Dead Or Alive 2
The PS2 has hardly been out a week and we're already back to playing our Dreamcasts. That's right, you heard us--we've been jamming on Dead or Alive 2, courtesy of Tecmo and Team Ninja. We've seen what the PS2 launch had to offer, and while RRV is impeccable to the nth degree, SFEX3 left quite a bit to be desired. The truth is, DOA2 gives most PS2 launch games a serious run for their money in the eye candy department. And to use a clich§, don't believe the hype. Industry pundits will argue that DOA2 on the PS2 will look better, but the graphical difference will likely be negligible. If games like DOA2 and Code: Veronica are any indicators of a system's vitality, the Dreamcast's is alive and well. But enough about its competition, how does DOA2 play? The gameplay has gone through an overhaul of sorts, but DOA2 still feels like the bastard lovechild of Virtua Fighter and Tekken. The difference in the sequel is the addition of a "Free" button which performs a number of functions. Primarily, the Free button allows you to move about in 3D. It works, but it's not as intuitive as the 8-Way Run in Soul Calibur. While blocking is done Tekken style, you can also hold down Free to block. This seems a little indecisive. but it's nice for the VF kids. Despite the improved counter system, most fights still rely too heavily on pulling off reversals. Soul Calibur balanced out its Guard Impact system by penalizing missed parries with longer delays. In DOA2, players can reverse moves with impunity because there's hardly any penalty for a missed counter. To make matters worse, you can't use the Free button to cancel moves, so that kills the mind game potential. Still, DOA2 excels in presenting gratuitous viscera where it counts, and that goes a long way in making it one of the most immersive fighting games ever made.
Dead or Alive 2 is, by all practical standards, a technical masterpiece. Visually, DOA2 is the game that will reinstate your confidence in the power of Sega's little white box, in a time when the whole world is fixated overseas at its encroaching competition. There's just so much going on visually. Everything from the flow of clothing, to the seamless character models (polygons? what polygons?), all combine to create one of the most breathtaking games I've ever seen. DoA2's animation and collision detection engine achieves a sense of consistency that's actually rare with 3D fighters. Other cool additions include the four-player tag battle mode, where up to four friends can tag combo each other 'til the proverbial cows come home. My one gripe with the Dreamcast version is the weak practice mode--there's just no excuse for the omission of a moves list. Some of you may take issue with DoA2's twitchy gameplay and reversal heavy tactics. The problem here is that beginners will mash their way to victory, while experts sit back and turtle with reversals (there's little penalty if you miss). It's a solid fighting engine, but it's just too bad that DOA2 won't get the gameplay respect it really deserves. It's not as deep as Soul Calibur, and it's not as popular as Tekken...but if you own a Dreamcast, this game is a must-buy.
DoAa would be this system's best fighter to date, had Namco not brought out you-know-what. Everything about this game is absolutely amazing: excellent hit detection, ultra-realistic animation, beautiful backgrounds, etc. The fighting engine isn't as flashy/arcadey as some other popular titles--this is definitely better suited for more hardcore players. But once you get used to this fighting style, you'll be hooked. This is a deep and wonderful game.
Can it be any more clear that the DC is a fighting game fan's dream machine? DOA2 has flair, style and substance. It looks fantastic...but it's not all about the eye candy. Sure, the throws and combos and knocking your enemy off a 100' tall cliff will make you go "wow" more than once, but it all adds greatly to the gameplay. The four-player mode rules too, lust make sure you get paired up with someone who knows what he/she's doing.
There's a lot about DOA2 that's extremely satisfying: The exaggerated attacks and how they connect, the intense tag mode, the way you can smack people against a concrete wall and watch them slump over, and that you can knock enemies through a pane of glass and watch them fall some 30 feet to a new area in an arena. The fighting system is pretty nice, too. I would've liked more interesting characters, but overall it's a solid, very pretty fighter.
Download Dead Or Alive 2
It occurred to us, during our long nights with the Dead Or Alive 2 beta this month, that some of you out there might have missed all the hype surrounding this second-generation Dreamcast fighter. Despite all that Team Ninja has accomplished in this amazing sequel to a decent Model 2 fighter, DOA2 still has the dangerous potential of being overlooked by commercial, if not critical success.
And since we've never done an extensive hands-on report of DOA2, we thought a proper preview was in order. What we've been given by Tecmo is, hands down, the most visually arresting and technically impressive game on the Dreamcast yet. If the industry consensus, that the current generation of Dreamcast games are drawing on 50 percent of the system's resources, is true, then DOA2 is an incredible gauge of good things to come for Sega's last stand in the hardware business.
As a sequel, DOA2 shares quite a few traits with another sequel by the name of Soul Calibur. For one, both games are absolute labors of love; Team Ninja's complete dedication to visual realism and technical excellence rivals that of our beloved Calibur boys over at Namco R&D. And like Soul Calibur, DOA2 is a drastic improvement upon its predecessor.
Graphically, the game is leagues ahead of their initial offering on the Model 2. Team Ninja also tweaked the character balance and revamped the game's reversal system, after heeding complaints from frustrated gamers. The addition of full 3D movement, interactive backgrounds, multi-leveled arenas and tag battles add new layers of strategy to the brawl. Unlike more subtle changes to a game engine, the aforementioned upgrades could only have come by the power of better hardware.
DOA2, at its core, is still very much the same game as the original DoA. In the arcade, the game rests on three buttons (punch, kick, free) and a stick. The free button is a multipurpose button used for moving about in 3D, and tapping for reversals. The Dreamcast version will have the option to use a modified, control pad-friendly layout. With the DC control scheme, you'll have the option of using a block button, as well as a dedicated throw button. In the arcade configuration, blocking is done by pulling back, a la Street Fighter II.
It isn't enough to simply say that DOA2 looks better or worse than Soul Calibur. Both games have hit a certain milestone of quality, so subjectivity will likely dictate which of the two you prefer when it comes time to judge. However, we should distinguish how the two games differ in their fields of visual excellence. DOA2 is breathtaking and graceful, powerful and sudden. Still pictures, as impressive as they may look, can't hope to do justice to the game's 60 fps fluidity.
The extensive amount of research and motion capture Team Ninja went through to reproduce the different fighting styles pays off in spades. When a character is struck by a heavy blow, he/she'll stagger in pain, double over and grimace, or hold his/her nose in silent agony. Also sophisticated is the way characters react to hits based on location and type. Kick somebody in his/her legs and he/she'll collapse on the force of his/her own weight. Land a fist in somebody's gut and depending on his/her body mass and your strength, he/she'U double over or slam up against a wall. Realistic motion capturing also plays an important role in how characters handle reversals and counters. Not only do they look cool, they're also useful against predictable combos. Other nice touches include being able to use walls and electric fences by slamming your opponent into them. Knocking your enemy off a ledge causes extra damage and your character will automatically jump down after them to ensue the fight.
Not willing to be outdone, Team Ninja has also included a "tag battle" mode in DOA2. Like other team-based fighting games, certain combinations of fighters give you exclusive moves. For instance, Bass and Tina, the father/daughter wrestling team, have exclusive and devastating tag throws. Much like in advanced Tekken Tag play, tagging can also be used in a continuous juggle situation. Typical of most fighting games, timing is everything. The tag battles in DOA2 are by far the game's most promising and brilliant prospect; unfortunately, you can only play on one stage during tag battles.
The final version of DOA2 will have a Story Mode, Time Attack Mode, Team Battle Mode, Versus Mode, Sparring Mode and the Tag Battle Mode. Last month, we promised you a review of DOA2 this issue. For a full explanation of why we're only running a preview this issue, check the reviews intro in Review Crew. In the meantime, salivate over these screenshots and dust off those arcade sticks... Because for the time being, DOA2 is the best-looking game out on the market. Period.
The bounce is back in town, and so are Kasumi, Lei Fang, Tina Armstrong and the boys. Ayane returns in even bustier form, and new characters Helena and Ein are introduced for the first time. Strangely, Bayman has been ejected for the carbon-copy but completely original turban-wearing character Leon.
As in the first game, the fighting engine is an evolution of the famous Virtua Fighter setup, meaning there is a punch and a kick button, while pulling back effects your block. The hold button from the first DOA has been renamed the "free" button, while the final offensive command arrives in the form of a throw button. Whereas the first game was a nonstop reversal-fest with often comedic displays of two players constantly trying to negate each other's attacks, DOA2 rectifies the problem by adding a three-tiered application of the system. Instead of just reversing your opponent to death, you have to anticipate whether their attack is going to arrive high, medium or low. If you forecast your enemy's blows correctly you'll pull off a nifty counter move of significantly damaging power. If you don't, you'll get an Express Mail smackdown that'll teach you a quick lesson in manners.
The PlayStation2 version doesn't boast much over the already released Dreamcast version, but there are differences. The PS2 game features a few different backgrounds and gives some characters an extra costume or two. No big deal, but worth noting if you're digging for extra stuff. The game balancing from the "millennium" arcade version has also been implemented. Oh, and there's the "Kasumi floating naked in a blob of jello" cinema that went missing from the Dreamcast version. Otherwise, this is generally the same game we all know and love on Sega's system, just without some of the anti-aliasing the DC offers.
While Sega has an exclusivity contract on DOA2 for the U.S. market for a while, it may expire by the time the PS2 launches in the States. If it does, we might see this one as part of the initial lineup of software. And as the fastest 3D fighter around, expect this to be a must-own for serious fighting buffs.