Dead or Alive Wiki

Dead or Alive (also known as DOA or DOA1) is the first installment in the Dead or Alive series.

Developed by Team Ninja and published by Tecmo, Dead or Alive was first released in arcades in 1996, using the Sega Model 2 system board and was later ported onto the Sega Saturn home console in Japan on October 9, 1997.

In 1998, a PlayStation version of Dead or Alive was released in Japan, North America, and Europe, with a different graphics and fighting engine, new background music, and two additional characters.

Dead or Alive ++ (デッドオアアライブ++ Deddo oa Araibu Purasu Purasu) was also released in 1998. This arcade-only release used the Sony ZN-1 arcade board and, while graphically similar to the PlayStation port of Dead or Alive, plays more like Dead or Alive 2. The game introduced a bigger emphasis on stuns and to that end, two separate hold systems were included, one inside and one outside of critical state.

In 2004, the Sega Saturn version was ported onto the Xbox as part of Dead or Alive Ultimate.

Dead or Alive was followed by the series' first sequel Dead or Alive 2 in 1999.



A girl catches her breath and stares down at the gathering of warrior gods below. What she feels is not light, but darkness. Her mind wanders with thought. She's made it this far...
She's traveled this far...
on just a few clues...
to avenge her brother.
The chance for revenge is near.

The insatiable ambition of the human race has lead to the abuse of scientific knowledge. Foolishly setting up the stage for the extreme battle on the land. Now, a new Dead or Alive battle is about to begin.

A girl calmly closes her eyes. She hears the vibration of the colliding power and the uncontrollable, violent melody.

She envisions numerous obstacles set ahead of her. The shadow waves to the courages men and the dignified women.

Kasumi, trusting herself...
Throws herself...
into the wind.
the only thing left,
the whistling noise of the wind.


DOA1 character select

The character selection screen in the PlayStation version, showing all of the playable characters.

Playable characters[]

  • Kasumi, a young beautiful kunoichi who instead of taking up the responsibility to become the new master of the Mugen Tenshin clan, secretly left her village without a word to find out the truth and discover who attacked and crippled her older brother, Hayate.
  • Zack, an over-the-top DJ whose sole purpose for entering the Dead or Alive tournament is to win the prize money.
  • Ryu Hayabusa, a powerful shinobi and the heir of the Hayabusa clan, Hayabusa accepts an invitation to the tournament to fulfil his thirst for challenge when he learned that his best friend's sister, Kasumi, had disappeared.
  • Bayman, a man who witnessed the assassination of his parents as a child and then trained by the Russian Army in Command Sambo to become a special agent. Now working as a professional assassin, Bayman enters the tournament to complete his new assignment: assassinate the notorious leader of DOATEC, Fame Douglas.
  • Lei Fang, an impulsive, yet determined prodigy of taikyoku-ken. Several years ago, Lei Fang was challenged by a gang of street fighters, and though she was prepared to take them on single-handedly, she was rescued by a boy wearing a dragon emblem. Hating the thought of someone believing that she can't handle things on her own, the incident left Lei Fang determined to one day find and defeat the very same boy who saved her.
  • Gen Fu, an elderly gentleman who may just appear to be a feeble bookstore owner at first glance, is actually a great master of shini-rokugo-ken. Though no one knows why Gen Fu came out of retirement to enter the tournament, only his closest enemies suspect that it may have to do with the tragedy that surrounds his granddaughter, Mei Lin.
  • Tina Armstrong, a pro wrestler since high school who has worked her way up to become of the most feared lethal competitors in women's pro-wrestling. Tina almost 'threw in the glove' last year until her father, Bass Armstrong, stepped in and convinced her to 'take on the world'. Though her father thinks that Tina has entered the tournament for the glory of winning, her real aim is to be discovered by Hollywood.
  • Jann Lee, a young man whose parents died when he was a child, then left alone to fend for himself. Though at first he threw himself into the study of Jeet Kune Do to replace what he had lost when his parents died, Jann Lee eventually fought for just the sake of fighting.

Unlockable characters[]

  • Raidou, a nukenin ("missing shinobi")[1] and the paternal uncle of Kasumi. After leaving the clan, Raidou traveled around the world to steal moves and techniques from others fighters in order to grow stronger. It is later discovered that it was he who crippled Hayate.

PlayStation and Dead or Alive ++ characters[]

  • Bass Armstrong, the father of Tina, who is known to dote on her and has trained her throughout her life to fight.
  • Ayane, a kunoichi from the same clan as Kasumi, who was sent to kill her for running away from the clan.


The gameplay of Dead or Alive borrows from Virtua Fighter, but makes some key changes that changes the way Dead or Alive is played in comparison to Virtua Fighter. Dead or Alive was unique in its debut in that it featured fairly different choices in gameplay than other 3D fighting games at this time. Its most defining features were its speed and countering system. Dead or Alive put an emphasis on speed and relied more on simplistic commands and reaction time rather than long combo strings. Furthermore, its countering system was the first in the fighting genre to utilize different commands that corresponded to each type of attack.

There are two kinds of holds, an offensive hold (OH) and a defensive hold (DH); furthermore, these commands are executed by holding back or forward on the directional pad along with the guard input to either force away or counter-damage an opponent. Finally, the game used an environmental addition called the danger zone, which surrounded the outer edges of the fighting arena (depending on the options, it could also completely consume it), and when a character came into contact with it, it sent them into the air so the opposing player could execute a juggling air combo. However, this can be avoided with an Ukemi (defensive roll).

Unlocking characters[]

Character Obtained
Raidou Sega Saturn and PlayStation: Clear Arcade/Tournament Mode with all the characters on the default settings
Dead or Alive ++: Clear Tournament Mode with Kasumi, and enter "SIAWASE?" at the name entry screen
Ayane PlayStation: Unlock all of the costumes for each character, including Raidou


DOA launch JAMMAexpo 1996

Dead or Alive launch at the 1996 JAMMA expo in Tokyo.

During the mid 1990s, Tecmo was in financial trouble. Seeing how popular Sega's Virtua Fighter series was in Japan at the time, the management asked Tomonobu Itagaki to create a game similar to Virtua Fighter. Itagaki stated that he was dissatisfied with the way modern fighting games were presented at the time; he missed the old arcade-style of play and had another vision for the fighting game genre. Having worked for Tecmo for a long time, Itagaki was eventually given the opportunity to develop a fighting game. Itagaki was a fan of Virtua Fighter, but he wanted Dead or Alive to stand out among the competition. This included both an emphasis on being fast-paced and on being provocative.

The game, the first Dead or Alive, was released in 1996 as an arcade game. It was a success in Japan but not in the West. This was possibly due to the competing game Tekken, which was already a popular fighting game series for the PlayStation.


Four different versions of the original Dead or Alive were released:

Arcade version[]

350x271px-ec0b387c doa1-arcade

Gen Fu vs. Tina in Dead or Alive for the Arcades.

The original version of Dead or Alive was released in arcades worldwide in November 1996, utilizing Sega's Model 2 arcade board (it was also the first time Sega licensed their hardware to a third-party company; in this case, Tecmo). The game ran on a modified Virtua Fighter 2 engine, featuring eight playable characters with three costumes each, and the boss character Raidou.

Sega Saturn version[]

Ryu vs Lei Fang

Hayabusa vs. Lei Fang in Dead or Alive for the Saturn.

It was later ported to the Sega Saturn in Japan on October 9, 1997. The game was never released in North America or Europe. This version added an FMV intro, Time Attack, V.S., Survival, Training and Kumite modes. Unlockables included the ability to play as Raidou, new costumes for each character, and Kasumi's System Voice.

However, this version was downgraded graphically compared to the arcade version. In contrast to the original's fully 3D modeled backgrounds, the Sega Saturn conversion used bitmap tricks and overlapping layers in the same fashion as the Sega Saturn version of Virtua Fighter 2 did. Some details in stages were removed altogether, such as the roof of L's Castle and the swaying bridge in Hayabusa's stage. The characters also had lower-polygon models.

PlayStation version[]


Kasumi versus Zack in Dead or Alive for the PlayStation.

On March 12, 1998 in Japan, Tecmo released Dead or Alive for the PlayStation. This version included numerous differences compared to the arcade and Saturn versions; a different graphics engine with Gouraud shading, a revamped fighting engine, new background music, and new stages. Similar to the Saturn version, the stages consisted of 2D bitmaps, but could now extend infinitely (similar to Tekken), which eliminated ring-outs.

The most notable addition was the two new characters; the wrestler Bass who was available from the start, and the unlockable Ayane. It also included more costumes to unlock (only for female characters), Kasumi, and Ayane's System Voices (as "Sakura" and "Wakana", the first names of their voice actors), and additional voice clips.

The PlayStation version was released in North America on March 31, 1998, and later in Europe in July 1998. These versions omitted the text-only epilogues at the end of Arcade Mode. The European version added even more costumes, typically one or two per character.

Dead or Alive ++[]

DOA++ Title

Dead or Alive ++ title screen

The final revision, Dead or Alive ++ was released in arcades in September 1998, running on Tecmo's TPS arcade system (Capcom ZN-1 with custom bios). It is commonly considered a half-step between the first game and Dead or Alive 2. Although aesthetically similar to the PlayStation version, it featured many changes to the gameplay. These changes include being able to position characters before the start of a round, changing most throws to Hold+Punch, and a six-point hold system, the most complex in the series.

Dead or Alive Dead or Alive ++
High Punch Hold 7 / Up-BackHold
High Kick 4 / Back4 / BackHold
Mid Punch 6 / Forward4 / BackHold
Mid Kick 2 / Down1 / Down-Back4 / BackHold
Low Punch 2 / DownHold 6 / Forward1 / Down-BackHold
Low Kick 2 / Down2 / DownHold

This version added a "Tag Battle", although it was more like Team Battle with two characters. Ayane was playable from the start and Raidou could be unlocked fairly quickly. Each character had four costumes, two from the original and two from the European PlayStation version. A few of the costumes were exclusive to this version of the game and some were slight recolors.

Dead or Alive 1 Ultimate[]

Gen Fu vs Kasumi

Gen Fu vs. Kasumi in Dead or Alive Ultimate.

In 2004, Tecmo released a revamped version of the Sega Saturn port made to run on the Xbox, along with an updated version of Dead or Alive 2. Named Dead or Alive Ultimate, it was basically the original Sega Saturn game ported to the Xbox, making graphics slightly more colorful and smoother, sound from stereo to surround, and adding Xbox Live Online Gaming. The Saturn version was chosen as it was Itagaki's "personal favorite".


In Japan, Game Machine listed Dead or Alive on their January 1, 1997 issue as being the most-successful arcade game of the month. Game Machine also listed Dead or Alive++ on their November 15, 1998 issue as being the eleventh most-successful arcade game of the month.

Although it was not widely distributed in U.S. arcades, Dead or Alive was a commercial success, helping Tecmo pull in a profit of 9.2 million dollars in 1996 and saving the company from bankruptcy.[1] The Sega Saturn version would top the Japanese charts on release, coming in number 1 during Week 41 in 1997.[2] The Saturn version would go on to sell more than 161,000 copies in Japan.

Upon the game's release in arcades, a Next Generation reviewer commented, "A fighting game that mimics Virtua Fighter 2 in its look and feel to a frightening degree ... Dead or Alive boasts smooth control, crisp polygonal graphics, and an attitude that may enable this game to stand on its own despite its familiar origins." He identified the variety of characters and the danger zones as the game's standout features, and said the tough AI forces players to learn more complex moves and strategies.

The home versions were successful critically as well. Due to the Saturn version's planned (and eventually aborted) releases in the U.S. and UK, it saw a considerable number of reviews in those two countries. Sega Saturn Magazine described Dead or Alive as "An incredible beat 'em up both technically and visually, even getting close to beating Sega's own-brand VF Virtua Fighter games. Computer and Video Games called it "an essential buy for import Saturn gamers", while Next Generation commented, "Dead or Alive is such a polished game that it's surprising to realize this is Tecmo's first 3D fighter. GamePro lauded it for its vast number of moves and throws, and its fast and intense fights.

Praise for the game typically focused on its "hold" mechanic. Next Generation said this mechanic adds a unique tone to the game and blurs the line between offense and defense during fights, replacing the usual fighting game scenario of one character attacking and the other defending with more of a "push-and-pull" struggle for dominance. Electronic Gaming Monthly editor-in-chief John Davison commented that the requisite "use of a character's weight and inertia blazes a trail for other games to follow." One of his co-reviewers, Dan Hsu, said the system of holds and reversals is the best part of the game. GameSpot noted that using holds, "you can counter holds and attacks and then reverse counters on top of that, so you sometimes can get an awesome Jackie Chan-style grappling match that goes back and forth three or four times till someone messes up and pays the consequences.

The "bouncing breast" feature was widely ridiculed for its exaggerated and prolonged animation, which critics regarded as comical and grotesque rather than appealing. Sega Saturn Magazine noted that the breasts "wobble up and down like jellies and seem to operate totally independently to the rest of the girl's body", and Jeff Gerstmann similarly remarked in GameSpot that "They bounce around like gelatin for no apparent reason." He considered it a relief that the feature can be turned off, describing it as "stupid" and "the very definition of overkill." IGN was not as annoyed, but pointed out that the bouncing breasts "don't actually contribute to the gameplay except to add temporary novelty and libido frustration to the typical gamer." Computer and Video Games saw the feature as having a campy appeal, finding humor in how "The slightest movement is enough to set them off, swinging and bouncing around in a most comical fashion!" The reviewer compared it unfavorably to the more realistic breast physics in Fighting Vipers.

A number of reviewers praised the quality of the arcade-to-Saturn conversion, and most applauded this version's high-resolution graphics and detail. However, reviews for the later PlayStation version hailed it as even better, with enhanced graphics and enjoyable new content which adds to the replay value. IGN went so far as to say that "The Model 2 graphics have ported over to the PlayStation better than they've ever been on the Saturn". (Many of the Saturn's killer apps were Model 2 ports, including Virtua Fighter 2.)

GamesRadar included Dead or Alive at number 28 in their list of best Sega Saturn games, stating that "the game's high-speed, rock-paper-scissors style of play was a quick hit with arcade players". In 2011, Complex ranked it as the seventh best fighting game of all time.

Production credits[]

See: /Production credits


Packaging artwork[]


  • Dead or Alive holds the Guinness World Record of being the "First video game with a multi-point counter system".[3]
  • Kasumi is unlocked as a trainable monster in Monster Rancher 2 by going to the Shrine and inserting the Dead or Alive disk in the PlayStation Disc Tray.
  • In the prototype version, there was a Muay Thai character named Kelly. It is believed that he later became Zack. The photos can be seen here.
  • On the cover of the PlayStation release, Kasumi has white hair. It is unknown why this is.
  • Early posters and screenshots of the game shows Kasumi wearing a red variant of her default costume and without stockings.
  • The name of the training dummy in the Sega Saturn version is "Toreko", as stated in the official guidebook for the game.
    • In the West, it was believed for many years that the training dummy was Ayane due to her having the dummy's bodysuit as a recurring costume in later games, starting off in the PlayStation remake.
  • The English version of Tecmo's official site for Dead or Alive was notorious for largely rewriting the character bios in a way that didn't reflect the actual story, which was often the case for localization at the time.[4]
  • Dead or Alive and Dead or Alive 2 are the only Dead or Alive games to get a rating for general audiences which in Japan, the Saturn version is given an "All Ages" rating by Sega as shown on the top right on the standard edition and bottom left on the limited edition. Dead or Alive 2's rating on the Dreamcast (Japanese) is shown on the back of the case.

See also[]

Notes and references[]

External links[]

Navigation boxes[]

v · e · d
Dead or Alive
Playable KasumiZackRyu HayabusaBaymanLei FangGen FuTina ArmstrongJann Lee
Unlockable Raidou
PlayStation and
Dead or Alive++
Bass ArmstrongAyane
Miscellaneous Toreko
Gameplay modes Arcade/TournamentTime AttackVersus ModeSurvivalKumiteTrainingTeam Battle ModeOptions
Gameplay terms AttacksBoss battlesComboDanger ZoneGame OverHoldsKnocked OutName EntryRing OutSpecial MovesStagesThrowsTriangle System
Plot subjects Dead or Alive World Combat ChampionshipDOATECMugen Tenshin clanRunaway shinobiShinobi
Martial arts Command SamboJeet Kune DoNinjutsuPro-wrestlingShini-rokugo-kenTaikyoku-kenThai-style boxing
Other terms CreditsOpeningsSystem VoiceTournament Winners
Arcade and
Sega Saturn
Bayman's stageGen Fu's stageHayabusa's stageJann Lee's stageKasumi's stageLei Fang's stageRaidou's stageTina's stageZack's stage
Sega Saturn only Tina's western stageTraining stage
PlayStation and
Dead or Alive++
Ayane's stageBass' stageBayman's stageGen Fu's stageHayabusa's stageJann Lee's stageKasumi's stageLei Fang's stageRaidou's stageTina's stageZack's stage
PlayStation only Training stage
Dead or Alive++ only Jann Lee's stage
Dead or AliveDead or Alive (PS Version) Original Sound Tracks
Character/Stage themes Arcade and Sega Saturn "Blade of "RYU"" • "Codename "BAYMAN"" • "DEAD OR ALIVE" • "Densetsu no Hiken" • "The Fist of TAIKYOKU Blows up" • "Ketsui no Toki" • "Kokou no Kenshi" • "NO MONEY" • "Power is Beauty"
PlayStation "AYA" • "Blade of "RYU"~Mr.Tom mix~" • "Concentration" • "Dead or Alive" • "Fastbreak" • "Gonna Make You Gasp" • "Heated Heartbeat" • "ketsui no toki~pie-02 mix~" • "Megadeath" • "Power is Beauty~more beautiful mix~" • "Superstar"
Dead or Alive++ "Ayane's theme" • "Bass' theme" • "Bayman's theme" • "Gen Fu's theme" • "Hayabusa's theme" • "Jann Lee's theme" • "Kasumi's theme" • "Lei Fang's theme" • "Raidou's theme" • "Tina's theme" • "Zack's theme"
Voice tracks "Ayane" (PlayStation only) • "Bass" (PlayStation only) • "Bayman" • "Gen Fu" • "Jann Lee" • "Kasumi" • "Lei Fang" • "Raidou" • "Ryu Hayabusa" • "System Voice" • "System Voice 2" (PlayStation only) • "System Voice 3" (PlayStation only) • "Tina" • "Zack"
Other tracks "In Between Life and Death" • "The New Century" • "Physical System" • "S.E. Collection" • "SAYONARA" • "Showdown" • "Stage Clear" • "Your Name is..."
Arcade only "DEAD OR ALIVE Overture" • "End of Chopper" • "Show must go on!"
PlayStation only "Result"
Bonus tracks "Dead or Alive Overture ~renewal mix~" • "Galaxy" • "The New Century ~master version~" • "SAYONARA ~master version~" • "Type-XXX"
Dead or Alive++ only "Ending theme"
Command listsCostumesFighting quotesMerchandisePromotional Artwork and Wallpapers
v · e · d
Main series Dead or AliveDead or Alive 2Dead or Alive 3Dead or Alive 4Dead or Alive 5Dead or Alive 6
Spin-offs and related titles Dead or Alive++DOA2: HardcoreDead or Alive UltimateDead or Alive OnlineGirls of DOA BlackJackDead or Alive DimensionsDead or Alive 5+Dead or Alive 5 UltimateDead or Alive 5 Last Round
Dead or Alive Xtreme sub‑series Dead or Alive Xtreme Beach VolleyballDead or Alive Xtreme 2Dead or Alive ParadiseDead or Alive Xtreme 3Dead or Alive Xtreme Venus VacationDead or Alive Xtreme 3 Scarlet
Canceled games Dead or Alive: Code ChronosProject Progressive
Related series Other Koei Tecmo series Ninja Gaiden seriesWarriors seriesFatal Frame seriesSuper Swing GolfDeception series
Third-party Crossovers Virtua Fighter seriesSNK MultiverseSenran Kagura seriesAzur Lane series
Playable characters Main cast KasumiZackRyu HayabusaBaymanLeifangGen FuTina ArmstrongJann LeeBass Armstrong/Mr. StrongAyaneHelena DouglasLeonEinHayateHitomiBrad WongChristieLa Mariposa/Lisa HamiltonKokoroEliotRigMilaMomijiRachelMarie RosePhase 4NyotenguHonokaTamakiDiegoNiCO
Secondary Kasumi αShidenFalse Kasumi
Final bosses RaidouBankotsuboGenraAlpha-152
Xtreme only MisakiLunaFionaNagisaKannaMonicaSayuriPattyTsukushiLobeliaNanamiEliseKoharuAmyShandyYukinoShizukuReika
Guest characters SPARTAN-458Rio Rollins TachibanaAkira YukiSarah BryantPai ChanJacky BryantNaotora IiMai ShiranuiKula Diamond
Non-playable characters Main series Alicia ArmstrongAnastasiaAnneAyameBuraiChenFame DouglasGoldieHitomi's fatherIrene LewIsabellaKuramasan MaousonLaurenMariaMei LinMiyakoMuramasaNikiVictor Donovan
Guest characters RidleySamus Aran
Non-canon characters Max MarshWeatherby
Miscellaneous characters Toreko
Gameplay modes StoryVersusArcadeTime AttackSurvivalTag BattleTeam BattleTrainingOnlineSpectatorAlbumMoviesFight RecordTitlesHelp & OptionsMusic
Gameplay terms AttacksAttack ChangeBoss BattlesCharacter SelectCliffhangerComboCounter BlowCritical HitDanger ZoneGame OverHoldsKnocked OutMatchMove DataPower BlowPower LauncherReplaySide SteppingSpecial MovesStagesStancesTag ThrowsTriangle System
Plot subjects DOATECDead or Alive World Combat ChampionshipMugen Tenshin clanNinpoNukenin (missing shinobi)Project AlphaProject EpsilonShinobiTengu
Other terms CreditsCutscenesEndingsGlassesOpeningsSystem VoiceTournament Winners
More information and archives
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