Dead or Alive (series)

Dead or Alive (series)
Dead or Alive franchise
Logo of the series since Dead or Alive 3
Genres Fighting, Sports, Gambling
Developers Team Ninja
Publishers Tecmo
Creators Tomonobu Itagaki
Platforms Arcade, Saturn, PlayStation, Dreamcast, PlayStation 2, Xbox, Xbox 360, PlayStation Portable, Nintendo 3DS, PlayStation 3, iOS
First release Dead or Alive
Latest release Dead or Alive: Dimensions
May 24, 2011

Dead or Alive (デッドオアアライブ Deddo oa Araibu?) is a video game series that is primarily composed of fast-paced 3D fighting games for arcades and home systems. The series is produced by Tecmo and developed by Team Ninja. Its story and characters are the creation of Tomonobu Itagaki, who has since left the company and is no longer working on the series. The Dead or Alive franchise is arguably as well known for its cast of large-chested female characters and the animation of their breasts as it is for its combat. This aspect of the game's popularity led to the creation of the spin-off game Dead or Alive Xtreme Beach Volleyball and its sequels, where the women and their sex appeal play a more focal role than it does in the core Dead or Alive series.



Helena and Lei Fang demonstrate the series' ability to use combination throws with a partner in tag battle mode, against Ayane in Dead or Alive 3

The Dead or Alive series focuses on fast-paced gameplay in a three-dimensional playing field. In comparison to others in the fighting game genre, such as Virtua Fighter, the series places emphasis on striking characters quickly and efficiently. There is an emphasis on quick combos and air-juggles since the game's countering system and fast recovery times prevent slow, technical sets of moves in most instances.

One of the series' most innovative additions to the genre is its countering system. Beginning with the original Dead or Alive, players could tap the guard button and a direction corresponding with the anticipated attack, which would do a powerful counter attack. Counter holds must be timed correctly and match the direction of the attack being countered.

Like other modern fighting games that attempt to emulate real life martial arts, DOA's input system is designed so controls correspond game character's actions; if the character moves forward with a punch, the controls most likely would include the punch input and pressing forward on the directional pad.

The series controls also make the instances of speed and simplicity more congruent with the focus of timing and combos in mind, as the commands for basic attacks are widely considered more straightforward than most video games. There is only one button for punch, kick, throw and guard, with the player rarely having to combine more than two different input schemes together at a time.

In DOA2, the series implemented its tag fighting system, allowing characters to switch back and forth for combo attacks and even attack simultaneously when timed correctly. The tag mode also included special throws unique to certain pairs of characters and allows for the participation of four players, something not common in the genre.


The series was created by Tomonobu Itagaki when he became a programmer for Tecmo—which was in need of a hit to boost sagging game sales. In this vein, Itagaki made a wager with the head of the company, assuring the president he would create a video game that would garner a competent fan base.

Because of the wager, Itagaki named the series "Dead or Alive" to demonstrate the series' fail or succeed status and proceeded to form a division in the company named Team Ninja. Itagaki's inspiration for the series derived from the Fatal Fury series in Japan and the Mortal Kombat series in America, with DOA's fast gameplay and sexual appeal drawn from the former series, and the ability to knock opponents off landscapes from the latter.

Itagaki's reasoning was:

"I wanted to do something that would attract people's attention as I worked on the DOA game. Of course, DOA is known for its bouncing breasts. Well, I didn't come up with that idea originally. I actually got the idea from one of SNK's 2D fighting games Garou Densetsu. Of course, when I applied it to a 3D game, it was almost too much for people. And of course, it hurts to fall off from high places in DOA, but the idea came from Mortal Kombat. In the case of Mortal Kombat, the 2D fighter, the character falls off and he simply dies. That ends the game. That's it. But we figured it would be more interesting to have the character continue to fight after the fall. And that's what we did."

When asked how he wished the series would contribute to the fighting genre, Itagaki replied:

"I want people to remember DOA as a game that was very aggressive and combative. As to ... how it contributed to the fighting genre - I look at it as something similar to how sushi was released in this country and became mainstream. You know, like, some people like graphics, some people like animation, some like flashy character design and so forth. Through DOA, we want to reach out to those people and become somewhat of a mainstream game."[1]


The Dead or Alive series depicts several skilled martial artists in a worldwide competition named the "Dead or Alive tournament". DOATEC (Dead or Alive Tournament Executive Committee), a massive corporation with unknown motives, holds the fighting competition in arenas ranging from the North Pole to the Amazon rain forest.

  • Dead or Alive, the first game in the series, introduces the characters and their reasons for entering the tournament. For example, Zack enters for profit. Kasumi, a runaway female ninja, enters the tournament to seek revenge against Raidou who crippled her brother Hayate. In the end, the strict laws of ninja society prevent Kasumi from returning to her village, and she became a hunted fugitive. Kasumi won the first DOA tournament.
  • Dead or Alive 2 is set less than a year later. Here, a creature known as the Gohyakumine Bankotsu-bo threatens the world's peace and stability. Kasumi's brother Hayate, previously injured by Raidou, returns from being a subject in DOATEC's bio-weapon experiment Epsilon. New fighters include the opera singer Helena, the mercenary Leon and Ayane, Kasumi's half-sister. Eventually, Ryu defeats Tengu and thus wins the tournament.
  • The third game, Dead or Alive 3, takes place shortly after Ryu Hayabusa's defeat of the Gohyakumine Bankotsu-bo. This game's plot concerns DOATEC's secret goal to produce the ultimate fighter, called the Omega project. Through Epsilon and Alpha stages, DOATEC wipes the ninja Genra's memory and turns him into the vicious Omega. A third tournament is held to test Omega's abilities. In the end, Ayane and Hayate destroy the Omega entity. The game introduces three more fighters, Hitomi, Brad Wong, and Christie.
  • Dead or Alive Xtreme Beach Volleyball is set immediately after the third tournament. The Muay Thai kickboxer Zack uses casino winnings and tournament prize money to buy a private tropical island. He tricks the female competitors onto his island resort for a two week vacation, having led them to believe they were coming to participate in another fight tournament. Though Zack never appears to them in person, they spend their time there competing in beach volleyball tournaments, shopping, and casino games.
  • Dead or Alive 4 again explores DOATEC's attempts to create the ultimate bio-weapon, which is a powerful clone of Kasumi created by the Alpha project. The various fighters discover the true nature of DOATEC and set out to stop it.
  • Dead or Alive Xtreme 2 returns to Zack's resurrected private island where he tricks the female fighters into coming to the island again, and they participate in various water sports, including a beach volleyball competition and casino games.


Main series

Dead or Alive has spawned five canonical sequels which have continued the storyline. Of the six games in total, four of them focus on the fighting genre of gameplay. This number excludes the numerous updated editions, ports and remakes of each title.

The cover of Dead or Alive for the Sega Saturn

The original Dead or Alive was inspired by Virtua Fighter, as noted by Itagaki in an interview. In comparison to other 3D fighters, such as Tekken (which gained a substantial market base in Japan and North America), DOA introduced a countering system unique to the genre and an added emphasis on speed, as well as a rich graphics engine that lacked many jaggies and incorporated very smooth surfaces. The original DOA game was first released for the Sega Saturn and arcades in 1996. In graphical comparison, the arcade version featured superior detail, using fully three-dimensional backgrounds and high quality music. When released for the Saturn, the game sacrificed quality in the character models and used pre-rendered images for background stages.[2] Additionally, in a review of the game's moveset, it was discovered by players that the move lists included were not aligned properly with the game.[3] In 1998, a PlayStation version was released in Japan, with the North American and European versions following shortly thereafter. It introduced new characters, improved graphics, "remixed" stage designs and additional unlockable costumes for the player. This was also re-released in the arcades and named Dead or Alive ++ due to its upgraded content.[1]

The second installment, Dead or Alive 2, was released in 2000, and like its predecessor, improved upon the graphics engine by using NAOMI hardware.[2] Notable features included introducing CG cutscenes in line with the plot, replacing the original "danger zone areas" in stages with fully interactive ones, allowing players to juggle each other into walls, propelling characters from landmarks for more damage (the first game to implement this feature was Samurai Shodown 64), and upon completing the game, presenting the player with (sometimes ambiguous) endings for each character using the game's standard engine.

Dead or Alive 2 has spawned the most upgrades and remakes in the series to date, with the original North American Dreamcast version and arcade version serving as the starting point. When the PlayStation 2 was launched in Japan, a DOA2 port was released for it as well. Although this version was considered graphically inferior to any of the previous versions, lacked the 4 player Tag Team feature, and was never released outside of Japan, it did include extra backgrounds and costumes. The extras from this version were then included in the belated Japanese Dreamcast release,[4] which was available in both Regular Edition and Limited Edition versions. Another remake was released in October of that year for the PS2 in North America, re-dubbed "DOA2: Hardcore". This version provided improvements larger in scope than any previous franchise entry. It expanded the unlockable costumes, amended graphical problems prevalent in the Dreamcast versions, added new game modes and included English voice acting. (Dead or Alive 2: Hardcore is one of the only installments in the series with the ability to switch between English and Japanese voice acting.) After this, a final version of DOA2 was released in Japan dubbed Dead or Alive 2: Hard*core which was essentially the North American/European version but with a few extras; it was considered the most up to date version until the Xbox version.

In 2004, after the release of Dead or Alive 3, Team Ninja once again remade DOA2, this time for the Xbox system. In the planning stages, this new game was named Dead or Alive Online for its addition of online support. On January 14, it was renamed to Dead or Alive Ultimate and promised fresh content, additional characters and an upgraded version of the original Dead or Alive for the Sega Saturn. According to Tecmo, the name change was due to the opinion that "Ultimate would more accurately describe the feeling players feel upon experiences with the game".[5]

Dead or Alive 3 was released for the Xbox as one of the system’s launch titles for American gamers (as well as Japanese and European). As with previous facets of the series, it took advantage of the system's power to push the range of the graphics and stage sizes farther than DOA2. However, it lacked in unlockable content compared to Hardcore and controls were somewhat more lenient to allow players new to the series to adapt to gameplay. Dead or Alive 3 was one of the best-selling installments in the series; in 2002 Tecmo announced the game had reached sales of over one million copies.[6]

Dead or Alive 4 was released later in 2005 as a launch title for the Xbox 360 platform. Initially held back by retailers,[7] like Ultimate, it included online support where players could interact in a similar fashion to an arcade setting, fighting opponents at win/loss intervals. Nevertheless, like DOA3, the game featured a low number of costumes and numerous series characters now had to be unlocked by the player.

Dead or Alive: Dimensions, released in 2011 for Nintendo's 3DS platform, is responsible for several firsts for the series: It is the first DOA game released for a Nintendo platform, the first DOA fighting game released on a handheld (Dead or Alive Paradise, released a year earlier on PSP, is part of the non-fighting "Xtreme" spinoff series), and most notably, the first released without any involvement from series creator Tomonobu Itagaki. It also features the largest character roster of any DOA game to date, with 26 playable characters. As the game doesn't feature any completely new playable characters (except Shiden) and its stages are mostly taken from those in DOA 3 and DOA 4, "Dimensions" can be considered something of a "best of" collection rather than a truly new entry in the series, similar to Mortal Kombat Trilogy. The only substantial new content is the inclusion of a stage based on Metroid: Other M - a Wii game co-developed by Team Ninja with Nintendo - with characters from that game appearing as stage hazards (but not playable fighters).[8][9][10][11][12][13]

At the Tokyo Game Show in 2011, Team Ninja revealed a trailer of a pre-alpha build of Dead or Alive 5. A brief battle atop a skyscraper under construction is captured between Ryu Hayabusa and Hayate before the entire building begins to crumble. Producer Yousuke Hiyashi has used the phrase "fighting entertainment" to explain the game's direction and has stated the environment will play a much larger role in DOA5. DOA5 will mark the first time in the series' history that the game will receive a simultaneous release on multiple platforms (being released for both the PlayStation 3 and Xbox 360 in 2012). It also is the first console installment of the series that is being made without creator Tomonobu Itagaki.

Title Year Platforms
Dead or Alive
Dead or Alive ++
November 1996: (Sega Model 2), July 1997: (Sega Saturn)
March 1998: (PlayStation), July 1998: (TPS-System)
Arcade, Sega Saturn, PlayStation
Dead or Alive 2 November 1999: (Sega NAOMI)
March 2000: (Dreamcast, PlayStation 2 (Japan only))
Arcade, Dreamcast, PlayStation 2 (Japan only)
Dead or Alive 2 Millennium January 2000 Arcade
Dead or Alive 2 Regular and Limited Edition September 2000 Dreamcast (Japan only)
Dead or Alive 2: Hardcore October 2000 PlayStation 2 (North America and Europe only)
Dead or Alive 2: Hard*core December 2000 PlayStation 2 (Japan only)
Dead or Alive 3 November 2001 Xbox
Dead or Alive Xtreme Beach Volleyball January 2003 Xbox
Dead or Alive Ultimate October 2004 Xbox
Dead or Alive 4 December 2005 Xbox 360
Dead or Alive Xtreme 2 November 2006 Xbox 360
The Girls of Dead or Alive: Blackjack 2009 iOS
Dead or Alive Online August 2009 Windows
Dead or Alive Paradise March 2010 PlayStation Portable
Dead or Alive: Dimensions May 2011 Nintendo 3DS
Dead or Alive 5 2012 PlayStation 3, Xbox 360

Spin-off series

Dead or Alive Xtreme Beach Volleyball was released in 2003, shortly after DOA3. The plot is set immediately after the tournament in DOA 3 ended. Gameplay revolves around the women of the DOA series playing various mini-games in the many locations of Zack Island, a reclusive private resort on an island owned by Zack (who is the only male character from the series to appear anywhere in the game). This installment features no fighting engine, instead being much like a simulation game that encourages the player to establish relationships with the AI of characters, and eventually make a two-person team to compete in volleyball competitions. "Zack dollars" earned from completing mini-games and gambling in the island's casino allow the player to purchase hundreds of different swimsuits to wear in the game, many of which are very revealing and make the women appear almost nude in some instances (which lead to the first Mature rating in the series' history). According to Itagaki, who revealed the basis for the game in an interview with video game cable channel G4, the idea for the game took shape after fans' expressed a desire for a beach ball mini-game in DOA2. A sequel for this game followed on the Xbox 360 in 2006, with the title shortened slightly to Dead or Alive Xtreme 2, suggesting - and accurately so - that volleyball was no longer at the center of the experience. Finally, Dead or Alive Paradise, roughly a port of Xtreme 2 with some changes (primarily a greater emphasis on the photography portion of the game), was released for Sony's PSP handheld platform in the Spring of 2010. It was the first Dead or Alive title to be released on a handheld system, as well as the first release from the series since the departure of series creator Itagaki from Team Ninja.

A side-story game, named Dead or Alive: Code Chronos, was once in production for the Xbox 360, as confirmed in the July 2006 edition of Play Magazine by Itagaki to "...not be a fighting game" and instead act as a prequel to the series proper, relaying the history of Ayane and Kasumi. Earlier reports had implied the character of Helena would be more heavily involved.[14] However, the game has since been cancelled.[15]

Ninja Gaiden connection

After Tecmo's classic (but long dormant) Ninja Gaiden series was revived in 2004 by Tomonobu Itagaki and Team Ninja, they began linking it back with Dead or Alive, setting the franchises within the same universe with overlapping characters and events. As it was a complete reboot of the series and didn't continue the canon of any previous Ninja Gaiden titles, the developers were free to do with the universe and its characters as it saw fit, and so the game was implemented into the DOA universe by being set up as a prequel to the first DOA. In addition, Ninja Gaiden protagonist Ryu Hayabusa, who had already been on the roster of every DOA fighting game since the beginning, plays a major role in that series' overarching storyline, which has been fleshed out during the development of the subsequent Ninja Gaiden titles. Conversely, several characters from DOA have roles in the rebooted Ninja Gaiden series (which currently stands at five games: three unique entries and two ports with added content), initially only appearing during story sequences but becoming fully playable characters in special modes in later games.

Film adaptation

A feature film, DOA: Dead or Alive, directed by Corey Yuen and starring Devon Aoki, Jaime Pressly, Holly Valance, Sarah Carter and Natassia Malthe was released in the United States on June 15, 2007. Not screened in advance for the press,[16] the film was a flop at the box office, failing to recoup even half of its modest $21 million budget.


About the 5th installment in the series, designer Tomonobu Itagaki stated in November 2006 that he had the first play concepts in mind,[17] but in a May 2008 interview with CVG, he stated of the Dead or Alive series: "This is another area that my closest colleagues and I all agree that we were able to achieve the definitive fighting game with DOA4. So we're not looking to extend the series at this point."[18]

In a released statement on June 3, 2008, Itagaki announced his resignation from Tecmo (July 1, 2008) due to business troubles with the president of Tecmo, Yoshimi Yasuda. Itagaki stated that this would unfortunately lead to the end of production for the game and its series.[19] However, Tecmo replied with the announcement that Team Ninja would not be dissolved upon Itagaki's departure, stating that both the Ninja Gaiden and Dead or Alive franchises would remain in production and that some projects were already underway.[20]

Rumors of a new Dead or Alive game have been circling the net with sources reporting the rumors are as good as confirmed. According to the rumours, the series is set to make a comeback not only on the Xbox 360 but also on the PS3.[21][22] GameSpot has listed the game as being exhibited by Tecmo Koei at their booth during the E3 2010,[23] but the validity of this list comes into question when GameSpot also listed Dragon Age II and Mass Effect 3 in EA's booth, neither of which was shown.

Suggestions of future games are found in Ninja Gaiden Sigma 2 which featured Kasumi in two of the cutscenes.

Dead Or Alive 5 was officially announced in September 2011 at the Tokyo Game Show for a 2012 release.[24] The first trailer showcased Ryu Hayabusa and Hayate doing battle on top of an under-construction skyscraper, which is eventually destroyed by a stray beam swinging from a crane. New environmental interaction features were showcased (such as Hayabusa bouncing off an exploding generator and being knocked from the collapsing building in mid-fight, hanging off the edge right before the trailer cuts to black) and new gameplay mechanics (Hayate displays what appears to be some form of super attack).


  1. ^ a b "Catching up with Tecmo's Prince of Darkness: Classic GI interviews Tomonogu Itagaki". Game Informer magazine Issue December 2004. 2004. 
  2. ^ a b "DOA analysis at Hardcore Gaming 101". Hardcore Gaming 101. 2005. 
  3. ^ "Dead or Alive Defective?". IGN. 1998. 
  4. ^ "Dead or Alive". Hardcore Gaming 101. Retrieved 2011-08-12. 
  5. ^ Tor Thorsen (2004). "Dead or Alive Online now Dead or Alive Ultimate". Gamespot. 
  6. ^ Giancarlo Varanini (2002). "Dead or Alive reaches 1 million". Gamespot. 
  7. ^ Douglas C. Perry (2005). "Dead Or Alive 4 Delayed?". IGN. 
  8. ^ [1][dead link]
  9. ^ "Dead or Alive: Dimensions pictures and screenshots for 3DS". 2010-06-16. Retrieved 2011-08-12. 
  10. ^ Tamoor Hussain. "News: Dead or Alive 3D screens". Retrieved 2011-08-12. 
  11. ^ var authorId = "" by John Tanaka (2008-09-03). "Team Ninja Working on Three New Action Games - Xbox360 News at IGN". Retrieved 2011-08-12. 
  12. ^ "Dead or Alive: Dimensions - The Dead or Alive Wiki - Dead or Alive, Dead or Alive 2, Dead or Alive 4, and more". Retrieved 2011-08-12. 
  13. ^ "Dead or Alive 3DS gets a name | GoNintendo - What are YOU waiting for?". GoNintendo. Retrieved 2011-08-12. 
  14. ^ IGN staff (2001). "Q & A With Dead Or Alive 3 Creator, Tomonobu Itagaki". IGN. 
  15. ^ Anoop Gantayat (November 5, 2010). "Team Ninja's Project Progressive and Dead or Alive Cronus Cancelled". Andriasang. Retrieved November 3, 2010. 
  16. ^ Boston Globe (June 16, 2007)"In 'DOA,' the inspiration and excitement are MIA" (review by Tom Russo)
  17. ^ Klepek, Patrick (2006). "Itagaki Confirms Dead or Alive 5". Retrieved 2008-05-31. 
  18. ^ Ogden, Gavin (2008). "Tomonobu Itagaki Interview". Computer and Video Retrieved 2008-05-24. 
  19. ^ Top: Itagaki Leaving Tecmo, Suing Tecmo
  20. ^ Magrino, Tom (2008-06-03). "Tecmo affirms Itagaki departure - Xbox 360 News at GameSpot". Retrieved 2011-08-12. 
  21. ^ "Dead or Alive Series Alive and Well; Coming to PS3". PlayStation LifeStyle. 2010-01-23. Retrieved 2011-08-12. 
  22. ^ by JC Fletcher on Jan 8th 2010 2:00PM (2010-01-08). "Rumor: Dead or Alive 5 in the works for PS3". Joystiq. Retrieved 2011-08-12. 
  23. ^ "E3 2010 Showfloor Map on GameSpot". GameSpot. Retrieved 2010-06-11. 
  24. ^

External links

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