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DOA2: Hardcore

Fighting games have gotten boring. Many have gone past the point of fun, settling into a strange niche of utterly hokey characters and overly complicated movesets. Do you know how to execute Generic Samurai Dude’s Left Jab into Reverse Manji Backfist into Knee Bash into Demon Fang + Forward Stab into Flying Crane Stance? How about Big Muscle Guy’s Chokehold into Double Cross Chop + Body Slam into Swinging Neckbreaker + Boston Crab and Half Nelson finisher? And even if you do how to perform all of these amazing combos, would you even attempt using them strategically in battle? Chances are, you won’t even bother learning them. Whatever happened to the days when you just needed to know a Quarter Circle + Forward, Back + Forward Strong, all the other simple combos and incorporate them into simple punches and kicks? How about when characters didn’t have 50+ moves and still kicked ass? Remember when fighting games were about fun, and not about memorizing every little step? I do.

So that’s where Jann-Lee get’s his spare cash

Case in point: DOA2: Hardcore. There are no special powers, mutant freaks, or deadly monks to be found here. Instead, we’re presented with a handful of ninjas, ranging from the abnormally busty Kasumi and Ayane to Ryu Hayabusa, dark and mysterious assassin extraordinaire. There’s also a decrepit old man, a wrestling champion and his glamorous daughter, an opera singer, and a few other people that nobody really cares about. While these people come from all walks of life, they share one thing in common; the need to kick ass. The allure of potential fame, glory, and wealth has driven them all to compete in the second installment of the Dead or Alive tournament. There are a few subplots including corporate corruption, secret military projects, and murder, but these are barely explained despite the game’s numerous cutscenes and dialogue. If the relationships between the characters weren’t confusing enough, there’s ending boss is apparently some winged masked demon thing that has absolutely no relevance to the storyline whatsoever. Great job, Tecmo!

But hey, who gives a damn about the plot? There’s a nice little roster of playable characters, each with their own storyline to follow. You’ll progress from fight to fight, encountering them in seemingly random places, exchange a few heated words, and administer some serious punishment on your hapless foes. Sounds like every fighting game known to mankind, doesn’t it? However, DOA2: Hardcore has a few aces up its sleeve. The majority of the combat system is based on simplistic combos, counters, and moves that can be easily chained together into a solid offense, allowing you to mix and match moves as the fight trudges on. There are no complicated button commands or timing issues to hinder you; the game is easy to pick up and learn from the start. Each character has their own unique fighting style, like Ayane’s spinning moves or Bass Armstrong’s devastating holds and throws. The trick is finding a character that suits your preferences, spend some time in the game’s Training Mode, and dazzling your enemies with your fighter’s array of easy-to-master moves.

From what I’m seeing, the Jesus look-a-like is most definetly kicking arse

However, that’s only the tip of the iceberg. Beating your foes to a bloody pulp is one thing. But smashing them through interactive environments? Now, there’s something interesting! Many recent fighting games have tried to implement destructible environments to make things seem a bit more lifelike and engaging, but few can implement it as well as this game. You’ll be able to throw your enemies off rooftops and send them plummeting into urban slums, stumbling off multiple platforms, down waterfalls, into icy crevices, and crashing into walls. These arenas play an interactive role in the fights progression; falling off a rooftop, getting fried on an electrified fence, and every other level hazard will cost characters precious health. Winning your battles is not just about hitting your opponents with the right moves, but paying close attention to your surroundings and using them strategically as well.

While the gameplay may be fast-paced and enjoyable, the game’s Story Mode will get stale quickly. Thankfully, the game comes with a slew of extras to keep you coming back for more. Should you want to test your mad gaming, the game’s Time Attack and Survival Modes ought to prove worthy challenges. If you want to try out as many characters in a single battle as possible, the Team Battle Mode allows you to create a team of up to five combatants and pits you against an equally formidable team in an all-out brawl for supremacy. Also, the game features a Tag Battle Mode, allowing you to pair up your favorite fighters and go on an ass-kicking spree, complete with specialized tag combos, different fighting arenas, and a few other nifty surprises. While the gameplay is nowhere near as extensive as Tekken Tag Tournament, it’s still a solid feature in its own right. But in case you feel like taking a break from the action, you can set up automated fighters to duke it out for your viewing pleasure. Forget lengthy adventure modes and mini-games; this game’s got everything you need.

Yet here, he get’s his arse served to him on a silver platter

The awesome gameplay is complemented with a remarkably detailed presentation. Given the importance of the hazards and layouts of the various battlefields, it’s little wonder that the stages are depicted with some impressive graphics. You’ll be fighting through a diverse selection of stages, ranging from a huge opera house, a snowy wasteland, a futuristic tower, and temple grounds, and plenty of other strange places. You’ll be able to see the character’s reflections on the shiny marble and hardwood floors, the sunset reflecting off a flowing river, digitized billboards showing the fight’s progress, glowing lights, massive stages with several rooms and platforms, and tons of other little details. The characters don’t look too shabby either, depicted in a wide array of unlockable costumes and some decent voice acting. You can see Ayane’s ribbon trailing behind her as she does her signature spins, or watch Bass’s cowboy hat fall off if you smack him hard enough. Of course, many guys (aka the majority of the people who play DOA) will focus on Kasumi, whose conveniently tight top, absurdly short skirt and high kicks provide plenty of …interesting visuals for all present. At least Tecmo knows how to entertain their audience.

The Dead or Alive series isn’t held as high in regard as the likes of Tekken, Virtua Fighter, and a few other fighting game franchises. Many claim it to be a shallow gaming series, what with the well-endowed female characters and blatant sexually-rich eye candy, the not-so technical gameplay, and just about everything else that makes DOA different from the rest. But does a fighting game have to be ‘deep’ to be fun? Not necessarily. Can’t we just stop taking the fighting genre seriously for a little bit and just enjoy the fighters we’ve come to know all these years? While such a concept may sound foreign and downright blasphemous, DOA2: Hardcore stands proudly as a solid game for enthusiasts and casual players alike. It has a fair amount of kooky characters, wonderfully fast-paced gameplay, a fair amount of extras, and great presentation to round it all out. It may not be the most epic or ambitious fighting game on the PS2, but it’s still great.

8 out of 10

The author of this fine article

is a Senior Staff Writer at Thunderbolt, having joined in February 2005.

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