Developer: Team Ninja
Publisher: Tecmo Koei
Platform: PS Vita
Release Date: March, 19 2013
ESRB: M for Mature
Over the years, Dead or Alive as a series has become more known for its pandering than its fighting game roots. From loosely garbed women, imaginative physics, and sexualized volleyball spin-offs, it is little surprise how that label came about. However, prior to Dead or Alive 5's release, the newest installment was actually built up to be a less exploitative and a much more serious fighter, though one quick look at the game“s DLC will prove just how well that concept went over.
Still, Team Ninja seems to have taken the most recent entry with an earnest effort toward a new direction as a fighter. With plenty of mechanical changes and some notable shifts in art direction from its predecessors, Dead or Alive 5 hardly comes off as a shoehorned effort. Less than a year later, it makes its way to the smaller screened device sporting new features with Dead or Alive 5 Plus on Vita.
Among the fighting game community, Dead or Alive has always been viewed as a sort of 'casual' fighter; serving as the sort of less intimidating middle ground between Virtua Fighter and Tekken gameplay-wise, with DOA leaning to the Virtua Fighter side more so. Admittedly, with only two buttons designated for general attacks in DOA5 and its current tournament presence, that isn“t likely to change. Still, it would be very unfair to belittle the various additions and changes it has done with the series with DOA5+. The game harbors a solid amount of depth and various different playable characters, which, in addition to the game's well-done tutorials, certainly help accentuate these strengths.
Dead or Alive 5 Plus's combat is fast-paced and fluid. Attack moves interchange between each other rather smoothly, making the overall game very mix-up heavy, asking players to not get too comfy with their punches, kicks, and grabs so they constantly change it up to overwhelm the opponent. It also does a solid job rewarding defensive play, encouraging players to capitalize on various counters for increased damage or extended combos to punish those more predictable opponents.
There are a few more novelty mechanics that players can indulge in with more cinematic, stylized attacks that knock the enemies about the environments, which are executed by hitting the foe into a critical state before landing a specialized power hit. Even these flashy terrain attacks can be defended against, so the one being attacked can still shift the unfavorable momentum of battle with good reads. Overall, I find DOA5 to be refreshing mechanically as a fighter, especially in contrast to the mostly stagnant previous entries.
Unlike the console release of the game, the story mode for DOA5+ is no longer a trial by fire tutorial/challenge mode, both of which get much more fleshed out individualized modes. I personally find that very relieving as it felt awkwardly implemented on the original console versions. The actual story however really teeters on the line between intentionally hokey and cringingly awful, falling back towards the latter more often than not. This is unfortunate, since the perspective switching narrative and varying timelines could“ve made for some solid intrigue. Regardless, It is likely that you“ll probably find yourself wondering if the trophy you get for not skipping any cutscene is really worth it or if it is maybe better to play something like arcade mode instead. Still, the positive thing is that the story mode isn“t very long, being less than a few hours total. The negative is, well, everything else about it.
Tutorials are really well done in the game and feature four separate variations: free training, tutorial, command training, and combo challenge modes. The "Tutorial" mode does a great job teaching you by quite literally breaking down every mechanic of the game into bite-sized pieces, from basic movement and attacks to learning how to capitalize on counters. "Command training" helps players learn character specific attacks and stances, and lastly, "Combo challenge" is, of course, focused on learning and executing combos. Team Ninja really deserves a pat on the back for these and I would love to see more fighters even come close to how comprehensive the tutorials are for DOA5+. Fighting games on a base level tend to be rather intimidating and often times require external knowledge from their collaborative communities, which I don“t think is the case for this one.
Aside from the tutorials and story modes, there are also the more traditional survival, arcade, and online versus modes as well as some tag team alterations. For online, I did have very poor luck finding matches, which is sad because this game features cross play/saves on both PS3 and Vita, that and it is a good game. In any case, the netcode was great from what I saw and seemed better than what I experienced on the consoles oddly enough. That said, the Vita version notably lacks lobbies of any sort unlike the console version, which can mean a lot for the life of an online fighter. Without lobbies, there are only really 3 modes: ranked, simple match (which seems like a quick-match for most fighters), and online dojo (practice mode with a human player). DOA5+ also supports local ad-hoc which I personally was unable to try out.
A less noteworthy addition specific to DOA5+ is a new mode called "Touch fighterâ€. This new mode allows players to tilt the Vita screen vertically and horizontally based on preference, and fight in 1 vs 1 battles by executing attack commands through streamlined finger swipes and presses. It is novel in concept, regardless on my personal feelings on the lackluster execution, but it is very detached from any other facet of the game. Without so much as multiplayer functionality or use in the more standard modes like arcade, Touch Fighter just seems kind of like a pointless addition for anything beyond a short-lived novelty.
After having a recent taste of the Ninja Gaiden Sigma ports on the Vita, I was rather skeptical how well DOA5+ would be treated. Thankfully, Team Ninja really paid the game a lot of respect on the handheld and more than proved me wrong. The character models do a great job at emulating their console counterparts, and as much as I don“t care for the story mode, the cutscenes also look really good on a technical level; even things like load times are remain fast throughout the game. Where the Vita port shows its more noticeable compromises is in the environments, with some areas looking a bit more stark in contrast to the console counterparts. Still, Tecmo Koei put their focus where it matters most technically with its gameplay. The framerate runs at a very consistent 60 frames per second and makes sure to never skips a beat, which means a ton for a 3D fighting game. DOA5 was a fairly solid looking game when it came to its visuals on consoles, and in the midst of playing this version, it can easily be indistinguishable on Vita.
Dead or Alive 5 Plus makes for a very admirable and faithful port of its console brother, and easily the best example of a 3D fighter I've seen on a handheld. Of course, things like the story mode are rather painful to witness, and touch-screen mode is outright pointless, but I can hardly complain about either of those to any serious effect. It's a well-crafted game overall, and with its cleverly designed tutorials, solid fighting mechanics, polished presentation and music, it makes for a very welcome addition on the system. If you want an incredibly solid 3D fighter on the go, Dead or Alive 5 Plus would be my first recommendation for the system, and it makes for easily the best representation of the long running fighter's name.
+ Easy to learn fighting mechanics with a reasonable amount of depth
+ Visuals/animations in cutscenes and gameplay are great and remain very fluid throughout
+ Excellent Tutorials
+ Solid soundtrack
+ Awful story mode
+ No online lobbies... or online players
+ Touchscreen mode is pointless
Overall Score: 8.0 (out of 10)
A great fighter and excellent port for the Vita. An easy fighter to learn and get into with its very smart and comprehensive tutorials as well as sporting a solid amount of depth to its gameplay. DOA5+ makes for a very easy recommendation for newcomers to the series as well as veterans alike.