Tecmo’s Dead or Alive was released back in 1996 for both the Sega Saturn and the Sony PlayStation. Being based on Sega’s own Model 2 engine (which was previously used for Daytona USA, Fighting Vipers, and Virtua Fighter 2), it was no surprise that this game looked like its arcade predecessor on the Saturn.
However, on the PlayStation, the characters might have looked more rounded, but the backgrounds were extremely flat (partly due to the Saturn using its special VDP2 processor to generate the backdrops). Unfortunately, to see DOA on the Saturn you would have had to own an import converter, as the weaker PlayStation version was the only one released Stateside.
Pictures of the inevitable sequel started appearing in Dreamcast publications last year. It could easily be said that it would have been graphically impressive when it was released, possibly even beating the amazing Soul Calibur upon its release.
Well it turns out that the hype is true. Dead or Alive 2 does look better than Soul Calibur, but it also plays as well too. Controls are similar to that of Virtua Fighter. However, the standard Guard button is replaced with a Hold button. Time your hold perfectly, and you can easily counter any attack with a more powerful one. Movement in all directions is also now possible with a single keystroke.
Seven options are available for play: Story, Time Attack, Survival mode, Tag Team (very impressive mode similar to that in Marvel Vs. Capcom) Sparring (Practice Mode), Team Battle, and Versus.
However, to see all the gorgeous arenas, they can only be accessed in Vs., Time Attack, and Story modes. This seems to be done to allow seamless (read: no load time at all) character entrances.
Getting back to the arenas, we’re not talking about the simple flat plane with the possibility of Ring Outs anymore. These arenas continue Dead or Alive’s tradition of Danger Zones. Before the Danger Zone was an explosive floor on the perimeter that sent your opponent flying. Now the explosions take place on the walls, while other weaker walls can be destroyed (a la Fighting Vipers) sending your foe down 30 feet to another level.
And there is no surprise about how gorgeous these venues look, complete with smooth flowing water, high quality reflections, and stained glass windows shining colored light into the rooms.
All the characters are rendered in their highest quality, and for those of you who remember the "puppy factor" of the original, believe me, it’s back. However, it can only be accessed through a special option.
Sound and music is also very impressive, some of the best I’ve heard on the Dreamcast. But, like Soul Calibur, all the characters (even the American ones) all speak Japanese. Granted this keeps the import value of the game, but I was wishing we’d have some English like in VF3.
Unfortunately, this game has one pretty big flaw…no secrets. Where Soul Calibur featured a myriad of Easter Eggs to find, there are none known here, except for some special cut scenes in the most obscure areas.
Dead or Alive nonetheless is a very impressive product for the Dreamcast, and only its lack of special surprises hold this game back from a perfect rating. But that doesn’t mean it can’t be worthy of 4 1/2 GiN Gems for its strong effort!