Dead or Alive: Ultimate

Any loyal fan of the DOA series will affirm that their beloved franchise happens to be one of the greatest fighters on the market, and rightly so. Tecmo, alongside the often outspoken Tomonobu Itagaki and his talented Team Ninja, have given us another beauty to add to our ever-expanding game collections with Dead or Alive: Ultimate.

DOA: Ultimate comes abundantly jam-packed with two discs. First off, you're graciously treated with a retouched Sega Saturn port of the original DOA. In addition, the entire Dreamcast version of DOA 2 (the bread and butter of this package) has been overhauled into what's practically a whole new game.

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Anyhow, if you're lucky enough to focus in on the action - as you'll no-doubt be more preoccupied with the visuals - there's a array of game modes to partake in. However, the incorporated Story is where most of your time will be spent. Apart from the non-stop frantic bonanza of walloping on countless opponents, you'll be anxiously awaiting each character's ending while unlocking an assortment of costumes and characters in the process. Sure, DOA: Ultimate's Story manages to be incredibly brief while lacking any heartfelt substance, but hey, it's a fighting game - remember?

Even so, the overall mechanics driving this outing truly overshadow the simplistic vision and create a very challenging, yet intuitive control scheme. Fortunately, everything flows pretty straightforward, catering to both the hardcore combo-master or the up-and-coming button masher. What's more, the dynamic behind each drop-kick or special move responds capably well.

All in all, you'll have the ability to hone your skills across 21 remarkable stages while experiencing the multi-tiered environments that each one offer. The newly included Safari level will become an immediate favorite, giving players the potential to heave an adversary into an elephant. Additionally, the characters are realistically animated with fluidity that's nothing short of brilliant.

A few of the fighters are rather quirky to say the least, but who cares since they've provided ample cleavage. Yep, the DOA girls have returned with tig-o-bitties for your viewing pleasure - so all of you isolated gamers (myself included, sigh) will have enough eye candy to remain content. My only real quibble is the final boss (Tengu) who looks absolutely ridiculous. Japanese mythology or not, he appears to be some forlorn reject from Mardi Gras with a nose like Pinocchio wearing three inch stilettos. Not cool.

Also worth mentioning are the opening cinematics that'll have you glued to your TV-set. They've given us a more detailed look into the origin of character backgrounds, so DOA enthusiasts will be elated at the extra knowledge shared throughout. Folks, if you're interested in what next-gen technology has in store for us, this game is undeniably scratching the surface of what's to come.

At any rate, the audio fidelity within is good, but nothing to write home about. Aerosmith's track 'Dream On' surprisingly meshes well into the whole experience. Other integrated music has a psuedo new-age vibe mixed with a Japanese influence, guitar riffs, and a bit of trance that'll make you search the boxed-set for any included glow-sticks. In true DOA fashion, most of the voice-overs are in Japanese, but thankfully English subtitles are presented.

A while back, the developers boasted that DOA: Ultimate would be the first online 3D fighting experience. Well, despite some setbacks and other titles staking its claim, they've succeeded in delivering the full Xbox Live Treatment.

All things considered, you'll stumble upon a time-killer if you can tolerate one issue that's prevalent... Lag. Both versions of this package are hampered by this misfortune, but it really comes down to finding a desirable connection with other opponents. There were a number of matches that went smooth as ice, but it was a mixed-bag when it's all said and done. With the responsive precision that's needed in fighting games, this comes as a disappointment

The whole online extravaganza is set-up to accommodate each gamer. You'll be able to create and join rooms with up to 8 players - each taking turns in the ring while forced into spectator mode when not. Most of the offline games can be played against other real-life challengers, and each individual is given a grade to signify their skill level - which range from 'F' being the worst to 'SS' giving you mad bragging rights. It's simple... beat the crap outta' higher ranked opponents and move on up the ladder. On the other hand, keep going downhill with that continuous losing streak and you'll be crying like a baby - so polish them skills fool.

You'll be ecstatic to know that DOA: Ultimate has a thriving community, so finding a match shouldn't be any problem - except for maybe the original DOA. In any event, world-wide rankings should keep those fingers hemorrhaging nicely until DOA 4 arrives.

Hands down, this title is certainly a must-have for any fighting guru that's looking for his next fix. Not only does it reveal itself to be a visual work of genius, but the tight fluid controls elevate this bad-boy into a category that's reserved for only the best. This license is certainly far from Dead, and definitely more Alive than ever.

"Two great games for the price of one, you won't hear us complaining."
- Dead or Alive Ultimate
Follow Own it? Rating: M   Difficulty: Hard   Learning Curve: 30 Min


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