With the rather large selection of fighting games nowadays, it may be overwhelming when it comes to choosing a starting point, and this aspect of the genre always kept me from trying until very recently. Having friends who are very familiar with fighters, I was told that the Dead or Alive series is a great place to start, and they weren’t wrong. Team Ninja – who seem to only release games of the DOA and Ninja Gaiden series (I mean, who wouldn’t after The Other M?) – have done a great job of adding flavor to DOA, bringing a fun to learn, yet challenging, and entertaining new addition to the franchise.
The in-game graphics are not as polished as the PS3 iteration, but one cannot expect the Vita to pump out the same kind of graphics. With hardware limitations in mind, it is extremely well-rendered and runs buttery smooth. The dirt and sweat effects add a subtle, realistic nuance to the fighters, especially for the characters who are wearing less than concealing clothing. As a very thoughtful touch after every match, you are given the chance to ogle your character using both both analog sticks to get a “better angle.” This can help alleviate the frustration of a lost match, as this will be a taste that beginners such as myself will come to know very well. That said, the fan service bits scattered throughout the story and other modes are not too distracting from the already lacking plot, and this is the first time I have ever thought this of a video game from Japan. The backgrounds that accompany each fight are on par with the character models, which makes the characters really feel a part of the world they are fighting in. However, though they are easy on the eyes, they are also dangerous; there are several stages with environmental hazards that you or your enemy can take advantage of to deal massive damage.
Though I wasn’t previously familiar with the concept, the 3-button gameplay of Plus was not terribly hard to learn. For beginners, the addition of the tutorial mode is a must, unless you want to get completely annihilated in your first fight. The tutorial’s CPU – which starts off easy – forces you to quickly adapt to the increasingly unforgiving difficulty, which, after a few lessons, starts to counter your attacks left and right.
The counter hold system is in place to discourage button mashing, though beginners will have a hard time using it, as you leave a large opening for punishment if you miss one. Combos are now not overwhelmingly hard to memorize, as the tutorial mode allows retrying of anything you might not exactly have the hang of yet.
The tutorial mode, as mentioned, really makes up for the lack of one in the PS3 version, as well as the new touch fight mode. This new mode is almost all in first person, save for when you use a throw move. Moves are done by either tapping, swiping, or holding pinching your finger across the screen. Screenshots are taken with the left shoulder button while in vertical mode for your future viewing pleasure. Although this new mode seems like a fun concept, the first person perspective is really only good for one thing, and thankfully, the mode is easy enough to play with one hand, if you know what I mean. Story mode is as expected of any fighting game; any semblance of a coherent plot is nowhere to be found, and you really have to be paying attention to understand how the story moves from scene to scene. Japanese voiceovers make the ludicrously petty dialogue more bearable, and these characters are backed by quite famous Japanese voice actors, which is a real treat for an anime fan such as myself. The online component took a little getting used to, as my internet connection seemed to cause lag mid-fight. When queued with someone who lived closer to me, this problem was mitigated slightly. Crossplay is also a great feature, as there is still a fair amount of opponents to fight on the console version.
With the plethora of fighting games out there, Dead or Alive 5+ is an accessible jumping off point for beginners, as well as a solid port for veteran fighting aficionados alike. Though I thought that the scantily-clad girls would put a dampen on the fun factor, it actually turned out to have the opposite effect, and I’m sure it will for other beginners such as myself. Overall, it is a satisfying and accessible game, and especially worth a buy for anyone without the original.
Available on: PS Vita; Publisher: Tecmo Koei; Developer: Team Ninja; Players: 1-2 (online); Released: September 24, 2012; ESRB: Mature; MSRP: $39.99; Official Site
Note: A retail copy was provided to Denkiphile for review purposes by the publisher.