Dead or Alive

REVIEWThe first iteration of Dead or Alive was released in arcades in 1996. The 3D fighter utilized Sega's Model 2 arcade board and was the first time Sega licensed their hardware to a third-party-company (in this case, Tecmo). At first glance, DOA definitely resembled Sega's Virtua Fighter 2 in more ways than one, presenting a roster of 8 selectable martial artists. Dead or Alive was later ported to the Sega Saturn only in Japan, and in 1998, a version of DOA hit the Sony PlayStation. The PS1 version featured many differences over the other versions, including reworked graphics, new moves and also a TON of unlockables: 84 character costumes, to be exact! 

DOA began with only 3 females... boy, did that change.


At the time of its debut, DOA's gameplay engine is definitely most comparable to Sega's Virtua Fighter series, utilizing only 3 buttons (punch, kick and hold). However, DOA is a considerably faster game than Virtua Fighter and relies more on simplistic commands and reaction time. DOA's gameplay system features a reversal system, enabling players to easily counter their opponent's moves (later to become a trademark gameplay element of the series). DOA's countering system was the first to utilize different commands that corresponded to each type of attack.



DOA didn't invent the breast jiggle... but the series did become known for it.


The other unique (and somewhat odd) aspect gameplay element introduced by DOA is the "Danger Zone," which surround the outer edges of the fighting arena. When a character comes in contact with the danger zone, they are sent flying into the air (creating an easy combo opportunity for skilled players). As a 3D fighting game fan, I'd say the main flaw of DOA's gameplay is the lack of a sidestep mechanic (which was becoming a staple feature in other 3D fighters).


At a glance, DOA could be confused with Virtua Fighter 2.


Dead or Alive
quickly became known for its silly animation of 'breasts' on the female characters, which are comically large, and slowly bounce up and down whilst the character was fighting. As the first game to really incorporate this "jiggle" effect, one can't admit that it was pretty entertaining for the time. As you probably know, this would later become an infamous trademark of the DOA series (and only became more and more exaggerated). Overall, the character designs of the original DOA weren't terrible, but definitely lacked originality and excitement in some areas. In a nutshell, character personalities and overall fighting styles were a bit dry... giving me a "been there, done that (and already done it better)" sort of feeling.

Part of DOA1's intro featuring Lei Fang & Jann Lee.










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Page Updated: July 18th, 2024
Developer(s): Team Ninja
Publisher(s): Tecmo
Designer(s): Tomonobu Itagaki
Platform(s): Arcade, Sega Saturn, PlayStation
Release Date(s): 1996                                Arcade
Oct. 9th, 1997            Saturn
Mar. 12th, 1998         PS1
Mar. 31st, 1998         PS1
Characters Kasumi, Ayane, Lei Fang, Tina Armstrong, Bass Armstrong, Zack, Hayabusa, Gen Fu, Jann Lee, Bayman, Raidou

Featured Video:

Related Games: Dead or Alive 2, Dead or Alive 2: Hardcore, Dead or Alive 3, Dead or Alive 4, Dead or Alive 5, Dead or Alive 5: Ultimate, Dead or Alive: Dimensions, Dead or Alive 6, Virtua Fighter, Virtua Fighter Remix, Virtua Fighter 2, Fighters Megamix, Last Bronx, Mace: The Dark Age, Star Gladiator, Toshinden 2, Soul Blade, Tekken 3, Tobal No. 1

Gameplay Engine  7.5 / 10
Story / Theme  6.0 / 10
Overall Graphics  9.0 / 10
Animation  7.5 / 10
Music / Sound Effects  4.5 / 10
Innovation  7.0 / 10
Art Direction  5.0 / 10
Customization  9.0 / 10
Options / Extras  8.5 / 10
Intro / Presentation  6.5 / 10
Replayability / Fun  7.0 / 10
"Ouch" Factor  7.5 / 10
Characters  6.0 / 10

 7.2 / 10

 Review based on PS1 version     


Final Words: Team Ninja made a statement in the fighting genre with the first DOA, giving 3D fighting game fans an interesting alternative to the likes of VF, Tekken and Soul Blade to name a few. The PS1 version of DOA was pretty fun for a while, but overall, didn't quite have the lasting appeal that other fighting games had (in my opinion).

The unlockable costumes definitely added a ton of replay value at least... no doubt "84 character costumes" left an imprint in the minds of many players. Other than that, DOA1 was lacking in other ways. For one, the music & sound effects may have been Dead or Alive's biggest flaw... I remember the music particularly boring and even annoying at times. However, DOA was a stepping stone in what would become one of the major titles in the next generation of 3D fighters.

~TFG Webmaster | @Fighters_Gen

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