Like many successful games, Capcom’s Street Fighter II has its fair share of clones. Jaleco's Dead Dance was one of the many beat-them-ups that spawned from the success of Street Fighter II. Many tried to take the crown from that classic game, but none truly succeeded. Dead Dance (renamed Tuff E Nuff for its Western release) could have been a worthy contender, had it retained its cutscenes and done more to stand out.
Borrowing from other properties
The opening credits scroll and tell the story much like in the style of Star Wars. Dead Dance sets the game's year to 200X, whilst the translated Tuff e Nuff is set to 2151. A dastardly war had broken out, with much of the world transformed into desolate places where only the strongest survive, a plot that takes a page from Fist of the North Star. The rostered characters can easily be compared to other fighters; Syoh and Zazi are essentially head swaps for Street Fighter's famed Ryu and Ken.
One of the things that the game has going for it is the fantastic soundtrack. Zazi's theme in particular is energetic and has that 90's hard-hitting enigma. Another theme that I really like is Rei's theme because it sets the pulse racing, but it also feels like a calming song too thanks to its ambiance. The game does a great job matching the fighters with their personalities and fighting styles. Tuff e Nuff buffed up some of the themes with higher pitches and extra beats, which makes the ad-lib in Vortz's theme stand out much more than the original version.
Dreadful box art
Ladies and gentlemen, and everyone in between, I present to you the worst video game box art of all time. I believe the guy is meant to be Jade/Jado, the final boss of the game, but he looks more like Captain America on acid. I much prefer the look of the European and Japanese box art because you get to see all the playable characters.
What the West missed out on
Dead Dance's story mode has you fighting each character until you reach the top to face Jado, the fighting God (strangely renamed Jade for Tuff E Nuff). The 4 playable characters each have their own motives to reach the tower. Syoh is your social justice warrior, ready to crush evil with his hands. Zazi is Syoh's rival; while Kotono is a ninja who wants to avenge her father. Vortz is a professional wrestler searching for his brother. Before each round, they have an exchange of words and as their health bars go down, their face becomes covered in blood. Each of the four characters also has their own special epilogue that concludes their story arc.
The graphics and music are great for the time, but I think Jado could have had a better design. He has a strong aura and fighting skills, but he just looks like a guy in a purple suit. I found K's look with the bionic arms more scary-looking than Jado, but the big boss can prove to be hard to beat. We don't know much about him other than he rose to power when the war broke out and he built a tower to show his strength. The dialogue in Dead Dance suggests that it brought great darkness to the world which so many want back.
None of this can be seen in Tuff e Nuff though. Removing the blood, I can understand, but I think removing the dialogue and cut scenes took away from the enjoyment. As Tuff e Nuff was a game I played as a kid, I loved it for the music and for playing as Kotono. As a kid, I didnt really care, but as an adult, I feel like I am playing an incomplete game with Tuff e Nuff. When I played the Dead Dance game for the first time, it blew me away. The same guy I played as a kid, but from an adult's dystopian perceptive. The details absent in Tuff e Nuff made Dead Dance fun and valuable to me.
I am grateful for these fan translations as it helps me understand the plot and story. Kotono is still one of my favorite characters in this game, but I think Vortz has a fantastic character arc. His major sprite change when he defeats Gajet finally makes sense.
Tuff e Nuff and Dead Dance are games that I hold close to my heart. I liked the music and the graphics then and still do today. I was pleasantly surprised to see Tuff e Nuff being playable online with the Switch. Sadly, the extra content from Dead Dance is missing, but you still have the replay and password feature. Recently I discovered Yukinori Arashiro's gaming channel with has playthroughs of all of the fighter's story modes, a treat for those who want to enjoy this class and get engrossed in the dialogue and the story along with the gameplay.
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