Now that that's out of the way, let's talk about Dead or Alive. Before the series dove chest first into the realm of physics abuse, the original iteration of the series was a fairly well received 3D fighting game. Unfortunately in the early days of the PS1, not having the lineage of fighters like Mortal Kombat or Street fighter, nor being console front-runners like Virtua Fighter and Tekken, DOA never really stood out as a household name. That is, until the developers at Tecmo decided to expand on a unique gimmick of the first game, i.e being able to toggle the "bounce" of certain fighters in the game. This idea came to form in the Dead or Alive: Xtreme series. And thus, the series made a name for itself as a tongue in cheek punchline for fan-service in gaming.
This was the mindset I was in when I first bought Dead or Alive 2. I had never played a DOA game prior, and this was around the time that the first Xtreme Beach Volleyball came out. But I needed a fighting fix for my Dreamcast, and my local Gamestop was out of Virtua Fighter 3 and Soul Calibur, so I wasn't left with a choice. And honestly, i was glad i wasn't left with any other choice. Strip away all the breasts, and what you're left with is one of the best fighting games you can get for the Dreamcast. I'd be even so bold as to say its one of the best fighting games I have in my collection, with one major flaw.
The story of DOA 2 is........non-existent. Lets be honest, stories in fighting games are nothing more than filler to string matches together (more-so then than now). And the story of DOA is not even so much strung together, as flimsily glued together with the contents of a Dead or Alive branded love sock. I think there's a backstory that coincides with some ancient Japanese demon that you have to fight at the end of everyone's story mode, but hell if I can piece it together among all these characters. I hear that in later games they try to make a backstory to it all pertaining to the lives of mainstays Katsumi and Ayane, but to make sense of the game's "plot" is like trying to make sense of a Lady Gaga music video. And to think, someone in Hollywood actually thought this story needed to be told in a big budget feature film. Go Figure.
But you're not here for the story. No, you're here for all that hot, sexy....gameplay. Actually, there's lot of good that can be said about the actual fighting of Dead or Alive 2. In terms of other fighting games, this game falls right in the middle between Virtua Fighter and Tekken. On the one hand, the game move lightning fast, so its not as plodding as Virtua Fighter. however, it doesn't lend itself to air juggling either like Tekken. sure, you can get in a few high numbered combos here and there, but don't expect to be able to bicycle kick someone into a loop. That's not to say that the game has no depth. Among your collection of punches, kicks, throws, and combos to learn, you also have to master the counter system. Unique to Dead or Alive, you are given the ability to with a well timed push of a button, counter your opponents' attacks. This becomes key to beating many of the later enemies, especially the boss. A well-timed counter can turn the tide in a fight. Its this feature that puts DOA 2 above other fighting games that can turn into button mashers. At the same time, you don't have to master a laundry list of combos to succeed like in Virtua fighter. anyone new to the series and go in and button mash to their hearts content, and still have a solidly paced fight.
Graphically the game is gorgeous. A true step above most Dreamcast games at the time. I'm gonna have to get a bit more technical in this one. See, at the start of the Dreamcast's lifespan, most games were either just HD ports of PS1 games, or games were made to take advantage of the system's capabilities. Sadly, most of the early exclusives for the system didn't know how to take true advantage of what the console could do. So what you get are alot of overly smoothed out messes that have some of the worst character rigging I have ever seen. by character rigging, i mean the spots where the character skins bend just seems to bunch up in certain places. Look at the opening scene from Sonic Adventures, and look at Sonic's elbow. That's what I mean. Either that, or they still did animations like PS1 games and had separate pieces hinged together to give the illusion of wholeness. this game, aside from a handful of other DC games, takes full advantage of the hardware. Character models are greatly detailed, and perfectly rigged for the most part, which really lends to the solid animations in the fights. Cutscenes are rendered much more cinematic and feel less like PS1 era CGI renders. This game proves how ahead of the game the Sega Dreamcast was. Levels are fully fleshed out 3D landscapes, not a flat plane with a skybox around it like most 3D fighting games of the time. And as for the "bounce", surprisingly this game plays down the jiggle. Yes, there is a toggle that allows you to ramp it up or down, but even at its highest the game doesn't go over the top like in later titles. Its actually downplayed so much, I don't feel awkward playing this game, which was a huge surprise at the time.
Now, given all the hype, you are probably wondering what the one MAJOR flaw that this game has that keeps it from nirvana. Well, the version of the game that made it to the American Dreamcast is actually a straight port of the arcade version. which means absolutely NO unlockables. Other than one token costume you get for Katsumi, you don't get anything more. No extra levels or new characters. I hear that MIGHT not be the case, but its either a lie or its referring to a limited edition re-release of the game in Japan. The later PS2 version (dubbed DOA2: Hardcore) got more levels and new characters (although I hear that version is actually worse looking). This might be a dealbreaker for some as it doesn't lend itself to prolonged single player attention. this game is best enjoyed at its fullest with another person. But even still, i cant recommend this game enough. Among some of the more fan favorite Dreamcast fighting games (Soul Calibur and Marvel vs Capcom 2) this may seem like 3rd place, but make no mistake, Dead or Alive 2 is a must have for any Dreamcast owner.