The record ain’t broke, but it is a bit scratched!

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This is the last thing I remember before I blacked out!

I’ve been a huge fan of the Dead or Alive series since its inception, and with that in mind, you can imagine how I hyperventilated with the news of the fifth installment making its way to the Playstation Vita.

What I’ve always loved about the series is its accessibility to new entrants and fighter enthusiasts alike. It’s easy to pick up, without the need to memorize ridiculously complicated button combinations, unless you really want to. Dead or Alive has always excelled for its simplicity. And whilst mostly known for its busty female leads, the series has also been notable for raising the benchmark for all other fighters to be aspire to.

The series peaked long ago with DOA2 Ultimate, with its perfect character roster, balanced gameplay mechanics, varied fighting styles, and highly replayable modes. Problem is, once you’ve perfected something like a fighter, there really isn’t anywhere else for the franchise to go. Therefore, Tecmo have often made changes, not so much to improve, but to make for a different enough experience to justify a sequel. Hence, we’ve seen complaints of future installments not reaching previous entries’ high notes.

Perhaps what makes the series so distinct (besides the obvious eye candy, of course) is its `triangle system’, where just about any move can be overcome by another. Attacks can be countered, counters can be beaten by throws, and throws can be halted by attacks. This mechanic has been the staple mark of the series, with its greater reliance on timing than your ability to string elaborate combos together, something proven to be somewhat tedious for everyone outside the circle of hardcore fighting enthusiasts.

With Dead or Alive 5 Plus, fighting is still as incredibly fast, fluid, and easy to jump into as it’s always been. However, a few significant tweaks have been made, and admittedly, not all of them for the best.

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Grandpa here has been looking like this for some 15 years now! A Highlander, maybe?

For starters, timing counters needs to be a little too specific this time round. There’s still moments where I swear I pressed dead on time, but was denied, yet opponents seem to nail it nearly every time. In gameplay videos I’ve watched, I note players rarely using counters at all, if they know what’s best for them, and I think this stands to that very reason.

More often than not, you’re better off blocking, which wouldn’t be a problem if it weren’t for the great many moves that can now break your guard, leaving your character vulnerable, and at the mercy of whatever flashy combo the enemy feels like showing off.

That’s right. Contrary to what I said previously, there’s more emphasis in chaining combos this time round, particularly when fighting the AI above normal hardness setting. And, boy! Does this game get hard on the settings above!

In fact, it’s fairly commonplace to see the AI take up to 50% of your health, without being able to throw a single punch in between. And for many of us, there’s nothing more infuriating than watching, helplessly, as the AI juggles you in the air, chipping away at half your life meter.

Honestly, it seems like every other move has the ability to stun and render you a sitting duck, in wait for a good pummeling. Now, admittedly, this is a criticism of most other fighters, yet I felt that what escalated Dead or Alive was it’s devoid of such elaborate chain attacks.

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I hope this is as enjoyable for you as it is for me!

Of course, the reason for these changes is to promote more aggressive play, theoretically making matches more intense. And whilst in a way this is true, what you also sometimes get is a more frustrating gaming experience.

One final criticism is that, on occasions, impacts just don’t register when I feel like they ought to, with attacks glitching through fighters, particularly when they’re down. However, its not always so much accidental glitches as it is Tecmo being too lazy to program when they didn’t want X move to hurt the opponent on Y scenario. This has a tendency to confuse when an attack, which would logically hit your opponent on certain occasions, just goes right THROUGH them. Unimpressive for a game in 2013.

This isn’t game breaking by any means, but in a fighting game, where the emphasis is on making every attack count, this can be a bit upsetting.

Admittedly, all of the above are minor offenses really, and as a whole, are fairly minor on the grand scheme of things, at least to anyone not taking the game too seriously. And despite these minor quibbles, bouts are more climactic than any other fighter on the market today.

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Battles in Dead or Alive are still more intense than any other fighter out there

The beginning roster of 24 characters has a near perfect variation of fighting styles. You’ll have a lot of fun picking characters specialising in throws, strength, combos, guard breaks, counters, speed, and a list of other attributes. All previous characters, besides bosses, are present here, with no drastic alterations to their fighting style, so long-term fans will have no problems diving right on in. Special mention to characters Sarah, Akira, and Pai; all from Sega’s flagship and influential `Virtua Fighter’ series, their styles fitting perfectly into the DOA universe.

Your typical arcade, time attack, survival modes are all accounted for here, including a rather intricate training mode that helps improve on the basics, expert techniques, and combos. But not all are explained as clearly as they could’ve been, nor are they particularly fun.
I was surprised to find a scarcity in the way of tag-team modes though. This was a mode the second installment famously streamlined, so its exclusion outside of story mode is somewhat surprising.

Ah, the new story mode. Rather different to previous games. It’s a long-winded, slightly convoluted narrative that attempts to consolidate all the characters in a fairly nonsensical plot. The best way to imagine it is if Michael Bay directed a martial arts flick, combined with the hammy dialog and scenarios of a midday soup opera, all written, cut and edited while blind, deaf and, perhaps, paraletic.

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Is that a knife between your legs, lady or are you just happy to see me?

It makes for some great entertainment in a `it’s so bad, it’s good’ way, most of the time, as characters face-off for the most daft of reasons; whether it be Bass fighting Rigs for badmouthing his broken motorcycle, Zack tripping over a sleeping Brad Wong in the middle of the street, or Ayane and Hitomi bumping into each other in the middle of a freakin’ South-African jungle! I’m not making this up! Frankly, it wouldn’t have surprised me had I seen two characters fought over a pretzel, or dropped their personal vendettas to play a match of beach volleyball…
However, things do drag on at times, particularly when the story starts taking itself seriously, and because battles are only one round, lasting maybe a minute, you’ll spend most of the time watching ludicrous cutscenes than actually playing the game.

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In the wonderful world of Dead or Alive, this is how we greet one-another.

On top of that, a completely new addition to the Vita is the unique `Touch Mode’. A simple first person view mode that has you tapping and swiping the screen to attack, throw, and block against your opponent, all the while viewing the girls (or guys, if that’s your thing) in their most revealing angles.

I wasn’t surprised to find the inclusion of an arbitrary gimmick mode. What I was shocked to find is that this it’s actually a heck of a lot of fun in short bursts! Sadly, it’s only available as a single player. A shame, considering this could’ve been a riot when played with friends or online.

I chose her for her personality!

Speaking of which, the online is something of a mixed bag, with times where I can find a game,just like that! Other times, I’m waiting with no games available, even on one occasion when I knew for a fact a friend was searching for a game also.

The most notable change is not in the gameplay however, but the graphics, which have gone for a more realistic look this time round. And not just in the character design, but locations also.
What this means; gone are the colourful markets, beautiful Asian house interiors, and exquisite natural surroundings; replaced with uninspired Iraq like warzones, urban rooftops, or dirty shoebox apartments; stuff I’d thought to have likely seen in a Call of Duty title than a Dead or Alive title.
Not only that, whilst older levels had several branching set pieces to knock your opponents into or out of, locations are somewhat smaller here. It all feels like a step backwards really. Boring. Especially after seeing what the creative minds at Namco Bandai have shown us with the more recent Soul Calibur entries.

Many locations are just dull,dull, dull

Not sure whether to call this a plus, or a negative either, but for better or for worse, the sex appeal in DOA5 has been toned down a notch or two. Whilst the revealing outfits, typical squeals by the ladies, and emphasis on their most… obvious assets, have all been retained, there’s something about the new look that makes it all a little less obvious. Perhaps I’ve just been de-sensitised.

Disregarding the aforementioned bother with the new aesthetics, graphics are what you would expect from the average Vita title. Very clear, however, not quite as spectacular as it could have been, with aspects such as water and lighting affects appearing fairly basic, everything degraded slightly from their console counterparts. What is most important though, is that everything keeps at a solid frame rate when playing offline. Always. I don’t think I’ve ever noticed slowdown. The same when online, a great majority of the time (playing against PS3 players, or people the other side of the world, tends to perform some some lag).

Work hard, play hard! these guys know how to party like it’s ’99!

A final, minute problem to mention is the rather lackluster soundtrack that’s on offer here. The music quality has gotten progressively worse with every installment after the DOA2, with this one being the most forgettable so far. In fact, a lot of the time, you won’t notice the music at all. Considering the game goes out of its way to make everything else so dramatic, with burning buildings, exploding warzones, and trains crashing through the highstreets, it’s surprising to find the soundtrack so un-involving.
What’s even worse is that this is one of the few Vita titles which will not allow you to listen to your own music while you play! Despicable, Tecmo! Despicable!

Overall, Tecmo have made for a more complex game. And yet, digging a little deeper finds, consequently, this has come at the expense of gameplay balance and, possibly, fun. Never-the-less, anyone in the market for a fighter, particularly with sexy ninja battles; DOA5+ packs enough punches, kicks, and knicker-shots to make it your number one fighter for quite some time.

But with the series’ increasing number of changes; whilst this record ain’t broken yet, it has been scratched up a bit.

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Little is known about Terramax. Legend has it, he is the result of a failed experiment to mate a duck with a brick. He found video games at the age of 4, and now they’re all he thinks about. Untrustworthy. Inequitable. Intolerable. The kind of person mothers warns their daughters about. He’s been around long enough to know a thing or two about games. But, just, for the love of God, don’t accept gifts from him!
  • Counters are supposed to be hard to pull off; otherwise nobody would attack the opponent because it would be too easy to counter an attack. It would break the game. But anyway, great and lengthy review!

    • Combo_Knight

      But…the counters aren’t difficult in this game.

      • I haven’t played it, so I don’t know.

        • Combo_Knight

          So It’s essentially press a button and a corresponding direction to a High mid or low attack. but it’s way to lenient in that anyone can successfully counter from a neutral or even disadvantaged position and get out of jail for free. And online If you are in a 2 bar connection your hit will connect, and then BAM counter.

    • Not true. If a player abused the counter function, then any remotely clever opponent would consistently overcome them with throws. That’s the beauty of the triangle system. It meant that anyone one excessively button mashing, throwing, or countering would wouldn’t get far without experienced players catching onto their pattern, pre-empting their every move, forcing them to be more creative and unpredictable.

      In DOA5+’s case however, as mentioned, with counters being ‘harder’ to pull off, when compared to previous installments, means the balance of the triangle system is not there.

      And without as much of an emphasis on counters as throws and attacks, what you get is your basic ‘attack and guard’ fighter, like every other average game on the market. Therefore, DOA5+ comes dangerously close to being an average game.

      • From a competitive standpoint (from which it seems you are talking) counters DID break the DOA games; hence why it never was popular in the fighting game scene. Now, I’m the first to say that a fun fighting game is more important than an inherently competitive one, but I think you are mistaken in saying that DoA is competitively balanced.

        • I don’t really understand what you’re saying? Doesn’t being unpredictable and varying attacks mean being competitive?

          • Fakenamedude

            Although those are definitely two elements that can constitute a fighter being hardcore competitive, they’re sure as fuck not the only things and there are dozens upon hundreds of other elements that work towards a fighter reaching that upper echelon of quality and complexity that earns in the glorious distinction of being labeled a true hardcore fighter. Luckily, you seem to actually understand a thing about fighting games and can appreciate hardcores for the superior masterworks of fighting that they are, so I’ll refrain from serving up a mass of factual statements to you as I have the others. This is still our last contact; read the last paragraph of my 2nd post to find out why.

          • Ask the fighting game community. Some reasons why people did not like DoA4 are here: http://freestepdodge.com/threads/why-do-you-guys-hate-doa4%C2%BF.466/ and I’m sure the fine folks at Shoryuken can tell you why DoA does not make yearly appearances at Evolution.

        • Fakenamedude

          Meaning, you’re the first to out yourself as nothing but an ignorant piece of shit on the gaming community that lacks the intellectual capacity and gaming skill to both comprehend the vast array of complex mechanics and revel in the wondrous splendor of the greatest gaming genre of all time, hardcore fighting games. The entirety of your comment is nothing but a load of idiotic bullshit undoubtedly sourced solely from a stupid-ass shit stain such as yourself that, as is the case with the dumb fuck who wrote this absolute shit-tier review, has no business playing fighting games in the first place. What dumb fucking pieces of shit such as yourself fail to comprehend is that to any discerning, hardcore gamer who ISN’T a worthless, skilless shit stain like you, a fighter being inherently competitive and all of the elements that such a classification entails are great deal of what makes them so insanely fun and ridiculously rewarding.

          Hardcore fighters ARE the most fun, you ignorant piece of shit; dumb fucks such as yourself that derive real pleasure from the utter shit paper thin mechanics of something like Dead or Alive will never understand such facts, but not only are hardcore fighters such as a Street Fighter, a Marvel, BB, P4A, SC, Tekken, etc. the most fun, they’re undoubtedly the most important as they fuel the FGC–the greatest gaming community in existence and are cause for hardcore fighters being so revered. You’re failure to comprehend such facts and to realize that the inherent competitive nature and the mass amount of battle mechanics that that entails are what makes the hardcore fighters both the most important AND the most fun+all around greatest fighters only solidifies your factual status as nothing but an ignorant piece of shit spouting inane bullshit about a genre he doesn’t know shit about and never will. Shut the fuck up and educate yourself before you spout such utterly inane bullshit in the future.

          Of course, failing that, just go fuck your slutty-ass bitch mother,
          contract her MANY stds, and die you pathetic piece of shit. Read the end of my first comment to know why this is our last contact and that I’ll be completely done with you and this utter shit site after I’ve sent you this mass of factual statements. Deal with it. You and your ignorant bullshit+utter fucking garbage paper thin fighters lose, I and the facts I state+the boundlessly more important, fun, and all around superior hardcore fighters win. Another FACT for your sorry little bitchass.

  • Combo_Knight

    This game is lacking in enticing game play. If I somehow beyond my better judgment would have gotten this game? I would be mad. I don’t think there has been a point where this game makes me want to play it. and that’s it’s biggest drawback. There is nothing to be discovered As a fighting gamer, I wanna play a fighter till my fingers break; I want to know everything I can about a fighting game that is possible, but in this game nothing about that resonates with what I’m experiencing. In this game everything is already drawn out nothing really makes me want to pursue the in depth about this game.

    Pair up that linear gameplay mechanics with boring characters, and an online community which is virtually dead ( Which I like to call Dead on Arrival because boy is online a ghost town!) and this game isn’t something worth buying when you could save the cash and buy SFxT used or Mortal Kombat used or UMvc3 used and jump into matches without a hitch.

    The vita version doesn’t even utilize tag function in it’s installment of DOa5!

    But it offers those terrible character themes, which are god aweful.

    At the end of the day, this game just aint worth the bread to me. I’d probably get more online activity out of Wake up club than this game.

  • Buckybuckster

    Excellent review Terramax! Duesean17 may have issue with it (LOL!!), but a quality job nonetheless! Haven’t played DOA since Dreamcast so I’m kinda interested in picking it up, but I’m still undecided. Maybe I’ll try out the demo.

  • Fakenamedude

    An utterly fucking garbage and festering bullshit-laden review clearly by an ignorant piece of shit on the gaming community that doesn’t know a damn thing about fighting games, the FGC, or what constitutes a quality fighter. I’ve only read a handful of the sentences in this review, but what little have I read was more than enough to solidify my previous sentence as irrefutable fact.

    Contrary to the ignorant bullshit that a worthless shit stain on the gaming populous such as terramax would be naturally wont to spout, DoA has NEVER raised ANY sort of ‘benchmark for all other fighters to aspire to;’ that’s nothing but a laughably both biased and blatantly incorrect statement spouted by some dumb fuck inexplicably in love with a sorry-ass piece of shit series. In FACT, DoA has NEVER been revered in the least by the fighting game community, and the laughable lack of depth to the gameplay, mindlessly mediocre roster, convoluted-to-all-hell story, and inadequate balancing has worked to the demise of the series as being anything other than a halfway decent distraction every now again. In truth, any REAL hardcore fighter–be it Street Fighter, Marvel VS. Capcom, BlazBlue, Tekken, Persona 4 Arena, Soul Calibur, Guilty Gear, or what have you–beat the living shit out of this sorry excuse for a fighting game series. Many of these titles have set benchmarks for fighting games in various different areas over the years and make DoA’s factual status as an absolute shit game comparatively all the more apparent, while DoA has literally been nothing more than an ugly-ass redheaded stepchild of the masterful fighting games I listed earlier. The series’ comparatively lackluster sales and consistent critical lukewarmth(or, in the case of the many who panned it constantly, subzero temp) only proves my point all the more.

    What’s more, the contention that DoA2U was ‘perfect’ in ANY aspect is a hilariously bullshit statement that only further solidifies your factual status as an ignorant shit stain with shit taste, as if your mass of other likewise statements hadn’t done so already. In the scheme of DoA2U it was possibly the best of the bunch, but in the grand scheme of fighting games–just as the case is with the entire series–is nothing but a paper thin piece of shit that only dumb fucks lacking the intellectual capacity and gaming skill necessary to revel in the wondrous splendor of the superior genre of hardcore fighters would ever put any great deal of stock into or hold up so highly. There are such things as perfect fighting games, but that piece of shit surely isn’t one of them. Needless to say, your suggestion that there’s not much a developer can do with a fighter is perfected is–in the same vein as the rest of what you’ve said–festering horeshit.

    Furthermore, if you’re clearly direly lacking intellect hasn’t lead you to this conclusion thus far, Dead or Alive 5+ does not “top the competition”(of course, the fact of the matter is that the series has never done such to create a ‘record’ to break in the first place and never will, each entry still being utter fucking garbage when compared to even decent hardcore fighters), and the same goes for the contention that it will be your top fighter for some time to come. Anyone who considers it so and holds it up as such is clearly just a tasteless dipshit with total fucking shit taste ignorant to what makes a quality fighting game, and equally ignorant to the plethora of vastly superior fighters(SFxTK, UMVC3, BB:CSE, MK, upcoming GGXXAC+R, MK, etc.) on Vita and countless other systems. It’s easily the best of the series BECAUSE of the increased depth and complexity of gameplay, and that wise decision hasn’t cost the series any balance or fun by ANY stretch of the imagination had by those of us who aren’t total dumb fucks making futile attempts at slighting a genre you lack the intellectual capacity to actually grown skillful at. Likewise, any suggestion herein this utter fucking garbage review that the series is anything more than just that–utter fucking garbage, I mean–are just more than ignorant and blatantly untrue bullshit spouted by a worthless shit stain on the gaming community like yourself. Shut the fuck and educate yourself of such facts before you spout said festering piles of crock in the future, dipshit.

    Of course, failing that, just go fuck your slutty-ass bitch mother, contract her MANY stds, and die you pathetic piece of shit. And the same goes for any dumb fucks that consider this horrendous piece of shit journalism article to be anything other than the pathetic pile of biased bullshit that it is. Anyway, this is a fake account attached to a fake email that I will be abandoning in its entirety after I’ve sent for this mass of factual statements. Additionally, I’ll will be taking my permanent leave of both this shit article and this shit site as a whole, so whatever undoubtedly bullshit replies you dumb fucks would have sent to me will NEVER reach me. Deal with it, dipshit: you and your ignorant bullshit+the horrendous, utter fucking garbage, factually absolute shit-tier DoA series lose, I and the FACTs I state+the VASTLY superior nature of masterful hardcore fighters and the many equally vastly superior hardcore fighting games–all of which beat the living shit out of DoA in every possible aspect–win. Another FACT for your sorry little bitchass. 😀

    Just as a quick aside, the extremely demanding input timings that any quality fighter asks of the gamer are not “ridiculous” by ANY stretch of the imagination had by skillless pieces of shit incapable of grasping the vast plethora of competitive fighters. You’re pathetic bitching in that regard only further invalidates whatever degree of professionalism in journalism the dumb fucks that run this utter fucking shit site somehow thought you had and validates the points I’ve made for your factual status as nothing but a stupid-ass dipshit all the more.

  • Boys and girls, if you are unable to comment without resorting to name calling, abuse or the ability to appreciate a different point of view then you will find your ability to post comments here restricted. 🙂

    • Buckybuckster

      There’s nothing wrong with having a differing opinion. It’s what fosters dialog and discussion. But all that opportunity gets thrown out the window when one side chooses to express their views via an obscenity laced disrespectful tirade.I don’t see the offending comments any more, so I trust Murphy saw fit to remove them.