Dead or Alive (franchise)

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Dead or Alive
Logo of the series since Dead or Alive 3
Genre(s)Fighting series, Sports series
Developer(s)Team Ninja
Publisher(s)Tecmo (1996-2009)
Koei Tecmo (2009-present)
Creator(s)Tomonobu Itagaki
Katsunori Ehara
Platform(s)Arcade, Sega Saturn, PlayStation, Dreamcast, PlayStation 2, Xbox, Xbox 360, PlayStation Portable, Nintendo 3DS, PlayStation 3, iOS, PlayStation Vita, Xbox One, PlayStation 4, Microsoft Windows, Nintendo Switch
First releaseDead or Alive
November 26, 1996[1]
Latest releaseDead or Alive 6
March 1, 2019
Spin-offsXtreme series of games, film

Dead or Alive (Japanese: デッドオアアライブ, Hepburn: Deddo oa Araibu) is a fighting video game series produced by Tecmo and developed by Team Ninja. It is primarily composed of fast-paced 3D fighting games that begun with the original Dead or Alive in 1996. DOA is the creation of Tomonobu Itagaki, who has since left the company and is no longer working on the series, which continues without him. In addition to its countering-based play system, the franchise is arguably most known for its female characters. This aspect of the series' popularity led to the creation of the spin-off game Dead or Alive Xtreme Beach Volleyball and its sequels, where the females and their sex appeal play a more focal role than it does in the core Dead or Alive series. A live action film adaptation DOA: Dead or Alive was released in 2006.


The Dead or Alive series focuses on fast-paced gameplay in a three-dimensional playing field. Like other modern fighting games that attempt to emulate real life martial arts, DOA's input system is designed so controls correspond to the game character's actions; if the character moves forward with a punch, the controls most likely would include the punch input and pressing forward on the directional pad. In comparison to others in the fighting game genre, such as Virtua Fighter, the series places emphasis on striking characters quickly and efficiently. There is an emphasis on quick combos and air-juggles since the game's countering system and fast recovery times prevent slow, technical sets of moves in most instances.

One of the series' most innovative additions to the genre is its countering system. Beginning with the original Dead or Alive, players could tap the guard button and a direction corresponding with the anticipated attack, which would do a powerful counterattack. Counter holds must be timed correctly and match the direction of the attack being countered. The series controls also make the instances of speed and simplicity more congruent with the focus of timing and combos in mind, as the commands for basic attacks are widely considered more straightforward than most video games. There is only one button for punch, kick, throw and guard, with the player rarely having to combine more than two different input schemes together at a time.

The series uses interactive features that appear in certain fighting arenas, called Danger Zones. Fighters caught in a Danger Zone will take extra damage, giving the attacker a slight advantage. These environmental areas can be anything from falls to explosives to breakable structures. If a fighter has low health, being trapped in a Danger Zone is more likely to knock them out than a normal attack, although in certain titles elements such as falls cannot do this, and instead just leave the fighter with very low health.

Since Dead or Alive 2, the series has implemented its tag team fighting system, allowing characters to switch back and forth for combo attacks and even attack simultaneously when timed correctly. The tag mode also included special throws unique to certain pairs of characters and allows for the participation of four players, something not common in the genre. Dead or Alive 3 introduced Attack Change, a new tag system feature where the fighting character can switch places with a partner that can attack while jumping in.

Dead or Alive 5 uses a revamped control system and features a more cinematic experience, especially with regards to Danger Zone effects. Power Blow is a triggered powerful attack that can enable the player that is low on health to knock the opponent character away in a selected direction, possibly initiating a cinematic quick time event called Cliffhanger. The game's new Critical System features Critical Stuns, Critical Combos, and Critical Bursts. There is also a strong online component, including a spectator mode.[2] Dead or Alive 5 Ultimate further added the vertical Power Launcher and an extensive Tutorial mode.[3] In addition to the normal control system, Dead or Alive 5 Plus for the PlayStation Vita features optional touchscreen-based controls from first-person perspective.[4]

The spin-off Xtreme series is mostly based around two-on-two matches of beach volleyball and casino gambling. After the original Dead or Alive Xtreme Beach Volleyball, the available activities have expanded to include the likes of watercraft racing and beach photography.[5]

Plot and characters[edit]

The Dead or Alive series depicts a collection of skilled martial artists in a worldwide competition named the Dead or Alive tournament. DOATEC (Dead or Alive Tournament Executive Committee), a massive corporation with unknown motives, holds the fighting competition in arenas ranging from the North Pole to the Amazon rain forest. Dead or Alive, the first game in the series, introduced the initial characters and their reasons for entering the tournament. For example, Zack enters for profit, while Kasumi, a runaway female ninja and the series' main protagonist, enters the tournament to seek revenge against Raidou who crippled her brother Hayate. Kasumi wins the first DOA tournament, however the strict laws of ninja society prevent Kasumi from returning to her village, and she becomes a hunted fugitive.

Dead or Alive 2 is set less than a year later, as Tengu threatens the world. Kasumi's brother Hayate, previously injured by Raidou, returns from being a subject in DOATEC's bio-weapon experiment Epsilon. New fighters include Ein (Hayate), Helena Douglas and Leon. Eventually, Ryu Hayabusa defeats Tengu and wins the tournament. The third game, Dead or Alive 3, takes place shortly after the defeat of Tengu. This game's plot concerns a secret goal of DOATEC's Donovan to produce the ultimate fighter, called the Omega project. Through Epsilon and Alpha stages, DOATEC wipes the ninja Genra's memory, turning him into the vicious Omega; a third tournament is held to test Omega's abilities. In the end, Kasumi's half-sister Ayane defeats her former master and wins the tournament. The game introduces four more fighters, a first playable appearance of Hayate, and the brand new fighters Hitomi, Brad Wong and Christie.

Dead or Alive 4 again explores DOATEC's attempts to create a powerful clone of Kasumi with the Alpha project. The various fighters discover the true nature of DOATEC and set out to stop it. Helena wins the tournament and decides to give the title to Zack. The fifth game, Dead or Alive 5, is set two years later. DOATEC is newly reformed with Helena still in control and Zack appearing to be in employ. Jann Lee beats Hitomi in the last round of the tournament, thus winning. However, Jann Lee still felt that there is one person whom Jann Lee wants to defeat in order for him to be a true winner, Rig, who at first has an amnesia, but turns out to be ruse, and it is revealed that he is Donovan's son. Meanwhile, Kasumi, Ryu, and Ayane, with the help from Helena, fight to destroy the Alpha project and stop Donovan.


Dead or Alive Online promotion at China Digital Entertainment Expo & Conference (ChinaJoy) 2007

The series was created by its original director and producer Tomonobu Itagaki after he became a programmer for Tecmo, which was in need of a hit to boost sagging game sales. In this vein, Itagaki made a wager with the head of the company, assuring the president he would create a video game that would garner a fan base. Following the initial working titles of "Ninja Fighter" and "Poligon Fighter",[6] he named the series "Dead or Alive" to demonstrate the series' fail or succeed status and proceeded to form a division in the company named Team Ninja. Itagaki's inspiration for the series derived from the Virtua Fighter and Fatal Fury series in Japan and the Mortal Kombat series in America, with DOA's fast gameplay and sexual appeal drawn from the former series, and the ability to knock opponents off multi-level landscapes from the latter. When asked how he wished the series would contribute to the fighting genre, Itagaki replied: "I want people to remember DOA as a game that was very aggressive and combative. As to [...] how it contributed to the fighting genre – I look at it as something similar to how sushi was released in this country and became mainstream. You know, like, some people like graphics, some people like animation, some like flashy character design and so forth. Through DOA, we want to reach out to those people and become somewhat of a mainstream game."[7]

Dead or Alive 5 introduced more realistic and detailed character models, as well as dirt and sweat graphics

After Tecmo's classic (but at that time long dormant) Ninja Gaiden series was revived in 2004 by Itagaki and Team Ninja, they began linking it back with Dead or Alive, setting the franchises within the same universe with overlapping characters and events. As it was a complete reboot of the series and did not continue the canon of any previous Ninja Gaiden titles, the developers were free to do with the universe and its characters as it saw fit, and so the game was implemented into the DOA universe by being set up as a prequel to the first DOA. In addition, Ninja Gaiden protagonist Ryu Hayabusa, who had already been on the roster of every DOA fighting game since the beginning, plays a major role in that series' overarching storyline, which has been fleshed out during the development of the subsequent Ninja Gaiden titles. Having featured Ryu in most of Dead or Alive games during a development of Ninja Gaiden reboot, Team Ninja then included the character Ayane and Kasumi in most of Ninja Gaiden games. Conversely, several characters from DOA have roles in the rebooted Ninja Gaiden series, initially only appearing during story sequences but becoming fully playable characters in special modes in later games. Rachel and Momiji, characters originating from the Ninja Gaiden series, appear in updated versions of Dead or Alive 5.

Before his departure from Team Ninja, Itagaki stated in 2006 that he had a new DOA game planned,[8] but in a 2008 interview he said about the series: "This is another area that my closest colleagues and I all agree that we were able to achieve the definitive fighting game with DOA4. So we're not looking to extend the series at this point."[9] In a released statement on June 3, 2008, Itagaki announced his resignation from Tecmo (July 1, 2008) due to business troubles with then president of Tecmo, Yoshimi Yasuda. Itagaki stated that this would unfortunately lead to the end of production for the game and its series.[10] However, Tecmo replied with the announcement that Team Ninja would not be dissolved upon Itagaki's departure, stating that both the Ninja Gaiden and Dead or Alive franchises would remain in production and that some projects were already underway.[11] As of 2016, the series continues two decades in, making it one of the longest-running fighting game franchises that still receive new installments. Dead or Alive 5 was created in partnership with Sega AM2 of Virtua Fighter fame, featuring several guest characters from that series. Dead or Alive Paradise was the first DOA console game not developed by Team Ninja.


Dead or Alive has spawned six main sequels which have continued the storyline. This number excludes the numerous updated editions, ports and remakes of each title, as well as the Xtreme spin-off series. DOA3 and DOA4 were released as launch titles for the Xbox and the Xbox 360, respectively.

Some of the games, especially DOA2 and DOA5, were released in different editions and revisions. Dead or Alive 5 Last Round for the consoles is also available in the basic but free-to-play version Core Fighters, lacking most characters and the story mode, that can be either upgraded to the full version or any additional content can be purchased selectively.[12] A similar model is used in Dead or Alive Xtreme 3 onwards.[13]

Titles in the Dead or Alive series
Title Release Arcade 5th Gen 6th Gen 7th Gen 8th Gen Handheld PC
Dead or Alive 1996-11 Model 2 Saturn, PS1 N/A N/A N/A N/A N/A
Dead or Alive ++ 1998-10 Sony ZN-1 N/A N/A N/A N/A N/A N/A
Dead or Alive 2 1999-10 NAOMI N/A DC, PS2 N/A N/A N/A N/A
Dead or Alive 2 Millennium 2000-01 NAOMI N/A N/A N/A N/A N/A N/A
Dead or Alive 2: Hardcore 2000-10 N/A N/A PS2 N/A N/A N/A N/A
Dead or Alive 2: Hard*core 2000-12 N/A N/A PS2 N/A N/A N/A N/A
Dead or Alive 3 2001-11 N/A N/A Xbox N/A N/A N/A N/A
Dead or Alive Xtreme Beach Volleyball 2003-01 N/A N/A Xbox N/A N/A N/A N/A
Dead or Alive Ultimate 2004-10 N/A N/A Xbox N/A N/A N/A N/A
Dead or Alive 4 2005-12 N/A N/A N/A X360 N/A N/A N/A
Dead or Alive Xtreme 2 2006-11 N/A N/A N/A X360 N/A N/A N/A
Girls of DOA BlackJack 2009 N/A N/A N/A N/A N/A iOS N/A
Dead or Alive Online 2008-10 N/A N/A N/A N/A N/A N/A Win
Dead or Alive Paradise 2010-03 N/A N/A N/A N/A N/A PSP N/A
Dead or Alive: Dimensions 2011-05 N/A N/A N/A N/A N/A 3DS N/A
Dead or Alive 5 2012-09 N/A N/A N/A X360, PS3 N/A N/A N/A
Dead or Alive 5 Plus 2013-03 N/A N/A N/A N/A N/A PSVita N/A
Dead or Alive 5 Ultimate 2013-09 N/A N/A N/A X360, PS3 N/A N/A N/A
Dead or Alive 5 Ultimate: Arcade 2013-12 RingEdge 2 N/A N/A N/A N/A N/A N/A
Dead or Alive 5 Last Round 2015-02 Arcade N/A N/A X360, PS3
(digital only)
XB1, PS4 N/A Win
Dead or Alive Xtreme 3: Fortune 2016-03 N/A N/A N/A N/A PS4 N/A N/A
Dead or Alive Xtreme 3: Venus 2016-03 N/A N/A N/A N/A N/A PSVita N/A
Dead or Alive 5 Infinite 2017 N/A N/A N/A N/A N/A Android, iOS N/A
Dead or Alive Xtreme Venus Vacation 2017-11 N/A N/A N/A N/A N/A N/A Win
Dead or Alive 6 2019-03 Arcade N/A N/A N/A XB1, PS4 N/A Win
Dead or Alive Xtreme 3 Scarlet 2019-03 N/A N/A N/A N/A Switch, PS4 N/A N/A
Dead or Alive: Code Chronos Cancelled N/A N/A N/A X360 N/A N/A N/A

Dead or Alive: Code Chronos[edit]

Dead or Alive: Code Chronos was the code name for a cancelled video game that was in development by Team Ninja for the Xbox 360 during the mid-2000s.[14] In a February 2005 interview, Team Ninja's Tomonobu Itagaki said that Code Chronos would be set prior to the original Dead or Alive and will relay the story of characters Ayane and Kasumi before the first tournament.[15] Itagaki said it would "not be a fighting game" and instead act as a prequel to the series proper, and the game was supposed to be related to the part of the opening cinematic of Dead or Alive Ultimate that showed the child versions of Kasumi and Ayane.[16] Earlier reports had implied the character of Helena would be more heavily involved.[17] In 2008, Itagaki officially resigned from Tecmo, thus leaving the Dead or Alive franchise.[18] In November 2010, Yousuke Hayashi, the new head of Team Ninja, confirmed in an interview that the project has been officially cancelled.[19]

Dead or Alive Online[edit]

Dead or Alive Online (生死格鬥 - Online) was a Microsoft Windows-based, free-to-play[20] online fighting game based on DOA4 that was originally planned as a premiere in China for the 2008 Summer Olympics, with a worldwide release to follow after the Olympics.[21] The game has been in an open beta since December 2008,[22] with the latest beta having been released on August 24, 2009. Since then, Tecmo Koei ceased Dead or Alive Online operations and all game servers were shut down. As of 2016, its official website remains online, last updated in 2010.[23]

Girls of DOA BlackJack[edit]

Girls of DOA BlackJack ~ the Kasumi version ~ was the only game in the Dead or Alive series that has been released for iOS. Like in a DOA Xtreme series' minigame, players must win the blackjack without going over 21. It features Kasumi as the blackjack dealer.[24] The game was released in 2009 but its sales have been suspended on the App Store since February 22, 2010.[25]


A live-action feature film titled DOA: Dead or Alive, directed by Corey Yuen and starring Devon Aoki, Jaime Pressly, Holly Valance, Sarah Carter and Natassia Malthe was released in the United States on June 15, 2007. In the film, four female fighters are invited to a martial arts contest; they begin as rivals, but work together to uncover the secret that Donovan, the organizer of the tournament, is trying to hide. Not screened in advance for the press,[26] the film received mixed to negative reviews from critics and was a flop at the box office, failing to recoup even half of its modest $21 million budget.


Aggregate review scores
As of September 25, 2012.
Game GameRankings Metacritic
Dead or Alive (PS) 83.92%[27]
(SS) 82.00%[28]
(PS) 84/100[29]
Dead or Alive 2 (DC) 91.37%[30]
(PS2) 87.38%[31]
(PS2) 91/100[32]
Dead or Alive 3 86.19%[33] 87/100[34]
Dead or Alive 4 85.49%[35] 85/100[36]
Dead or Alive 5
Dead or Alive 5 Plus
Dead or Alive 5 Ultimate
Dead or Alive 5 Last Round
(Vita) 86.20%[37]
(X360) 79.45%[38]
(PS4) 75.19%[39]
(PS3) 74.57%[40]
(PC) 60.50%[41]
(Vita) 84/100[42]
(X360) 76/100[43]
(PS3) 74/100[44]
(PS4) 74/100[45]
(XONE) 69/100[46]
(PC) 69/100[47]
Dead or Alive Ultimate 84.14%[48] 83/100[49]
Dead or Alive: Dimensions 82.02%[50] 79/100[51]
Dead or Alive Xtreme 74.24%[53] 73/100[52]
Dead or Alive Xtreme 2 54.35%[55] 53/100[54]
A Kasumi cosplayer in 2014

The Dead or Alive games have been mostly well received. The fighting series have received positive reviews, with Dead or Alive 2 having the highest ratings out of the numbered games, and Dead or Alive 5 having the lowest except its Plus version for the Vita.

By July 2013, the DOA series has shipped 8.6 million copies worldwide.[56] As of July 2016, the series had sold 9.7 million copies worldwide.[57]


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  2. ^ "Dead or Alive 5 Official Site | Features". Retrieved 2013-08-14.
  3. ^ "DEAD OR ALIVE 5 Ultimate Official Site: FEATURES". Retrieved 2013-08-25.
  4. ^ "DEAD OR ALIVE 5 PLUS Official Site | NEW FEATURES". Retrieved 2016-03-19.
  5. ^ "DEAD OR ALIVE Xtreme 2 | The Official WebSite". Archived from the original on 2016-04-01. Retrieved 2016-03-19.
  6. ^ ''Dead or Alive History Book'', p. 54-55.
  7. ^ "Catching up with Tecmo's Prince of Darkness: Classic GI interviews Tomonogu Itagaki". Game Informer magazine Issue December 2004. 2004.
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  13. ^ "Dead or Alive Xtreme 3 Gets a Free-to-Play Version this Summer". Niche Gamer. Retrieved 2016-03-19.
  14. ^ "Dead or Alive: Code Cronos page". IGN. Retrieved 2008-11-29.
  15. ^ "Itagaki: The Kikizo Interview 2005". Kikizo. Archived from the original on 2008-11-21. Retrieved 2008-11-29.
  16. ^ Icons: Dead or Alive.
  17. ^ IGN staff (2001). "Q & A With Dead Or Alive 3 Creator, Tomonobu Itagaki". IGN.
  18. ^ Philip Kollar; James Mielke (2008-06-02). "Itagaki Leaving Team Ninja, Suing Tecmo". Archived from the original on 2009-02-26. Retrieved 2008-11-29.
  19. ^ Anoop Gantayat (November 5, 2010). "Team Ninja's Project Progressive and Dead or Alive Cronus Cancelled". Andriasang. Archived from the original on November 8, 2010. Retrieved November 3, 2010.
  20. ^ "Dead or Alive Online - MMORPG Feature -". 2009-06-19. Retrieved 2016-03-19.
  21. ^ "Shanda to Operate TECMO's Flagship Game, Dead or Alive ONLINE" (PDF). SNDA. 2007-07-02. Retrieved 2007-10-07.
  22. ^ Katala, Kurt. "Dead or Alive". Hardcore Gaming 101. Retrieved 8 October 2011.
  23. ^ "生死格鬥 - Online". Retrieved 2016-03-19.
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  25. ^ "KOEI TECMO GAMES iPhone CONTENTS | Girls of DOA BlackJack - the Kasumi version". 2010-02-22. Retrieved 2016-03-19.
  26. ^ Boston Globe (June 16, 2007)"In 'DOA,' the inspiration and excitement are MIA" (review by Tom Russo)
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  44. ^ "Dead or Alive 5 Reviews". Metacritic. Archived from the original on 2012-05-16. Retrieved September 25, 2012.
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  46. ^ "Dead or Alive 5: Last Round for Xbox One Reviews". Retrieved 2015-06-12.
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  52. ^ "Dead or Alive Xtreme Beach Volleyball for Xbox Reviews". Metacritic. Retrieved 2014-03-02.
  53. ^ "Dead or Alive: Xtreme Beach Volleyball for Xbox". GameRankings. 2003-01-22. Retrieved 2014-03-02.
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  55. ^ "Dead or Alive Xtreme 2 for Xbox 360". GameRankings. Retrieved 2014-10-26.
  56. ^ "「DEAD OR ALIVE 5 Ultimate: Arcade」が2013年冬に稼働。DOAがゲームセンターに帰ってくる". (in Japanese). Retrieved 2019-02-15.
  57. ^ [1] Nikkan Sports, 7-13-2016.

External links[edit]