DEAD OR ALIVE / Tecmo / PS1
When the first Dead or Alive game came out, it was a modest early 3D fighter offering that didn't have the groundbreaking cachet of the Virtua Fighter series or the slick animations and memorable roster of Tekken. So what could it do to stand out? Bresteses Physics.
Yep, the DOA series has been all about the Titty Physics from the first entry. This 1996 arcade title (1998 for the PS1 port, which was the last and most advanced of the physical media versions) was a little too early for the series to establish the "sexy" brand it would move on to; the polygons are just too limited, and the girls (who all have giant G cups) seem constantly in danger of whapping themselves in the face with their whoppers. The whole thing is definitely a lot more silly than sexy. That's probably why it's virtually a forgotten title; you see the least talk about this one out of anything in the series.
Lost in the boobie hype (at the time) was the fact that Dead or Alive also quietly implemented a more complex and interesting counter system than any other mid-90s 3D fighter. There is only one guard button, but you hold forward or back while countering to either push the opponent back or perform a counter that does damage.
I'm not an expert on 3D fighters so I'm a little out of my depth going into gameplay mechanics in this area, but I do know that series designer Tomonobu Itagaki was once quoted as saying he wanted a simpler, more "classic arcadey" sort of system for the series. It feels most to me like a slightly simpler version of the first two Virtua Fighter games, with more leeway for mashers to be successful. You can do an awful lotta chained stuff with just a couple of button presses, but mastering the counter system is also an excellent deterrent to that.
The game is all about competitive play, though. There's really nothing for solo players to do but practice; there were no mini-games of any sort yet, and the "tournament" mode has no story whatsoever attached to it and doesn't even have endings. Just a generic credit scroll once you beat the final boss.
It's not a bad 3D fighter, but a little derivative of Virtua Fighter yet not as complex overall. If I was stuck on a desert island with it I could have some fun digging into the engine and really getting to know it, I suppose, but there's no real impetus with other gaming choices available. If you're interested in it (or just the series in general), this PS1 port is the last and most "complete" version on physical media in terms of hidden characters and modes of play. The only later version is a download-only "grade up" of the game released for the Xbox in the mid-2000s.
* Gameplay Video