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Dead or Alive 2: Hardcore
Review By: Joe Rolfe
Developer:   Tecmo
Publisher:   Tecmo
# of Players:   1-4
Genre:   Fighting
ESRB:   Teen
Date Posted:   3-13-01

If there was ever a fighter that didn't get as nearly as much respect that it should have gotten, it would be Tecmo's Dead or Alive (coin-op, PSX, Saturn). Running on Sega's then-famed Model 2 arcade board, Dead or Alive hit the arcade scene in '97, then later appeared on the PlayStation and Sega Saturn (the Saturn version, ironically the better of the two versions, only appeared in Japan). Nonetheless, the PlayStation incarnation was nothing to sneeze at, as it was almost an arcade perfect rendition of the arcade title of the same name. It featured excellent graphics, quick and easy controls and one of the most refreshing engines to surface in the fighting genre. If I were to compare it to another game, the closest one to come to mind would have to be Sega's own Virtua Fighter 2. Though DoA had the same basic kick + punch fighting style, what it brought to the table was a new reversing system where the idea of countering was much more heavily implanted than any fighter prior to DoA's release. And while Dead or Alive was met with critical acclaim from the media, it only managed to make a niche following in the market and never took off like Tekkens' or Street Fighters' of the same genre.

Nice special effects

Jump ahead three years later, and Tecmo is at it again. Released in late 1999, the sequel to Dead or Alive (aptly named Dead or Alive 2), debuted in arcades in fairly limited numbers. Even though this one still didn't prompt a huge following of fans, the game was welcomed into open arms by the press once again. Led by the beautiful graphics and fantastic-fighting engine, DoA2 made quite a statement for itself among the online community of not only websites' but regular gamers too. Produced first on the Dreamcast, Dead or Alive 2 was the second smash fighting game to hit that system (first was Soul Calibur) but still earned itself a lot of credit. Later in the year, we were told by Tecmo that a port of the title would make itís way over to camp Sony in time for the PlayStation 2ís launch, named Dead or Alive 2: Hardcore. And although the change over didnít bring a ton of new features, gamers were still treated to the best version of the license yet in the Hardcore edition.

There is no question about it that the one part of Dead or Alive 2 that cannot be touched is graphics. Quite simply, DoA2: Hardcore is a visual onslaught. While it may not be as flashy as, say, Soul Calibur, the game has probably the smoothest animation ever found in a fighter, and the character facial animations are outstanding. Though the bodies aren't as well defined as SC's, they are still very, very well done. High-res, 60 FPS of pure fighting bliss at action. As one of the first titles to disregard the PS2ís ability to make jaggies vividly apparent, Hardcoreís models are finely created without those hated stair-stepping corners. It doesnít look totally different from the Dreamcast incarnation, but Hardcore does have some nice new lightening effects and improved textures which illustrate the game so beautifully that its hard to stop and not just admire the scenery and action while youíre playing.

But the thing that DoA2: Hardcore does hold over its weapon-based brethren in the graphical department is its backgrounds. To put it bluntly, they are masterpieces in movement. Instead of flat, polygonal-constructed backdrops that Soul Calibur has, Dead or Alive 2 claims home to expanding levels to fight on. For example, one of the fighting stages is inside a beautiful church cathedral. There are gleaming stained-glass windows lining the walls, and if by chance you knock someone hard enough into one, your opponent (or you) will go crashing through the window and down a few hundred-foot drop to the next platform to fight on. While some are not as dramatic as others, they are all nonetheless a fantastic addition that is long overdue. All backgrounds are varied, from the lovely waterfall stage, where fireflies twirl around as the night backdrop shimmers, to an opera house where you can be kicked off balcony to lower balcony. Add to the fact that this all happens with ZERO load time, and you have got quick and fast fighting that won't leave you hanging every fight for a new area to load up. Hardcore does, thankfully, contain a nice amount of new backgrounds to fight on. Ranging from an interesting UFC-esque octagon to the rooftops of a Chinese rooftop at dusk, some of the newest backdrops are absolutely lush in details and seem as if they were colored by paintbrushes themselves.

One part that bothered me most about Soul Calibur was its newbie-friendliness. And although I still believe it's one of, if not the, best fighting game ever made, I personally think that the game can easily turn into a button-mashing frenzy. Even though I can easily kick any of my buddy's ass at it 4 out of 5 times if I play it right, there are some instances in the game where a few characters seem a bit unbalanced. A new person to the game can beat you by means of just pounding at the controller, and for a game that's achieved so much accolade (from EVERYONE on the planet, mind you), is somewhat of a let down for die hard fighting purists.

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