DOA2: Hardcore

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

Tecmo's "Dead Or Alive 2" makes it to the US PlayStation 2, and gets a serious overhaul in the process. The gameplay and mechanics are the same, but there are twice as many stages, 56 additional costumes, an art gallery, and the return of Bayman from the original "Dead Or Alive." (of course this is rather silly since Bayman and Leon are essentially the same character) The PS2 also incorporates more enhanced lighting and particle effects for even more spectacular effects. Unfortunately, with all of this goodness the PS2 version still falls short of the Dreamcast version in terms of overall visual presentation. First of all, it suffers from the dreaded anti-aliasing problem that plagued nearly all of the first generation PS2 games. Secondly, some genius at Team Ninja decided to turn down the contrast and boost the brightness, so the graphics look washed out and yucky. The enhanced lighting effects work well on the environments, but the characters are strangely lit from below and appear to glow unnaturally. The camera also appears to be a light source at times, which causes some unattractive character lighting as well. The boasted particle effects, 60 fps animation playback, and crisper audio are hardly perceptible. (actually, the frame rate is noticeable if you've been playing the PS2 version for a while and then go back to the Dreamcast) Another problem that "Hardcore" has is in the controller department, which uses undocumented analog button behavior. This results in sloppy and seemingly random behavior until you figure out how to turn it off. Unfortunately, this also disables the left thumbstick for XZ movement, which forces you to use L1 for free movement. The Dreamcast controls are much tighter and more intuitive in this instance. And as an aside, the US version of the game features the most boring packaging I think I've ever seen.

Of course where "Hardcore" really shines is in all of the extras that the Dreamcast version woefully lacks. But before we get to that, the first thing you should do when you start up the game is turn off the laughably bad English dubbing. It's not that it's badly acted, it just seems like the intonations are totally inappropriate. As far as the extras are concerned, about half of the new stages are very cool, whereas the other half are attractive, but boring. The extra costumes are very exciting and attractive, although not as crazy and racy as in the original DOA. Tecmo's "more skin" campaign is baffling, unless they're referring to the art gallery, which features some swimsuit shots. Fortunately, earning costumes is a lot easier than it was in the original game, and you can earn each character's entire wardrobe in less than two hours. (this can get a bit tedious for each character, but I'm obsessive enough to do it) Overall, once you get used to the graphics presentation and put the DC version out of your mind, "DOA2: Hardcore" offers a lot of fun and variety over the original release.

Notes On The Japanese Version: Wouldn't you know it? Tecmo's final and ultimate version of "Dead Or Alive 2" comes in the form of "DOA2: Hardcore" for the Japanese PS2, once again denying American audiences the goodness. It's essentially the same as the US version, but features more cut scenes, a different opening movie, an expanded art gallery, and a "turbo" option for even more frantic fighting. The costumes and gameplay are identical to the US version, so there's really no reason to have both versions of the game unless you're a freak or a DOA completist (like I am).