Before Itagaki decided Xbox was the machine, before the girls played volleyball and before Ryu was a Ninja (well the new version), Dead or Alive braced other company's consoles and was moderately successful against competing titles. Due to the fact he doesn't have a game out due for quite sometime, probably not until next generation, Tecmo have decided to put together the two old games and enhance them with online play. In theory it is a decent move by the company, bringing back to of its most popular games but in practice it doesn't quite work, mainly because it feels unfinished.
Storylines in fighting games are pretty much not around. You kick and punch each other for really no apparent reason and this couldn't be truer in Dead or Alive the original game. However the second game in the pack DOA2 comes with brand new cut scenes and stories to push the game along. It would have been a great addition if the stories were more fleshed out though. If you've played the third title in the series also on Xbox, then you pretty much know the stories behind the characters. It is fair to say that the game is not made to have a storyline and that is not why it's a moderately decent set of games.
Dead or Alive Ultimate is a bit of a Jekyll and Hide. On the one hand you have the sublime Dead or Alive 2 with its updated graphics and characters, new level design and online play, while on the other hand you have the original Dead or Alive, left to age by itself with no apparent update other than online play. "So what?" you may ask, "they are still quality games". That may be true but when you see how much better DOA 2 looks, you then realise just what DOA 1 could have been and this is why the game feels half finished. The game is also full price, not something you usually see with remakes of series such as King of Fighters, then again KOF didn't update its system either.
Despite what Itagaki may say, the gameplay in DOA is also weaker than other titles on the market. While the fighting system does work well, it hasn't really got the nuances and depth of titles such as Street Fighter II to keep you coming back for more and more. It really is just an extremely aesthetic game with a fighting engine thrown in, but when a game looks this stunning, it's hard to complain about other aspects. The fighting engine is quick and is very reminiscent of DOA3, well at least the 2nd game is. DOA 1 having not been really touched hasn't had as much of an update. Most of this next piece is going to focus on DOA2, because quite frankly if you've played the old DOA 1, add online and you've played the updated version. In case you haven't figured it out, this hasn't impressed us.
However what the developers have done with DOA 2 is nothing short of stunning. It's so updated that you could truly call it DOA4, minus the new characters. Certain characters have been updated as well to represent what they have been doing in DOA3 and more recently. For instance Ryu now has the exact model that was used for him in his hack and slash fest while all of the characters have had story sequences added to the game. There has also been new game modes added for both titles as well such as Kumite where you fight up to 100 characters in a row. The game continues even if you lose.
The visuals for DOA 2 have been updated to a level where they perhaps even surpass DOA3. The levels have been redone completely with a higher level of interactivity and the game is much more detailed. Multi platform levels make an appearance meaning you can punch people over the side of buildings and even the Great Wall of China, one of the levels featured. Other levels include a safari, a forest (from DOA3) and many others with high visual detail. The graphics are the standout for this game and this is why it's a shame DOA 1 did not get the update treat. Voice acting remains Japanese and the music suits the game well.
Dead or Alive Ultimate really is a game that should say "Xbox Live required" on the box. Despite the fact that it doesn't really need it, you're not going to get much out of it without the network cable sitting in the black box. It's great that Live now has two decent fighters in one package for people to play but it's a shame the entire package wasn't overhauled.