Dead or Alive has become infamous for flaunting certain female characteristics. The argument could be made it was only extra on top of the fighting gameplay, but after making not one, but two games about girls in skimpy bikinis fooling around in a paradise resort, it’s hard to take Dead or Alive seriously anymore. Going into Dead or Alive 5, it’s easy to assume it will consist of poor gameplay with busty girls in tiny outfits, but you couldn’t be more wrong. DOA 5 is an incredibly fun, deep, and rewarding fighting experience that should not be passed up.
The story in DOA 5 is by far the worst part of the game. You must be a true fan to appreciate it, and if you aren’t, you’ll find it laughable. Basically, there is a tournament called Dead or Alive that the world’s best fighters compete in, and at the same time, Kasumi is looking to destroy her clone Alpha-152. That’s the general two-part story, and it isn’t anything special. It’s comical more than anything. Two characters will walk up to each other, say a few platitudes, and then fight. It doesn’t make much sense.
There are the other modes you’d expect in a fighting game. Arcade Mode: best two-out-of-three fights with eight stages. Survival mode: how long can you survive against endless opponents with only one life? There’s also versus mode, training mode, and (of course) an online mode. There’s a ranking system so you can fight people at your skill level and slowly advance up the ranks. If that’s too intense, you can fight non-ranked matches just for fun.
As you’d expect in a Dead or Alive game, the graphics are absolutely amazing. The characters will sweat more the harder they work and will get dirty as the match progresses. The arena environments are creative and gorgeously done. The colors are spectacular and each level varies greatly. They interact well to make them feel like a part of the fighting, instead of just being something to look at in the background. Nothing is more satisfying than sending an opponent flying into the wall to see it explode and send their body high into the air.
The gameplay was the most worrisome feature heading into this game, since there was a fear the game would focus on other…features. However, that isn’t true in the slightest. Dead or Alive 5‘s gameplay has been tweaked, adapted, and perfected to remain the forefront of the game. The fighting is simple enough to instantly becoming addicting, while simultaneously being immensely deep to keep those fighting veterans around for countless hours. There’s no other way to say it: the fighting is just downright fun.
Each character has individual specialties. It could be their speed, power, throwing ability, or the sheer amount of different moves in their arsenal. Each one varies enough to allow everyone to find that one character who fits them best. Many characters return from previous games, but there are two new characters: Mila and Rigs. There are also some crossover appearances as well–Akira from Virtua Fighter, to name one.
Dead or Alive has always been known for its unique counter system. You can be amazing at combos and striking, but if you don’t know how to do a proper hold, you won’t get very far. At times, your character will be stunned and your only possible move is a counter hold. This makes it a necessity to be able to do a well-timed, proper position hold to stop your opponent from scoring a high combo against you. Some combos done right could easily take out half your health, so the importance of counter holds cannot be stressed enough.
There are a couple of new features added. Critical Burst puts your opponent in such a deep stun, they can’t even counter hold, allowing you to set up a devastating combo. There is also a Power Blow, which is unlocked when your health drops below 50%. It takes a second to charge up, but when successful, you launch a deadly attack on an opponent and then get to aim where you send them flying. This is especially helpful when combined with the new Danger Zones. These are areas in certain stages that if someone is slammed into, it will give a cinematic experience while also doing heavy damage to the victim. It’s nerve racking while fighting near these zones, because you’re terrified that you’re about to be knocked into it. However, it’s also incredibly satisfying to kick your opponent into one and watch as they get obliterated by the environment.
The action is fast-paced, but more importantly, it’s smooth and fluent, which gives a wonderful experience. When you play online, it only lags when there is a poor connection, which the game tells you of ahead of time. Also, you can simulate the lag of each connection in training mode, allowing you to practice fighting with a poor connection. The training mode also gives detailed fight information–all a character’s moves for you to test and even frame data. That’s something only true veterans of fighting games need to worry about, but it really helps you advance as a fighter, and it shows how immensely deep this game can be.
The other amazing aspect of this game is the Throw Down element. When you are playing the game offline, a box might appear in the lower corner challenging you to an online fight. This way, instead of waiting in an online lobby for someone to challenge you or accept your challenge, you can play the game while you wait. Even if you accept a challenge mid-arcade battle, once the fight is over, you are brought back to what you were doing before the online match. Smooth, quick, easy, and seamless: exactly the way it should be.
Passing up Dead or Alive 5 could be one of the biggest mistakes you may ever make. Remembering something called “Butt Battle” (Dead or Alive Extreme 2) makes you question what you may actually be purchasing, but that needs to be pushed aside. This game has solid gameplay with highly addicting fighting that will keep you hooked for hours. The poor story mode is a letdown, because it has potential, but it can easily be overlooked in the grand scheme of things. Hours were spent in the training mode just messing around with creative levels and varied character moves. If you’re a fan of fighters, this game is definitely worth picking up. And if you just want busty girls in small bikinis, there are plenty of downloadable costumes that are quite revealing. See, everyone’s happy.
This review is based off a retail copy of the Playstation 3 version of Dead or Alive 5 developed by Team Ninja and distributed by Tecmo Koei.