Dead or Alive 2 (Dreamcast) Review

Dead or Alive 2

I know, reviewing the original Dead or Alive alongside the movie would’ve made far more sense, but I never owned it, and in fact barely played it (a friend had it and brought it round a few times), where as DOA2 ended up being one of my most played fighting games on the Dreamcast. The main thing I remembered about it were super-fluid animation and controls and it being generally fun to play, but are these things still true in 2020? Let’s find out!

Background:

Dead or Alive 2 1

Kasumi kisses the ground of the overly stain-glassed church tower.

Dead or Alive 2 started out its life in Arcades, first in October 1999, then an enhanced rerelease in January 2000. This enhanced version was the one ported to the Dreamcast, oddly first in the US, in February 2000, then in Europe May that year and Japan September. The European and Japanese DC versions had new costumes and other unlockables the US version lacked. It was released for the PS2 in Japan on March 30th 2000, but the port was rushed and buggy, leading to a rerelease under the subtitle of “Hardcore” in December that year. The Hardcore PS2 version was released in the US in October 2000 and Europe in December 15th, one day removed from Japan.

DOA2 Hardcore was later released digitally on the PSN network for PS3 and PS4 in 2012 / 2015.

Gameplay:

Dead or Alive 2 3

Yes, the “wise old master” trope is here, despite an old man being the last character a lot of fanbase want to play as…

It’s a 3D vs. fighting game, but the DOA engine always feels different to the others of the genre I’ve played, more floaty and fluid. Basically attacks come in three varieties: Strike, Grapple and Throw, meanwhile you can block or parry on-coming attacks. Thanks to the aforementioned fluidity of the engine this can lead to some rather amazing sequences of blocking, counter-striking and / or reversing that make you look like some sort of bad ass, even if you may just be button mashing strike and counter and hoping for the best… Not that I did that of course! … At least, with one or two characters that I got to know.

Each character does have a moveset of a combination of buttons and movements, some combinations of which are very long and can be quite complicated, meaning if you to get good at the game you really have to pick a character and properly learn them. There are also other factors to consider, like if you block or try to counter wrong, or get hit in a certain way you can get stunned, leaving you open to an attack. There is also a good system of juggling in this game, hitting people in mid-air to “juggle” them and keep them from hitting the ground and recovering, which is even more effective when combined with hitting people off walls and other scenery.

There are also destructible environments that can lead to new areas of the stage, I THINK the first of its kind, at least the first I remember playing. You knock someone up against a wall or window and they go flying through and the fight resumes in a new part of the stage. Always very satisfying, much like the combat in general. The original, and definitely later entries in the franchise may have been all about the breasts (sometimes literally) and costumes, but DOA2 will always be fondly remembered by me for actually being a really fun fighting game.

The modes on offer are quite slim. The Arcade mode is your standard “run through a certain number of characters then fight the overly difficult boss” affair, then they added a VS. mode, a “Sparring mode” (a.k.a. Training Mode) and a Team Battle, which includes the ability to quickly switch between team mates for even more crazy juggling opportunities. It was Team Battle that me and my friends often played together.

Graphics and Sound:

Dead or Alive 2 6

Erm, yeah… not 100% sure what’s happening here, but sure.

The graphics really blew me away back then, as did a lot of Dreamcast games, to be fair to the console. Nice lighting, good environments, pretty good detail on the clothing and hair (for the time, obviously it looks smooth and undetailed now…), it was great. Now? Well they obviously don’t look up to the standards of today, but they’re far, far from bad and don’t in any way inhibit my enjoyment of the game.

Sound is good. Catchy if not very memorable background tunes, nice soundeffects to go along with the combat… can’t complain, really.

Story:

Dead or Alive 2 4

“No!”

It’s a bit weird, but basically a second DOA Tournament is announced by Victor Donovan, the man who killed the businessman who held the previous tournament. Victor is apparently so evil that he drew the attention of a Tengu, a Japanese demon who now wishes to destroy the world.

So several fighters enter the tournament, most not knowing the end fight is with a mythical demon. The canon ending, from what I can find out, is Ninja Gaiden classic Ryu Hayabusa is the winner, as he enters to specifically destroy the Tengu, which he does! Obviously being a fighting game each character has an ending, and some parts of the endings might be canon, just not them destroying the Tengu, while other are just what-ifs.

Thoughts Then:

Dead or Alive 2 5

Cor! Look at the jugs on-   Oh.

I loved Dead or Alive 2. While it wasn’t as multiplayer friendly as Power Stone 2, nor was it quite up to the standards of Soul Calibur or Marvel vs. CAPCOM 2, it still got a lot of play time, mostly because it was just fun to have a bit of a bash around on, and for those few times you accidentally look cool as hell.

4 Star Game Old

Thoughts Now:

Dead or Alive 2 2

“We can’t, we’re your opponents.”   “Oh, right.”

Even in 2020 it’s still very fun to play. The buttery smooth combat and juggling is good fun, and it’s still beginner / rusty player friendly (against default-level AI, anyway). Obviously it doesn’t look as pretty, and once you’ve gone through Arcade Mode a few times there isn’t much to keep you going without friends to call round. Still, not a bad time, just not one that will hold my attention any more.

3 Star Game New

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