capped to how much money you can earn at any given time at 1.5 million, so even if you want to grind as much as you want and hoard a huge amount of cash, the game will not let you. I believe the game is aware of this fact, as there is a cash shop in the game that allows you to buy tickets with real world money in order to bypass the grinding.

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Despite all of its flaws, there is some enjoyment to be had. The girls are wonderful to look at and the various swimsuits you can put them in are just an added bonus. On top of this, the beach volleyball is actually fun to play.

Sadly, it’s hurt by a bunch of boring and mostly pointless side activities and an ungodly amount of grinding, which does bring the whole experience down in my opinion. However, it did get me thinking on why this game in particularly didn’t get a western release.

Though Dead or Alive Xtreme 3 is flawed it is a functional game with no real outstanding bugs, and the mature content is quite downplayed all things considering.

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As it stands, unless you’re a die-hard fan of the Dead or Alive Xtreme series, I suggest skipping this entirely unless it happens to be on sale. Until then, play something like Senran Kagura: Estival Versus instead.

Dead or Alive Xtreme 3 was reviewed on PlayStation 4 using a retail copy purchased by Niche Gamer. You can find additional information about Niche Gamer’s review/ethics policy here.

The Verdict: 4

The Good:

  • Loads of swimsuits
  • Girls look absolutely fantastic
  • Beach volleyball is fun

The Bad:

  • Every other activity is either boring or too easy
  • Owner Mode is terrible and only serves to make the player spend real money
  • The amount of grinding to get in game currency is ludicrous and is capped
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Alexis Nascimento-Lajoie


Writer at Niche Gamer. Passionate for video game journalism, and more than glad to be a part of it. I also write DOTA 2 stuff.