A blast from the past. Tecmo's Team Ninja brings two classics to Xbox Live, the original Sega Saturn port of Dead or Alive 1 and a revised version of the best selling Dead or Alive 2. Be prepared to test your skills against either the best players worldwide online or the smartest AI offline. With beautiful graphics, challenging gameplay, and all new environments, costumes and fighting moves, Dead or Alive Ultimate is the perfect fighting game compilation for the Xbox.
Finally, Dead or Alive fans are able to take their favourite characters and test their skills on Xbox Live's worldwide network, as Dead or Alive 3 did not offer this feature. With the phenomenal success of DOA 3, selling over 1.5 million copies before going Platinum, it is no surprise that Tecmo has brought the first two Dead or Alive titles to the Xbox. Fully utilizing the Xbox graphics engine and online capabilities, this title has been highly anticipated by Xbox owners everywhere. With all the television and magazine adds promoting it, many would think this would be as successful or more successful then its predecessor, but is it? For owners of the PlayStation version of the original Dead or Alive, many would consider the remake for the Xbox to be a step back, not a step forward, in the gameplay experience. While there is criticism and compliments for Team Ninja's Xbox compilation, what gamers want to know is whether or not this collection is worth the price tag. For starters, this collection offers fans of the series a more in-depth look at the history behind each character. A completely new introduction for Dead or Alive 2 unveils the story of Kasumi, Hayate and Ayane. Combined with hours of gameplay and numerous secrets to be unlocked, players can get a lot of enjoyment out of the collection.
Depending on your gender, presentation for this title is either good or great. It's no secret that Tecmo's advertising for this series is directed at teenaged to young adult males. To many, Dead or Alive Xtreme Beach Volleyball was an excuse to put the female Dead or Alive characters in revealing swim wear. Whether or not players enjoyed the beach volleyball, or the collection of mini games, it was clear that the title was directed at the male persuasion. Dead or Alive: Ultimate, based on the packaging alone, is no different. Aside from this, colourful box art helps draw attention to this title from others placed on store shelves. Instruction manuals are colourful, easy to read, and offer players not only a full command list, but the story of each character. In the Dead or Alive 2 Ultimate manual, they even give players a look into the fact and fictional history of the Dead or Alive series. In this section, it is easy to see that Tecmo has made a serious effort, and it really adds to the whole package.
Audio is one element that Team Ninja really succeeded in with Dead or Alive 3 for the Xbox. The fact that they used Aerosmith, one of Rock's most successful and longest living bands, really said something about Team Ninja's desire to put out a strong title. Like the old saying goes, "if it ain't broke, don't fix it", and that's the approach they've taken with DOAU. In the remake of Dead or Alive 2, the opening is presented with Aerosmith's "Dream On" playing in the background. Whether or not players appreciate the music, it is hard to dispute that Team Ninja has once again put in a lot of effort for the audio of the title. DOA 2 Ultimate offers an improved selection of sound effects, and while it does contain the voices and sound effects from the original Dead or Alive 2 for the Dreamcast, it also offers a variety of new audio treats. Smashing against brick walls, bouncing off power generators, breaking statues, or even snowmen, it's all here. In addition, the ability to change the voice of the announcer is more than welcome. Further voices can then be unlocked by completing certain objectives. In DOA 1 Ultimate, this isn't the case. This is pretty much a direct port of the original Dead or Alive for the Sega Saturn. The audio tracks are still pretty much the same as they were in 1997. While this might not be bad for some players, many others will have complaints. It is a bit frustrating to see that Team Ninja hasn't put the effort it put into DOA 1 Ultimate that they have for the second. Much like Capcom's Street Fighter Anniversary Edition, it might be that Team Ninja wanted to maintain a sense of nostalgia for the older fans of the series. Many have complained that Tecmo should have used the audio from the PlayStation Dead or Alive, instead of using the original Sega Saturn tracks. Just one reason why newer players to the series will likely be spending most of their time with DOA 2.
Visual, much like the audio, varies within this compilation. As with the audio, DOA 1 Ultimate maintains the same graphics that the original Dead or Alive had on the Sega Saturn. Much like the graphics for Virtua Fighter 2 and Tekken 2, these graphics are polygonal. Not the most impressive, but it brings a sense of nostalgia to the game. Once again, many have criticized Tecmo for not using the PlayStation version as a base for the graphics. This may be due to the truly classic nature of this re-release. DOA 2 Ultimate is a giant leap in graphics. Using the Dead or Alive Xtreme Beach Volleyball graphics engine, Team Ninja has been able to put more detail into character models, textures, and lighting. Some might have a hard time keeping their eyes on the fight with such beautifully crafted battle arenas. On top of the in-game graphics, players are treated to an entirely new opening for the game. This lengthy cinematic may remind players of Team Ninja's work on the cinemas for Ninja Gaiden, another Tecmo Xbox title. In comparison to the cinematics of other fighting games, like that of Namco's Tekken 5, many would consider this opening to be cartoonish. While such things may seem unrealistic (i.e. oversized breasts), it should be noted that this is Team Ninja's style and this semi-realistic style is the trademark of the series. On that note, for those who enjoyed the "bounciness" of the female characters in previous Dead or Alive titles, Team Ninja has once again delivered eye candy for those curious players. As with their other titles, this feature can be controlled from the options menu, giving more bounce to those beautifully rendered female fighters. All in all, this compilation is very pleasing to the eye. Even if players don't appreciate the classic graphics of the original Dead or Alive, the updated sequel is more then enough to keep even the most graphics-oriented players happy.
Between DOA 1 and DOA 2, gameplay doesn't vary much in the compilation from their original releases. For both titles, the gameplay mechanics are solid. While not as difficult to play as Tekken or Virtua Fighter, the reworked counter system helps distinguish between novice and veteran players. Much with other fighting games, the goal is to knock out your opponent. To win, players must vary their attacks to beat a blocking opponent and to keep from being countered. Pick your favourite character and practice their moves in order to be a real contender. For those looking to master this compilation, choosing one main character to refine your skills is key. This game's strength lies in the diversity of each character's set of moves. While knowing a few combos and power attacks with a character may win a few rounds with novice players, using most of your character's attacks will allow any player to become victorious against even the best.
Gameplay in DOA 1 Ultimate is the title's saving grace. While side stepping is not part of the game's mechanics, players do have the ability to move throughout the environment with certain recoveries and attacks. Besides this, the gameplay is linear. The title offers a decent cast of characters, a large collection of moves for each character, along with counters and recoveries. In DOA 2 Ultimate, players are offered significantly more. Combined with the ability to move in three dimensions, players get a handful of new characters and new moves. Game modes don't vary much between titles. Both titles have story/arcade mode, survival mode, time attack, training mode, and the standard versus mode. Dead or Alive 1 Ultimate has a kumite mode which allows players to take on 30, 50, or 100 fighters. DOA 2 Ultimate has tag battle mode, team battle mode and watch mode. As the name implies, tag battle mode is a two on two tag battle mode. Players can switch between their characters freely during combat, even while performing tag attacks and grabs. Tag battle is also offered in versus mode. In team battle, players can choose up to 7 characters for a team to challenge the computer or a friend with. Watch mode allows players to sit back and watch two character of their choosing fight. Online modes in both games are the same. Spectator, winner-stays, tournament, team battle, survival, loser-stays and kumite, are the options available for up to eight players. Other then loser stays, each other mode works off the premise that the winner continues to battle it out. Those who aren't fighting, like in spectator, watch the fight, using the right thumb stick to change the camera angle. All in all, multiple gameplay modes, including offline and online combat, and a solid fighting system, help make these games very enjoyable to play.
For those looking for hours upon hours of replay value, the Dead or Alive Ultimate collection is an ideal purchase. Hidden characters, additional costumes, and a slew of other secrets can be unlocked only through repetitive play. Some of these secrets need other Dead or Alive titles to work. For example, to unlock Hitomi in Dead or Alive 2 Ultimate, players need a Dead or Alive 3 or a Dead or Alive Xtreme Beach Volleyball save on their Xbox. Also, by meeting certain requirement, players can unlock an update for Dead or Alive 3. This helps add hours of life to that game. In fact, players may even be tempted to pick up the Platinum Hit if it's not already part of their collection. Outside of unlocking secrets, the multiple modes of play help add hours to the gameplay experience. Advanced players may even spend several hours in training mode mastering their character, while other may try to best their record in survival or time attack mode. When fighting friends or computer opponents get dull, players can go online to meet new challengers from around the world. No matter what kind of player you are, this game has enough content to keep even the most casual players coming back for more.
While there are many criticisms about Dead or Alive 1 Ultimate, one example being the lack of characters in comparison to the PlayStation version, it is not hard to see the value in this compilation for the Xbox. Tecmo has brought a very solid fighting collection to the Xbox, helping the system compete with Namco's Tekken series and Sega's Virtua Fighter series for the PlayStation 2. As only a few fighting games on the Xbox have online capabilities, this collection is a welcome addition. If you are a fan of the series, Dead or Alive Ultimate really deserves its title as the ultimate fighting collection, and easily justifies the price tag.