Dead Or Alive 2

Year: 2000
Platform: Dreamcast, PlayStation 2
Publisher: Tecmo
Developer: Team Ninja
Genre: 3D fighter
Rating: ****

This game takes the 3D fighting genre to an entirely new level, and is a breathtaking technical and graphical achievement. Most of the cast from the original "Dead Or Alive" returns, with Bayman and Raidou being replaced with newcomers Leon, Ein, and French femme fighter Helena. The game features nearly all of the same moves from the original along with a handful of new ones, so it's really easy to dive in and play if you're familiar with the controls. The game also adds a rather cryptic story mode that features some animated cut scenes and builds to a showdown with the mysterious and mystical Evil Tengu. The infamous "bouncing breast" toggle has been replaced with an undocumented "bounce guage" in the form of a curious control labeled "your age", with bounce values ranging from 13 (minimum bounce) to 99 (maximum bounce). Much more subtle than the laughably excessive seismic breast tremor feature in the original. The only disappointing aspects of the game are that there are no extra costumes to earn, and the soundtrack isn't nearly as good as the original game. It's also annoying that the computer opponents ALWAYS use the default costume instead of mixing in a little variety. Only minor quibbles though, that don't impact gameplay in the slightest. If you play fighting games at all, this is a must-have for Dreamcast owners.

Notes On The Japanese Dreamcast Version: It's rather amazing that more than a year after its initial release, "Dead Or Alive 2" is still the best looking and best playing fighter on the market (although fans of "Virtua Fighter 4" may disagree). The Japanese Dreamcast version of "DOA2" is a serious improvement over the US release, but still doesn't have as many extra goodies as "DOA2: Hardcore" for PlayStation 2. It does feature a couple of new stages as well as some enhanced older stages, an expanded story mode, dozens of extra costumes, a CG gallery, the return of Bayman (which is a bit silly, considering that Leon is essentially of clone of him) and a watch mode where you can pit two fighters against each other and watch them duke it out. The new stages and extra costumes really add a lot of value to the game in my opinion, although there's not as much costume insanity as in the original "Dead Or Alive."

Notes On The Japanese PlayStation 2 Version: The PS2 version of "Dead Or Alive 2" looks and feels like a rush job and pales in comparison to the Dreamcast versions. Part of this might be related to the technical difficulties involved with developing for the PS2 platform. Its feature set is the most divergent of the DOA2 family, and it doesn't feature English subtitles or a bounce guage. It does offer several unlockable costumes, but the unlocking criteria is different than all the other games. It's also the only game that features Lei-Fang's yellow and red outfit (which is much more preferable than the purple counterpart in the other games). Unfortunately, where the PS2 version suffers the most is in its visual presentation. While the color depth is deeper and the frame rate is faster than the Dreamcast versions, the brightness and contrast have been tweaked to the point where the graphics look washed out and unattractive. There are also the same aliasing problems that plagued many of the first generation PS2 games. To make things worse, the game is also overly buggy, with screen flashing, motion freezing, discontinuous lighting effects, and a Versus Mode that consistently crashes after every 5-10 matches. This version of the game is really for completists only.