Dead or Alive Retro Review (Sega Saturn)

Dead or Alive you’re coming with me!


When you consider the popularity of the Dead or Alive series and add in how amazing this Saturn version is, both technically and in playability terms, it is criminal that this game was never released outside of Japan. Over the years the Dead or Alive series has become a staple of Tecmo’s very existence spawning several spin-off, most notably that favourite game of young male teens everywhere Dead or Alive Extreme Beach Volleyball, and we even saw a movie based on the franchise in 2005 starring none other than WWE wrestling legend Kevin Nash as Bass Armstrong. In total there has been no less than 22 different Dead or Alive games with the last one being released earlier this year for the PlayStation Vita. Many people actually forget that the first Dead or Alive game (being reviewed here) originated in the arcades back in 1996.


I am sure you all already know this, but in reality the Dead or Alive games are nothing more than a shameless rip-off of Sega’s own Virtua Fighter series. Having said that though, there is no doubting that they are one of the best of their type out there. For those that have somehow never played either franchise, they are 3D fighting games in the vein of the Street Fighter series, just with polygons instead of pixels and full directional movement. If somehow you have never played the Street Fighter games then there is no helping you and you should probably be very ashamed! There are a few slight differences though between Virtua Fighter and Dead or Alive that I will go into. The first of these is that instead of ring outs Dead or Alive has an electrified area around each arena that causes a nice explosion, promptly followed by a spasming body flying into the air, if a character happens to unfortunately land upon it. Secondly the fighting style in Dead or Alive is far more basic than in Virtua Fighter, with the characters being much more similar in style and more evenly matched. This also means that Dead or Alive is much easier for the beginner to just pick up and play. The game has eight characters in total, not including bosses, one of which is none other than Ryu Hayabusa of Ninja Gaiden fame.


The most impressive part of Dead or Alive without any doubt is the beautiful visuals. It uses the Saturn’s often ignored high-resolution mode (just like Virtua Fighter 2 actually) combining a 3D play field with detailed 2D backgrounds and it looks just stunning, yes even better than Virtua Fighter 2 itself! This is helped by the then revolutionary Tru-Motion animation technique, which makes the character models look amazingly lifelike. Alongside the usual range of grunts, groans and screams are a host of excellent tunes that suit the game perfectly. Dead or Alive might be a bit on the easy side for more seasoned gamers but there is always the two-player mode to give your friends an ass-kicking instead if you get bored with it. Dead or Alive is without a doubt one the most impressive games in the Saturn’s wonderful library and yet another reason to own a Pro Action Replay cartridge!

Final Verdict: 4.5/5


Available on: Sega Saturn (reviewed), Sony PlaySation, Arcade ; Publisher: Tecmo ; Developer: Team Ninja ; Players: 1-2 ; Released: 9th October 1997 ; ESRB: T for Teen ; MSRP: N/A

Kieren Hawken
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