I remember when Dead or Alive: Xtreme Beach Volleyball landed on the Xbox, back in ’03. I was still in high school, but even amongst my more testosterone bloated friends, there wasn’t much interest. Ogling digital females was just considered kind of sad in the circles I ran with, it was equated to a guy admitting that he’s unable to see a real woman. That obviously was worlds away from what was experienced by my husband, who began singing along to the intro animation’s theme song immediately after the game had started. Pervert.
These days, I’ve got a more relaxed approach to the subject matter. A couple of holidays past, I scooped up a bunch of ecchi games on Steam so I could bask in their tacky portrayals of the feminine form, and the Steam store algorithm immediately began bombarding me with suggestions of additional semi-erotic games. So, now Steam thinks I’m a pervert.
So it’s with that shameless mindset that I finally approach the divisive Dead or Alive: Xtreme Beach Volleyball.
Make no mistake, you’re here for absolutely one thing. Or two things. You’re here for the skin, is what I’m saying. The melons, the curves, the titillation of watching a bikini-clad beauty writhing like her spine has been permanently set to vibrate. Volleyball is there, sure, but I think that was just picked as an easy way to show off the jiggle physics.
You pick one of eight girls, seven of which are from the Dead or Alive fighting series, and set off for Zack Island, a private island owned by the eponymous Zack. The whole affair has the whiff of the mindset that being surrounded by women is a mark of prestige, which isn’t one I necessarily recognize, but I’m not here to preach. We can all just gather around and enjoy the spectacle of smooth-skin beauties thrusting their butts towards the camera.
There is a game underneath all that jiggle, though. You’re spending two weeks on the island, and the goal is… not really defined, but there’s only so much you can do. Each day is divided into sections, in which you can visit shops, hang out at the pool, or play volleyball. It’s doubles beach volleyball, so that requires you to partner up with another one of the girls, and they’ll only do that if they like you. To get them to like you, you need to give them gifts based on their likes and hobbies, because generosity is obviously the only form of interaction that women respond to. After sufficiently buttering them up, you then have to keep their affection by actually winning at volleyball.
You gain money by completing a float hopping game at the pool, gambling, or competing in volleyball. Then you can use that money to buy gifts or new bikinis for yourself or other girls. That’s sort of the closest the gameplay comes to focus. Everything you do is to make money to spend on material goods. You dress up your girl, then watch as the cameraman attempts to do a breast exam with the lens.
But what about volleyball?
It’s there. I mean, it’s fun, but the only purpose it serves is to earn more money. You’d think there’d be some sort of ranking system or tournament that you’re trying to win, but no. There’s no progression whatsoever, no end goal that you’re working towards. The closest thing to an objective we found was when we wanted to absolutely destroy a girl who dumped us as a partner or refused a gift we sent them. There’s some satisfaction to knocking her into the sand with a well timed spike, but if she remembered the poor sportsmanship, she showed no signs. Maybe that’s from the resulting brain trauma.
The volleyball itself is enjoyable, though. It only really uses two buttons, which works fine. It brings all the spiking and bouncing that you’d expect from the sport. Spiking the ball directly into a girl’s cleavage is satisfying and never loses it’s appeal. You’re rewarded for getting perfect timing in your shots.
It’s a little weird going back to playing a sports game with such loose physics (aside from what’s applied to the ladies’ chests). Momentum will suddenly change drastically without warning, the players have the ability to abruptly contort to catch a wayward shot, and there was the odd time when the ball simply clipped through a players torso, which is quite impressive considering the massive fun bags obstructing it. This was 2003 when most sports games were still all animations and algorithms rather than the complex and sometimes glitchy physics engines of today, so it isn’t necessarily an issue. Just don’t be surprised when it quirks out.
That’s not why you’re here, though, is it? Yeah, you’re here for those moments when it looks like the camera is about to tunnel up someone’s butt. But even if that’s true, and you’re just looking for stimulation, then there are better places to get it. This was a mid-generation Xbox game. It still uses an outdated animation system that gives the girls a diaper-style pelvis that doesn’t bend or stretch with the rest of them, resulting in a weird bulge that looks like they’re tucking their junk away. The game looks great for its vintage, and there are lots of nice smaller details that makes for a decent aesthetic, but it’s not the smaller details that are trying to draw your attention.
When you factor in that the girls are the only point to the game and add in the dated visuals, you’re left with a pretty weak product. This isn’t an exaggeration, there is no other point to the game. There’s no end goal. When two weeks pass, the vacation is over and the credits role. It doesn’t matter how much volleyball you played or if you did well. You did it! You won! Congratulations, it’s been three hours and now you’re left with nothing but shame and blue balls.
It’s not that bad if you know what you’re getting into, the same way that watching a late night softcore cable porn can be fun when you and some friends are cracking wise over the dialogue. Finding out that the volleyball is meaningless was the most deflating part of the game. So if you really want to look at dated character models and don’t mind that there’s no grand accomplishment to any of it, have at it. It can be a fun distraction if you’re in the right mindset.
This review was conducted on an original Xbox with a disc based copy of the game.