Reviewed: April 6, 2000
Released: March 17, 2000
Itís hard to review any fighting game on the Dreamcast without using Soul Calibur as a base reference. Since almost every Dreamcast owner has purchased, rented or at least played Soul Calibur, I think it will be fair to use this title to see how Dead or Alive 2, from Tecmo, holds up in the ring.
At the heart of any fighting game is the game engine that drives it. DOA2 uses a fighting style similar to that of Virtua Fighter 3 where you have a Punch, Kick and Block/Hold commands. Combine these with the directional pad and you get over 100 moves and combos for each of the 12 main characters. The Dreamcast version also offers a Free button which is useful in breaking or interrupting opponents combos and reversing them.
Most of the combat revolves around blocking and reversing your opponentís attacks. Unlike Soul Calibur where you can pretty much mash the buttons and eventually win, DOA2 takes some careful timing and nimble fingers to block, grab, and reverse an attack. There is a substantial learning curve to this game and it could take you over an hour to finish the story mode with any single character. The final boss is particularly nasty and you need to use a different strategy for each character you play.
In addition to the standard Story Mode and VS. Mode Tecmo has added a Tag Team Battle Mode. This is great if you have 3 or 4 players and want to go head to head, but there are only a few arenas for this mode so things start to get old pretty quick.
Speaking of getting old; this is perhaps the biggest flaw in Dead or Alive 2. There is simply little to no replay value for the solo gamer. There are no levels or new characters to unlock or even costume changes for that matter. Once you have mastered the 12 default characters you had better have a steady stream of friends ready to come over and challenge you. DOA2 is definitely designed for two or more players. If you are going to play this game alone then you may want to rent instead of buy.
Another innovative feature of DOA2 is the level design. Sure, Soul Calibur had floating rafts and epic battles atop windy mountaintops, but the environments and the level at which you interact with them in DOA2 is simply stunning.
Not only are the levels detailed and fully interactive, they are also enormous. When the battle first starts it may look like your conventional fighting arena but sooner or later you will send your opponent (or they will send you) flying through a railing or wall down to another tiered section of the fighting area. Take for example the arena in the previous picture and the multi-shot of the combat action below.
As you can see, the combat action begins at the top of the level. As the battle progresses the two warriors near the edge of the falls until one is kicked over the edge. The fall itself does substantial damage even though the other opponent can leap down with no penalty. Battle resumes at the base of the roaring waterfall. All of the transitions looks like cut-scenes but they all use the gameís graphic engine and are seamless with the regular action. It all flows together magically and looks incredible and all at a blazing 60fps.
Simply stated, this is hands-down the best looking fighter on the Dreamcast. Five of the main characters are women and they are as HOT as a computer-generated character can get. Fans of the original Dead or Alive will remember the gravity-defying chests of the female characters in that game. The Jell-O-jiggles have been substantially reduced in this sequel but that will only disappoint the 12-16yr old crowd. Even bumping the Age option in the game settings didnít improve on the err...size and gravitational effects on the female fighters.
Even so, everyone can still enjoy the richly detailed character models made-up of so many polygons you canít even see them let alone count them. Flowing robes, babbling brooks, misting waterfalls, powdered snow, and falling leaves are all modeled to precision and add to the luster of each environment and battle.
Special effects are abundant with flames and explosions and brilliant pulses of light. Drop kick your opponent into a laser beam and witness the sizzling lighting and sound effects.
The game is full of excellent cut-scenes that are even more amazing when you realize that each one is being rendered on the fly. There is no FMV or pre-rendering going on here. Each scene is rendered as it is played back, which is how the programmers are able to have a cut-scene end in the battle mode with you taking control over the same characters that were just acting out the scene.
In addition to the "between-battle" and "during-battle" mini-movies, there are also ending movies for each of the characters. If you try hard enough you can start to put together a background for each of the characters, how they relate to each other, and a loose plot for the entire game, although a plot is hardly needed to enjoy this game.
The music in DOA2 is appropriate and really gets your blood pumping to kick some butt. The sound effects are equally as good and enhance the battles as well as sound can. Roaring waterfalls, gurgling water, crumbling rocks, blowing wind, and many other sounds bring each level to life and compliment the stunning visuals. The dialogue is Japanese, so plan on reading the subtitles if you care at all about who is fighting who and why they are kicking the snot out of each other.
As I stated earlier, this is the biggest flaw (actually the ONLY flaw) in Dead or Alive 2. The game is just too short. For the average solo gamer, I would safely guess you could finish the story mode for all 12 characters in 6-8 hours. You could probably master all of the charactersí moves in a couple weeks, but unless you have some friends waiting to pick up those other controllers plugged into your Dreamcast then your mastery will be lost on the computer AI that pales in comparison to another human being. With nothing to unlock and no goals to strive for, you will find yourself saying "What now?" after one week.
Dead or Alive 2 was certainly a labor of love and you can tell that Tecmo squeezed every drop of graphical power out of the Dreamcast for this arcade conversion. The huge and detailed 3D multi-tiered combat arenas, crisp character animations, precise control, and a huge library of devastating moves and comboís definitely puts DOA2 at the top of the fighting game list second only to the king of fighters, Soul Calibur. If Tecmo had only managed to put in some extra stuff to keep the solo gamer interested for longer than a dozen hours they would have probably netted the top slot.
DOA2 looks and plays better than any other fighting game on the Dreamcast or any other system for that matter. If there had been more substance to go along with the dazzling presentation this title would be a "must buy". As it stands, this game is a 3-day rental if you are playing by yourself. If you have brothers or sisters, roommates, or friends who visit often then I highly recommend you add this title to your Dreamcast collection.