Review by p1r4t8r

Reviewed: 05/19/03 | Updated: 05/19/03

Leaves the competition for dead

‘Dead Or Alive’ was the ill-fated arcade game that appeared some time ago. It was later ported to the dying Sega Saturn, and eventually the PlayStation. Today the series thrives, with four games in total to its name with more in development, and a movie currently on the way. With all this in mind I decided to go back to the roots of the series, to where it all began; the original and highly underrated ‘Dead Or Alive.’ Perhaps the series biggest claim to fame is the gravity defying busts of the female lead characters. While some may laugh and shrug the game off as nothing more than a childish peep show, underneath that façade is a solid, interesting and above all, entertaining fighting game that will have you coming back time and time again. But what really makes ‘Dead Or Alive’ that good?

Fighting games are always thin on story, and ‘Dead Or Alive’ is no exception. Before the series got obsessed with cloning and semi-naked women, the game had a no-frills story simple enough to understand even for those with the shortest of attention spans. The premise is simple; contestants from around the world enter a fighting tournament known as the ‘Dead Or Alive Championship.’ The last person standing walks away with fame and fortune. Will you be the one to win?
While the story is hardly original, plausible or even interesting, who cares? It is a fighting game after all!
Story: 2

In its time, ‘Dead Or Alive’ was a visual feast, with silky-smooth animation, slick frame-rate and detailed character models. These visuals really show you what the PlayStation was capable of, and I am yet to find a better looking fighting game on the system.
The character models look very impressive, easily rivalling those of the ‘Tekken’ series. The clothing is particularly impressive; loose pieces of fabric will sway in the wind and react realistically to the characters movements. Jump on the spot and the characters clothing will fly up and then float back down. The same goes for the characters hair!
The animation and frame-rate is silky smooth, and the game doesn’t suffer any of the jolted animation apparent in most other PlayStation fighters. Characters will move fluidly from one combo to the other, with no visible sign of stunted or slowed-down animation. The games speed is kept at a constant, and is even faster than the PAL version of ‘Tekken 3.’ This means that pulling of chain combo’s is easy and rewarding to do for both veteran and newbie players alike.
As mentioned earlier, the characters have very large, gravity defying bust-lines. It’s actually rather funny to sit back and laugh at how over-exaggerated the female characters boobs really are. It’s almost as if they’re filled with helium or something! A simple kick or punch will react in the kind of jiggling and bouncing that you will only find this side of ‘Baywatch.’ While it hardly detracts from the gameplay, it is worth mentioning.
The actual environments are somewhat on the sparse side. The fighting arenas are little more than a giant flat surface, marked out with invisible barriers. A 2D picture is then used as a background that wraps around the level. While not cutting edge, you hardly even notice it when you start to get involved in the game, and if slightly poor quality backgrounds is the price we pay for the games incredible speed, so be it.
There are a huge number of different costumes for each character (more on that later) and each one is highly detailed and looks very cool, so you can be sure there is plenty of variety on offer in that regard.
Graphics: 9

The sound is another story altogether. Don’t you just hate it when you play a game and all the voice acting is in Japanese or some other language that you don’t understand, so you have absolutely no idea what the hell is being said onscreen? Well, ‘Dead Or Alive’ is one of those games. Upon starting or winning a round your character makes what I presume to be taunts at their opponents in Japanese. Would it really have hurt the developers to have the few lines of dialogue re-voiced for the English versions of the game? Apparently so.
The music is typical techno trash and soft metal beats, with very few, if any, memorable tracks. Bayman’s track is pretty good, being a somewhat catchy soft-metal beat.
The sound effects are okay, the kicks and punches sound meaty enough although some of the ‘bone-crunching’ effects are a little less than convincing.
One cool feature is that extra announcer voices for some of the characters can be unlocked. What this means is that the voice that shouts out ‘Round One’ or ‘Winner’ can be replaced by the some of the characters voices, although Kasumi sounds insect like…’Vinner!’ ‘Vwound Vwon!’ etc…
Sound: 5

A good fighting game needs plenty of game modes, varied characters, smooth gameplay, unlockable extras and above all, a decent challenge. Fear not fighting fans, ‘Dead Or Alive’ delivers in all regards, and then some.
The fighting system is your standard kick, punch, throw etc, with a few exceptions. A little feature known as the ‘Reversal System’ changes the whole fighting experience of ‘Dead Or Alive,’ and without it, the game would just be another mediocre fighter. So what is the reversal system? It allows you to reverse an opponents attacks by stopping them mid-combo, and launching an attack of your own. Say you are facing off against your typical button masher, provided you get the timing right, you can use their moves against them, grabbing their arm or leg as they try to hit you, and performing a counter-attack. This adds a whole new slant to the fighting system, allowing much more strategy to be used in a fight. It also makes the experience just that little bit more intense against friends.
There are a good number of characters on offer too, each with different moves, strengths and weaknesses. Kasumi for example is fast and agile, but her attacks weak. On the opposite end of the spectrum is Bass, who is slow but extremely powerful. Choosing a character that suits your fighting style is paramount to your success, and luckily with a total of eleven characters, there is someone to suit everyone’s playing style.
What else does ‘Dead Or Alive’ offer in the way of features? Well for starters there are numerous play modes to be discovered, such as the regular tournament, survival, team battle, training and more. Tournament is your standard mode in which you fight your way to the last opponent, but it is the other modes where the game truly shines. Team battle is one of the most interesting, challenging you to choose a team of five characters to fight against five other opponents. When one character is eliminated, the next in line is chosen, until one of the two teams has no more players left. Almost like a game of last man standing.
Training is a great little mode, that allows you to hone your skills without having to enter the other modes, and even has a handy list of combo moves for your character to master.
To further add to the strategy involved in a round of ‘Dead Or Alive’ is the ‘Danger Zone.’ The danger zone is an area outside the main fighting arena that deals massive damage when a character is knocked onto it. Getting the upper hand in a fight often depends on your ability to stay on your feet, so to speak.
As for unlockable extras, ‘Dead Or Alive’ does not disappoint. There is a huge wealth of extras to be discovered, from new characters, costumes right through to system voices and wallpapers (which incidentally can then be used for your computer. Very cool!).
The wealth of different costumes is truly amazing, with up to fourteen for some of the female characters! While some are just simple colour variations, there are quite a few entirely new ones to be unlocked. Some of the costumes are great, such as the bunny costume for Kasumi that is bright pink, or the purple scuba diving outfit for Bayman.
There are two extra characters to unlock; the final boss ‘Raidou’ and a secret character ‘Ayane.’ Unlocking them is quite a task, as you have to unlock every characters costume before they become available. Ouch… This won’t be the sort of game that you can play through in a weekend.
The two-player mode is a great way of showing off your skills against your friends, and when you have two evenly matched people fighting, the action onscreen becomes very frantic. Great fun!
Gameplay: 10
Life Span: 9

Pros
+ Great graphics
+ Smooth animation/frame-rate
+ A wealth of unlockable extras
+ Reversal System
+ Game modes
+ Easy to get into

Cons
- Japanese voice acting
- Music
- Simiplistic backgrounds

As you can see, ‘Dead Or Alive’ is a hard game to pick faults with, and for a good reason. It is easily one of the best fighting games to have appeared on the PlayStation, or any other console of its time. The fighting engine is solid and entertaining, while still posing a decent challenge for veteran players.
If you’re a fighting game fanatic or even just a part time player, and have yet to play a ‘Dead Or Alive’ game, then this is the place to start; you won’t be disappointed.
Overall: 10

Rating:   5.0 - Flawless

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