The graphics in this game are among the best ever seen in any home 3D fighter. It runs in the Saturn's high-res mode, allowing the characters to look fantastic, their definition is really a sight to behold. You may already know of some of the extra "detail" given to certain parts of the females' anatomy, its actually more amusing than realistic. There is also an option to disable this, if it really bothers you. The only problem I have with the graphics, and it is a VERY minor one, is that too many of the backgrounds look alike. The backgrounds are rendered in the same fashion as those in Virtua Fighter 2, 3D rings, with parallax 2D backgrounds. They really do look good, they just lack variety. As a side note, even the idle animation of some characters, like Lei Fang,is so good, I found myself just watching the animation once or twice. Be prepared to see some of the most realistic looking polygon fighters yet.
The quality of the music, sound effects, and voices are all excellent. The voices are some of the clearest you're likely to hear in a Saturn fighting game, so people who complain about "fuzzy" voices in games such as Street Fighter Alpha 2 and VF 2 should have nothing to complain about here. The music is red-book audio, and it really fits in perfectly with the martial arts action. It is a mix of rock and traditional japanese music for the most part, along with some other tracks similar in style to VF 2. The sound effects are also fitting, appropriate thuds and smacks, usual fighting game stuff.
Even though the graphics and sound are extremely high quality, it is the gameplay in Dead or Alive that truly stands out. By its appearance, one may think it just another Virtua Fighter clone, but this isn't true at all. There is no guard button, it is instead replaced with "hold." The hold button is used in countering any attack an enemy can dish out, if you time it right. Some moves in Dead or Alive are done via VF 2 style controller tapping, while other moves are accomplished with Street Fighter like motions. The countering in this game makes for the perhaps the most intense battles in any fighting game I've ever played. This is one of the first 3D fighters I've played that truly expands on the theme, allowing for more moves and counters than almost any other game. Aside from the counters, there is also the addition of the Danger Zone. This is an area along the outer part of the ring that will cause a character unfortunate enough to fall on it to bounce up from an explosion, leaving them helpless while there opponent can take advantage of this with more combos. Ring outs are possible as well.
Every character is complex, and totally usable, the balance between characters is nearly perfect. There is no 3D movement button such as in VF3, but in this case it doesn't seem needed, it may have only slowed down the lightening pace of the action. All the extras in this game will have you playing it over and over, several new outfits for the characters, and a secret options screen as well. As a side note, almost all of this game is entirely in english.
The control stands out in Dead or Alive as well. As mentioned, its a mixture of some VF2, some SF2, with a healthy does of originality thrown in. Even complex moves become easy to accomplish quickly. Managing such solid control in their first 3D fighter also shows Tecmo wanted to make certain this game was a hit.
I can't recommend this game enough to 3D fighting game fans. Even though it has only 9 characters, each is very complex, with tons of moves. The amazing quality of the graphics, sound, gameplay, and control should hook anyone instantly.
Review By: Larry McCormick