What happens when a man asks his wife to play Dead or Alive 4? Who wins, who loses, and who will unlock the bonuses?
As a round off from a recent trundle through two lists of my most loved fighting games, I have attempted to, and indeed made good on making my wife Anna play some too.
She is a fan of martial arts, having been involved in some herself, but she’s never played Dead or Alive 4. She still had a lot to learn; the only fighting game I had seen her take on in all our time together had been Street Fighter 4 Ultra, and she only ever played as Rose because she liked her outfit. That was going to change.
Just one rule. No button spaffing…
What is Dead or Alive 4?
Dead or Alive 4 (2005) was one of those very early Xbox 360 games that caught you thinking that you really needed one of those machines. Having previously made public that I regard the first Dead or Alive as the greatest 3-D fighter, I never got cosy-cosy with the much lauded sequel. It was super dynamic, but perhaps a little too much so. Same story with the third entry. This fourth game continued all the exuberance that is expected of the series but somehow held it together better for me.
Perhaps I had just accepted the approach by then, but it was what I put on for Anna and she quickly applauded the general high colour, high energy attitude. A good early burst of enthusiasm from her, but for context we were still on the character select screen. We’d gone for two-player, with me basically not doing anything so she could acclimate to the controls.
‘I don’t really want to be beaten up as a little girl,’ she said, thus dismissing a good portion of the characters and finally settling for moody ninja, Hayabusa. I went with bouncing Bruce Lee shrieker, Jann Lee, and sat my controller down.
‘Remember, no spaffing,’ I said and for a warm hearted moment of acquiescence she did go about the buttons in a reasonable manner, dishing out a few slaps and the odd ninja slipper to the face. Dead or Alive always came with a good sense of movement and impact, so Anna was pretty much sold on the thing, and that was before she realised that if she just kept hitting the punch button then numerous thudding attacks will happen. And thus began the spaffing.
As well as its movement and impact, Dead or Alive has, since the second game, been built around auto-combos for the newcomers. It is a deep and tactical game, but with a lot of characters you can just hit punch and watch the opponent crash out of a window. We would spend the rest of our first session in a circle of this motif. And always Hayabusa.
‘Perhaps time for a different character?’ I asked after we’d had a break, and suggested going for one of the grapplers. She went with cow girl Tina and took her to the training room.
And that was when Anna discovered Dead or Alive.
The joy of listings
‘There’s a Command List!?’ she exclaimed and began rifling through the options; something tantamount to paper work I thought, no wonder she was having fun.
‘So I just pick one of these moves and do it?’ she asked.’
‘We’re playing theoretical bingo?’
‘No, I’m not playing. You are trying to though. What move are you going for?’
‘All of them.’
And that was what she did, short of most, but all-in with spirit and a sudden sympathy with Tina. It was time for me to jump back in and get two-player going again. I hadn’t played the game properly for a long time myself and I didn’t need Anna embarrassing me. I went with karate teddy Hitomi and quickly remembered how lungy Tina is to play against.
Hitomi is stoic, but hits like she’s up against a daddy-long-legs, whereas Tina is looking to re-arrange someone’s joints, dominating the near-by and close-in. I had to rely on some of those auto punches to win. Phew.
‘Right,’ she said and made actions to go back to the training mode.
‘It has a story mode too,’ I told her.
‘This has a story!?’
Well that was it. I agreed to play through the story mode so that she could experience the occasional cut scene. A Dead or Alive cut scene no less, with all that comes with that.
‘Wow,’ she said and some sort of agreement came through that come hell or high spaffing, she would see Tina’s story through.
As I am writing this, Anna is pressing on through Tina’s bubblegum bright story mode. I hear shrieks and other exclamations of sudden gameplay moments coming down to my study; calls to see a cut scene that I miss by the time I get there.
‘I really like this game,’ she says.
Then she faced Bayman, which went a little something like this…
Sounds of despair draw me back into the room.
‘How is it progressing?’ I asked.
‘I don’t like him.’
‘Don’t let him fluster you. Keep the pressure on.’
I could; I did. I handed the controller back and left. She continued, and so did the difficulty.
Then, after another five minutes a pitch went out across the house, of a tone and vocabulary familiar to all gamers.
‘I completed it! I beat the game!’
Flush with victory, we watched Tina’s ending sequence which explained about as much as anything else.
‘That was no small feat in the time you did it in,’ I told her.
‘I know! I really like this game! You did a bit for me though.’
‘Even so. You’ll get some unlockables for that I expect.’
‘Like what?’ she said, suddenly serious about her rewards.
‘It’s Dead or Alive so it could be literally anything. Whatever it is brace your eyes. Fancy another round of two-player?’
When she found out one of her rewards was a leather cat-girl costume for Tina she certainly did and proceeded to deliver a few rounds of genuine beat-downs. Now I am no master at fighting games, but I am not by tradition a beginner. It was clear that I was going to have to remember this game and that meant picking Jann Lee, my most favourite bestest character.
Dear or Alive 4: Delivering the goods
Anna could sense I meant business and I could sense that she did in response. It was on it that way which only Dead or Alive 4 delivers; Bruce Lee stand-in versus Cat Wrestler on an endless stairway stage of old European design. No holds barred.
The result? It was interesting. Like an assassin, or a coward, I kept a flighty distance from Tina’s punch parade and fired off a few long kicks. A good start and enough to make me wonder if I needed to ease off a bit. Then I got cornered and Anna pulled off a double grapple grind and took the first round. We were playing first to three, so I still had time, but I wanted to end the next round as soon as possible. I did that, and the next one. Flex.
Tina took the next one though, and we were down to the final round and properly going for it. I’ll be honest it was the best round of two-player fighting that I’d had for probably twenty years. I won, but it was close and cautiously furious. Certain people always suit certain characters in fighting games. Tekken 2‘s Baek and my brother for example. Me and Jann Lee, or anyone anywhere and Akuma. I am adding Anna and Tina to that.
Dead or Alive, approved by a wife.
John is a writer and gardener. He comes with various 90’s Sega attachments and is the author of The Meifod Claw and other works. His favorite tree is a copper beech and he would like his coffee black without sugar, thank you.