Insert Disk collects Dead Or Alive for the Sega Saturn.
Today’s retro game review is Dead Or Alive for the Sega Saturn. This retro gaming classic was Tecmo’s answer to the Virtua Fighter and Tekken series. The 32-bit era allowed fighting games that were more realistic than ever and everyone wanted a piece of the action. Although the Dead Or Alive series is now better known for its rather strong focus of the players/models themselves this first entry in the series is itself a surprisingly competent fighting game with game play that still holds up well.
Greetings collectors and welcome to today’s retro game review. It’s a nostalgic trip back to the late 90’s today, a time when polygon fighters ruled the arcade. Join me as I take a look back at Dead or Alive for the Sega Saturn. The first round of polygon fighter had been held between Sega’s Virtua Fighter and Namco’s Tekken series. The arcade rivalry spilled in to the home console market and formed the basis of the early 32-bit rivalry between the Sega Saturn and Sony PlayStation.
Numerous other game publishers came along to try and take the crown. Including some truly dreadful imitations such as FIST. With so many imitators though how would any other series stand out? Tecmo thought they had the answer in the way of Dead or Alive. Would it be better graphics, better sound or game play that would define the game? No, it was good old fashioned skimpy clothing and some very bouncy physics. Lots of very bouncy physics. Now, before I get in to this too much its worth saying that Dead or Alive is actually a really solid game (although bouncy in places).
Perhaps mist similar to Virtua Fighter 2 Dead or Alive boasts some excellent arcade action, memorable characters and there is an actual game here. It’s not a sell out as this really is a bonefide decent fighting game. The game allows the player to really customise the game in all manner of ways from the ring size, life gauge, timer, match points and of course a bouncing breast mode. Its not often I say that in a review. My preference is to fight in a small ring and enable extra floor damage. If an opponent is knocked down on the perimeter of the ring they receive bonus damage and a flight in to the air for their troubles. It’s a mechanic that keeps the game fresh and really makes you look for the knock down.
As with most games in this genre the player can win via a knockout, a time out or a ring out. Most players will opt for the knockout option though as it’s the obvious intention of the game. As I mentioned Dead or Alive really is a serious attempt at creating a Virtua Fighter 2 beater on the Sega Saturn and I really think that they made some great headway here. I’m a huge fan of Sega’s Virtua Fighter series even owning the arcade cabinet but I do admire that Tecmo threw a lot at this first outing of the series. Each character has a set of combos, grapples and counter moves. As you might expect each character plays a little differently in style but it is relatively easy to pick up and just start playing with a friend. So, the obvious question to ask is, is it as good as Virtual Fighter 2? Well, almost. There’s not a lot to choose from in terms of presentation but Virtua Fighter 2 edges it for me mostly based on personal preference and I find the overall control system easier in Virtua Fighter. This is mostly due to years of playing though. There is however a good argument that Dead or Alive offers more in the way of alternate costumes and does update the formula a little. It wouldn’t surprise me at all if many gamers less tied to the Sega brand enjoy Dead or Alive more than Virtua Fighter 2.
Here I’m specifically looking at the Japanese release of Dead or Alive on the Sega Saturn although there are several options out there such as the PlayStation 1 edition. The CD case is rather smart. Some good artwork design and overall looks rather slick. There’s definitely a sense that the game wants to create an image for a slightly different market to the Virtua Fighter crowd. Inside you get the manual and the original spine card as well as the game disc itself. Overall it’s a very neat little package. In terms of pricing the game also won’t set you back too much as it did enjoy a wide release in Japan.
Now its at this point I usually dive in to the CD just to hunt down any Easter Eggs or extras and can confirm that this disc does contain some added promotional material in the way of wallpaper images. There are the standard profile shots but also a rather naked image of Kasumi. Subtly censored here for YouTubing restrictions. It’s clear that Tecmo knew what they were doing when they were making this game. It clearly sets out its stall to appeal to the slightly older gamer. In terms of playability I really enjoy Dead or Alive. The cast of characters are fun, the matches provide a really decent challenge on the harder difficulty settings and the presentation from start to finish is of a really decent standard. There’s a couple of playing modes from classic arcade mode to a more survival based option and the high level of customisable elements make Dead or Alive stand out in the sea of polygon fighters.
The series did of course go on to many other games in the main series and spin-offs but this original edition was a very solid platform for the series to grow from. Whilst the controversy often foreshadows this game it would very much sell the game short to say that this was nothing more than a quick cash in on the genre. It looks and plays very well for its age so I’d definitely recommend giving this one a try. I think that the message, at least for this first edition of the game is join for the adult nature of the game but stay for the experience.