Dead or Alive as a series is something I have avoided somewhat as this particular series had become that skeevy nonsense naked volleyball extreme shite by the time I knew of it. Suffice to say I chalked it off as a “not for me” game and safely filed it away in the not likely to ever play draw of gaming history. But you know what? I like to challenge my expectations and I love it even more when I am proved right and I also hooked up the Dreamcast so thought I’d power through some of my backlog.
Dead or Alive 2 is a tournament fighter, you fight one on one over some fairly well rendered stages doing the usual fighter thing. The reputation of the series, well to me at least, is that it is just partially-clad voluptuous women having their tits beaten up by gravity as there isn’t a sports bra between them, with each of the featured ladies having a trip to the chiropractor. Anyway, less about boobies…
The combat revolves around a simple control scheme similar to that found in Virtua Fighter. You get jump, punch boobies and kick boobies, with a grab move by pressing punch and kick together. There is however depth in this simplicity as timing becomes crucial with less emphasis on excessive button inputs to unleash hell and more focus on timing and precision with this moveset. Dodging and moving up and down the 3d plane will allow you to perform an evade maneuver which will set you up for a devastating attack yourself. While if you time a punch as your opponent attempts a punch you’ll land a counter punch on your opponent doing significant damage. This works for all three attack types so the gameplay is a little rock/paper/scissors however, again, the simplicity allows for noob player to be able to have fun learning the game while the fighting system will to cater towards the skilled and competitive fighting fans out there.
On top of the fighting the other innovation (for the time) was some levels have incorporated transitions, if you line up your attacks well and perform stronger attacks you’ll knock your opponent through a wall or a window and they’ll take heavy damage from a fall and you’ll continue the brawl in another part of the stage. It is a nice feature that is only used on a couple of levels. It would have been nice to have done this a few more times, but I guess “leave ’em wanting more”.
There standard arcade mode is more story driven than other Tournament Fighters of the era as you’ll get cutscenes between a bout where the story develops. It isn’t a straight up ladder in the traditional sense, each character is taken through their own story so some fights on each character are guaranteed for story purposes others will be random encounters. The problem is it can be a little disjointed. When these fights aren’t strung together very well both in setting and tone. You’ll suddenly go from a Cathedral for a cutscene, then a nuclear silo for a random fight, a forest for a cutscene, then the arctic. I know this is Street Fighter II syndrome as you jet across the world, but these jumps in stages clash with the cutscenes and the story that is attempting to be weaved. An addition to this, I am pretty sure Tina would freeze to death on the ice stage.
Having spent a lot of time playing Dead or Alive 2 I actually see why the series jumps down the skeevy perve route. It is obviously a self fulfilling prophecy as the male characters are almost entirely dull, and the time seems spent on developing the female characters. The males are brothers or fathers of the female characters, and as such are there more for a spot of dialogue. It is the women you are drinking milk and kicking ass (and they are out of milk). But for this second outing in the land of Dead or Alive we have 14 characters with 10 of those returning from the previous game:
Ayane: Is a ninja, and is looking for Kasume, her half-sister depending on the storyline Ayane is framed for murdering Helena’s motther.
Bass Armstrong: Big lad, hits hard and slow and is a former wrestler. He is Tina’s dad and steals skeevy posters of his daughter to adjourn his wall.
Bayman: Uses Sambo fighting techniques, and I am assured on the internet that Sambo is a real fighting technique and not a racial slur. He ha decent speed and hits hard, but overall pretty shit. He joined the tournament to murder Fame Douglas but didn’t even manage that. Fucking loser.
Gen Fu: Generic mysterious old dude. Has entered the tournament to heal a sick child and apparently only the nose of a magical mystical creature can do this.
Kasume: Arguably the main character as most of the story revolves around her shenanigans and is the canon ending of the first game/.
Jann Lee: If this was another fighting game he’d be the main character. Bland, inoffensive, Westernised, and looks like every male protaganist in a Japan developed fighter like Jin from Tekken, generic guy A in Virtua Fighter, and the list goes on.
Leifang: Was trained by Jann Lee was apparently aged 9 in this game which is more than a little creepy. Is lightning fast, but hits as hard as a soggy tissue.
Ryu Hayabusa: Yeah THAT Ryu Hayabusa! No? Well, he’s the guy from Ninja Gaiden. Which makes you wonder why he isn’t some Mary Sue considering how many people he has killed. He is the canon winner of Dead or Alive 2, so yeah. He is a little Mary Sue.
Tina Armstrong: Bit of a poser. Loses the final of the first game and decides to become a THOT. Bass is her dad and opposes her decisions for plot and kicks his 150kg arse all over the show.
Zack: Green-haired bellend.
The new characters are:
Helena Douglas: Bastard of Fame Douglas and Maria the opera singer who looks a lot like Maria from the Maria/Draco Opera in Final Fantasy VI. She enters the tournament to find out why people keep trying to kill her and her family.
Ein: Well not Ein, plot twist, it is Hayate. Him and Ayane are best friends and don’t know they half brother/sister.
Leon: Another Sambo fighter… He enters the tournament because his dying girlfriend thought he was the strongest person in the world. He wasn’t gets his arse handed to him a few times.
Tengu: Looks like a shit version of Ogre from Tekken 3. Actually pretty easy to beat due to be super slow and overly telegraphed attacks.
I wanted to hate Dead or Alive 2 it was the first time I have ever sat down and properly played one but all my knowledge of the series comes from skeevy weebs on the internet and their gippy fan art. Sure the skeevy elements are sneaking in here, costumes are overly revelling and the boobs and crotch shots are over the top, but the combat is fluid and accurate.
However, the one thing I think lets Dead or Alive 2 down is the longevity. Beyond beating it with each of the 12 characters there isn’t much to see. The Survival Mode is ok, but not a real draw, neither is the tag mode or team modes beyond extending bouts and multiplayer. So give it a whirl, as Dead or Alive 2 manages to strike the balance between skimpy outfits and outright skeezy. Just don’t expect to spend as much time as you would on Tekken 3.
Pros: Pretty good soundtrack, stage transitions, story focused, fair and fun difficulty curve.
Cons: Story feels all over the place.
Back in the Day:
Dead or Alive 2 scored fantastically at release, some decent 8/10s but a fair few high 90s with Gamespot giving it a 97%!
Also Available On: Arcade, PlayStation 2