Dead or Alive 2
Dead or Alive 2 arrived on the Dreamcast in late February of the year 2000. The counter-hold system was vastly improved upon and defined the action-packed style of the series. Each character now had a unique counter animation for high punches, high kicks, mid punches, mid kicks, and low punches and low kicks. Every counter-hold was a sight to behold. Kasumi would grab the opponent’s high kick and jump into the air and kick the opponents face with both of her legs extended forward. For a mid kick counter, she would grab the kick and catapult the opponent sky-high to the opposite side of the screen with a canon-like launch kick. There were now three counter-hold levels (high, mid, and low), in which the player had to guess where the hit would be coming from next and the counter window is shortened so counter-holds must be timed precisely. So players had to guess at the correct level and time their counter-holds with less than a second of error or risk being exposed to a hit or throw by the opponent. Counter-damage was fairly high and could take off a 1/4 of a life bar if done at the very last moment before a hit lands. Not only were counter-holds damaging they were also beautifully rendered that players wanted pull them off to watch the hold animations. There is nothing quite like the satisfaction of correctly guessing an opponent’s attack by performing a counter-hold at the very last moment to win the match.
When going on the offensive players can utilize each character’s unique fighting style to launch the opponent into the air after putting them into a stun state. Unlike Virtua Fighter, characters are launched into the air for a combo but fall back down to the ground at a realistic pace. So one had to string together punches and kicks in quick succession in order to pull off combos. Combos had branching paths, which allowed players to start with a standard 2-punch combo and followed by a high punch, mid punch, a mid kick, or a high kick. The opponent in turn would be stunned and are finally hit into the air for a combo. While opponents are still on the ground, they can escape their stunned state by countering at any level to catch the incoming attack and deliver a counter-hold. So learning to predict incoming attacks is an important skill to master in this game. When on the offensive, one would be wise to bait an opponent into countering by going down an unpredictable combo path. Players that randomly use counter-holds to escape stuns are easily met with a throw since the attacking player can stop at any point during the combo to input a throw to punish a counter-happy opponent. In essence, the “yomi” system works to perfection here and playing a mind game with one’s opponent is at the core center of the game. Players can set up hits to continually stun the opponent and accumulate damage then launch them into the air for a combo to further extend damage.
The second feature of Dead or Alive 2 game that would define the gameplay style of the series was the interactive multi-tiered 3D environments. While Virtua Fighter and Tekken had static environments that were confining, Dead or Alive 2 broke through stage barriers. A player can hit an opponent into a wall, breaking it, sending the opponent falling down three stories below into a hidden lab room where the fight would continue. Danger-zones no longer exploded characters into the air but were applied to electric walls and fences that caused extra damage to the character being smashed into them. Stages were vast and lushly designed to have full of details. Inside a wooden shrine there are giant bells displaying signs of rust, in the courtyard lighting bugs glow around the screen like tiny yellow orbs, and in the near distance is a waterfall rushing down from above creating a sprays of mists at the point where the water hits the ground.
Game stages included a cement rooftop area on top of a Chinese temple, a cathedral with stained-glass that could be broken through, a glass platform island surrounded by electric fences and tall white wind turbines in the background, a bio-lab where Kasumi’s clones reside in life-sized test tubes, inside a high-rise clear glass building at night, on-stage at an opera with shiny marble floors, and in a powdery snow storm in a mountainous region. Some stages had special break-through areas in which characters could fall through and continue the fight down below, while others were surrounded by electrified danger zones, thus, careful zoning of the environment was crucial to winning the fight. All characters had knock back kicks, punches and grabs that were designed for the sole purpose of propelling opponents through walls for pure pleasure.
The game’s fast-paced countering system along with its interactive environments was further augmented by each character’s storyline.
- Ayane-Entered the tournament to assassinate her traitorous half-sister, Kasumi.
- Bass Armstrong-Trying to stop Tina from becoming a model.
- Bayman– Successfully assassinated Fame Douglas in Dead or Alive 1
- Ein-Trying to regain his memory after being experimented on by DOATEC
- Gen–Fu-Aimed to defeat the Tengu and use its nose as medicine to cure his granddaughter Mei Lin
- Helena-Entered the tournament to find out the truth about her father’s mysterious DOATEC organization and find her mother’s killer.
- Jann–Lee-A Jeet Kun Do fighter looking to exhibit his fighting abilities.
- Kasumi-A shinobi searching for her long lost brother Hayate (aka Ein).
- Lei–Fang-A Chinese college student looking to prove her independence to Jann-Lee, someone who saved her years ago from a group of thugs
- Leon-Wants to fulfill his vow to a dying lover that he is the strongest man in the world by winning the Dead or Alive World Championship Tournament
- Ryu Hayabusa-Looking to defeat a creature named “Tengu” to stop it from causing chaos in the word
- Tina Armstrong-Wants to win the tournament and use her fame to become a model
- Tengu-The mythological creature who escaped into the human world to wreak havoc
- Zack-A DJ and Muay-Thai fighter seeking fame and fortune from the tournament winnings
Kasumi entered the second Dead or Alive tournament to find her brother Hayate but runs into him in his amnesiac state as Ein, a karate teacher from Germany. In one pre-fight game sequence Kasumi asked if her brother remembered who she was but he did not, so he attacked her as if she were an enemy. If the player defeated Ein, Kasumi was shown carrying her brother in her arms as tears flowed down her face. Helena is an opera singer who had flashbacks of the day blood splashed on her face as mother was assassinated in front of her on stage. She comes face to face with her mother’s killer in one of the main fights of the game. Lei-Fang learned Kung-Fu and entered the tournament to prove her independence to Jann-Lee for saving her many years ago from a group of street thugs. She would fight Jann-Lee as a final boss instead of fighting the regular boss in the story mode of the game. Tina entered the tournament as an American female wrestler in hopes of using her tournament win to start a modeling career. Her dad, a Hulk Hogan inspired character named, Bass, followed her into the tournament to stop her from leaving him to become a model. In her ending, she is shown sporting a vanilla mink coat strutting down the runway to the sound of pop music and camera flicks. The distinct mix of dramatic to silly storylines really gave Dead or Alive its campy feel. This formula of action-packed gameplay, an easy to access but hard to master fighting system, and quirky stories secured Dead or Alive’s future with hardcore fighting game fans and critics alike. Tomonobu Itagaki would go on to develop multiple sequels for the series, improving the graphics along with the fighting engine in each follow-up.