Dead or Alive

Virtua Fighter with bouncing physics

Released in 1996, Dead or alive was the fighting game created by Tomobou Itagaki, who is known for hating the Tekken game with a passion.

There are some similarities to the Virtua Fighter series of games by Sega, and have the same input controls and move-sets with Punch, Kick and Guard/Hold.

Characters

The character select screen displays basic stats on the characters and some not-so-useful information like the character’s favorite food and their hobbies. Honestly, this looks more like a dating site profile but does add a bit of personality to the fighters.

As with other fighting games, each character has their own unique fighting style which is tailored to their culture, and there are some obvious inspirations with Jann Lee being based off Bruce Lee.

  • Kasumi: The ginger ninja, or runaway shinobi according to the games lore
  • Zack: Dennis Rodman-inspired character who has a kickboxer moveset. The first opponent who stage is set on a tropical beach set at sunset
  • Ryu: Another Ninja, from the game Ninja Gaiden. The third opponent set on a rural Japanese stage with a hut in the background
  • Bayman: A Russian henchman/assassin, the sixth opponent whose stage is set in an aircraft hangar since he is supposed to have a military background
  • Jann Lee: Bruce Lee, similar to Law from Tekken. The fourth opponent and shares a stage with Tina, which is an American downtown highway set at night
  • Tina Armstrong: A wrestler and daughter of Bass Armstrong
  • Gen Fu: Old dude who is a master in Kung Fu, like Wang from Tekken
  • Lei Fang: A Chinese fortune teller turned fighter
  • PlayStation Only
    • Ayane: Kasumi’s half-sister who are rivals. Looks like a feminist
  • Bass Armstrong: Tina’s father, Hulk Hogan and Randy Savage crossover

Versions

Dead or Alive was released initially in arcades in 1996, and then ported to home consoles in 1997

Arcade (Original)

The game runs on the Sega Model 2 arcade board and is very similar to Virtua Fighter 2 which also ran on the same board. The control movesets and even the background stages are similar. This version of the game renders its stage background in full 3D, allowing for certain moves that use the background elements like a couple of Ryu’s moves on his stage. There is also a ‘Danger Zone’ around the stage that when your opponent lands on it, will be propelled into the air with a mild explosion, dealing some damage.

Sega Saturn

The game was ported to the Saturn and was the first home port of the game. This version is a mostly faithful conversion of the arcade original, with some changes taking place due to the less capabilities of the Saturn 3D hardware. Still, the Saturn has always done good with fighting games, and Dead Or Alive is no exception to this, yet this version of the game was only released in Japan.

There are a few menu options added, with a Time Attack mode being similar to arcade mode but with the goal of completing rounds in the shortest amount of time. V.S being versus, allowing a second player to fight head to head. Survival mode has you fight against multiple opponents, one at a time, using a single life bar. Kumite is somewhat a sparing mode where you can fight from 30/60/100 opponents which the goal of having the highest winning percentage. Lastly, there is also a standard training mode that lets you practice each character move, and test against opponents’ defensive moves.

Like other Arcade to Saturn conversions, an opening FMV is included which gives a quick montage of the characters.

As the Saturn version of the game was only released in Japan, I would avoid this version and get the original Xbox version instead, which is the same game but with added online play and cleaned-up graphics.

Sony PlayStation

An updated version of the game was released for the PlayStation, which came with updated moves, two new added characters & backgrounds. This is considered a remake of sorts, as the stage background and music have been redesigned and are vastly different compared to the Sega versions. Two new characters have also been added which also feature in the arcade version, Dead or Alive ++, not the Model 2 version.

This version also includes the training, Kumite, Survival and Vs modes.

Arcade (Dead Or Alive++)

Another arcade version was released, this time on the PlayStation-based ZN arcade board, and shared a lot of similarities with the PlayStation home release. Each fighter has 4 different costumes to choose from, and a tag match mode has been added. New characters, Bass Armstong and Ayane have been added to this version.

Xbox

This version was based of the original Sega Saturn release but takes advantage of the Xbox hardware. However, id say it pales graphically compared to the Model 2 version which features full 3D background objects, whilst the Xbox version features the static 2D backgrounds (no moving objects in the background, but some textures are animated) the Saturn uses. Still the character’s models and textures are more detailed, and Xbox Live support is included in this port of the game to allow online multiplayer. This has since been shut down following Microsoft discontinuing support for original Xbox Live titles in 2010.

Still, you miss out on Bass Armstrong and Ayane which is an odd omission.

This version of the game is playable on the Xbox One and Series consoles and can be brought online. You can also play on the Xbox 360 with a compatible hard drive.

Conclusion

Dead Or Alive came at a very hard time for Tecmo, who was facing bankruptcy prior to the release, hence the name of Dead Or Alive.

Dead Or Alive would be followed up in 1999, with the release of Dead or Alive 2 for the Dreamcast, and the PlayStation 2. It would be the last game released for the arcades. Future installments would be released on the Xbox exclusively, before returning to multiplatform with Dead or Alive 5.

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