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Introduction

Dead or Alive Ultimate is a compilation of the first two DOA games. The game consists of two discs ? Dead or Alive 1 Ultimate, and Dead or Alive 2 Ultimate. On the first disc, you will find the original Sega Saturn version of DOA in all its glory, with new online modes. The beef of the game, however, is found in the second disc, which contains a fully revamped version of Dead or Alive 2, with improved gameplay, graphics, sound, and whole slew of other new stuff. Read on to find out more.

DOAU1

DOAU1 is basically the original DOA from the Sega Saturn, which never made it to the US, but was later ported to the Sony PlayStation. By today?s standards, the seven-year-old fighter is certainly lacking, but it was once a pretty impressive game. It?s interesting to go back and see which characters, moves, costumes, etc. have been carried over to newer titles in the series. There is a total of 8 playable characters, plus an extremely cheap boss. Don?t let him catch you ? One throw could easily take away more than half of your life bar. Countering is much easier in DOA 1 as well. All you need to do is press the X button to counter a high or mid attack. For low attacks, simply press Down+X. Though countering is simpler, I actually found this game to be quite harder than DOA2. Maybe that?s because I didn?t spend enough time with it. Environments are much smaller and simpler. Square arenas are surrounded by ground that explodes and blows your fighter into the air if knocked down on it. It?s a pretty fun game to play sometimes, and a great extra, but I think DOAU2 will probably keep you occupied most of the time. Each character has multiple costumes, though not as many as there are in DOAU2. A new addition to the game is, of course, the online play modes. More on that later.

DOAU2

This is most likely what your reason for buying the game will be - DOA2, remade from the ground up. Upon starting the game, you will have 12 characters with 2 costumes each. 3 more characters can be unlocked, as well as a stupendous amount of costumes and other goodies. The game has over 150 costumes in total, with some of the female characters having as many as 20 each. There are 22 stages, most of which are multi-tiered. Along with several new ones, many of the stages are returning from other DOA titles, with some major changes. There have also been some gameplay tweaks, many new features, (most notably the online ones) and huge visual improvements.

Story

The story is pretty confusing, and has never been a very big part of the series. Each character has his/her own story, which is revealed in bits and pieces when playing through Story mode. For one reason or another, they?re all here fighting each other. A new opening movie for DOAU2 reveals more about Kasumi and Ayane?s pasts, and why the sisters grew up to be enemies. That is, in my opinion, the most interesting part of the story. I thought the scene was done very well. New ending scenes would have been nice too. When I think about it, the stories usually really aren?t very relevant in most fighters anyway. They?re mainly there to add some substance to the characters. I think DOAU does a decent job in doing this, especially in the opening movie. The story is not greatly implemented, but is pretty standard for a fighter.

Gameplay

Who needs costumes when the game stinks? Well, luckily it doesn?t. The gameplay keeps all its core values. It?s simple for pretty much anyone to pick up and play, using only three main buttons ? Punch, Kick, and a Free button, which is used for blocking and countering. Every character has a pretty good-sized move list, though smaller than DOA3. (This is DOA2, after all.) Combos are easy to pull off, and it?s true that you may be able to button-mash your way to victory. This is what many people seem to hate about the game, but it?s really not that relevant. I think you?ll find that you cannot button-mash and win consecutively against a seasoned player. It is important to use strategy and mix up your combos if you want to succeed. The action is very fast-paced, and feels very smooth. Sure it?s not as deep as Virtua Fighter, but I can?t think of any other game that has the sheer feeling of fluidity that I have found in the DOA series. Countering was a synch in DOA3 ? perhaps too easy. DOAU2 uses the DOA2 counter system, which adds a bit more depth and difficulty to countering. This makes blocking all the more useful as well, as it is harder to guess how to counter. Instead of a 3-point system for high, mid, and low attacks, there?s one more type of counter for mid kicks. This was a welcomed change for me. I think it adds more balance to the game. Are the fighters balanced? Yes, very. The only exception might be Tengu, the game?s boss. He has some seemingly cheap attacks, but after you get used to fighting him, he shouldn?t be too much of a problem. He is an unlockable character, but I never enjoyed using him too much. He also happens to be the least-used character online. All of the characters have their own unique fighting styles, with strengths and weaknesses. Fighting styles range from various types of martial arts and ninjutsu, to wrestling and kickboxing. They all seem very balanced in the end. It ultimately comes down to how good the player is with each character. Game modes include all the regular DOA stuff. In Story mode, you play against 7 opponents, each increasing in difficulty, with the boss, Tengu, at the end. Little bits of the characters? stories are revealed between stages. Survival mode puts you up against an endless army of opponents. The goal is to beat as many as possible without dying. This is a very fast-paced mode. Once you defeat someone, another person will jump on in without any intermission, and start fighting. In this mode, you can also collect items for viewing in the new Collection mode. Time Attack is pretty much the same as any other fighting game. There are 9 opponents to beat, and your goal is to beat them fast. A cool new feature is the ability to upload your Time Attack and Survival scores to the Xbox Live scoreboards and see how you rank up compared to thousands of other gamers. Another new mode is a Record Battle mode. In this, you can play against computer-controlled opponents, and record the replays onto your Xbox?s HDD to watch later. This would have been a great feature for multiplayer games. Why they didn?t implement this feature in any other modes puzzles me. Versus mode allows 2 players to fight in a standard match, or up to 4-players in a tag-team match. Playing tag-team games with 3 of your friends is really fun. With some cooperation and timing, you can easily pull off some nice combo moves with your tag partner. Lastly, Tag Battle mode allows 1 player to fight in a series of tag battles against the CPU. So, what?s new? One new addition is a slope system. Previous DOA games have featured multi-tiered environments where you could knock an opponent from one level to the next. DOAU kicks things up a notch by adding slopes that can work the same way, but instead of just knocking people off ledges, we also get to see characters tumble down slopes, such as huge flights of stairs on the Great Wall of China. There are also character-specific slope moves. Some of the coolest ones are Zack?s, where he uses his opponent as a snowboard, or Tina?s, where she uses her opponent as a sled, as they go down the slope. The biggest new gameplay feature is the online play on Xbox Live. Players from around the world can finally battle it out with each other arcade-style without leaving the comfort of their homes. There are several online game modes, including standard and tag battles. What separates this from any other online fighter? Team Ninja wanted to bring you the feeling of playing at an arcade. You can enter a room with up to 7 other people in it, and simply wait in line. Yes, that?s right ? you sit there as you wait for your turn, watching other people play, as you talk about it with people. To anyone who says that gaming is not a social hobby, I beg to differ. The winner of the fight gets to stay and play against the next person in line, while the loser goes to the back of the line and waits for revenge. This is the case, anyway, for the Winner-Stays game mode, which so happens to be the most popular. There are also 5 other modes - Loser-Stays, Kumite, Survival, Tournament, and Team Battle. As you can probably guess, Loser-Stays is basically the opposite of Winner-Stays. I don?t really see why anyone would want to play this, but it doesn?t hurt anyone by being there. In Kumite mode, one player is known as a ?champion? and continues to play against the other people in line, whether they win or lose. Survival is similar to Kumite, but it is limited to 3 players, and as soon as the champion dies, the game ends. Tournament is pretty much just as it sounds ? it lets you set up a tournament in which it automatically keeps score. Lastly, Team Battle allows up to 8 players in 2 teams to go up against each other and see which team wins. Playing online is great. The game gives each player a letter rank from ?F? to ?SS? based on their playing abilities. Each time a game is won, you receive points. Likewise, points are deducted when you lose. The whole arcade aspect feels great, and it?s even a lot of fun waiting my turn and spectating the fights, while at the same time, talking about it. However, if this bores you, you can always limit the game to only 2 players, so that there is no waiting involved. Probably the biggest problem with online gaming is lag. How bad is the lag in DOAU? Well, that?s hard to say. I?ve experienced games with little to no lag, and then I?ve experienced games with constant, horrible lag. I can?t say whether or not this will be a continuing problem. It?s all worth it when you find a good game though.

Graphics

This has to be the best-looking fighter I?ve seen. DOAU uses the Dead or Alive Xtreme Beach Volleyball engine to boast some great graphics. Character models are uber crisp and the scenery is beautiful. The attention to detail is great, from the sunrays shining into the camera to the snow forming around the fighters? feet. Environments are very expansive and diverse, with gorgeous backgrounds. The Safari stage actually has elephants and hippopotamuses that seem to act pretty realistically. I?m no wildlife expert, but it?s pretty cool to see how the animals react when left alone, or when they are bothered. The elephants, for instance, stand up on their hind legs and let out a moan when someone is knocked into them. There are lots of subtle details like this that have impressed me. Team Ninja really knows how to push the Xbox?s limits. I haven?t noticed a single glitch in the graphics. Everything is very smooth. There was one minor annoyance I found. That is, if you knock someone through a stainless glass ceiling, the glass shards fall to the floor before disappearing into thin air. It would have been a nice touch to leave the particles on the ground as free-moving objects. Again, this is a very minor detail, and some probably won?t even notice it.

Sound

DOAU actually supports 5.1 Dolby Digital surround sound. Surround sound in a fighter? Yes, it?s true. Voice acting and sound effects all sound good. I sometimes like knocking people in gongs in one of the stages just to hear its sound effect. English voiceovers are not an option, so you will have to listen to the original Japanese voices, except for the announcers. I personally like the voice acting. Each voice seems to fit its character and sync pretty well. Different announcer voices can be chosen, and a few of the character?s voices can be unlocked for this. Aside from the opening video with Aerosmith?s ?Dream On,? the game?s music isn?t anything spectacular. It keeps the original DOA2 music, which is pretty typical fighting game background music. Custom soundtracks would have been a nice feature, but when I think about it, fights don?t last long enough to hear very much of a song. Maybe this was the best way to go after all. Touching up the music a bit would have been nice, but I don?t think it?s all that big of a deal. It just sounds like old game music, which is what it is.

Longevity

It took me over 15 hours to unlock all of the characters and costumes, and I had to force myself to put the controller down during that time. Most of that time was just spent beating story and time attack modes over and over again. Finishing collection mode should add another good chunk of time, and the multiplayer never gets old, especially if you have Xbox Live.

Appropriateness

Here is where I cover most of the game?s faults. Unfortunately, sex appeal has always been one of the selling points for the Dead or Alive series, ever since the original introduced the infamous bouncing breasts. Skimpy outfitshave always been present as well. When people hear DOA, they often think of this. It?s pretty sad, really. Most of this can be avoided, and many of the costumes are not any worse than in any other fighter. Still, there has been a pretty heavy emphasis on this, and it is certainly not necessary. I?ll do my best to cover the offensive material in DOAU. Violence should go without being said, as this is a fighting game. It has no blood or gore, other than what I will cover below. Limbs can be broken with certain characters, but they are magically healed as soon as the character stands up. None of the violence is really intense. It?s more stylistic than anything else. Always keep in mind that experience will most likely change during online play. DOAU 1 The opening scene contains brief, slightly detailed female nudity from the waist up. This can be skipped, or watched whenever you boot up the game. The ?bouncing breast? physics pretty much defy gravity. Oddly, this can be disabled in the Options menu. Typical skimpy outfits are present as well. DOAU 2 The opening scene has implied rape, and partial nudity. The story deals with betrayal, murder, cruelty, etc., though it is hardly an important part of the game. This can be skipped, or viewed whenever you boot up the game. One level has nude clones inside tubes of green liquid. Legs and arms cover all frontal nudity, but rear nudity is visible. There are some pretty tacky costumes. I think the worst would have to be Tina?s thong bikini. You usually have a choice to use more modest ones, but these things are still in the game, and still inappropriate. A CG Gallery mode can be unlocked, which consists mostly of screens from DOAX. (This basically means pictures of all the female characters in swimsuits are here for your viewing.) Also, on the DOAU2 disc, there is an alternate opening scene that contains full frontal (though undetailed) nudity. Some mild language appears sometimes too. D--- and h--- are the only ones I?ve seen, with the exception of ?SOB,? which was abbreviated as it is here. One stage is called ?Demon?s Church,? and the boss is also supposedly a demon. Lastly, there is a scene of Helena?s mother being assassinated. All we see is some blood spray on Helena?s face. Like I said before, most of this can be skipped or avoided, but all of it is still there, and will most likely be a stumbling block for many people.

Overall

Dead or Alive Ultimate is my new favorite fighting game, and I?m sad to have to point out all of the negative parts. It?s not about depth, but rather fast and simple gameplay that still allows for strategy and skill. The online play and visuals are unmatched by any other game in the genre right now. If you are able to look past the sexual content, I think you will find that a great game lies beneath it.

Final Ratings

Story ? B- Gameplay ? A Graphics ? A Sound ? B Longevity ? A+ Appropriateness ? F

Overall ? 76%

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Christ Centered Gamer looks at video games from two view points. We analyze games on a secular level which will break down a game based on its graphics, sound, stability and overall gaming experience. If you’re concerned about the family friendliness of a game, we have a separate moral score which looks at violence, language, sexual content, occult references and other ethical issues.

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