Dead or Alive Wiki

Dead or Alive History -Team Ninja Freaks-, is an official art book that covers the history and development of the Dead or Alive series, between 1996 - 2004. This includes Dead or Alive, Dead or Alive ++, Dead or Alive 2, Dead or Alive 3, Dead or Alive Xtreme Beach Volleyball, as well as the development of then released Ninja Gaiden. It features interviews with the series creator, Tomonobu Itagaki, early concept art of the characters, and full breakdowns of the designs of each character.

Team Ninja History[]

According to Itagaki, the studio was for by TECMO to develop a different style of game from conventional Tecmo products that achieve a clear purpose, and general results.

When TECMO received a Model 2 kit, none of the senior programmers refused to develop games for it, passing the responsibility to Itagaki, who was a newcomer. Fully confident that he could make a game that made full use of the Model 2's 3D graphics, he claimed that would not only make a decent fighting game but also a game that directly competed with Sega's Virtua Fighter 2. He set out to make a game that did not follow the conventional style of TECMO games and formed a team that shared that same mentality. They became known as the team that makes the fighting game. After some deliberation, Itagaki managed to put together a team of 50 members from the former Tōkidensho staff.

Because 3D fighting games were a new concept, there was a lot of debate amongst the team about whether or not fighting games can be 3D. This discussion is what led to the Saturn version of DOA1 being very different from the arcade version. And with the upcoming development of DOA2, Itagaki wanted to make a system-specific game that was unique, which lead to the creation of DOA++.

The development team would go on to use the Team Ninja branding around the time of the development of DOA2. Striving to make high quality and cutting edge games that were different from what TECMO traditionally made, and aiming to use different hardware depending on what they required from each game. Which is why DOA2 was made using NAOMI instead of Model 2's updated board, Model 3.[2]

Dead or Alive 1[]

Though Sega's Model 2 boards were brand new at the time, Itagaki's team had no trouble using them since they all had experience working with 3D graphics. The game's development lasted a year and a half, starting in June 1995 with only three staff members initially. The game was originally planned to have features that would be cut due to limitations. Such as rivers the player could be caught in and 1000 flying birds in the background. Which would later be realized in DOA3. Since terrain effects were difficult to implement at the time, explosions elements of the Model 2 were used to create Danger Zones.

Itagaki explains that the main reason he didn't play many fighting games at the time was because he didn't like any of the characters. The main exception he cites is Samurai Shodown (commenting that Nakoruru is cute), and wanting to implement a similar pattern into DOA that would make people want to play the game. Itagaki also made the decision to completely eliminate shading from the polygon models so that the faces looked smoother.[3]

Home Ports[]

When the development of DOA was over, there was a mixture of a sense of accomplishment and dissatisfaction caused by a lack of time and experience, expressing the desire to remake the whole project. However, porting the arcading game to Saturn hardware came with its own set of difficulties since the console only allowed a certain polygon count that was well under what was required for DOA. But the team was able to make the adjustments necessary to get the desired result.[3]

Though the Playstation was developed at the time as the DOA, Itagaki did not like the machine's lack of power and inability to adopt architecture compared to the Saturn. The PS1 version demanded some sacrifices when making a 3D fighting game; such as the omission of ring-outs at the edge of the danger zones. Believing the customers won't be satisfied with the end product, they decided instead to increase the roster size with 2 new characters, Bass and Ayane. But even still, Itagaki was very unsatisfied with the development of the PS1 version of the game.[3]

Dead or Alive ++[]

With DOA2 being delayed into a further date, Itagaki felt the need to release something in the meantime. Hence the creation of DOA++. Using the PS1-compatible hardware, he completely abandons attempts to maintain the game's graphical quality, he instead focuses on the evolution of the game system. While DOA++ laid the foundation for the subsequent series, the game garnered a large fan base.

Because both Bass and Ayane would add to the PS1 version in a rough state, Itagaki took the time to finish their characters. The original idea behind Ayane was to make a rotating ninja. In the original game, Kasumi was going to be based on this concept. However, the motion technology at that time couldn't rotate it neatly, because there was no design technique that balances speed and rotation. So the idea was scrapped. However, the concept was reintroduced in DOA++ with the creation of Ayane. To motivate the motion staff, Itagaki allowed them to choose Bass' fighting style, which ended up being professional wrestling. Even though they already had Tina as their wrestler character, the team would say that it wasn't their favorite type of pro wrestling. These ultimately lead to Bass becoming Tina's father. With the completion of Bass and Ayane, Itagaki was far more satisfied with the end product.[4]

Dead or Alive 2[]

When DOA++ was complete, Itagaki was finally able to go to arcades to see how well the game was received. In doing so he was finally able to learn about fighting games and walked away with a lot of feedback.[4] When developing DOA2, he incorporated four themes: tag, graphics, multi-stage, and perfecting a standard system.

Having wanted to do the tag battle the most, the goal was to make attacking and defending with a sense of speed that couldn't be played normally. So they created a dedicated stage to speed up the tempo. The plan is to put together 4 character battle system that would normally compromise the graphics or the operability and tempo. The graphics were also upgraded using NAOMI2 instead of Sega's Model 3 boards, which had a lot of room for programming to intervene. During DOA++'s development, Itagaki was pursuing painting with the theme of DIGITAL VENUS; moving CG models in real-time. Which is what NAOMI could offer for the game.

The multi-stages were designed with the idea that the match would continue even after the character fell from a great height or was thrown out of a ring. Wanting to differ from games like Mortal Kombat, where falling from very high was fatal and led to a loss, Itagaki instead allowed the player to survive, only take damage. He wanted to make an increasingly expanding level as fights would go on. The guarding system also went through improvement to accommodate for players. Since there still wasn't much of an industry standard for controls at the time, Itagaki implemented his own "de facto standard" and adopted the GPK system.[5]

Home Ports[]

DOA2 was initially planned to be ported to PS2 for home consoles. But, when Itagaki looked at the platform's performance specks, he instead decided to port the game to Dreamcast, citing the Sega console's power as the main reason. The game was first released overseas on Dreamcast, and then domestically on PS2 shortly after, which was not well-received practice by Japanese fans. Shortly after the game was also ported to Dreamcast as well. However, once the team had completed their standard engine for the PS2, they release DOA2 Hardcore for both US and Japan. Sega had approached them to request a port for the Dreamcast, but the offer was declined due to the team having already moved on to develop DOA3.[6]

Dead or Alive 3[]

DOA3 was the first in the series to be made exclusively for home consoles. Since Team Ninja had such a high standard for quality, the conventional methods of porting arcade games semiannually weren't something they wanted to do. They were initially met with opposition internally, but they argued that this would result in a steadier output of products. In the two years, they would have spent making DOA3 and porting it for home consoles, they had already made DOA3 and DOAX.

In anticipation for a potential sequel, the game was originally going to feature a completely renewed cast, with Hitomi as the new lead heroine. But those plans changed when fans expressed concerns and expectations for existing characters. Not wanting to disappoint the fans, Itagaki scaled back the plans for a renewed cast to just a few characters that were already made at the time. Though they shared the same fighting style, Hitomi's karate was planned to have a completely different style compared to Ein. The game featured significantly fewer costumes compared to the last game. This was because of the strike time constraints since the game had to be a launch title for the Xbox.[7]

Dead or Alive Xtreme Beach Volleyball[]

One of the main inspirations for DOAX came to Itagaki while on a beach resort. Wanting to address the criticisms of the lack of cosmetics in DOA3, he wanted to make a game that was special for the fans. Final Fantasy X-2 was cited as one of the influences for the game. The game was exclusively designed to be for fans of the series, knowing that it wouldn't be understood by others. Itagaki rebuked the idea that making things for fans is a negative thing and fervently expressed that there wasn't anything wrong with that type of practice.

The game was originally going to feature 100 costumes, but Itagaki, on a whim, changed the type to 300. Making a traditional sports game was also a big point of contention since the fixed camera was how they made fighting games. The overall goal was to create a game that was easy to play and had cool movements, such as Power Smash. The more simplified controls allowed for more dynamic moves without having to worry about complex inputs. However, after having watched spring high school volleyball after the development was finished, the only thing Itagaki wished he had improved was the speed and power of the ball.[8]

It was game Itagaki had wanted time ever since the deveoplement of DOA2, but could not due to the amount of work required to make it and the small amount of female character in the series so far. That changed when the number of female characters expanded to 7 in DOA3, plus the new additon of Lisa.[9]

Ninja Gaiden[]

The development of Ninja Gaiden start in 1999, during the development of DOA2 Millennium. At the time, Hayabusa had 3 selectable weapons, could throw shuriken, and flew from a hang glider. Adding gun action was also considered, but the idea was abandoned for being too different. Since DOA had become a flagship series for the company, Itagaki wanted to make another one with Ninja Gaiden. The staff had also expressed a desire to make another game different from DOA. The team started developing the game for NAOMI hardware, with plans to convert it to a different platform later on (Itagaki also comments on an earlier version of DOA1 where laters could jump 10 meters in the air). Looking at the specks on the newly released consoles of the time (Playstation 2, Xbox, and Gamecube), Itagaki settled on Xbox, since it was the only console powerful enough to achieve what the team wanted.

Itagaki left the refining of the controls to the younger staff member and focused on programming the difficult AI. About one-tenth of what he designed made it into the final game. The game was designed with difficulty that was meant to frustrate the player but also features a lot of attractive elements that would motivate them to keep playing. During the development, Itagaki would sometimes find that the damage values had been altered overnight by the younger staff and had to change them back. The Legend of Zelda was also cited as an inspiration for the inclusion of puzzles in the game. The camera controls were cited as being the least important element of the gameplay compared to the dynamic movement and speed, so it was deliberately underdeveloped. Itagaki had also ran into similar complaints about the camera angles of the DOAX and the Saturn version of DOA1 and hopes to improve from this feedback.

Itagaki was unsure if he would get the sequel out during the console generation.[10]



It was rare at the time for a fighting game to have a female main character. However, because Itagaki wasn't a fan of fighting games at the time, he was not away of the common elements of that archetype and thought it would be interesting to have a female heroine. The decision to make Kasumi a ninja comes from Itagaki's love of ninja manga; most of Kasumi's character was inspired by the works of Sanpei Shirato. Itagaki briefly recaps the story of DOA1 and properly layout what Kasumi, Ayane, and Hayate's relationships so there is no misunderstanding about the details of events. Then goes into explaining the origins behind some of the names:

  • Kasumi was named by a staff member named Nagata, the project manager for DOAX.
  • Bayman was originally named Gatsby after Fitzgerald's The Great Gatsby novel.
  • Zack was originally named Kelly.
  • Gen Fu was originally Fan Fu.
  • Jann Lee was originally Bruce Lou

Kasumi was designed to be a very simple character that anyone non-fighting game player can understand. Her costumes were also designed to be very striking, although Itagaki was not involved much with the design outside of the 1P and 2P costumes. At Team Ninja's BBS, he got to hear many fans' theories about Kasumi's many different costumes. He also sheds some light on the inconsistent character profiles between 1 and 2, giving a lore reason why they changed.[11]

Jann Lee[]

Aside from Kasumi, Jann Lee was the character that Itagaki worked on the most, with Kasumi as the speed character and Jann Lee being a power striker. A lot of his character were inspired by Bruce Lee films that Itagaki would watch. However, he ran into challenges balancing his special moves.


Leifang wasn't originally featured in earlier builds of the game and Gen Fu was initially the Taiji quan fighter. From the beginning, Itagaki wanted to feature two types of Kung Fu (Taiji quan and Xinyi liuhe quan) as fighting styles, but he wasn't sure if more Chinese martial arts would be added later on. She would later be added to a prototype build alongside Kelly and an eailer version of Kasumi, using a combination of Jann Lee's moves. Leifang ended up being the most popular out of the three. Though the character was only meant to be exclusively made for exhibitions, Itagaki ultimately decided to make Leifang the Taiji quan fighter.

The original game was made so that players new to fighting games could understand. But Leifang was viewed as far too advanced for some. When the game was ported to the Sega Saturn, Leifang's moves was changed from a hold-focused character to a strike-focused one. As the series went on she would be designed to appear cuter with a focus on designing costumes that make her look innocent.[12]

Tina Armstrong[]

It was decided from the beginning that professional wrestling characters would be included in the game. However, Tina was originally set up as a "dance killing" technique. She was initially a tropical girl who had "hit-and-run" tactics with light steps like dancing.

Tina's character changed considerably when compared to her first game. One key visual was her brown hair becoming blonde in DOA2. Tina was originally meant to be blonde, but the team had trouble getting the Model 2 to render bright yellow colors, resulting in a brown shade instead. When they switched to NAOMI, she became a blonde character as originally imagined.

Because of Itagaki's unfamiliarity with wrestling at the time, he ended up not understanding the appearance of certain moves. In the Saturn release of the game, Tina's Rodeo Hold was removed from the game for looking too unnatural. When receiving complaints from fans about the change to Tina's character, the move was added back into the PS1 version.

Tina was designed to be a cheerful American girl from Texas. Itagaki cites an anecdote where he met a Texan fan who was surprised at how Texan-like she was.[13]

Bass Armstrong[]

Bass originally had the codename "T-Bird". He wasn't initially a high-priority character due to Itagaki's indifference to professional wrestling and focused on properly realizing Tina instead. However, many other staff members were wrestling fans, and after much deliberation, he decided to change Tina from a "killer dancer" to a professional wrestler. Bass would later be added to the PS1 version to increase the roster size.

Even though Bass and Tina are wrestlers, they differ with Bass being centered around damage and reach. However, the struggle for making both characters was designing the strikes and how powerful they should be compared to the throws. There were also some animation difficulties since the motion staff had to perform precise moves. The staff also suggested including Lucha Libre techniques. Though Itagaki wasn't personally invested in professional wrestling, both Tina and Bass were largely made with respect to the wrestling fans within the team.[13]


There wasn't much of a plan initially to have Hayate become Ein as there was a desire to add a karateka character using an already established character. The DOA3 tech demo features Hayate performing a wind attack (similar to Ayane's attack from DOA2). Instead of including that in the game, a very similar attack was used in DOAU, minus the project effect. Itagaki then recaps Hayate's story between DOA1 and DOA2 (inferring the possibility of Hayate being a clone), and highlights Kasumi α's whereabouts at the basement of the DOATEC Hong Kong stage in DOA3.[14]

Ryu Hayabusa[]

Hayabusa's character started with the codename Kamui, and he originally wasn't going to be the Ninja Gaiden protagonist. However, some staff members suggest the idea to Itagaki and after playing through the arcade game, decided to include him as a playable character. Nakamura (President and CEO of Tecmo, 2004) suggested giving him attacks that use the wall, but it was not possible because of how the stages were designed, so he was given a decapitation throw instead. Hayabusa's Izuna Drop was based on Sanpei Shirato's Kamui Gaiden manga series and was incorporated into his moveset with Shirato's permission. Hayabusa started as a throw character and over time developed elements of being a striking character.[14]

During the development of DOA++, Itagaki was inspired by Fighting Layer's Sessyu to give the ninja characters special attacks, such as throwing shuriken and ninpo attacks. However, the idea was quickly abandoned for not fitting with how they made DOA, and also expressed regret for how Genra's boss fight was designed. He goes on to explain the complexities of individualizing all the ninja characters mechanically. He also promised more ninja characters in the future and encouraged fans to mail Famitsu for their suggestions on what fighting style to feature next (with the exception of sumo).[14]


Having been originally planned to be the new lead heroine for DOA3, Hitomi was designed to be an easy-to-learn character, with her karate differing from Ein by being more speedy and nimble. She was designed to look innocent as well as very strong.[15]

Bayman & Leon[]

Bayman's absence from DOA2 was because Itagaki felt that his story was complete and didn't need to participate in the tournament anymore. He also wanted to tell the story of a stoic character fighting to fulfill his promise to a dead woman, wanting to express a kind of emptiness, which led to the creation of Leon. Though he wasn't a priority, like Leifang, Bayman was designed to be a holding character in DOA1. And although he didn't initially appear in DOA2, he did return in the Japanese release of the Dreamcast port due to fan request.[15]


Helena was Team Ninja's first example of the "Digital Venus"; a method of creating beautiful character designs with CG technology (Itagaki references the Dead or Alive 2 1999 Tech Demo as an example). Helena was essentially created to be the protagonist of DOA2, and Itagaki describes her mother, Maria, as the only woman among the six mistresses of Fame Douglas who was allowed to give birth to his child. Helena fights using Pigua quan because Itagaki happened to be close to a practitioner. However, there were complications when designing her gameplay; because of the stiffness of the martial art, her character was very difficult to play and need to be reworked. A stance character had been in the work ever since DOA1 and was able to execute in DOA2 as Helena.[16]


The addition of Christie came about from one of the martial arts guide, Ryu Hiun, who suggested adding a She quan character to the game, seeing as it was perfect for assassinations. Her darker persona was designed to contrast with Helena's more light-orientated style.[16]


Zack was considered among the least popular characters during the time of DOA1, along with Bayman and Hayabusa. When porting the game to the Sega Saturn, Itagaki made several additions to his character to improve his perception; adding several new costumes and tweaks that grew his popularity. Zack's first three costumes were very similar, with the only proper distinction between them being the sneakers. Itagaki suspects that this was a major factor as to why he wasn't as popular in the beginning; he looked too trendy and his personality wasn't properly represented. For a time, Itagaki would not make any more designs that were in line with current trends until DOAX.

When Zack initially debuted in magazines, there were comments about his appearance being very similar to basketball player, Dennis Rodman, which was not intentional. Wanting to avoid any type of legal trouble, Itagaki hastily removed similar elements from the character, which may have been another contributing factor to his unpopular reception. After some time, Rodman got into contact with Itagaki and would agree to be a part of DOAX [as the voice of Zack].

Zack, under the codename Kelly, was the first character that was created for the game. However, he was scraped for not being interesting enough. During the final stages of development, an eighth character was needed to round out the starting roster. Though a third ninja character was suggested, the planning chef was strongly against the idea of 3/8 of the roster being ninjas. So, they instead decided to bring back Kelly and rework him into what would be Zack.[17]

Gen Fu[]

Gen Fu's character was created under very strict guidelines laid out by the motion staff. Previously codenamed "Fan Fu", the inspiration for his character was based on the Xinyi liuhe quan practitioners from the serial manga Kenji. When the team designed the CPU, they made Gen Fu insanely strong, enabling him to hold almost every attack that came his way. This would make him revered as one of the attention-grabbing elements of the game, alongside Danger Zones and breast physics.

Itagaki comments that Gen Fu's ending in DOA3 is his favorite out of all the endings, and humorously turned down fan requests to make Mei Lin playable.[17]

Brad Wong[]

Brad was in development at the same time as Christie, helmed by the martial arts guide, Ryu Hiun. During an earlier point in development both Brad and his master, Chen, were both playable. Since Drunken Kung Fu archetypes were typically associated with old men, Chen was originally planned to be playable. But, they were unhappy with how his character looked, so Brad became the drunken master instead.[17]


During the development of the arcade version of DOA1, Kasumi was initially designed with the concept of a spinning ninja. However, due to animation limitations, the idea was scrapped. During the final stages of development, a third ninja character was suggested as the eighth playable character. This idea was turned down in favor of Zack. But, when designing the PS1 version and the addition of Bass, the idea for the spinning ninja character was attempted again, which ultimately became Ayane.

Ayane's concept was difficult to realize on PlayStation until the development of DOA2 began. But even with the improved technology, designing her character still proved to be a challenge. Itagaki suggested using a different camera angle for her, but the idea was rejected since it would cause problems for playing other characters. This idea would later be used in the Genra boss fight in DOA3.

With the inclusion of Ayane, Itagaki wanted to tell a deep story between her and Kasumi, and how their characters were affected by their society. This was the main motivation for making the Opening scene from DOAU, placing emphasis on the two sisters, as well as their mother Ayame. These themes would have been further explored in DOA Code: Cronus and Ayane will always appear in Ninja Gaiden.[18]


Lisa was meant to appeal to U.S. fans of the series, representing a multi-ethnic country. She was at one point going to be named "Monica" during development. However, the name was changed due to its association with a scandal involving President Bill Clinton. The name Lisa was chosen for being short and easy to read, which was in line with how names were often done in the series.[9]

F. Douglas' Mistresses[]

Itagaki urges fans to take note of Fame Douglas' Mistresses since they will play a big role in Helena's story.[9]


Lauren was the most popular side-character among the staff during the development of DOA2. Itagaki deliberately withheld giving her a lot of lines so that her appearance in DOA3 could be more impactful.[9]

Mei Lin[]

Along with Brad's master, Chen, Mei Lin was was the most popular side-character among the staff during the development of DOA3.[9]


Niki's childish name was given to her by the creator of the FMVs, which was surprising to Team Ninja who normally wouldn't allow that kind of decision to be made.[9]


During the final stage of development, the team was still finalizing the roster, not leaving much time to design the final boss. So, his moves would be built out of the techniques of the other characters.[18] Even though all of his moves were derived from other characters, it still requires extra work to resize all of the attacks for his frame.

Raidou was designed to be an evil character, which would being farther developed in DOAU. Itagaki confirms that Raidou's manipulation of lighting was a natural ability and not a modification made by DOATEC.[19]


Itagaki wanted to included a Tengu as a boss because of the imagery associated with the creatures, unsure if that type of character would fit in the game. The team had fun making up Bankotsubo's supernatual moves, and the improvement made in DOAU.[19]


The Genra boss fight was very controversial and fans expressed different opinions about it. One was that even though the player was using DOA3's fighting system, the different system meant that the player couldn't make use of the techniques they cultivated up to that point. Another was that even though the fight was very creatively designed, the boss was way too.

The reason why the boss was so different was because Itagaki wanted to leave an impact on the player. He did this by changing the camera angle to a fixed lower position behind the player so that the character would appear very big. A technique that would be repeated for the Bone Dragon boss fight in Ninja Gaiden. Itagaki had always wanted to use different camera angles, but was always rejected by other members, since they didn't wan to exclude the possibility of the boss being playable. But since DOA3 was being made for home consoles and not arcades, he had a chance to experiment with the idea.[19]

Itagaki initially plan for Genra to split into four and rotate around the character, attacking at the same time with various spells. This was abandoned very early on in development.[18]



Extended Link[]


  • Other soureces suggest that Kasumi was originally going to be a male character
  • The Dead or Alive 2 1999 Tech Demo features a scene of Helena riding an elevator before being confronted by Tina. This scene was changed in the final game, with the final cut at a different angle and Tina being replace with Leifang.
  • Ayane's ending remark in DOA2 about being the female Tengu of Miyama was only meant to be metaphoical.
  • Itagaki specifically refers to Lisa's ethnicity as African American, which was not explicity confirmed in the games and would later be contradicted by Itagaki after leaving the company.
  • Although the name Monica was rejected for Lisa due to the Monica Lewinsky scandal, it would eventually see usage with an entirely different character in Dead or Alive Xtreme Venus Vacation.
  • The book was published when Lauren's name was incorrectly spelled "Loran".


  1. Dead or Alive history: Team Ninja Freaks, p. 176
  2. Dead or Alive History -Team Ninja Freaks-, p. 3
  3. 3.0 3.1 3.2 Dead or Alive history: Team Ninja Freaks, p. 4 - 13
  4. 4.0 4.1 Dead or Alive History: Team Ninja Freaks, p. 27 - 31
  9. 9.0 9.1 9.2 9.3 9.4 9.5
  13. 13.0 13.1
  14. 14.0 14.1 14.2
  15. 15.0 15.1
  16. 16.0 16.1
  17. 17.0 17.1 17.2
  18. 18.0 18.1 18.2
  19. 19.0 19.1 19.2