Codex Gamicus
Dead or Alive (series)
Basic Information
Team Ninja
Arcade, Saturn, PlayStation, Dreamcast, PlayStation 2, Xbox, Xbox 360, PlayStation Portable and Nintendo 3DS

Dead or Alive (デッドオアアライブ Deddo oa Araibu?) is a video game series produced by Tecmo that is primarily composed of fast-paced fighting games. The story and characters are the creation of Tomonobu Itagaki, and the game was developed by Tecmo's Team Ninja development team.


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 juggling since countering and fast recovery times prevent slow, technical sets of moves in most instances.

One of DOA's 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 counterattack. 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. There is a general rock-paper-scissors element to the game and essentially boils everything down to timing and ability to read the enemy's style.

In Dead or Alive 2, 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.

Inspiration and development[]

The DOA series is designed by programmer Tomonobu Itagaki. Itagaki had recently become 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 its 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.

On Itagaki's view on how he wished the series to contribute to the fighting genre, he 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 fictional 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 kunoichi, enters the tournament to kill her traitorous uncle Raidou. In the end, the strict laws of ninja society prevent Kasumi from returning to her village.

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 the kunoichi Ayane. 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. Ayane, another ninja, destroys 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. The Alpha project created a powerful clone of Kasumi. 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 around again, and they participate in various water sports, as well as returning to 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 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 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 interactable 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 version 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 PS2 version were then included in the belated Japanese Dreamcast release,[1] which was available in both Regular Edition and Limited Edition versions. Another remake was released in October of that year for the PlayStation 2 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 the only installment 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 "..Ultimate would more accurately describe the feeling players feel upon experiences with the game".[4]

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.[5]

Dead or Alive 4 was released later in 2005 as a launch title for the Xbox 360 platform. Initially held back by retailers,[6] 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.

Title Year Platforms
Dead or Alive
Dead or Alive ++
November 1996: (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 Arcade, Dreamcast
Dead or Alive 2 Millennium (Sega NAOMI) January 2000 Arcade
Dead or Alive 2 March 2000 PlayStation 2 (Japan Only)
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
Dead or Alive 5 TBA TBA
Dead or Alive: Online TBA PC
Dead or Alive Paradise March 2010 PlayStation Portable
Dead or Alive: Code Chronos TBA Xbox 360
Dead or Alive: Dimensions (Previously Dead or Alive 3DS)[7] TBA Nintendo 3DS

Side series[]

Dead or Alive Xtreme Beach Volleyball was released in 2003, shortly after DOA3 and is set immediately after the conclusion of the tournament in regards to the plot. The gameplay revolves around the women of the series playing various mini-games about the many locations of Zack Island, a reclusive private resort. 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 allows the player to purchase hundreds of different swimsuits, some of which range from regular to extremely provocative. According to Itagaki, who revealed the basis for the game in an interview with G4, he claims to have taken note of fan's wish for a beach ball mini-game in DOA2. A sequel for this game, merely called Dead or Alive Xtreme 2 has been released for the Xbox 360, with another title, Dead or Alive Paradise released for PSP.

A side-story game, named Dead or Alive: Code Chronos, is also in production for the Xbox 360, and was 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 ninjas Ayane and Kasumi. Earlier reports had implied the character of Helena would be more heavily involved.[8]


About the 5th installment in the series, designer Tomonobu Itagaki stated in November 2006 that he had the first play concepts in mind,[9] but in a May 2008 interview with UK-based video game magazine Computer and Video Games, he stated of the Dead or Alive series: "This is another area that my closest colleagues and we 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.".[10]

In a released statement on June 3, 2008, Itagaki announced his resignation from Tecmo (July 1, 2008) due to business troubles with President of Tecmo, Yoshimi Yasuda. Itagaki stated that unfortunately, this would lead to the end of production for the game and its series. [11]

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 some projects were already underway.[12]

Rumors of a new Dead or Alive game have been circling the net with sources reporting the rumors are as good as confirmed. The Dead or Alive series is also set to make a comeback not only on the Xbox 360 but also on the PS3.[13][14]

Gamespot has listed the game as being exhibited by Tecmo Koei at their booth during the Electronic Entertainment Expo 2010,[15] but the validity of this list comes into question when Gamespot also listed Dragon Age II, and Mass Effect 3 in EA's booth, with neither of which being shown.

Nintendo has confirmed that there will be a new installment of the game to be featured on their new Nintendo 3DS console called Dead or Alive Dimensions. New screen shots have been released to the public and can be seen on numerous websites.[16] This paves the way for more Dead or Alive titles without Itagaki. The game's official name has been confirmed to be Dead Or Alive Dimensions. Confirmed characters include Kasumi, Hayate, Ryu Hayabusa, Ayane and Raidou. Dead or Alive Dimensions is the first DOA fighting game to make the transition to a hand held device. Suggestions of future games are found in the Ninja Gaiden Sigma 2 game which featured Kasumi in two of the cutscenes.[17][18][19][20][21][22]

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 U.S. on June 15, 2007, without press screenings.[23]

Outside of the US, the film achieved measured success, earning over $6,000,000 in the foreign box office, with almost 1 million in both the U.K. and Australia. In the US however the film became a 'box-office bomb', failing to gross over $1 million.

Connection with the new Ninja Gaiden[]

Ninja Gaiden was revived by Tomonobu Itagaki and Team Ninja. While the new Ninja Gaiden was in progress by Team Ninja, Itagaki had it linked to Dead or Alive. The new Ninja Gaiden game was a 'reboot' to its universe and instead of continuing the original NES story, the game became a prequel to the first DOA game.

Ryu Hayabusa, one of the DOA characters, is the main protagonist of Ninja Gaiden. DOA was made sometime afterwards and he was added to the fighting game, where he plays a major role in the game. He is the winner of the 2nd DOA Tournament.

See also[]

  • List of characters in the Dead or Alive series


  1. 1.0 1.1 Catching up with Tecmo's Prince of Darkness: Classic GI interviews Tomonogu Itagaki. Game Informer magazine Issue December 2004 (2004). Cite error: Invalid <ref> tag; name "rep" defined multiple times with different content
  2. 2.0 2.1 DOA analysis at Hardcore Gaming 101. Hardcore Gaming 101 (2005).
  3. Dead or Alive Defective?. IGN (1998).
  4. Tor Thorsen (2004). Dead or Alive Online now Dead or Alive Ultimate. Gamespot.
  5. Giancarlo Varanini (2002). Dead or Alive reaches 1 million. Gamespot.
  6. Douglas C. Perry (2005). Dead Or Alive 4 Delayed?. IGN.
  7. Famitsu 9/23. Famitsu (2010).
  8. IGN staff (2001). Q & A With Dead Or Alive 3 Creator, Tomonobu Itagaki. IGN.
  9. Klepek, Patrick (2006). Itagaki Confirms Dead or Alive 5. Retrieved on 2008-05-31
  10. Ogden, Gavin (2008). Tomonobu Itagaki Interview. Computer and Video Retrieved on 2008-05-24
  11. Top: Itagaki Leaving Tecmo, Suing Tecmo
  15. E3 2010 Showfloor Map on GameSpot. Gamespot. Retrieved on 2010-06-11
  23. Boston Globe (June 16, 2007)"In 'DOA,' the inspiration and excitement are MIA" (review by Tom Russo)

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