Nostalgia isn’t a thing we only feel when remembering something that was great or perfect. I used to play the Dead or Alive Xtreme games, and I still do, and when I play them now I feel nostalgic for junior high, even though these games are pretty much terrible. I didn’t realize it at the time, but they are.
Back then it seemed defensible—what could be the harm of ogling huge-breasted anime babes as they prance and frolic on beaches and volleyball courts? You choose their partners and bikinis, like sexy dress-up with mini-games. If you want the really skimpy outfits, you’re going to pay with your time, because the games are built around earning money, buying swimsuits and trading them between characters as gifts that they’re likely to reject. The more scandalous the suit, the tougher it is to get your favorite girl to wear it.
I know! It’s fucking weird. Back then I was a perverted kid. Now, I’m a nostalgic adult—and still perverted—and I get just as much enjoyment out of running Zack Island, trying to collect every outfit and playing favorites with the ladies. I wasn’t ashamed to admit that I liked these games back then, and I’m only slightly ashamed to admit it now.
There’s a peacefulness to it that only deeply familiar (and hopelessly rote) gaming experiences can impart. Anyone who’s spent an evening in Destiny’s strike playlists or sunk dozens of hours (and maybe even some cash) into Candy Crush gets it: you’re doing the same thing over and over, all the excitement is gone, and there’s basically no point to any of it. And it feels fine.
When news broke that Dead or Alive Xtreme 3—yeah, they dropped “volleyball” from the title, because who were they kidding—wouldn’t be released in the western world, I wasn’t mad. I knew I’d find a way to play it, or not. It didn’t really matter. I ultimately used Playboy’s money to import the collector’s editions, resulting in our very goofy Dead or Alive Xtreme 3 unboxing video:
‘DEAD OR ALIVE XTREME 3’ UNBOXING
And then I dove in. Back in the days of Dead or Alive Xtreme 2, into which I sunk some 200 hours (I was 17), there were time-consuming but foolproof ways to get the girl of your choice to accept whatever swimsuit you want to give her. Then there were other methods—ones that went beyond the bounds of the game itself.
In DOAX3, I discovered, those methods are alive and well. Despite the developers’ efforts to get players to spend actual, real money on skimpy digital bikinis, there’s an easy way to ensure you win at roulette every time the wheel spins, and every character accepts any gift you give them.
This, of course, I detail in the video below:
The reaction there is telling. I know I’ve crossed the boundary of good taste.
Just to hammer it home, though, we sat down on the Gamer Next Door couch and spent a little more quality time with the game:
PLAYING 'DEAD OR ALIVE XTREME 3’
I no longer think the Dead or Alive Xtreme games are good. Truthfully, I’m not sure I ever really did.
More importantly, as an adult I can now see the harm of the games’ brazen objectification and infantilization of these female characters, in spite of all the idiots yelling about “censorship” and “social justice warriors” taking away their games (the decision to not release the game outside of Asia has been chalked up to either the games’ poor sales here or oversensitivity about their content, depending who you ask).
All that makes it harder to enjoy this game for what it is: a repetitive boob-bouncing simulator with surprisingly addictive gameplay. But that doesn’t mean I’m not going to. And it’s not just the nostalgia—it still brings me joy to gawk at the digital eye candy, collect bikinis and play simplistic volleyball mini-games.
That probably says more about me than anything else, and although I have no defense, I don’t really feel like I need one anymore.
Mike Rougeau is Playboy.com’s Gaming Editor, in charge of all things video games. He regrets none of this. Follow him on Twitter @RogueCheddar.