Hardcore Play – Dead or Alive Feature #3

Dead or Alive 2: Hardcore

            Dead or Alive is all about the motion, the control, and the feel, its creator said in an interview. No wonder the next iteration of Dead or Alive 2 was aptly named “Hardcore”. What exactly was so hardcore about this version? Well, it had major graphical improvements, new costumes, new stages, new in-game story sequences, and played even more smoothly than its Dreamcast cousin. Dead or Alive 2 had already made name for itself as the killer 3D fighter on the Dreamcast by being different from the likes of Soul Calibur and Power Stone. The Playstation 2 launched in October of 2000 and brought with it the definitive version of Dead or Alive 2, titled, Dead or Alive 2: Hardcore. The DVD format of the disc opened up room for loads of content to be inserted into the game.

Improved Graphics and New Costumes

Sony Computer Entertainment’s “Emotion Engine” on the Playstation 2 pumped new life into the graphics interface of DOA2: Hardcore. Running at 60 frames per second, this game received a major facelift from the previous edition. Stale textures were replaced with intricate patterns enlivened by colors from every spectrum that could be seen by the eye. Each character now had twice the number of costumes. Major characters like Kasumi and Ayane now had up to 11 costumes.  Some costumes were mere color palette changes while others were completely new.

In fetish style, Kasumi wore a mesh net outfit that revealed her upper body very teasingly. Showing her more conservative side, Kasumi adorned a blue wool coat and vanilla scarf along with a short skirt that would be perfect for an autumn day in Paris. She also received a new Japanese princess outfit that featured gold ribbons and stylish hair sticks to her collection.  In the same vein, Leifang stripped away her college girl image by wearing a full leather black S&M dress complete with black gloves and black boots. Zack became Shadow Man in one of his costumes as homage to the N64 third-person action/adventure game, which would have a sequel on the Playstation 2 in the year 2002. Tina put on her cat suit and Helena literally turned into a pirate in one of her outfits. She might as well have auditioned for a role in Pirates of the Caribbean.

New Stages

            Stages received the same treatment thanks to the improved graphical capabilities of the Playstation 2. There was “The Crimson”, a two-level stage located in Hong Kong. Players started out at the top level on a shantytown rooftop with a crimson red setting sun in the background. If knocked off of the stage, the victim fell into a huge neon sign exploding sparks all over the screen on the way down to the street level of the stage. The bottom level was a dark alleyway surrounded by cars that could be used as obstacles to hit one’s opponents into for extra damage. Bright flashing lights from construction signposts set off a sense of urgency during the match.  In order to show American gamers the immense beauty of Japanese culture, Itagaki designed a new stage called the “Koku An”. This stage was a Karate dojo with a reflective wooden floor sectioned by shōji (paper) doors. If knocked into a door, the character fell out into a beautiful bonsai garden with a tree blossoming with foliage. Showing his appreciation for the American landscape a desert stage called the “The Prairie” was designed with the American West in mind. This stage had spiky green cacti, arching rock formations, along with plenty of boulders, small shrubs, and you guessed it, sand.

Other stages were smaller and included a UFC-style stage in the shape of an octagon brought to life by bright lights from above. Similar one-level stages came in the form of a gladiator arena with high-voltage electricity going off on the back walls, and an “Iron Hell” stage made of steel that had flames flaring up in the night sky in the background. One iconic stage took place in an ancient Chinese palace buttressed with red wooden beams in what seemed to be a replica of Tiananmen Square, a gate to the Forbidden City of Beijing. Fortunately, the extras did not stop here as characters also received new in-game pre-battle sequences.

New In-Game Sequences

New in-game sequences expanded the storyline by shedding light on new dimensions of each character’s personality. Tina, the American wrestler started off a story sequence in “The Prairie” stage by throwing a giant boulder at Leifang’s feet to show her what “true power” was. Leifang kneeled down on one knee and with a single palm press of her hand, broke the rock into five pieces and retorted with, “You don’t know anything about power”. A hopelessly romantic Zack talked to a prairie dog claiming that it will be his Tina instead, since the real Tina would not go out on a date with him. Bass would be seen dragging a hot rod 18-wheeler truck with a single steel chain in a desert area. Helena and Genfu traded conflicting exchanges on the Hong Kong shantytown rooftop. Ryu Hayabusa scoffed at Jann-Lee’s commoner status as a non-ninja competitor in the tournament. These and many other revealing scenes expanded upon the personalities of the characters and story of the game. They were minor touches but added greatly to the story mode experience as whole.

Move Changes, Game Modes, and Secrets

            Overall the animations of the moves were smoothed out further to ensure that each move was pleasurable to watch. Some moves were modified while others were taken out altogether to slightly tweak the game play. All previous modes (Story, Versus, Tag, Team Battle, Survival, Time Attack, and Sparring) remained intact with the addition of a few new modes.  One addition was a gallery mode in which one could view CG images of the all the fine female characters. A battle recorder mode allowed one to record any match in the game. A watch mode enabled one to watch two characters duke it out on any difficulty setting. Pressing different buttons at the character selection screen changed Kasumi and Helena’s hairstyles. Finally, silly sounding English voiceovers were added to unintended comic effect. As a whole, Dead or Alive 2: Hardcore was the complete version of Dead or Alive 2 that Itagaki envisioned. His vision for Dead or Alive 2 was at last fulfilled. But it was not long before development would begin for Dead or Alive 3 on Microsoft’s new XBOX system.



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