Published on April 22nd, 2013 | by Duke0913
Review: Dead or Alive 5
Developer(s): Team Ninja
Publisher: Tecmo Koei and Sega AM2 (Europe Only)
System(s): PlayStation 3, Xbox 360, PlayStation Vita
Release Date(s): September 25, 2012 (North America, PlayStation 3 and Xbox 360), September 27, 2012 (Japan and Australia, PlayStation 3 and Xbox 360), September 28, 2012 (Europe, PlayStation 3 and Xbox 360), March 19, 2013 (North America, PlayStation Vita), March 22, 2013 (Europe, PlayStation Vita)
The year of 2012 saw a handful of fighters released that year. Virtua Fighter 5: Final Showdown, Skullgirls, and Tekken Tag Tournament 2 are just a few that came out; all of them which have their own style as far as their fighting systems are concerned. The one I looked forward to the most was Dead or Alive 5, because it’s not only my favorite series in the fighting genre, but I was very curious as to what they would do after the release of Dead or Alive: Dimensions on the Nintendo 3DS. With this being the first main series title since Dead or Alive 4, which was released back in late 2005, what has changed and what remained the same since then?
The fighting system in the Dead or Alive series started out relatively simple in the beginning, and ever since Dead or Alive 2 the mechanics have been based off of the Triangle System. You have three different types of moves to use while fighting: Strikes, Holds, and Throws. In a similar manner to a game of rock-paper-scissors, each strike has a priority over another; holds take priority over strikes, strikes take priority over throws, and throws take priority over holds. I noticed that holds in particular are trickier to pull off than in previous games, so there’s a bit of a learning curve for veterans of the series as well. Relying on only one of the moves too often will obviously yield bad results when fighting, so it’s important to learn the different styles of each character in order to better your skills.
The cast of characters this time around contains many veterans from past games, including the quick and nimble runaway ninja, Kasumi, and the unorthodox self-taught Muay Thai boxer, Zack. All of the returning characters come with some of their original moves, as well as some new ones in order to adjust to the tweaked mechanics of the game. There are also some new faces to join the fight, each of which bring something unique to the cast of fighters. Rig, a practitioner of taekwondo and oil platform worker, has no recollection of his past, and has spent most of his life on the oil platform. Mila is a mixed martial artist who idealizes series veteran, Bass, and though her moveset is basic she’s one of the faster characters. One thing that sticks out in Dead or Alive 5, which I greatly appreciate, is that there are no character doubles. No two fighters are the same and have their own unique personalities and fighting styles, giving players a lot of variety when it comes to choosing their favorite.
Because of some publishing costs, Tecmo Koei has teamed up with Sega AM2 in order to have the game published in Europe. Thanks to this partnership, Akira, Pai, and Sarah make playable guest appearances from the Virtua Fighter series. Each of them brings their own unique traits from Virtua Fighter 5, and for the most part it works. When fighting against them in single player modes, however, I find them particularly more difficult beat than other characters. It’s not a major issue, but it’ll no doubt throw off players the first time they fight against them.
The game has four main modes for you to choose from: Story, Fighting, Online, and Extras. Story Mode has you playing as most of the characters in the game through one massive story; switching characters after a few fights to get different perspectives. Fighting Mode contains all the traditional modes you’d expect in a fighter. Versus allows you to set up a simple match against a CPU or a local friend, while Arcade and Time Attack modes have you fight for a few rounds to get the best score/time. Survival plays out exactly like it did in Dead or Alive: Dimensions, in that you fight a certain number of enemies on one health bar till you either defeat them all or you yourself lose. The number of enemies depends on the difficulty, and every time you do beat someone you recover a little health. The most interesting thing about these modes are the number of difficulties you can choose from. First-time players will want to stick with the lower ones such as Rookie and Easy, while more experienced players can test their skills out in Hard and Legend. There’s a setting for everyone that’s not too hard, and not too easy. However, there are a couple instances of cheap AI, regardless of the difficulty setting. This issue has been addressed many times by fans, and Team Ninja has acknowledged this with updates to balance things out a little more.
Even though there is a Training Mode in the game (which can also be played online with a friend), Story Mode has plenty of reasons to be a better choice for learning the ins and outs of Dead or Alive 5. You progress through the story by switching between characters after a few fights, all while seeing the plot from many different perspectives and learning about each of the fighters desires. With each fight, there’s an optional mission you can attempt that revolves around performing certain actions, such as special holds or Critical Bursts. The story, for the most part, is without a doubt the best well written and executed in the franchise. There’s actually a sense on continuity in the game with many references to past events, which the other games lacked. The only problem I have with the story, which is really more of a nitpick than an actual problem, is the pacing between fights. Looking for answers in an Urban town and then ending up in a frozen wasteland 5 seconds later? Again, it’s just a nitpick, but the missions, storytelling, and cast of characters more than make up for it.
Another major overhaul from previous Dead or Alive games is the overall presentation. Characters no longer look cartoon-ish, and look more like humans instead of dolls with awkward facial expressions (Lisa). Even the females bodies have been toned down to a more reserved look (though fan service is still scattered about). The sound direction also has an updated modern feel to it, which is very much appreciated since music was reused across multiple games in the past. There are only so many times I can listen to the same musical track before getting tired of it, and though the soundtrack will be hit-or-miss for some, it’s a welcome change in my opinion.
While playing the game, you’ll unlock titles, which act as in-game trophies/achievements. There are hundreds of titles to obtain, ranging from using a character a certain number of times, to beating Arcade Mode on the highest difficulty. You can customize your profile with two of your favorite titles, and show them off when playing online.
After you’ve played enough on your own, you can test your skills online. A Ranked Match has you fight with an opponent in order to gain points towards your rank. If you rather not worry about your grade increasing/decreasing, you can play a casual match with anyone around the world, or create a lobby where up to 16 friends can fight, spectate, and chat. You can even add players that you come across online to your fighter list in order to organize a few matches later on. There’s even a tournament mode where you can, well, obviously hold a competition to see who can come out on top. What’s more, is that you can even have online interactions while not in Online Mode. Making a return from Dead or Alive: Dimensions are Throwdown Challenges, in which you fight an opponent based on data that you receive online about that player. Also, thanks to some recent updates, you can upload some of your favorite replays on Youtube, as well as fight against players who own Dead or Alive 5+, obviously if you own the PlayStation 3 version. With so much to do both on and offline, there’s never a shortage of things you can do in this game.
Dead or Alive 5 is one of the strongest entries in the franchises, giving it a fresh and new feel with all of the new additions without dramatically changing the core gameplay. The Triangle System is just as great as ever, and the moves of the memorable cast of characters take full advantage of the mechanics. Sure, there are a few instances of unbalanced AI and slow connections online, but those issues are nothing compared to the amount of fun to be had in this fighter. Fan or not, Dead or Alive 5 is easily one of the best games of its kind.
+ Improved visuals
+ Simple and effective fighting mechanics
+ Well written story
+ Tons of content
– Instances of unbalanced AI across all difficulty levels
Final score: 4.5 out of 5