Review by Tenshi No Shi

Reviewed: 11/01/99 | Updated: 07/05/02

Is that Lara Croft blushing?

When I first heard about Dead or Alive, I almost laughed my bum off. I was in college when it was released in Japan for the Saturn, and one of my friends ordered it immediately. I didn't get to see it when it arrived, but he described it in great detail. At first I thought he was joking around, but nothing could prepare me for what was in store when I finally had my chance to play it.

Dead or Alive's story centers around a special tournament (uh...isn't this the premise for every fighting game?) in which martial artists and street fighters of various types come to compete for the chance to face the ultimate champion in combat. Each fighter has his or her own reason to be in this tournament, but this isn't portrayed well in the game. The booklet provides most of the background information you need on each combatant, though there are a few grammatical errors (due to mistranslation) that you have to ignore.

I am actually more than impressed with Dead or Alive's graphics on the Playstation. The programmers made use of the extra effects available to the console, adding much more detail to the fighters and better lighting sources than the Saturn version (or even the Arcade version) had. Animation is great, though it is somewhat exaggerated in part (and I'm not talking about special moves). If you haven't heard by now, the women in this game have rather large...ahem...attributes that bounce to and for during a fight, free of the restrictive constraints of a bra. And let me tell you, these women put even Lara Croft to shame.

The sound in DoA is crystal clear, yet uninspired. I know its hard to fault any fighting game for have the 'same ol' sound', but I really wish someone would try something new (like Namco's announcer in Soul Edge). The music is, for the most part, pretty good. I wouldn't buy the soundtrack, but its original enough and carries a beat, so it does its job for this game. Overall, it's the typical sound treatment we get for every halfway decent fighter.

Controls borrow a bit from Sega's Virtua Fighter series (which makes since it uses the same board), but I personally think Dead or Alive's controls are better. Not really so much on absolute precision and timing, DoA's control scheme is a little more forgiving than most fighting games. The grappling system is excellent, offering for many an intense battle of attack-counter-counter-counter...you get the idea. In fact, I turned the timer off once and a round lasted damn near twenty minutes! My only complaint about the controls is how much they can favor a button-mashing novice. You reach a point during the course of playing this game where you have mastered a character's long list of moves and you transcend the need to merely tap the buttons. Once you make it to that level, the game seems to punish you by tripping you up with simple punches and kicks. On the flip side, each character has a simple, yet powerful, move that will knock a novice flat on his/her bum, but is avoidable by more skilled players. I guess in the end it all balances out.

Dead or Alive's strongest merit is that of its design. While it may have a few knock-offs from other fighters (Raidou could be Akuma's stunt double), it does off an impressive package none-the-less. Once of my favorite things about this game is how stepping out of the boundaries of the ring is no longer sudden death. Instead, it becomes part of the strategy as one drop to the ground can rocket you high into the air, only to be pummeled by a combo. This is just one example of how well designed this game really is.

Sporting bonuses above and beyond most games, Dead or Alive offers many unique extras that won't be found in other fighting games. First and foremost, there are two extra characters not found in any other version of DoA: Ayane and Bass. Both of these characters are actually from the sequel to Dead or Alive that the programmers decided to throw in because the models and coding were done for them. Another extra is the plethora of costumes available for all of the fighters. For each of the regular male characters, five costumes are available. For each regular female character, fifteen costumes are available! Some costumes are merely color or armor variation, while others sport a whole new look. Some of the more outrageous designs are, of course, for the females. Other bonus options become available as you meet certain requirements.

I can think of only two groups of people to recommend this game to; People who want an intense fighter with an incredible grapple system or Men (or women if this is your thing) who play the Tomb Raider series just to see Lara's jubbelies. All in all, you can't lose either way.

Rating:   4.0 - Great

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