Most wouldn't consider Dead or Alive balanced, or even grounded. For all of its tiger strikes in a circus, missile launches in a war zone, and tanker truck collisions that stun the Michael Bay Appreciation Fan Club, designers respect their influences.
In steps a confined, dusty home. Bare concrete walls and pottery exist as trajectory stoppers, objects become impediments to the fight, while the brawlers execute moves dreamed up during cinema's kung fu boom of the '70s. It roots a franchise more concerned with virtual wide angle lenses focused on fetish-y costumes - a lens tracking females only of course. Despite the stupid, it has a heart.
Chugging along on laurels much like the inferior Tekken, Dead or Alive merely embellishes. It raises standards for what fighting arenas can be, flourishes the combat system with a wild active camera system, while forging ahead with a three-tiered fighting system that remains the most fluid in the industry.
Most importantly, Dead or Alive is weighted and snappy. You can picture a live audience watching at home – baffled first as to why a worldwide, prestigious fighting tournament is taking place in a circus – awaiting a vicious kick from Jan Lee. There's little difference between modern MMA and DOA in terms of spectacle or audience need, fantasy being their only separation. Tecmo's fighting franchise adores pot shots, colorful in its violence as often as it's proper.
As the series progresses, the expanding roster brings with it tighter styles, more defined in their move sets. A fiery red head in Mila carries all the basic flair of the stock MMA fighter, bits of jujitsu, front kicks, and head combos all working within a stock routine. Not only is Mila well dressed, she's spunky and less degrading than the franchise is infamous for.
Intertwined is Virtua Fighter, a trio of incomers from Sega's 3D rumbler now brought into this realm of the weird. They fit, if only because DOA feels comprised of remnants of its revolutionary brethren. Technique isn't afforded to DOA in the proper quantities, but Akira, Sarah, and Pai are paid proper homage. Sure, Sega dictated their presence in a behind-the-scenes discussion. The fact that they fit at all is worth noting.