Dead or Alive Ultimate

December 7, 2004

[floatleft][/floatleft]3D fighters have become so prolific in the recent past that it seems ridiculous to invest in yet another game. With my current disappointment in the 3D [i]Mortal Kombat[/i] games and the sheer volume of [i]Soul Calibur 2[/i], I was a bit on the fence about another 3D fighter, especially one that was in fact a remake.

That’s right. [i]Dead or Alive Ultimate[/i] is a remake. More specifically, it is a repackaging of one game and a remake of the other. The set includes the Sega Saturn version of the first [i]Dead or Alive[/i] and a completely remade version of [i]Dead or Alive 2[/i], which now has beautifully updated graphics and a plethora of neat unlockables. It is true that there is no new story here nor has any of the content from the original games been fleshed out in any way. Despite this, I still found myself pleasantly surprised with [i]DOAU[/i].

First, the game packaging is exceptional. I was extremely excited that each game had its own hard case instead of just throwing both games into a single case. Both game cases are then placed inside a very pretty, collector-worthy sleeve that is now sitting happily on my game shelf. If you’re lucky, you might also acquire some limited edition, collector trading cards with the set.

[floatright][/floatright]The collection excels well beyond the packaging. The graphics from the Sega Saturn version of [i]Dead or Alive[/i] have been ported and exceptionally rendered. It is interesting to note that this is the first time North America has ever seen this version of [i]Dead or Alive[/i]. The only thing added to this game is the addition of Xbox Live online play, which-while fun-loses its shine very quickly, especially next to the beautifully remade version of [i]Dead or Alive 2.[/i]

Team Ninja truly went the extra mile when updating [i]Dead or Alive 2[/i]. The graphics are jaw-dropping gorgeous. The backgrounds have been updated, and many are now interactive with multiple levels and locations inside of a single battle stage. Character design is flawlessly updated and beautifully rendered, and a new intro movie has been added to show off the overall prettiness here. In truth, a game cannot survive on graphics alone, so how does it play?

It plays nearly exactly like the PS2 version of [i]Dead or Alive 2[/i] but only tighter. The controls feel more responsive and a bit more precise. I can’t be sure if that is due to my personal preference for the Xbox controller S over the Dual Shock or if the Team Ninja went the extra mile to solidify the controls. Either way, it works and feels better than the original. A good arcade stick makes this game feel so good to play that you would think you were actually in the arcade.

The arcade experience is really what a fighting game has always been about, and it is apparent that Team Ninja is aware of that fact. The sense of online community when playing on Xbox Live is excellent. Playing online creates a sort of virtual arcade where up to eight players can join a game. These players then take turns playing in one of the many online modes-Winner-Stays, Loser-Stays, Kumite, Survival, Tournament, and Team Battle-while the other players watch from the comfort of their couches. It almost feels like putting a quarter up on the arcade machine and then waiting your turn in line without having to deal with big sweaty guys who have developed joystick claw from too much arcade time.

[floatleft][/floatleft]Online play is definitely a selling point, but single player is brilliant as well. I have played so many fighting games that it would make most gamers physically ill, and I can say without hesitation that the single player experience here is pretty darn good. A player is rewarded for playing story mode on the numerous difficulties with a ridiculous number of new costumes for every character. Other games modes include Time Attack, Survival, Tag Battle, Team Battle, Versus, Sparring, and Watch-all of which have appeared in one or another of the Dead or Alive games, with nothing new included this time around. Despite the lack of new single player modes, I still find myself coming back to this game over and over to see how many costumes I can unlock and just to get a glimpse of all of the perfectly rendered battle arenas.

With all of the “fighters” out there right now, why bother with the D[i]ead or Alive[/i] series at all? Well, [i]Dead or Alive[/i] has a certain amount of beginner appeal that other fighters don’t really have. Much like [i]Soul Calibur[/i], it is pretty easy to pick up and play and sort of learn combinations and moves without memorizing pages of button combinations. On top of that, there is a great deal of depth here for those who are already fans of the series. There are quite a good number of combinations and moves to pull off and tons of costumes to unlock.

The bottom line here is that if you already hate the [i]DOA[/i] series this set is probably not going to make you suddenly fall in love with it. Adversely, if you are a [i]DOA[/i] freak, then you must have this game. Other people who should pick this up are 3D fighting lovers and gamers who are fans of fighters in general. You should probably avoid this one if you hate 3D fighters, and it might not warrant the $50 price tag if you don’t plan on taking the game online. If you only want it for the single-player experience, you should still grab it; but wait until the price drops a bit. This one comes with my recommendations. It has made both me and my arcade stick very, very happy.