Dead or Alive 2: Hardcore Review
Once believed to be a Dreamcast exclusive game, Sega fans would mock Sony owners that they finally have something that Sony will never see, but then came a shocking revelation by Tecmo that Dead or Alive 2 would be released on Playstation 2 in Japan on March 30th, and that's when those Sega fans shut their mouths. But a few were still saying that it would never come to the US, because Tecmo's deal for Dead or Alive 2 being exclusive is only bound in the US and no where else. But what everybody forgot was that Tecmo's deal would only last for a mere six months, and between the DC version's US release and the PS2 version's US release well over six months will elapse, hence giving Tecmo the right to release a new DOA 2 game. And in fact Tecmo was well aware of everything and was planning on releasing a PS2 version of DOA2 from the start and that's just what they did, Tecmo started from almost nothing and built DOA2: Hardcore, a newly refined version of DOA2, you get more costumes, characters, modes and stages. Released back in March of '98, the very first Dead or Alive game was published for the Playstation in the US and Saturn in Japan. The US release was Tecmo's threat to Namco's highly anticipated Tekken 3, both games were released extremely close to each other's date but in the end Tekken would come out on top. Stating a very rambunctious and outspoken opinion about Tekken in their advertisements Tecmo hopes to once again compete against the big boy Tekken with DOA2: Hardcore. And for those of you who are dying to know, if you look closely in the ads of DOA2: Hardcore, you'll notice that the phrase "Tekken bites" appears around the left of the page. Now let's get downright and dirty and see which fighting game should be your choice for Playstation 2.
The visuals are really a toss-up here, and I don't mean that lightly at all. Tekken Tag features anti-aliased and de flickered visuals, although much smaller arenas, and on the other hand, DOA2 has no anti-aliasing and some flickering, but has huge multi-level environments. I'll start from the top, the fighters in Tekken look much more realistic because of their body design and muscular physiques, although the DOA2 characters are also quite detailed, but lack the depth in physical detail that was so closely paid in Tekken Tag. DOA2: Hardcore's character detail isn't by any means bad at all, I just wished that all of the female fighters were more distinguished not only by their face and oversized chests, but by their bodies as well. That out of the way, I will make note of the games quick action which moves at a perfect 60 frames at all times unlock the Dreamcast's 30 FPS. Tekken's environments are based on a 2D plane with only the means of backward and forward movement, but Dead or Alive 2's dimensional plane is fully 3D, with the ability to move north, south, east and west. The arenas are not only more navigative but also feature multiple levels of elevation from which other fighters can be knocked out from. So stages like the ice mountain stage has a huge pitfall where an opponent can be pushed from so that he can kiss the rock hard ice waiting for him/her a rough 100 feet down. But don't take the pits in a Mortal Kombat fashion, though some can be gruesomely bad, the fighter will still get up and fight, that is if he/she has enough life to do so.
Aliasing isn't very noticeable, but it can be sometimes when you pay 'really' close attention to the outlining of the characters. Lighting effects are also something that I liked, they seem to give the stages a better glow to everything and it really looks very nice. Of course some of you may be itching to know which DOA2 game is better, the PS2 version or DC version. Once again I know that I'm going to get hate mails on this one, but the PS2 version is just slightly better. The characters are more solid looking, and have a much better overall look to them than those found in the DC version, trust me there is a difference. The lighting effects are much better for the new Hardcore version and it shows, some stages are so dramatically lit that it's almost as if they were pre-renderings, and the frame rate smashes the 30 FPS that the DC version runs at. I am pleasantly surprised with DOA2: Hardcore's visuals, the large and interactive environments are what I think get me the most.
Bringing back the bouncing chests and then some, Tecmo is definitely giving its prime competitor [Tekken Tag] a good challenge. For those concerned parents reading this, you should be aware of the fact that the women in the have very large chests, that bounce up and down constantly, and if you don't what your twelve year old exposed to that material then I suggest going with Tekken Tag Tournament, other than the fact that parental advisory is needed for the game, DOA2 is still an incredibly fun fighting game. Taking cue from Tekken Tag and the Capcom VS series, Dead or Alive 2: Hardcore features a Tag Team battle mode where up to four players can square off in over six different tag team arenas, unlike the only one arena in the Dreamcast version. Hardcore's new changes are the addition of two new characters, Bayman and Tengo, up to six-seven costumes for each character and a variety of new stages and tag battle arenas, which in a way make DOA2: Hardcore like a whole new game. In all DOA2: Hardcore includes 14 characters, two of which are secret, one of them is the return of Bayman and the other is the games last boss who is Tengo. The PS2 version of the game offers the game five different text languages to choose from such as English, German, French, Spanish and Italian, along with two audio languages that are Japanese and English.
The PS2 version not only features a variety of new things over the DC, but there are also ten different modes, that include; Story mode, VS mode, Tag Battle, Team Battle, Sparring, Battle Record, Time Attack and Watch mode. The first few you should know, and Sparring by the way is another name for Training, but Battle Record is something new. If you saved and recorded one of your battles you can view in many different camera angles via the Battle Rec. mode, and Watch mode is where you pick two characters and let the AI battle it out while you watch. Tag Battle mode will take you through a few arenas, and this is where you will have to learn how to work with your partner by pulling off double moves and what not. Now although the whole game is exceptional, the Story mode is a pretty big drag, that is the story it self and not the action. Before the beginning of the battles, some of the fighters have bones to pick with their opponents an thus they would exchange two words to each other (which are also done extremely bad) with very vague meaning and then fight, and even with that fact in mind, the endings for each character where extremely short, some even shorter of those found in Tekken Tag, and had positively no meaning at all. I remember the endings in Street Fighter 2 and 2 Turbo as being some of the best endings in any fighting game, and it seems now with this new technology, developers keep on aiming at better graphics, but worse endings. Maybe next year or the year after, Team Ninja would do us a big favor and create a more realistic and deeper story. As my final decision I as a hardcore Tekken fan would pick TTT over DOA2: Hardcore, mainly because of TTT's almost never ending replay value, and the amazing fights.
I really do not like the American voice actors that Tecmo hired to do the voice-overs. Not only do they sound bland, but they don't fit the role of their corresponding fighters one bit. The music has remained the same, and thankfully nothing has changed which is very good, granted the fact that I really liked the tunes in the game. Now also, the boss battle intro is very cheesy, this is another example of the poorly executed English voice-overs, before the battle starts you hear Tengo speak and he says, "everything... is my... delusion", now if you listen to it in Japanese it really sounds cool, almost like a Japanese ninja flick, but when listening to it in English, it almost makes your ears bleed, it's 'that' bad. I really wish Tecmo had made a better decision with their casting call of English voice-overs, they just don't fit the part.
With the game allowing you to move around on a fully 3 dimensional plane, the control is more complex than Tekken Tag. The left analog stick is ideal for the games movement, and thankfully the left analog is compatible. Controlling your character with the left stick is great, pushing up will move the fighter up and down will move him downward, unlike the digital control. There are two main buttons, Punch and Kick, that are the Triangle and Circle buttons on the pad. X is to throw and Square is to block, and remember those reversals that are done by pressing the X button. Since this game is a fighting game, the Dual Shock is very powerful, and you are pretty much bound to feel the bone crunching moves and those nasty 100 foot drop falls, oh man somebody call a doctor! Overall, tight control not really hampered in any way, but to beginners it make take a little time to get used to.
Despite the games shortcomings in terms of value, the game makes up for it in the gameplay with its frivolous fast paced action. Dead or Alive 2: Hardcore is definitely the best version of the DOA2, the gameplay has much more to offer, the graphics though not anti-aliased are still sharper and feature nicer special effects, but I'm hoping that the audio casting call gets a new sound in the sequel, because I was absolutely not happy with the results. If you are an avid fighting fan and you're having a dispute on which game to purchase, for some reason I would have to lean towards Tekken Tag. Because of TTT's longer replay value, more strategic fighting and killer ten hit combos, Tekken Tag is the better game for your money, but that's what I think, and making this decision was quite hard too. Rent both if you can't decide, although personally Tekken is my way.
11/6/2000 Arnold Katayev