Parental Advisory: This review contains the word "jubbling."
For several months now, the venerable and impressive Soul Calibur has been the undisputed king of the ring (don't send e-mail... it's undisputed I tell you!). Dismal, overmatched opponents such as Virtua Fighter 3tb and Mortal Kombat Gold were quickly dispatched by Mitsurugi's flashing blade. However, a new contender is on the scene. It is another arcade port, and finally, a worthy opponent. Get ready to 'press Start' people, because "Here comes a new challenger!"
Striding confidently into the arena is Dead or Alive 2, the latest from Tecmo and Team Ninja. This gorgeous, stylish fighter does more things right than I can count. From graphics to gameplay, this is a well-toned, highly trained fighter. It even manages to do some new things with the genre. Just look at what it's got to offer...
First of all, the graphics are stupendous. The characters are smooth and seamless and the motion-captured fighters look brilliant. Hair and clothing waves, weaves, falls and ripples in the wind. It may not have quite the flash and flair of the over-the-top Soul Calibur, but that's not what it's going for. DOA 2 looks much more like two real people beating the crap out of each other.
The arenas in which this ass whooping occurs are simply wonderful. They are richly detailed, enormous, and have multiple levels if you can knock your opponent off the edge or through a window. They are, however, so beautiful that they require a lot of memory. This means that in Team Battle or Tag Team modes, you can only fight in one, simpler arena since the game actually has to load four characters.
Of course, there is one more thing that needs to be mentioned about the characters: the breasts. When Tecmo began sending us press releases touting their new, proprietary, copywritten 'boob jubbling' engine, we began to get a little worried here at GR. Visions of a lame softcore-porn game danced in our heads. However, now that the game is here, I am pleased to say that the jubbling is fairly understated, even if the large-chested female fighters are rather less-than-subtle. It actually looks fairly natural, and you can also turn the effect up and down a bit.
Erotic fixations aside, the character design is top-notch. The twelve different DOA 2 fighters are stylish and unique. Wrestlers and grapplers can compete with ninjas, karate masters and kickboxers. Each one has their own fighting style and over 100 moves. Very impressive!
Using those moves takes us to the heart of the game: the fighting. This is where DOA 2 can compete with any title out there, including heavyweight champion Soul Calibur. The moves are smooth and crisp, with almost no graphical errors. The variety is astonishing and the action is fast and furious. But the best part is a DOA 2 innovation: counters.
You can block regularly, like in any fighting game, but if get the timing right you can instead try to perform 'counter' moves. This leads to some of the most impressive video game moments in history. No longer do you simply block, then attack. Now you can actually catch that incoming kick, twist it, kick their other leg out, and then stomp on their head. It's not as hard to learn as it sounds, and it is all done with a precision and style that is unmatched.
Better yet, it turns the bouts into chess matches. You must outsmart or outguess your opponent. Every attack can be turned back on you if your opponent can grab it, and it makes the whole game more gripping and intense when you are playing against your friends. Hrmmm... maybe I'll try a throw instead.
While playing against your friends is a truly fantastic gaming experience, playing alone is rather disappointing. Sure, it's got all the modes: Time Attack, Survival, Tag Team, and Story Mode, but it still feels really slim.
Story Mode is pretty lame, mostly because the movies are incredibly short and the story makes no sense at all. To prove a point, I wrote down a sequence of the dialogue (Japanese with subtitles) for you. These are, in order, the exchange between the two fighting characters as Story Mode progressed:
"You're in my way."
"This is going to be the best stage for us."
"You are not the one."
"Make up your mind."
"You are not my concern."
"I heard project Epsilon was a failure."
"What do you know?"
"Seems like your mind control has failed."
Abbot and Costello, look out. If you can figure out the story here, your mind control is definitely working much better than my own.
But the really big problem is that there is no goal or reward in the single player experience. That's right: no hidden characters, no extra costumes, no new levels, not a single thing. After you've played the single player modes a couple times through, you won't be playing DOA 2 anymore except against your friends.
At the final count, it turns out that the otherwise fantastic DOA 2 has an Achilles heel after all: no depth. Compared to Soul Calibur's extensive mission mode, museum mode, art gallery, and dozens of rewards and easter eggs, DOA 2 just can't compete. It's a shame too, because everything else about the game excels.
Now don't get me wrong, if you have some friends, DOA 2 is absolutely worth it and I recommend it highly. This is one terrific two-player game, and it will have you jumping and yelling at some of the incredible fighting moments. But when your friend goes home, you'll notice that DOA 2 will quickly retire to the shelf...until the next round.