Format: Dreamcast Genre: Fighting Released: 2000 Developer: Team Ninja
I couldn’t think of a better game than Dead or Alive 2 to feature as post number 69. After all, this is the game that famously featured an option to adjust the bounciness of the female characters’ bosoms, so I think it’s deserving of a slightly saucy number in the 101 Video Games countdown.
Tch, “101 Video Games countdown”? I’m starting to sound like some withered old DJ cliché. Or Steve Priestley from Movies, Games & Videos (née Movies, Movies, Movies). Apparently he works for Magic FM now…
OK, I think I’ve drifted from the point a bit there. Right, let’s start again.
In many ways, Dead or Alive has become a cliché of itself. (See how I worked the whole cliché thing back into the post there? Yeah, I know, I’m good. Let’s see if I can keep it up…) When DoA2 was released, it was a revelation in terms of fighting mechanics and graphical finesse, but subsequent versions have failed to add much of note to the basic game, and the infamy of the Dead or Alive Xtreme Beach Volleyball spin-off series has somewhat overshadowed the brilliance of the original games.
Dead or Alive Xtreme (and all of its subsequent incarnations) annoys me. It’s basically soft porn dressed up as a series of lacklustre minigames, and it’s exactly the type of game people point to when they argue that computer games are just the preserve of sex- and violence-obsessed adolescent boys. Imagine the scene: a respected university media lecturer is delivering an empassioned speech about how games like Heavy Rain are pushing the boundaries of the medium and exploring territories that could never be reached through film or literature.
Lecturer: “…and that’s why we can expect to see the videogame demographic continue to expand, with older gamers reaping the rewards of a more sophisticated approach to interactive narrative. Any questions? Yes Mackenzie?”
Student: “Professor, can you explain how the recently released Dead or Alive Paradise fits into this demographic? How can we relate something like Heavy Rain to a game in which the main aim is to achieve victory in a handful of simplistic and shallow minigames in order to unlock increasingly skimpy bikinis for a group of proportionally exaggerated fictional women?”
Lecturer: “…erm… Ah, well, you see, errr….. Any other questions?”
Arguably, the Xtreme spin-off series is now more famous (infamous?) than the main series, and you can probably imagine what greeted me when I typed ‘Dead or Alive screenshots’ into a Google Image search – let’s just say that the screenshots presented here are by far the most tasteful I could find.
But get past the sauciness and you’ll find that Dead or Alive 2 is a technically brilliant and hugely entertaining brawler. The counter system was particularly fun – get the timing right and you could turn almost any attack back on your opponent, which made for some tense back and forth fights. Plus the animation and collision detection was spot on: your punches, kicks and counters connected exactly where they landed. This seems like an obvious point, but if you look at older 3D brawlers like Tekken, sometimes the punches seem to land in mid-air or the reaction doesn’t quite match up with the attack.
One of the game’s best features was the the multilevel stages. One stage was set in a church tower, but if you got your attacks lined up carefully you could punch your opponent through a window and jump down after them to carry on the fight below. Along with Power Stone, Dead or Alive 2 was one of the first fighting games in which the stages themselves had as much influence on the fight as the actual fighting, if that makes sense.
And there’s nothing quite as satisfying as knocking your best mate off a skyscraper, then leaping directly onto their head for the finishing blow. Metaphorically speaking of course.
Sadly, I was just as bad at Dead or Alive 2 as I am at most fighting games – although I love the genre, I’ve never quite managed to become an expert. (As evidenced by my recent foray into playing Soul Calibur IV online, in which I failed to win a single fight. Harrumph and, indeed, Grrr.) My gaming nadir occurred sometime in 2001 during a trip to Cowes in the Isle of Wight. A local pub had installed a PS2 with Dead or Alive 2 on a giant screen, so I stepped up to have a go against my friend Louise. Despite owning the game on the Dreamcast, I lost every single round, unable to defend against Louise’s cast-iron tactic of whacking all of the buttons very quickly. I retired defeated, mumbling some half-hearted excuse along the lines of “the button layout is different on the Dreamcast”. I never went to that pub again.
Yet despite the rancour surrounding this particular memory, I still regard Dead or Alive 2 as one of the finest fighting games ever released.
And the bouncy boobs are just an added bonus.