Dead or Alive is another one of those weird arcade fighting games that you've heard of, and maybe even seen, but never bothered to play. Tecmo's fighter, made using the same hardware that brought Virtua Fighter 2 to life, plays similarly to VF2 but uses a slightly improved fighting engine. The result is a game that plays pretty well, translates to the Saturn well, and ultimately, makes a more interesting home game than the arcade version ever hoped to be.
The fighting is a lot like the Virtua Fighter series, but there have been a few changes made. Instead of a dedicated block button, back blocks now, and the A button performs counters. The combo system is similar, but there is a larger focus on juggles. The edges of each arena are surrounded by floor jets. If your character falls on one of these panels, he shoots up into the air, allowing for some pretty insane juggle combos. Character design is pretty good, with the typical array of fighters, ninjas, and women.
The graphics are very smooth, but the most noticeable thing about the graphical design is, as strange as this may sound, the female characters' breasts. They bounce around like gelatin for no apparent reason. I mean, if you do a kick, they slightly jiggle. If you fall down, they bounce like crazy for far too long. You have to see it to believe it. It's the very definition of overkill. It's just plain wrong. You can disable the stupid bouncing action from the options menu if it really bothers you. The sound effects are decent, and the music is tolerable, but the speech is all pretty bad. It's very fuzzy and distorted.
In the end, Dead or Alive is an above-average fighting game. The graphics and sound are tolerable, and the gameplay is different enough from the VF series to keep it fresh. The PlayStation version will be released here, but it looks as if the Saturn version is going to be stuck in Japan forever, so if you're PlayStation-less, import away.