it's no secret that i love the Dead or Alive fighting game series. its super fast, fun fighting system, colorful cast of characters and sheer personality makes it a series that i've come to adore over the years that i've started to play it. while its reputation has become pretty embarrassing (rightfully so, in some cases), it's something that some like to look past to dig into the fun that the fighting games have to offer. the next instalment is in sight, and i still can't believe it.
Dead or Alive 5 comes out in North America in eight days.
that's kind of crazy, now that i think about it. in a sense, i'm grateful that we're getting a Dead or Alive 5 at all, or at least a fifth instalment that looks good. when Tomonobu Itagaki left Team NINJA in 2008, he said that the Dead or Alive and Ninja Gaiden games would no longer continue, but since then we've seen tons of games by Team NINJA from great games like Dead or Alive: Dimensions all the way to disasters like Ninja Gaiden 3. although, given Ninja Gaiden 3's outcome, i'm glad that Dead or Alive 5 actually looks well made. the way i put it, i make it sound like we've been waiting over ten years for this.
i haven't really been too vocal about my excitement for Dead or Alive 5. apart from dominating the game's wiki page and the occasional forum post,has been the one who's been showing the most excitement for this game as far as i'm concerned on Giant Bomb. he's been getting the forums hyped up. i think it goes without saying that i'm super excited for Dead or Alive 5's release, and i always was, from that time that tweeted me the announcement when i was in math class, trying not to lose my shit all the way to this very moment where i find it hard to believe that i'll be playing it a bit more than a week from now.
since we're getting a fifth Dead or Alive instalment, i've been playing through the main series, and i figured i may as well write some stuff up while i'm at it. i've never really written much about Dead or Alive apart from a Dimensions review and what could be thousands of words on wall posts, PMs and instant messaging conversations with other GB users.
so, without further delay. allow me to present what could be my least favorite game in the fighting game franchise, the first Dead or Alive!
Dead or Alive (1996) - Arcade, Saturn, PS1, Xbox*
A Little History
Dead or Alive saved Tecmo's ass. Tomonobu Itagaki was tasked with designing a fighting game that could rival Sega's Virtua Fighter games, which was good for him because apparently he was pissed off at how fighting games at the time were designed. he wanted to kick all of their asses and deliver the 'old school' fighting game style that those games 'used' to deliver. so, he created Dead or Alive. the name came from Tecmo's financial situation at the time, which was apparently totally messed up because Itagaki's fighting game was the only thing that stood between Tecmo and bankruptcy.
no pressure, right?
well, luckily, Dead or Alive kicked ass in Japanese arcades. so much, they brought it to the West where it totally got its ass handed to it by Tekken! i guess that's why Itagaki hates Tekken so much. Dead or Alive was so kickass that it even got its own Playstation version, which was a vastly improved version of Dead or Alive in the arcades and on the Saturn. it got a few new playable characters, improved graphics to take advantage of the Playstation's hardware and loads of new costumes. this was called Dead or Alive ++ when it was released in the arcades. the last Dead or Alive 1 release was when it was bundled with a remake of Dead or Alive 2 in Dead or Alive: Ultimate. DOA1 was remastered with smoother graphics, surround sound and online play.
Everything's Gotta Start Somewhere, I Guess
i never played Dead or Alive when it came out. i had a Playstation and all that, but i never played DOA until Dead or Alive 3 on the Xbox. so.. going back to the first Dead or Alive game is weird. it's neat to see where the series came from, but i don't think this game aged especially well, considering how refined the fighting got in Dead or Alive 2, and in later games.
Dead or Alive has a pretty small cast of characters, but they're friendly faces nonetheless. we've got Kasumi, Tina, Lei Fang, Zack, Jann Lee, Bayman, Ryu Hayabusa and Gen-Fu. this was Ryu's first appearance since the old-school Ninja Gaiden games, and it was here where he was injected into the Dead or Alive universe. Dead or Alive ++ added characters like Bass and Ayane, but we're gonna focus on the Xbox version of Dead or Alive, called Dead or Alive 1 Ultimate. it was essentially a port of the Saturn version because.. i don't know, something about the Playstation build of DOA belonging to Sony or something like that.
anyway, Dead or Alive is a fighter where players have to knock their opponents out, or ring them out. they can use the punch and kick buttons, which is standard fare but what really set Dead or Alive apart was its counter system. with the right timing, you could stop an opponent's attack, losing no health and punishing them with a deadly counter attack. while in the first Dead or Alive, it wasn't really much more than a shove, it was a mechanic that set the series apart from other fighters as the games progressed, and became a staple of the series.
now, and especially in Dead or Alive 5, the stages play a big part in the overall gameplay. that's not too different in DOA1, except they're not really stages. every stage consists of a few squares of land where the fighters beat each other to a pulp, but surrounding that land is what's called the Danger Zone. when knocked down onto the Danger Zone, the floor explodes and you launch into the air. it's pretty cool, and it can lead to some pretty alright combos. the extent of changes in stages usually involves the background, which could change from a city street, to an airplane hanger or a thunder storm. it's nothing too exciting, but it keeps things kinda interesting for what it is. the arcade version had wicked 3D rendered backgrounds, but the Saturn was apparently too weak to handle that, so it was changed to lame 2D backgrounds. nice one.
there's.. not really that much else to say about it, really. while i can appreciate what it started, it's not that exciting of a fighting game. from the time i've spent with it, combos aren't particularly easy to pull off, or even very interesting. the opponent AI is pretty punishing in standard DOA fashion, and there's not that much to do in this game apart from some standard modes (time attack, survival, training) and some unlockable costumes.
What.. What is wrong with your chest?!
of course, one big draw to Dead or Alive was its cast of busty, beautiful polygonal ladies. there's a scene in the intro where Kasumi is nude in some steamy bath, and the breasts.. oh dear lord..
if you thought Dead or Alive Xtreme 2 had horribly scary boobs (which it still does), you should check out what's going on in this game. it looks like two forces are playing a game of tug-o-war with Kasumi's breasts. it's kind of funny, but it's kind of embarrassing that it's become a staple of the series today: exaggerated breast bounce. no doubt it played a big factor in the game's success, if not for it's 'sexiness', then for it's sheer absurdity. the game even has an option in the main menu to toggle it on and off in case it becomes too horrifying to watch.
Oh, there's a story, isn't there?
long story short:
- some dude named Raidou is a dick, beats the hell out of everybody in the Mugen Tenshin village and steals some hidden ninja power from them.
- some ninja dude named Hayate isn't gonna take any of that, so he tries to attack Raidou. Raidou totally fucks Hayate up with that hidden ninja power.
- Hayate goes missing, everybody thinks he's dead. Kasumi, Hayate's brother thinks that he's alive so she sets out to find him. she leaves the clan, is considered a traitor and Ayane is assigned to assassinate her. Ayane was treated like shit as a kid because she was the result of a rape by Raidou, and due to that, she's always been jealous of how Kasumi was treated. she developed a hatred for Kasumi.
- Kasumi enters something called the Dead or Alive tournament because Raidou is supposed to be there. Kasumi wins the tourney and kills Raidou by crushing him with falling debris. still no sign of Hayate.
That's About It
there's not much else that i can say about this game. it's a pretty standard fighting game with crazy breast bounce and a cool counter system. ultimately, it leads to not really writing anything interesting, but i figured that i should cover this game at least considering that it's an important game, regardless of its quality today. i'm sure those with nostalgia for the first Dead or Alive think a lot more highly than i do, but i can only say so much from the perspective of somebody who didn't play this game when it was around.
thanks for reading.