The original Dead Or Alive was a pretty successful game, in that it managed to rescue Tecmo from the brink of bankruptcy, but it was never a top-tier fighting game – and thanks to its infamous inclusion of wobbly chests for the female fighters, it was a bit of a punchline. Dead Or Alive 2 was the game that changed all that and launched the series into the upper echelon of fighting franchises.
At its core, Dead Or Alive 2 retains similar gameplay to its predecessor, utilising a three-button system of punch, kick and hold. The holds are the key thing here – if you time it to your opponent’s striking attack and guess the height correctly, you’ll deliver a devastating counter-attack. Of course, holds aren’t a universal licence to be defensive, as throws will ignore them – and as ever, strikes beat throws. It’s a fast, fluid system that emphasises entertainment over technical prowess.
What set Dead Or Alive 2 apart from the competition was its sense of spectacle. The original game’s Danger Zone mechanic was greatly expanded – now you could knock your opponents into walls, smash them into explosive items and even throw them off ledges, only to jump down and continue the fight on a new level. Likewise, tag team battles – a key selling point for the rival Tekken series – were included for the first time and allowed for awesome double team moves. If that wasn’t enough, the game looked truly spectacular, providing a rival to Soul Calibur as the most attractive fighting game on the market.
It was a stunning turnaround for a series that had previously not been taken particularly seriously. Sure, there was still a breast physics engine to satisfy the crowd that the first game attracted, but there was a hell of a game to back up the sex appeal this time around.