Dead or Alive (video game)

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Dead or Alive
DOA flyer.jpg
European arcade flyer
Developer(s)Team Ninja
Acclaim Entertainment (European Arcade release)
SCEE (European PS1 release)
Director(s)Tomonobu Itagaki
Katsunori Ehara
Takeshi Kawaguchi
Producer(s)Tomonobu Itagaki
Yujin Rikimaru
Yutaka Koga
Designer(s)Motohiro Shiga
Jun Hasunuma
Composer(s)Makoto Hosoi
SeriesDead or Alive
Platform(s)Arcade, Sega Saturn, PlayStation
  • WW: November 26, 1996[1]
  • JP: October 16, 1998 (++)[2]
Sega Saturn
  • JP: October 9, 1997
  • JP: March 12, 1998
  • NA: March 31, 1998
  • EU: July 1, 1998
PlayStation Network
  • JP: December 10, 2008
Mode(s)Up to 2 players simultaneously
Arcade systemSega Model 2

Dead or Alive[a] is a 1996 fighting game by Tecmo and the first entry in Team Ninja's long-running Dead or Alive series. It was released first in arcades, followed by home ports for the Sega Saturn in Japan, and later for the PlayStation in all regions.

Capitalizing on the success of Sega's Virtua Fighter fighting game series at the time, Dead or Alive takes influence from Virtua Fighter while adding unique gameplay elements of its own. The game was well-praised for its fighting system and advanced graphics. The game also attracted attention for its presentation, which was more provocative than other mainstream 3D fighting games at the time.

Dead or Alive was a commercial success, helping Tecmo overcome their financial problems. The success of the game helped turn the series into a franchise, including several sequels and numerous spinoffs.


Unlike other fighting games of the time, in place of a "guard" button Dead or Alive uses a "hold" button, which causes the fighter to grab their opponent's limbs if they are attacking at the time.[3] This countering system was the first in the fighting genre to utilize different commands that correspond to each type of attack. There are two kinds of holds, an Offensive Hold and a Defensive Hold; the latter are executed by holding back or forward on the directional pad along with the guard input to either force away or counter-damage an opponent.

The outer edges of the fighting arena are set with explosives which deal a high amount of damage to any fighter who comes in contact with them.[3] They can also send an affected character in the air so the opposing player can execute a juggling air combo. However, this can be avoided with a defensive roll.


  • Bayman, a Russian mercenary and Russian martial arts practitioner hired to kill DOATEC's founder and CEO, Fame Douglas.
  • Gen Fu, an old Chinese xinyi liuhe quan martial arts master and bookstore owner who enters the tournament to win the prize money in order to provide funds for his sick granddaughter.
  • Jann Lee, a Chinese jeet kune do martial artist who enters the tournament to test his skills against powerful opponents. His character is modeled on Bruce Lee.
  • Kasumi, a Japanese kunoichi who abandons her village in search of Raidou, the man who crippled her brother.
  • Leifang, a young Chinese tai chi quan practitioner, who enters the tournament to defeat Jann Lee.
  • Raidou (unlockable), an evil ninja exiled from Kasumi's clan.
  • Ryu Hayabusa, a Japanese ninja hero and best friend of Kasumi's brother who enters the tournament to fulfill his thirst for challenge. He is originally from Ninja Gaiden.
  • Tina Armstrong, an American female wrestler who enters the tournament to be noticed by Hollywood.
  • Zack, a flamboyant African-American DJ and kickboxer who enters the tournament to win the prize money.

Added in the PlayStation and Arcade++ versions are Kasumi's half-sister Ayane and Tina's father Bass Armstrong.

  • Ayane, a Japanese kunoichi from the same clan as Kasumi who was ordered to kill her.
  • Bass Armstrong, an American professional wrestling champion and father of Tina who tries to stop her from being noticed by Hollywood.


A massive corporation known as DOATEC (Dead or Alive Tournament Executive Committee) host a fighting competition called the Dead or Alive World Combat Championship, where fighters from all over the world can compete for the title as champion and a vast amount of money. A runaway kunoichi known as Kasumi enters the Dead or Alive tournament to seek revenge against her uncle Raidou, who was responsible for crippling her brother Hayate. Kasumi eventually defeats and kills Raidou, but her decision to leave her village without permission violates the strict laws of the ninja society, and as a result, she becomes a hunted fugitive.

Development and release[edit]

During the mid 1990s, Japanese gaming company Tecmo was in financial trouble. Seeing how popular Sega's Virtua Fighter series was in Japan at the time, the management asked Tomonobu Itagaki to create a game similar to Virtua Fighter.[4] Itagaki was a fan of Virtua Fighter, but he wanted Dead or Alive to stand out among the competition. This included a stronger emphasis on being provocative, as Itagaki believed entertainment needed both sexuality and violence to truly be entertainment.[5] All the animations in the game were created using motion capture.[6]

The original game, which runs on the Sega Model 2 arcade board, the same arcade board that Virtua Fighter 2 ran on, had polygonal modeled backgrounds.[7] Dead or Alive was unveiled alongside Jaleco's Super GT 24h at the February 1996 AOU show as part of Sega's announcement that they were licensing their Model 2 hardware to third-party companies.[8]

In comparison to other 3D fighters, such as Tekken (which gained a substantial market base in Japan and North America), DOA introduced a countering system unique to the genre and an added emphasis on speed, as well as a rich graphics engine that lacked many jaggies and incorporated very smooth surfaces.

A Nintendo 64 port was rumored, but did not come to fruition.[9] Dead or Alive was instead ported to the Sega Saturn exclusively for the Japanese market in 1997. Acclaim intended to bring the Saturn version to the UK by Christmas 1997,[10][11] but plans were shelved for unknown reasons. When ported to the Saturn, the developers used Gouraud shading (a feature not available on Model 2) for the character models to compensate for the Saturn not being able to generate as many polygons as the Model 2 hardware.[12] The Saturn conversion uses bitmaps and parallax scrolling in the same fashion as the Saturn version of Virtua Fighter 2. It also includes a new rendered intro and tournament and training modes.[11]

In 1998, Tecmo released Dead or Alive for the PlayStation in all regions. It was the first game designed for Sega arcade hardware to be ported to the PlayStation.[12] This version included two new characters, a different graphics engine, a slightly revamped fighting engine, and new background music. Tecmo also released an upgrade titled Dead or Alive++ for the arcades in Japan which was based on the PlayStation version.[13] This version was based on the PlayStation version with an even slight updated gameplay that later expanded for the sequel, Dead or Alive 2.


In Japan, Game Machine listed Dead or Alive on their January 1, 1997 issue as being the most-successful arcade game of the year.[33] Game Machine also listed Dead or Alive++ on their November 15, 1998 issue as being the eleventh most-successful arcade game of the year.[34]

Upon the game's release in arcades, a Next Generation reviewer commented, "A fighting game that mimics Virtua Fighter 2 in its look and feel to a frightening degree ... Dead or Alive boasts smooth control, crisp polygonal graphics, and an attitude that may enable this game to stand on its own despite its familiar origins." He identified the variety of characters and the danger zones as the game's standout features, and said the tough AI forces players to learn more complex moves and strategies.[31]

Although it was not widely distributed in U.S. arcades, Dead or Alive was a commercial success,[12] helping Tecmo pull in a profit of 9.2 million dollars in 1996 and saving the company from bankruptcy.[35] The Saturn version would go on to sell more than 161,000 copies in Japan.[36]

The Saturn version was successful critically as well. Sega Saturn Magazine described it as "an incredible beat 'em up both technically and visually, even getting close to beating Sega's own-brand Virtua Fighter games."[32] Computer and Video Games stated it was "an essential buy for import Saturn gamers."[10] GamesRadar included it in their list of best Sega Saturn games, stating that "the games high-speed, rock-paper-scissors style of play was a quick hit with arcade players."[37] In 2011, Complex ranked it as the seventh best fighting game of all time.[38]

Next Generation reviewed the Saturn version of the game, rating it four stars out of five, and stated that "Dead or Alive is such a polished game that it's surprising to realize this is Tecmo's first 3D fighter."[39]


In 2004, Tecmo released Dead or Alive Ultimate, a package that featured revamps of the first two DOA games, on the Xbox. The remake of the first game was based on the Sega Saturn version, as it was Itagaki's preferred version.[4] It featured smoother graphics, sound updated from stereo to surround, and adds Xbox Live online gaming. Both Dead or Alive 1 Ultimate and Dead or Alive 2 Ultimate were among the first fighting games with online play.


  1. ^ Japanese: デッドオアアライブ, Hepburn: Deddo Oa Araibu


  1. ^ "デッド オア アライブ まとめ [アーケード] / ファミ通.com". 2014-02-22. Retrieved 2016-03-06.
  2. ^ "デッド オア アライブ++(プラスプラス) まとめ [アーケード] / ファミ通.com". 2014-02-22. Retrieved 2016-03-06.
  3. ^ a b "Dead or Alive". Sega Saturn Magazine. No. 9. Emap International Limited. July 1996. p. 96.
  4. ^ a b "Video Games Daily | Tomonobu Itagaki: The Kikizo Interview 2005 with Team Ninja Boss". 2005-02-15. Archived from the original on 2016-03-19. Retrieved 2016-03-06.
  5. ^ "The History Of TECMO - Dead or Alive". YouTube. Retrieved 1 January 2016.
  6. ^ "Wanted: Dead or Alive". Maximum: The Video Game Magazine. Emap International Limited (7): 86–87. June 1996.
  7. ^ "The History of Dead or Alive". IGN. 2004-08-02. Archived from the original on 2007-10-15. Retrieved 2007-10-08.
  8. ^ "Model 3: Sega Affirms Arcade Supremacy". Next Generation. No. 17. Imagine Media. May 1996. pp. 15–16.
  9. ^ "Tecmo's Fighter: Dead Or Alive on N64?". 1997-08-06. Retrieved 2016-03-06.
  10. ^ a b c "Review: Dead or Alive". Computer and Video Games. No. 193. EMAP. December 1997. Retrieved 2016-03-06.
  11. ^ a b "Dead or Alive... You're Coming with Me!". Sega Saturn Magazine. No. 25. Emap International Limited. November 1997. p. 11. Retrieved December 3, 2019.
  12. ^ a b c "NG Alphas: Dead or Alive". Next Generation. No. 34. Imagine Media. October 1997. pp. 112–113.
  13. ^ "Dead or Alive news and update". IGN. 1998.
  14. ^ "Dead or Alive for Saturn". GameRankings. CBS Interactive. Retrieved 2019-03-19.
  15. ^ "Dead or Alive for PlayStation". GameRankings. CBS Interactive. Retrieved 2013-12-22.
  16. ^ "Dead or Alive for PlayStation Reviews". Metacritic. CBS Interactive. Retrieved 2013-12-22.
  17. ^ Williamson, Colin (2014-12-11). "Dead or Alive - Review - allgame". Archived from the original on December 11, 2014. Retrieved 2016-03-06.
  18. ^ Williamson, Colin (2014-12-10). "Dead or Alive - Review - allgame". Archived from the original on December 10, 2014. Retrieved 2016-03-06.
  19. ^ House, Michael L. "Dead or Alive - Review". Allgame. Retrieved June 5, 2013.
  20. ^ "Computer and Video Games - Issue 200 (1998-07)(EMAP Images)(GB)". Retrieved 2016-03-06.
  21. ^ Electronic Gaming Monthly, 1999 Video Game Buyer's Guide, page 122.
  22. ^ "デッド オア アライブ まとめ [PS] / ファミ通.com". 2012-09-27. Retrieved 2016-03-06.
  23. ^ GameFan, volume 5, issue 12 (December 1997), pages 24 & 112-113.
  24. ^ GamePro, issue 114 (March 1998), page 100.
  25. ^ GamePro, issue 116 (May 1998), page 82.
  26. ^ "Dead or Alive - PlayStation". 1999-09-15. Archived from the original on September 15, 1999. Retrieved 2016-03-06.
  27. ^ "Dead or Alive - IGN". 1998-03-27. Retrieved 2013-12-22.
  28. ^ Jeff Gerstmann (2013-10-10). "Dead or Alive (1997) Review". GameSpot. Retrieved 2013-12-22.
  29. ^ MacDonald, Ryan. "Dead or Alive Review". GameSpot. Retrieved June 5, 2013.
  30. ^ Consoles +, issue 71, pages 180-181.
  31. ^ a b "Dead or Alive". Next Generation. No. 28. Imagine Media. April 1997. p. 132.
  32. ^ a b "Import Review: Dead or Alive". Sega Saturn Magazine. No. 30. p. 67. Retrieved 2016-03-06.
  33. ^ "Game Machine's Best Hit Games 25 - TVゲーム機ーソフトウェア (Video Game Software)". Game Machine (in Japanese). No. 533. Amusement Press, Inc. 1 January 1997. p. 33.
  34. ^ "Game Machine's Best Hit Games 25 - TVゲーム機ーソフトウェア (Video Game Software)". Game Machine (in Japanese). No. 576. Amusement Press, Inc. 15 November 1998. p. 21.
  35. ^ "The History Of TECMO - Dead or Alive". YouTube. 2011-02-15. Retrieved 2016-03-06.
  36. ^ "Sega Saturn Japanese Ranking". Archived from the original on December 30, 2008. Retrieved 2016-03-06.
  37. ^
  38. ^ Peter Rubin, The 50 Best Fighting Games of All Time,, March 15, 2011
  39. ^ "Finals". Next Generation. No. 37. Imagine Media. January 1998. p. 155.

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