Dead or Alive Ultimate
Reviewed by Beth S.
Review Date Platform Genre Rating Production
2007-05-16 Xbox Fighting T (Teen) Tecmo / Team Ninja

I picked up Dead or Alive Ultimate when I suddenly found myself nostalgic for the Street Fighter days of my youth. I missed the mindless fun of kicking the crud out of muscular ninjas and scantily clad women. After taking a quick survey of the current fighter games, Dead or Alive was a title that came up again and again with a reputation of being a superb game. With a little more searching, I decided that Dead or Alive Ultimate would be the best choice to satisfy my thirst for combat.

Dead or Alive Ultimate is actually a collector's edition that has two game discs: the original Dead or Alive, and the thankfully improved Dead or Alive 2. The original DoA leaves something to be desired if you're looking for an up-to-date and technically superior game. With poor graphics, a lack of variety in locations, and formulaic and limited fight moves, I found DoA 1 to be extremely boring. However, for the gamer who wants something more closely akin to the arcade fighter games of yore, DoA 1 might be fun. Overall, this half of the two-disc collector's set is probably geared more for the die-hard, must-have-it-all Dead or Alive fanatic.

Thankfully, Dead or Alive 2 picks up a lot of the slack from the first half of the set and delivers with much appreciated upgraded action. Visually, the game immediately sucks you in with a beautifully executed introduction movie evocative of the amazing FMV scenes of Final Fantasy X. Even more impressive, the high caliber of the graphics are maintained throughout the fighting scenes of the game. The background of the multiple locations are also quite stunning and detailed. The soundtrack rounds off the game nicely, with a medley of recognizable rock songs as well as specially composed tunes.

The gameplay is also eons more advanced than that of Dead or Alive 1. The characters - which have multiplied, by the way - have a broader arsenal of moves, branching out from the typical formulaic high, middle, and low kicks and punches. Each character has a spectrum of special moves that they can draw upon to defeat their opponents. Its extremely satisfying to see a cheerleader-esque blonde toss a huge mountain of a man and then drop an elbow into his groin when he's down.

To access these special moves, however, requires the player to have memorized a somewhat complex list of button formulas. As a seasoned button-masher, I had more than a little difficulty against some of the more advanced foes. Even without memorizing the button combinations, though, I was able to get the characters moderately far along. For those who want their characters to fight at peak performance, however, a little studying is in order.

There are several modes that you can choose to play in DoA 2. There is survival mode, either with one or two characters, in which you fight opponents and collect items until you are defeated. Another is team mode, where you select up to seven characters and take on another team of the same number. Whoever is left standing is the winner. There is also timed mode, in which you kick the butt of as many opponents as you can as fast as you can. Also, there is offline multiplayer mode as well as online events accessible through Xbox Live.

Finally, there is story mode. In this mode, you are able to learn more about each character's story as you battle many opponents, unlocking new costumes as you go. This extends the story begun in the introductory movie. I was pleasantly surprised to find a story line in a fighting game, so I enjoy playing this mode the most. At the same time, however, the story is somewhat hard to follow. It is hard to tell who is who in the intro movie, so you're not sure who did what to who. Also, the storyline for each character is usually very loosely connected to that of the other characters. I am still not sure if the over-arching story of the game was one of revenge or repentance, or if it was just a fighting tournament.

That aside, I still had a great time being a fighter. Each character has his or her own fighting style, so it's a new and interesting experience to play all of them. The opponents' different styles make them more or less difficult to defeat depending on the fighting style of your character, which makes the game even more fun. Seasoned fighting gamers might find this slightly easy, but they can use their skills to get the characters to fight at optimum level.

One last drawback to the game was the female characters. It was very clear to me that this game is catered toward male gamers. Half the characters are overly buxom and scantily clad fighter ladies. One of the unlockable features of the game -- in addition to new locations, costumes, and characters -- is that players can adjust how much the chests of these full-figured ladies bounce and jiggle. That put me off a bit, but my grumblings were soon silenced by the fact that the female characters are awesome fighters. Plus, pummeling one of my opponents to a pulp after he made a suggestive comment was extremely entertaining.

Kicking butt really never goes out of style, although it does get a little brain-numbing after a while.