Welcome, one and all, to this beautiful tropical retreat – a place where weary people come to unwind with a host of activities including ball sports, endurance races, knocking opponents off platforms or simply relaxing on the beach. Oh yes, you can do all this and more on wonderful Wuhu Island...
Hang on, that’s not right. No, this tropical paradise and its inhabitants are decidedly more curvaceous than the vacationing Miis from Wii Sports Resort. Welcome to New Zack Island, the setting for an endless cycle of 14-day holidays that you’ll be trapped in for the duration of Dead or Alive Xtreme 3: Scarlet. An update of the original 2016 game that released in slightly different forms on PS4 and PS Vita, it isn’t getting a western release despite interest from a devoted fanbase, although the region-free nature of Switch (and the inclusion of an English language option) makes importing an easy, if expensive, option.
That’s right – menus are all available in English, with all dialogue subtitled, except mid-activity yelps and exclamations. You’ll be joining a very multicultural line up of eleven ladies from the infamously saucy fighting series Dead Or Alive. All your potential waifus are aged between 18 and 23 (except millennia-old tengu princess Nyotengu), between 4´10” to 5´8” in height with hobbies as diverse as knitting, fortune telling and taking baths. Other vital statistics are present and correct, including their favourite food and colours – vital info if you want to impress them with gifts during their stay.
Culled from the DOA property, they’re not the most diverse bunch in terms of size, shape and ethnicity; Europe and Asia are apparently the only earthly continents. A bespoke cutscene introduces your chosen girl as she arrives for a fortnight of frolicking. Zack, the island’s owner and also of DOA fame, has urgent business elsewhere and therefore appoints you as interim caretaker to this bevy of beat-em-up beauties. It’s a hard job, but someone has got to do it.
The game is split between two modes: Girl Mode, where you control your holiday-maker directly as she participates in the available activities, and Owner Mode, where you (ahem) ‘observe’ the girls and try to win them over with gifts, ensuring they have a memorable, invigorating time.
Split into several areas that you access from a menu, the island offers a primary set of six activities, including several in the swimming pool: a good old-fashioned ‘Tug-of-War’ atop floating platforms, jumping across floating blocks in ‘Pool Hopping’, and the classic ‘Butt Battle’, where two girls stand back-to-back on a small platform and try to bounce their opponent off using only their tanned derrières.
Leaving the resort complex, you can race an opponent to grab a little flag in ‘Beach Flags’, go rock climbing at Tranquil Beach or play volleyball. Before playing the game, we assumed it would involve an awful lot more volleyball, but during our first vacation the option sometimes wasn’t available, much to our frustration.
Once we’d accepted that the scope of Dead or Alive Xtreme 3: Scarlet is much broader (if shallower), we started having a little more fun. The games are all quite simple. Pool Hopping and Rock Climbing are essentially Quick Time Events, while Tug-of-War and Butt Battle get the analogue stick involved. Beach Flags has you hammering on the ‘B’ button as if you were playing Track & Field.
Volleyball is by far the meatiest of the activities, although it’s still pretty barebones. The last beach volleyball game we recall playing is Sega's Beach Spikers on GameCube, but Dead or Alive Xtreme 3: Scarlet is nothing like as in-depth. That said, there was a certain satisfaction in the flow of the matches. We’d have preferred some view options – Team Ninja’s primary goal is to give you a good look at the competitors rather than the court – but we’d be lying if we said we didn’t have fun timing our spikes.
The girls’ flowing hair tends to clip through their bodies and the little skirts and sarongs they sometimes wear in lieu of minuscule bikini bottoms exhibit very primitive collision detection, but the animation is generally strong. The crisp, clean visuals look great on Switch, although you might expect more environmental flourishes. Sand, for example, doesn’t deform under foot, and the water in the pool looks distinctly last-gen. In places the island feels like it’s been ripped from a Sega arcade game from the early 2000s – not necessarily a bad thing, but we expected more.
Then again, admiring the backgrounds is hardly the point. More than 600 ‘swimsuits’ (few of them genuinely fall under that definition, mind) are available to purchase for the ladies, with limited time offers and time-dependent sets available in the owner shop. If you can access the eShop overseas (the Hong Kong one in our case), you can buy premium tickets as an alternative form of currency. Standard costumes can be bought by the girls themselves or by the owner (you switch between modes by pressing the ‘-‘ button at any time) and then presented as a gift. It may be refused if a) it’s not immaculately wrapped in paper that the girl finds pleasing, or b) she simply isn’t interested in the item. You can pay for “Premium Wrapping”, in which case she’ll accept any old thing, for some reason.
Shopping aside, every activity you do – from sporty pursuits to relaxing poolside – takes up a chunk of the day. After three sessions you’re returned to your bedroom and have the option to send out gifts (developing relationships with other girls – you can partner up with one for most of the activities) and arrange your wardrobe and assorted wares before heading to the casino. Blackjack, Roulette or Poker are excellent ways to supplement the Zack Dollars you earn from activities, provided you don’t lose it all. These DOA girls are a high-maintenance bunch, and those tiny costumes are pricey.
Oddly for a game that fetishises its protagonists as this one does, the girls are presented in the casino games only by face icons while the bland 3D casino stands empty in the background. Call us crazy, but surely this would have been the perfect opportunity to slip the ladies into some chic little dresses, although perhaps that would entail far too much fabric for Team Ninja’s liking. The playing cards which float in the air are emblazoned with pictures, but it’s all a bit static after the vigours of the daytime activities. Still, we’ve played worse digital renditions of card games and we spent quite a while at the tables.
Participating (and winning) activities elevates the girls’ satisfaction and excitement levels, although yours will probably start to wane after a few hours. ‘Missions’ guide you through the game and provide some structure to an extent; the owner or your girl will instruct you to play a certain game or buy a specific drink for dollar and XP bonuses. Your ever-increasing Owner Level XP carries over with every fortnight vacation you complete. When the holiday is over you’re graded depending on the satisfaction levels of all the girls on the island. New costumes and items unlock as you repeat the cycle, but even with all the bouncing encouragement in the world, the limited number of things to do makes your vacation feel a little too much like busywork after a while.
You can take photos (saved to your Switch as captures) as the girls scramble up a rock face or do any of the other activities, but snapping shots soon gets dull. Over days the ladies steadily tan, something you’ll notice when you change them into a different costume. A fun detail, but not something to get too excited about.
Speaking of excitement, you’ll notice that many of the costumes have the word ‘Malfunction’ next to them on the menu, denoting their ability to 'fail' in some small way. Calm down, though; far from indicating the potential for a Janet Jackson-style Superbowl slip, it simply means a strap may fall a little or a knot might loosen. Fear not! – you’ll never see anything you shouldn’t, however improbably the garments remain attached. Eventually you’ll unlock a fan that allows you to cause these malfunctions at will with a gust of air, but there’s an awful lot of grinding to get there (and not the kind you might have been hoping for).
Finally, we should mention the softening and hardening ointments you can purchase and apply to the girls. Their excitement levels must be elevated for the oils, liquids and gels to have their maximum effect, but ‘shape’ and ´jiggliness’ can be affected by these peculiar liquids that come in appropriately-shaped bottles. These were excluded from the PS4 version, causing quite a stir, but they’re present and correct on Switch. Also included is ‘Soft 4D’ which apparently uses the HD rumble in novel ways, although try as we might, we couldn’t get this to work in any of the normal modes. A little detective work revealed that this must be unlocked and purchased but - we’ll be brutally honest here - after over 12 hours of the same repetitive lady-oggling gameplay, we really couldn’t muster the enthusiasm for any more butt-battles just to have the HD rumble motors go crazy while the ladies pout at us.
As we’ve said, we came to this expecting a volleyball game in the vein of the original DOA spin off, with plenty of jiggle and some peripheral outfit purchases, but volleyball is peripheral here, with a focus on items and attending the girls that arguably feels better suited to a mobile experience. That’s fine, there’s plenty of room for all sorts of experiences on Switch and once you get into the rhythm of it, it’s not unenjoyable, but the internet is full of salacious material – the sort to make this look laughably tame. If you’re coming to this for titillation, there are much cheaper, less grind-y ways to get it.
There’s fun to be had on New Zack Island, although we wish it drilled down on two or three things rather than the assortment of slighter activities it offers. Ultimately, Dead or Alive Xtreme 3: Scarlet is a minigame compilation that you play repeatedly to earn money to buy costumes for busty supermodels. Opportunities to photograph them in ever more leery ways unlock as you go, and that’ll have to be enough to satisfy you for the long term because the games themselves pall after a few hours. Like most beach holidays, they’re fantastic in theory, but once you’re there and twiddling your thumbs for things to do, it can get a bit dull.
Should you bother importing it? For us, there’s simply not enough meat on the bone to be worth it, but each to their own. There’s enjoyment to be had – and not just from the toned digital bodies on show – but on balance we’d rather spend a fortnight back on Wuhu.
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