Dead or Alive

With features like the 'breast bounce', how can you go wrong?

Publisher: Tecmo
Developer: Tecmo
Genre: Fighting

While Sega's Virtua Fighter 2 is still the benchmark for programming and design excellence, its subsequent efforts, like Last Bronx and even Fighter's Megamix, have suffered from glitches and some sloppy programming. As a result, a game which was (wrongfully) labeled a Virtua Fighter 2 clone in the arcades has the potential to become the best fighter to come to the Saturn for a long, long time.

To be fair, though, Dead or Alive does use a similar fighting system to Virtua Fighter. It uses the standard three-button layout so familiar to all Sega fighting games, and the arcade version also originated on the Model 2 board, which accounts for its similarity to VF2. However, by replacing the block button with a new "hold" button, Tecmo designers have virtually created a whole new way of combat.

In recent years, even third or fourth generation fighters have remained unchanged at the level where combat actually takes place. For example, Tobal No. 2, on the PlayStation, for all its advances in true 3D movement, still has a straightforward "punch, block, break block, then punch/kick/throw" type of combat. This clear-cut line of offense and defense has remained untouched until the advent of Tecmo's fighter.

The hold button allows players to catch kicks, punches, break combos AND throws, but it not only lets you stop an attack, but it allows you to use your opponent's attack against himself. For example, Kasumi may be faster than any other character, but if you catch her leg with the hold button, you've got an extra second or so to use the leverage to smack her in the face, or throw her off balance to enter a combo of your own. With the lines blurred, jockeying for a defensive position becomes nearly as important as being on the defenseive, because the change from one to the other is fast.

Technically, it's rock-solid. The characters are rendered in high resolution, no polygon glitching, and the arenas are absolutely solid. Control is instant, and if you get smashed, it's because you have lousy timing, not because the button press didn't register. Sound is much clearer than Virtua Fighter 2, and if Sega's doing any more fighting games for the Saturn, they'd better learn something from Tecmo's programmers.

As a last note, Dead or Alive, despite its strengths, will most likely be remembered for its guilty pleasures. The infamous "breast bounce" is so important that it's a feature, and one that will draw teenagers stuck in the first flush of puberty like ants on honey. Add that to the numerous alternate costumes for each character (up to six outfits, male and female), there are more extras here than any game except Fighter's Megamix. However, there's nothing X-rated here, but parents that find Baywatch or Silk Stalkings objectionable should probably monitor their kids' progress.

A fine game, guilty pleasures, and innovation. Definitely pick this one up.